So we had time to kill and dinner to be had. I had a random want for some great red sangria so I texted my friend who's a NYC native and he recommended Pipa Tapas y Mas which was only a few short blocks away. We walked over but unfortunately the place was jam-packed with a 1.5 hour wait. Unsure of what to do I whipped out my 2009 Zagat book and found a very similar spot down the street called Sala 19. Sorry no storefront pic. They said if we could eat in 45 mins we could be sat immediately as they had a large party coming in. Since we needed to get back in time for the show that worked out perfectly for us. We threw down an order for 2 glasses of red sangria as soon as our waiter arrived.
I'll be honest, I like my sangria on the sweeter side and this was more tart. I like more variety of fruit as well. It was decent but not quite as good as the sangria my mother's friend Di makes. But it was sufficient. I mean it couldn't've been all bad, here's a picture of me pounding the stuff down:
Don't you judge me! I was trying to get a nice buzz for the show, plus I was jonesin' for the stuff! Anyway, Nikki wanted the datil, bacon wrapped dates stuffed with almonds so I opted for the queso de cabra con miel which was fried goat cheese with honey and caramelized onion.
These turned out to be fantastic. The dates were roasted so they caramelized nicely. The salt from the bacon and the nutty crunch from the almonds rounded out an almost stellar mouthfeel. Great appetizer.
The fried goat cheese turned out to be another excellent, albeit expensive, appetizer. The terrific tang from the goat cheese was reigned in slightly by the honey and the onions added a nice bite. The subtle fried crust was the similar to a croqueta and suited this application. Here's a nice interior shot:
We'd heard so much about the greatness that is paella but neither of us had ever really had the opportunity to try it so we decided this would be the perfect time to do so. So we ordered the paella de mariscos for two, which the waiter told us would take roughly 35 minutes to prepare. I figured if he was offering then the incoming dinner party couldn't be that important so we placed our order. Shortly after finishing our appetizers and another round of sangria our paella arrived.
Neither of us had ever had paella before this so we had no basis of comparison. That being said we felt the seafood was mostly overcooked. The rice was great but the seafood, especially the shrimp, was definitely overcooked. We both did like the clams and mussels however. I really enjoyed the rice but Nikki was overall unimpressed with the dish. She gave it a 5/10. Here's a closer shot of my individual plate:
I decided to try the white sangria to end the meal and ended up liking it better than the red. It was a bit sweeter.
With three glasses of sangria and a full stomach I was amped for the show. We headed over to the Daryl Roth Theatre to see Fuerza Bruta. Past the front door there was a coat check and a little bar area to hang out until the show started. The show turned out to be an unreal experience. I've since encouraged everyone I know who frequents the city to make a point of seeing it. The room filled with mist before the show started to keep everyone cool.
There are no seats and the show takes place on platforms and from cables above the audience. There's a guy running on a treadmill through breakaway walls, dancers destroying an office space, chicks running across reflective sheets, and scantily clad women doing belly flops on plexiglass platforms covered in water just inches above the audience. I took some videos during the performance but I'm not sure if I'm allowed to post them due to copyrights and such. Better safe than sorry I reckon.
After the show we went back to the hotel, making a slight detour to hit up the huge Hershey chocolate store on the way, and shortly after passed out. We needed our rest in order to conquer Flushing the next day.
The next morning we packed up and checked out. We boarded the 7 train and rode it all the way out to the last stop, Flushing. Our first stop? Quickly on Kissena Blvd.
This is my Starbucks. Why can't there be one of these on every street corner? I'd order a bubble tea every day. After perusing the menu I ordered an almond milk bubble tea, extra boba, and Nikki ordered a passion fruit slush with extra boba.
We've been in the habit of ordering extra boba due to the chain places in our local mall skimping on the wonderful tapioca balls. Real bubble tea places DO NOT skimp on the boba, so as you can see extra boba means half your cup is filled with them. I didn't think you could have too much boba, but I guess there really can be too much of a good thing. Nikki especially. Look at all that boba in her slush! If you've never been to a bubble tea place you basically are given a large pointed straw with which you break the top seal. I should point out to use caution when doing so because if you get too overzealous, like I did, you may end up covered in bubble tea.
The drinks were awesome. Definitely the best bubble tea I've had. The tapioca was cooked properly and the tea was very flavorful and not watered down like most chain venues tend to do. The boba can also be used to plug up any gaps one may have in one's teeth. Observe:
Hideous, aren't I?
Our next destination was Xi'an Famous Foods in the Golden Shopping Mall.
The building may be a bit dilapidated but that should in no way deter potential diners from feasting upon the goodness found within.
Anthony Bourdain featured this venue on his show 'No Reservations' on the travel channel. And for good reason. Their signature dish, liang pi, is one of the best plates of food I've had the privilege of consuming. The dish is named after the owner and translates to 'cold skin'. The establishment expanded recently, opening a location in Manhattan. I was extremely excited about the prospect of having liang pi sans the hour subway ride. Now about that dish... I find it very hard to describe. I'll borrow a snippet from Serious Eats' Joe DiStefano:
"It's a cold salad of squidgy wheat gluten chunks and wheat starch noodles mixed with cilantro, bean sprouts, a touch of chili oil and some Chinkiang vinegar. And it's one of the best things I've eaten in a long time."
