Updated: Dec 7, 2019
Last week, I went on a flash trip to NYC to see friends and eat my heart out at some of the places that were recommended by all you lovely people. I wish I could get through that extensive list, but alas, 4 days is absolutely not enough time to explore the full trove of culinary treasures that New York City has to offer. That said, over the course of pigging out at 11 different places, I experienced a few stand-out food moments that I've condensed into a list of the 5 best things I ate* in Manhattan, NYC. *This list does not include dishes from fine dining tasting menus.
1) Salmon & cream cheese bagel at Leo's Bagels
This was my very first taste of NYC since late last year, and it was gloorious. I ordered a classic cream cheese and cured salmon on the fabled daily hand-rolled "everything" bagel -- which really was just that. There's something unrivaled about the texture and flavour of bagels in NYC compared to Hong Kong, and I hear it's something to do with the water. Even the cream cheese was on a whole other level. Expect long lines snaking out the door on a weekday morning as regulars patiently line up to get their Leo's fix before work, but they move fast enough thanks to the machine-like efficiency of the friendly staff.
Opening times: 6am-5pm on weekdays, 7am-5pm on weekends
Address: 3 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004, USA
Area: Financial District
Tel: +1 212-785-4700
2) Chicken rice at ABC Cocina
The best way to wrap up an epic night out at the Sting & Shaggy rooftop concert at Pier 17, an outdoor concert venue with a stunning view of Manhattan & the Brooklyn Bridge. All made possible thanks to the best host, Chef JG. We all succumbed to late-night munchies at one of JG's many ventures in the city, ABC Cocina, a fun Latin-inspired eatery located in Midtown West. The excellent guac and dips aside, the dish that blew me away (and continues to haunt me on hungry hungover mornings) was the chicken rice served with crispy chicken skin, lemon and spicy habanero sauce (*served in a cute little stoppered bottle). Loved learning about the surprising Japanese secret ingredient that makes this chicken rice so different from the rest.
Opening times: 12pm-1030pm on weekdays, 11am-1130pm on weekends
Address: 35 E 18th St, New York, NY 10003, USA
Area: Midtown West
Tel: +1 212-677-2233
3) Spicy Pepperoni Squares at Prince St Pizza
This really needs no introduction as one of the tastiest pizzas that downtown NYC has to offer. I went at around 3pm on a Saturday, which I now realize was an oversight on my part as I ended up waiting for 2 whole hours for three slices. Some I saw waited that long for a single slice, and not even for the famous pepperoni one. Still one of the best things I ate this trip despite the wait, with the crisp-bordering-on-burnt domed pepperoni slices, addictingly fluffy pizza base, spicy tomato sauce, mozzarella and Pecorino Romano cheese and thick olive oil-infused crust. A must try when in Soho.
Opening times: 1130am-11pm on weekdays, 1130am-2am on Fri & Sat Address: 27 Prince St A, New York, NY 10012, USA
Area: Downtown Soho
Tel: +1 212-966-4100
4) Duck Carnitas Tacos at Cosme
Cosme was one of those quintessential NYC food experiences for me, a showcase of the evolution of Mexican cuisine in such a vibrant gourmet capital. Although appearing quite simple, the famed duck carnitas are actually prepared over a meticulous 3-day process - and you can easily taste it in the way it breaks apart under your fork and its sheer depth of flavour. Made me wanna cry a little thinking about the tacos I've eaten here in HK to compare (*ahem...Brickhouse). The duck carnitas is served in a skillet, to be eaten with still-warm single origin white corn tortillas. I don't think I've had corn tortillas the likes of these before - but then again my experiences with proper Mexican food are so shamefully limited!
Opening times: 12pm-11pm on weekdays, 1130am-1130pm on weekends
Address: 35 E 21st St, New York, NY 10010, USA
Area: Flatiron District
Tel: +1 212-913-9659
5) Homemade matcha vegan muffin at abcV
One of those surprising things that I never thought I would see in one of my top 5 food lists - which goes to show just how well-executed this vegan matcha muffin with blueberries actually was. The muffin was incredibly light with the perfect amount of sweetness imparted (mostly) by the blueberries, and the sponge texture was even better than the kind that uses dairy. How?! I've never been a fan of vegan food, but abcV found a way to convince me otherwise. Firstly, by coaxing me in with the idea of a light breakfast, and then shooting me repeatedly in the gut with delicious and filling veggie dishes that made me, for once, forget about bacon.
Opening times: 8am-1030am on weekdays, 11am-3pm on weekends (weekday breakfast + weekend brunch)
Address: 38 E 19th St, New York, NY 10003, USA
Area: Midtown West
Tel: +1 212-475-5829
Other eats in NYC that didn't quite make the top 5 cut but are def worth a visit - French Onion Soup at Balthazar, a French brasserie in the heart of Soho, that rice bowl by The Halal Guys (street food cart on 52nd and 6th), fried chicken wings at Blue Ribbon Brasserie, burritos from that East Village food truck Tacos Morelos, the fluffy Omelette aux Caviar at Le Coucou for breakfast, and rare beef pho at BoCaphe. Jack's Wife Freda was a great brunch spot with super friendly staff, and the chocolate chip cookies at Chip or Levain Bakery are dreamy (caution: don't eat if you're planning big meals).
If I had a few more days, I would have gone to... Sadelle's, Black Seed Bagels and Russ & Daughter's for bagels, Clinton St. Baking Company for pancakes, Raku and Nakamura for ramen & udon and Roberta's for pizza. And of course, all the amazing places I have yet to visit in Brooklyn. Until next time, NYC!
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