Thanh Da (New York): A Noodle Soup To Remember

Bun RieuThe Ex and I have been on a bit of a quest recently. After a Thrillist list of “10 Best Pho Spots in NYC” by the lovely Patty Lee caught my eye a few months ago, we decided hey, why not check them all out?

My immense love for pho (Vietnamese beef noodle soup) is well-documented on this blog — not just places in New York, but also Edinburgh, Berlin and even Wichita, Kansas.

In New York, however, I’ve found myself going to the same place over and over recently — the always reliable¬†Xe Lua in Manhattan’s Chinatown, a little place that Chef Simpson (of Cafe Asean) introduced to me and one that I absolutely love. (The pho broth there is intensely aromatic and meaty — very satisfying.) So when this list presented itself, we said, let’s try them all!

With a big blizzard about to hit our fair city, a bowl of hot Vietnamese soup seemed just about right. So off we went, on the trail of Thanh Da, in the sprawling Chinatown in Sunset Park, New York

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Ramen Lab (New York): Umami in a Bowl

Ramen Lab

When it’s 20 degrees out (with a windchill of far lower), just about nothing will get me off the couch and out of the house.

Nothing, that is, besides the possibility of excellent ramen.

I’d been reading and hearing about Ramen Lab for months, a little Tokyo-style noodle joint that Sun Noodle, which has been supplying noodles to some of the country’s best ramen joints (Momofuku, Ippudo, etc.), was opening in New York. Two days ago, after much anticipation, Ramen Lab finally threw open its sliver of a door in NoLita.

Would it live up to the hype? I had to find out …

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The Nomad (New York): One Last Feast For The Road

The NomadThe thing about starting the tradition of sending a visitor off from your city with a terrific last meal is that well — you’ve got to keep that going.

I’d quite royally spoiled my fashion editor friend Clifford Pugh when we feasted on delicious stuffed clams and vegetable crudites in a memorable green goddess dressing in New York City, right before he hopped on a plane back to Houston after the September fashion shows. So when Clifford came back to New York this month (for my birthday!), I knew I had to plan something good for his final lunch here.

The place had to be comfortable and chic, like Clifford, and the food — well, after our last meal at The Clam, I knew it had to be pretty darn great.

Which is how we found ourselves converging on a place that instantly came to mind: The Nomad, at the rather fashionable Nomad Hotel

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Excellent Pork Chop House: Taiwanese Comfort Food

There are some people whose food instincts and advice I greatly respect. One of them is the voracious (and all-around awesome) Ed Lin, author of New York Chinatown thrillers “One Red Bastard,” “Snakes Can’t Run” and more.

So when Ed recently posted a photo of a bowl of noodles at his favorite Taiwanese place in New York, I immediately sat up. I trust Ed on all matters gastronomic — especially Taiwanese, a cuisine he knows inside and out.

Which is how a few days later, sous chef and I found ourselves wending down a narrow curvy lane in Chinatown, eyes peeled for one “Excellent Pork Chop House” …

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Thistle (McMinnville, Oregon): The Best of Oregon

There have been many questions since the return to New York following a short book tour and road trip, idyllic and beautiful, along the lush green coast of the Pacific Northwest.

The burning question hasn’t been, “How did your readings go?” Mind you. Rather, the first question that slips out as soon as politely possible is: “OK, where did you eat?”

This being a somewhat book-centric trip — thank you Seattle and Portland for organizing such lovely A Tiger in the Kitchen soirees! — the time for restaurant-hopping wasn’t plenty. Among the several restaurants I did sample, though, one firmly sunk its chompers in me and hasn’t let go: Thistle, a deliciously charming little spot in McMinnville, Oregon, that manages to out-Brooklyn the wave of recent trendy Brooklyn restaurants branding themselves as farm-to-table havens.

After raving like a lunatic about this Oregon restaurant that that serves up amazing hyper-locavore Americana — all made with ingredients from neighboring farms (and a co-owner’s mom’s garden sometimes) — that could put many of its big-city counterparts to shame, I felt a little vindicated yesterday when I learned that The Oregonian had named Thistle its 2011 Restaurant of the Year (in the entire state of Oregon) this week. As soon as the smug joy subsided, however, I needed a Thistle fix.

So, out came the photos and the reverie began…

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