I could not stop eating this plate of food. It was indescribably addicting. I know it may not look all that appealing, but trust me, even Nikki was wolfing it down. We need more pictures!
Look at how sexy that closeup shot is. Man I wish I had a plate of liang pi in front of me right now, I would wreck house. Perfect harmony is reached in this dish with the freshness of the cucumber and cilantro, the amazing noodles, and the perfect level of spiciness of the chili oil. Ahhhhh, I need to go to NYC again soon. This has become one of the culinary highlights of my newfound obsession with food. This is up there with Tony Luke's RPI. That says a lot.
We had a lot more food to get to. We hiked back up to the block of Prince Street b/t 38th and 39th. Located on this block right next to each other are Nan Shian Dumpling House and Happy Beef Noodle House. There was a large wait to dine at Nan Shian so we decided to go there first before the wait got any longer, which it quickly did.
The reason do dine here is their famous soup dumplings. I'd never had soup dumplings before but I'd read a lot about them and I was definitely jonesing for some awesome dumplings. The wait was pretty long, about 40 minutes, but the hostess and the rest of the staff for that matter was very nice and lightened the burden of the hefty wait. We were sat and presented with very simple table settings:
ordered a single order of soup dumplings. The informed us the wait would be a little while because they steam them to order so we waited and sipped hot tea and people watched. Finally our lovely steam basket arrived containing the supposedly best soup dumplings in New York.
Even after reading about the proper way to eat these and watching the other diners, it still proved to be a difficult task. The soup contained within was scorchingly hot so after using the tongs and moving a dumpling to my spoon I bit off the very tip to allow the soup to cool before diving right in. I'm very prone to burning my tongue so I had to wait quite a while.
You really have to bite-suck these dumplings to eat the properly. If you merely bite into it, it would cause the soup to spill out. Still, even after trying that the only success I had was shoving the entire thing in my mouth. While the dumpling itself was wonderful, and the soup was equally as good, it wasn't really all that spectacular. I would only come here again if I were with a group of people and we planned on eating a full meal.
We left Nan Shian and garnered some strange looks as we turned around and walked right into the Happy Beef Noodle House.
I liked this place a lot more as there was more room to dine and it wasn't nearly as crowded. The table was similarly laid out, this time with large individual cups of tea and a large squirt bottle of Sriracha.
As you can imagine, the dish to order here is the beef noodle soup. The first thing on the menu. And one bowl is more than enough to feed two people.
Again this soup was good but was overshadowed by the revelation had at Xi'an earlier that day. The one thing that really shined in the soup was the ultra-meaty chunks of beef. This was like the best pot roast you'd ever had. I don't know how they got the meat flavor so concentrated but it was like 1/2 lb. beef patty in every bite. My only picture of the meat came out a bit blurry but here it is:
You can see the grill marks. Those aren't out of a can like the ones you find at Burger King. Those are the real deal. I'm surprised just how much of this soup we finished off. We got the check and proceeded to our final destination just around the corner, the Flushing Mall.
Unfortuantely this is when the trip didn't go as planned. We entered the mall from the above pictured entrance and scoured the entire premisis and while we definitely found a food court, there was no S&C Shaved Ice to be found. When we returned from NYC I re-checked my sources and we definitely didn't see anything that looked like the mall pictured here. I'm not sure what happened and why we couldn't find this place. The mall we walked through was mostly deserted and a lot of the shops were empty. Ah well, maybe next time. It was probably a good thing since we were both on a one-way trip to a pretty serious food coma.
We went back to the hotel because Nikki forgot a library book in our room then started making our way down to the bus stop at Penn Station. We stopped at the first place we could find that was showing the Ravens game and caught the last 4 minutes of their loss to the Bengals. Bummer. We left after the game and continued our trek south. Nikki had a grilled cheese at the bar but I refused to consume mediocre bar food just because it was there. Something caught my eye on the way though, a Grey's Papaya hot dog stand.
I ordered the recession special of two dogs and a beverage. I ordered my dogs with mustard and onions and yelled at the guy when I saw him covering my dogs with some red liquidy stuff. "I didn't order chili!" I said to which he slowly responded "These are onions..." I'd never seen onions like this but I guess it was Grey Papaya's house recipe. As soon as I spotted banana daiquiri I immediately selected that as my beverage. I didn't dive into my food until we found our place in line for the bus. This proved to be a very bad idea.
The liquidy onion topping had completely soaked through the buns. And if there was any mustard on these hotdogs I certainly couldn't taste it. I took two sips of the overly coconutty banana concoction and threw it in the trash. I knew any more would've caused severe stomach issues. The only redeeming quality of this meal was the dog itself having a nice beef flavor and a good snap to the casing.
I could see this being a sufficient meal when severely inhebriated, but it fell way short of anything even remotely satisfying while stone sober.
Thus ends our 3-day trip to NYC. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did living it. Until next time!