1. West Side in New York City | 12 p.m.
Starting the New York trip with a lunch at a Jean-Georges restaurant on the edge of the west side of Manhattan along the Hudson River. The restaurant was on the edge of West Village and housed in a stunning large airy space with floor-to-ceiling windows that allowed the sunlight to flood in. It was a very serene and modern décor, but at the same time, could feel a little corporate. The menu itself was fairly extensive with the standard New American fare, and we ordered their classic rice cracker crusted tuna and a light tomato salad for starters, along with a salmon and flat iron steak for the entrée. Everything was done well, but never really reached the heights of Jean Georges’ eponymous restaurant. Its aesthetics and comfortable environment, however, made the meal very relaxed and is a great place to enjoy some time away from the hectic life that is New York City.
2. Stroll Along Bleecker St. in West Village | 2 p.m.
After brunch, we walked a couple blocks over to Bleecker St. and then headed south cutting across West and Greenwich Village. There were a number of boutiques along the way withshops such as Intermix, Zadig & Voltaire, Sandro, and Paul Smith. For the foodies, there are also places like Magnolia’s Bakery, which had made an appearance on Sex and the City years ago, as well as Murray’s Cheese and Pasticceria Rocco, which is famous for its cannoli. Gelato places like Grom and Amorino are also nearby, although we were still pretty full so we didn’t get any. We swung a few blocks north to Washington Square Park just to take a couple photos, and it seemed like a great place to hang out on a lazy day.
3. Cobblestone Streets of Soho | 2 p.m.
Heading south from there, we walked through Soho, which is known for its cobblestone streets and designer boutiques. Along Broadway, we saw the more mainstream shops such as Bloomingdales, Zara, and Uniqlo. Along the side streets, there are the more high end luxury stores such as Celine, Balenciaga, Moncler, etc. You also have the less common stores such as Alexander Wang, Isabel Marant, and DSquared2. A number of streetwear stores are also there, including Bape, Palace, NikeLab, and Stadium Goods. On the east side of Broadway, you also have a number of stores with roots in New York including a large multi-level Kith, Opening Ceremony, Supreme, and Aime Leon Dore. In short, the shopping options are endless regardless of what style you wear and what budget you’re looking for.
4. Trying Dominique Ansel's Pastries | 5 p.m.
We spent all of the afternoon into the evening walking through Soho and browsing the various stores. In between, we made time to stop at Dominique Ansel, which had come to fame through its Cronut fad several years back (although there is still a line now everyday for them). With shops around the world, its fame has become more for unique and innovative pastries that play on local traditions. For example, the one recently opened in Hong Kong has desserts shaped like a pineapple bun and a lemon vita-tea packet. The NYC location didn’t have quite as creative options, but the cakes still all looked amazing along the glass counter. We ordered the matcha mousse cake and the DKA, which is their version of the kouign amann. Everything was light and tasty and it was a welcome retreat from a lot of walking.
4. David Chang's Momofuku Empire | 8 p.m.
We continued walking towards East Village and decided to go to another celebrity chef’s restaurant for dinner. This time, it was Momofuku Ssam, which is owned by David Chang and part of this ever expanding Momofuku chain. Ssam lies between the quick casual ramen bar and the 2-Michelin starred Ko. It has a very lively and happening atmosphere, but it was still supposed to serve elevated cuisine.
We ordered the signature pork buns which it serves in a lot of its locations and the bone marrow to start. For the entrée, we had the foie gras with rice and the hangar steak. The signature Bo Ssam with the pork shoulder and oysters wrapped in lettuce was only served in a large format for 6+ people, so we weren’t able to get that. The food was very solid, but honestly didn’t really leave me especially impressed. There was nothing very unique about the menu choices, preparation, or flavor profile, and left me thinking it was just standard fusion food. I would say that pork buns were quite tasty, with the pillowy bread wrapping the moist and fatty pork, so that was a saving grace. But overall, it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. The Momofuku Milk Bar is also a storefront counter that's right across the street with its famous crack pie (now called Milk Bar Pie). We wanted to go elsewhere for dessert, although it's a good option for cakes and pies.
5. East Village Dessert and Speakeasy | 10 p.m.
After dinner, we walked to explore the nightlife of NY and to check out the neighborhood. There were definitely a lot of bars and restaurants, especially around St.Marks Place such as Mamoun’s Falafels, McSorley’s – which is the oldest bar in NYC, Cha-An Teahouse, and Xi’an Famous Food amongst many others which we had marked down as potential places to go to. Unfortunately we can only go to so many places, so we had to pick one of them and decided to go to Chikalicious.
It’s a tiny dessert bar on 10th which is completely run and operated by a husband and wife team, including Chika, who cooks all the desserts. We had to wait outside in line for a while to get in, but we were glad we waited as the desserts were all incredibly tasty and unique. We got the signature fromage blanc cheese cake, which looked like a round white dome but was extremely soft and smooth, as well as the persimmon tart. Each dessert came with an amuse bouche as well as mignardises, so it made it seem like an entire meal.
It was too early to call it a night, so we headed over to a “speakeasy” or hidden bar that NYC is famous for. This one, called Angel's Share, is located on the second floor of a Japanese restaurant, where there was a hidden door upon entering the left side of the room. While the restaurant was bright and loud, the bar was dark and had seats along windows which overlooked the streets below, making it a moody and romantic environment. We ordered a drink each before finally calling it a night as we had a long day ahead.
6. Hello Brooklyn | 11 a.m.
Day 2 in New York, and we decided to head over to the borough of Brooklyn. A 30 minute ride on the red line took us to Dumbo, which is right on the edge of the East River facing the Financial District in Manhattan. The goal for the trip was to try the legendary New York pizza that we’ve heard so much about. We had a long list to choose from – Di Fara, Lombardi’s, John’s of Bleecker amongst others, but we decided to go to Grimaldi’s as we had wanted to walk the Brooklyn Bridge after.
When we got to Grimaldi’s, there was a wait already, as well as a line next door for Juliana’s, which was another famous pizzeria. After about a half hour wait, we were able to grab a table. The red and white checkered tablecloth and brick walls brought us back to the vintage good old days, and we knew we were in for a treat. We got the regular pizza, which was a classic margherita served neopolitan style. The pizza came out piping out, and it tasted amazing. The mozzarella was super fresh and the crust was light and crispy, with a slightly wet center. We had thought it would be a tourist trap, but it actually lived up to the hype and then some.
We had to work off the massive amounts of carb and cheese we just had, and thus walked a little bit around Dumbo and the parks. Then, we made our way onto the Brooklyn Bridge and started the trek back to Manhattan. It was a sunny day and wasn’t too cold, so it made for a perfect walk to enjoy the outdoors and to see the Manhattan skyline. The walk was very pleasant and surprisingly only took around 40 minutes. It was a great way to really soak in the city.
7. Downtown NYC | 3 p.m.
Back in Manhattan, we decided to explore the Downtown / Financial District area for the afternoon. We walked east to take a look at the Oculus, the odd looking skeleton shell-like structure. It makes for a great photo, both outside and also inside the mall. The mall had a number of shops like Apple, Sephora, H&M, and Hugo Boss. What was more interesting was that near the mall was Eataly Downtown, a smaller version of the one in the Flatiron. It was great seeing all the fresh and imported foods from Italy. There were a number of restaurants in the multi-floored building as well, but we were still too stuffed from the pizza.
After the Oculus, we walked over to the nearby World Trade Center. While we didn’t go up the Freedom Tower to the observatory, we walked by the memorials for the two towers which had fallen in 9/11. They were two small waterfalls where the buildings had used to be, with the names of all those who had passed away engraved along the edges. It was a solemn reminder of what had happened that day, and also a reminder to cherish today and those around you.
From the WTC, we crossed over to Brookfield Place. It was a mall that housed Le District, which was a small French version of Eataly. The second floor of Brookfield also had a large food court with a lot of New York based shops like Mighty Quinn’s BBQ, Blue Ribbon Sushi, and Fuku of the Momofuku chain. The space also had massive windows overlooking the Hudson River and was a wonderful place for us to sit and enjoy the sunset. The mall below also had a lot of shops and was separated into one region which housed all the luxury names like Hermes, Gucci, and Bottega Veneta, and a second part with more accessible brands like Club Monaco, Vince, and Lululemon. Overall, it was a very new and well designed shopping mall that is part of the revitalization of New York’s downtown area.
8. Italian in Tribeca | 8 p.m.
We continued our walking trip and headed north into Tribeca for dinner. We picked out the Italian place, Locanda Verde, which was highly recommended by a friend. The chef there is Andrew Carmellini, who owns other places in the city such as the Dutch and Lafayette. An interesting fact is that Robert De Niro is actually a part owner of the restaurant.
We sat down in the cozy, rustic dining room with the wooden tables and steel chairs. We ordered their signature sheep’s milk ricotta as well as the tripe for the starters, the pumpkin agnolotti and the duck for the mains, and a hazelnut tart for dessert. Everything was extremely delicious, and the tripe and duck in particular tasted very much like a Chinese preparation of braised tripe, albeit with tomato sauce, and a roasted duck you get from a Hong Kong style BBQ shop. This sounds somewhat odd given that it’s an Italian restaurant, but to me, the flavors really worked while still keeping its authenticity. The restaurant really was one of my favorites of the trip, and I was very glad we went. After dinner and a whole lot of walking for the day, we headed back to the hotel and decided to call it a night.
9. Honeycomb Architecture | 11 a.m.
Day 3 began with going to the newest attraction in New York that’s in all the instagram photos, the Vessel at Hudson Yards which looks like a large honeycomb. We got our tickets there and then headed over to take a whole lot of photos and to act like the tourists that we were. We grabbed a quick bite from the Thomas Keller owned Bouchon Bakery, and then walked around the mall. It was a mix of super high end stores with everyday stores. It was a very nice experience, but also somewhat strange how New York nowadays has so many nice high end malls – Brookfield, Columbus Circle, Hudson Yards – vs only about 10 years ago, when it had almost no malls.
10. Michael White Italian at Ai Fiori | 1 p.m.
From Hudson Yards, we took the 7 train east to Grand Central, which is one of the most famous train terminals. The architecture of the grand hall was quite stunning, with a huge open space and people bustling about to and from the trains. There were also a number of stores in the building as well as a large food court downstairs and a Scandanavian food hall offering open faced sandwiches, sweets, and coffee.
We walked a few blocks south to one of Michael White’s many restaurants in the city. Ai Fiori is one of his high end Michelin-starred Italian restaurants, located on the second floor of the Langham hotel. It was a very elegant space with white tablecloth tables, but it did not feel stuffy or uncomfortable. We ordered the prix fixe menu and started off with the foie gras and fluke crudo. For the mains, we had the seafood risotto and scallops. Everything tasted amazing, and the risotto was probably the best that I’ve every had with perfectly al dente rice in a rich cream sauce and paired with the fresh brininess of uni. I had somewhat expected bland hotel food, but the meal blew away all my expectations.
11. 20 Layer Cake at Lady M | 3 p.m.
We walked a bit around the Bryant Park area which had a number of retail stores. The New York Public Library is also right there so we took a few photographs. After walking for a bit, we stopped for a mid-afternoon snack at Lady M. The cake boutique is famous for its mille crepe cake, which is made by having 20 thin layers of crepe with cream in between. We ordered the coconut and matcha versions of it, as well as a napoleon. The boutique started in NYC, but now has outposts worldwide and I can see why. The cake is very delicate and you can see the amount of work put into each of the thin layers. The taste was extremely light and not too sweet and was a perfect break in the afternoon.
12. Shopping Mecca of Fifth Ave | 4 p.m.
We continued to trek north along Fifth Ave (or Fifth Av as the street sign calls it) into the shopping mecca of the US. There are stores to fit anyone’s tastes from fast fashion to luxury high end to athletic wear to toy stores and electronics. The signature Saks Fifth Avenue is between 49th and 50th, and during Christmas, there are window displays and everyone lines up outside to take pictures. The large Apple Store with the large glass case is also there by 59th, right by the southern entrance of Central Park. Along Fifth Ave is Rockefeller Center, which has the ice skating rink and the famous statue of Atlas. We didn’t make it to the Top of the Rock, but would love to go next time. We also didn’t get the chance to explore Central Park which is right there as well, as there was just so much to do and so little time.
13. Michelin Starred Dinner at Café Boulud | 8 p.m.
To continue the theme of celebrity chefs, we took the green line up to Café Boulud inside the Surrey Hotel on 76th. The restaurant is also Michelin-starred, but is the much more casual counterpart to Daniel Boulud’s eponymous Daniel. The room was warmly lit and was bursting with convivial conversation and felt like very welcoming. While the food was high end and refined, the atmosphere was extremely cozy and relaxed, like being in a friend’s home.
The menu was divided into various sections, including more traditional French fare, and then modern French food with certain twists. We ordered the foie gras and mackerel to start, and had the duck and sea bass for the entrée. For dessert, we got the chocolate and mont blanc. The dessert also came with Boulud’s signature madeleines. Everything we ate was divine and worthy of the chef’s high praise and acclaim. For a high end spot that’s casual at the same time, this is the place to go.
14. A Toast to NYC at The NoMad | 11 p.m.
Since it was our last night in NYC, we wanted to stay out later. Thus, we grabbed a cab and went down to the Flatiron district to the NoMad bar inside the NoMad Hotel. The bar is regularly ranked in the top 5 of the World’s Best 50 Bars list. It is a really old school classy space, with dark oak wood and dark leather banquettes. The wall behind the bartenders is also lined with bottles and glassware which give it a vintage feel with he soft yellow glow of the lights.
There is an upstair space which overlooks the bar that we were lucky to get seats at, so we could enjoy our drinks while people watching below. The drinks were very tasty and innovative. Sitting there sipping on our cocktails, we couldn't help but think that this felt so New York-esque. It was thus a perfect end to our short trip as we clinked our glasses and gave a toast to the Big Apple .