At the start of my visit to New York City, I stayed around the hip Lower East Side area which is full of interesting restaurants and boutiques. We loved having fantastic eateries on our doorstep and here are the highlights of the area for me:
Momofuku Noodle Bar
A few of the famous Momofuku restaurants run by David Chang are clustered around the East Village side of town and we were lucky that we decided to hit up the Momofuku Noodle Bar early at 5.30pm when they open for dinner because a line had already formed outside the restaurant.
We sat at the counter which was great for efficient service by the staff and the 2 of us ended up overordering by getting a ramen each and 2 types of the buns – the signature pork ones as well as the shrimp version, which come in servings of 2 per plate.
Pork buns, $10 for 2
The thick slice of pork was full of melt-in-your mouth fatty goodness, enveloped by a soft fluffy fold-over bun. The filling also had some shallots and cucumber slices as well as a tasty Hoisin sauce which was enhanced by the addition of the Sriracha Chili which is handily available at every table. The Shrimp Bun was also fairly impressive in its own way – it featured a shrimp cake rather than an actual prawn and was drizzled with a delicious spicy mayo sauce, paired with sliced onions to add to the flavour.
Shrimp buns, $12 for 2
We were already quite stuffed from the buns by the time our ramens came out but we found that despite this being a Noodle Bar, their ramen wasn’t quite as well done as the buns were. I got the Pork Ramen which had springy noodles and came with pork shoulder, fish cake, a poached egg, garlic and shallots. The runny egg was a nice touch but the broth was way too salty for my liking.
Pork Ramen, $14
The boy got a Momofuku Ramen which looked like a bigger serving than mine was, but that might have been an optical illusion because it came in a bigger bowl. It consisted of pork belly and pork shoulder as well as a poached egg and the other usual toppings. He wasn’t particularly impressed by his ramen either as it was nothing remarkable despite the rather hefty price tag.
Momofuku Ramen, $16
Despite the lacklustre ramen, I’m glad that we went to Momofuku Noodle Bar for my first meal in NYC because after 36 hours straight of travelling, the buns tasted heavenly and they did actually live up to the hype as well as being pretty good value considering how full you get after devouring 2 of them. Just be sure to line up early at opening time, otherwise you’ll be stuck in line for awhile at this popular joint.
Momofuku Noodle Bar
171 1st Ave
New York, NY 10003
The Meatball Shop
Another crowdpleasing Lower East Side hangout is the Meatball Shop which serves up its namesake dish in all shapes and forms. These gourmet meatballs were seriously the best meatballs I’ve ever had – they tasted absolutely fantastic even though we got takeaway and walked back to our apartment to enjoy them lukewarm because the restaurant was too full to sit at a table.
Everything but the Kitchen Sink Salad with Meatballs, $10
The above photo is a quick iPhone snap of the boy’s order and unfortunately I didn’t end up taking a photo of my order, which was the Meatball Smash. You choose 2 meatballs and they are smashed onto a toasted brioche bun with sauce and cheese served with a small side salad. It sounds simple enough but I soon found out that despite the small package it came in, my choice of the Spicy Pork meatballs with Mushroom sauce and Provolone Cheese was a glorious smorgasbord of many delicious flavours, all wrapped up in their soft brioche bun. Takeout doesn’t get much better than this and is worth the short wait, especially at such reasonable prices.
The Meatball Shop
84 Stanton St
New York, NY 10002
Rice to Riches
Imagine the familiar concept of a froyo bar with various frozen yoghurt flavours and topping options, then substitute the frozen yoghurt part with rice pudding and you have yourself the New York version of a Rice Pudding bar with all sorts of interesting flavours like Eggnog, Butter Pecan, Tiramisu and much more.
Tiramisu Rice Pudding (solo for $6) with Black Magic Chocolate Crumble (toppings $1 each)
We tried the solo serving of their Take Me to Tiramisu flavour and added a Black Magic Chocolate Crumble topping which was good for some extra crunch. The rice pudding went well with the Tiramisu taste and it is actually quite filling since the dessert is rice based and we struggle to finish the generously sized portion between the two of us. After awhile the thick sweetness gets to you and even though it tastes pretty good at first, we have to admit defeat about three quarters of the way through.
I loved all the cheeky puns and sayings they had incorporated into their rice pudding flavour names and had written all over their walls in their futuristic looking store, but wished that they had more seats and table areas as on the night we visited, most of the available counter space and booths were taken up and it was way too cold to be standing outside and eating. Otherwise, it’s a fun place to go for dessert if you’re in the area.
Rice to Riches
37 Spring St
New York, NY 10012
Clinton St. Baking Co.
This restaurant came highly recommended by the local guide left by our apartment owner, so we tried it on the last morning we stayed in the Lower East Side. You can’t miss the bright red covered doorway which marks the entrance to Clinton St. Baking Co and we waited outside on a bench for about 15 minutes before a table became available. Once we got inside, service was prompt with all wait staff wearing adorable cheeky “made with love and butter” t-shirts. The aroma of freshly baked bread in the restaurant also adds to the cosy ambience.
The menu featured the usual array of breakfast options, and we ordered a couple of their egg dishes to start off the day with. I enjoyed the Spanish Scramble which consisted of three eggs, chorizo, tomatoes, caramelised onion, shallots, melted Monterey Jack cheese and came with hash browns as well as sourdough toast. There were a lot of ingredients packed into this colourful scrambled egg omelette, but thankfully they all worked harmoniously together to create a tasty and filling breakfast.
Spanish scramble, $13
Eggs Benedict, $15
Clinton St. Bakery Co. put an American twist on the classic Eggs Benedict by using maple cured ham and a toasted buttermilk biscuit as the base. The poached eggs were fluffy, drizzled with chopped shallots and a lovely hollandaise sauce.
Harvey & Sons Tropical Green Tea, $2.50
The only complaint from the boy was still the fact that their cappuccino seemed fairly tasteless in comparison to the amazing offerings from Sydney cafes, but this is true about most American coffees. Since I’ve heard all about the lacklustre coffee in America, I opted for the interesting sounding Tropical Green Tea on the menu and was rewarded with a very fragrant, fruity tasting green tea.
Judging by the crowds waiting outside this restaurant, it’s a popular Lower East Side haunt and definitely a place to try if you are around the area for a hearty New York breakfast, or all day pancakes if you’re craving them!
Clinton St Baking Co.
4 Clinton St
New York NY 10002
If any of you have heard of the Taiwanese-American chef Eddie Huang or watched the show Fresh Off the Boat, you should drop by his restaurant Baohaus in New York’s Chinatown to grab yourselves some pillowy soft bao (buns) with all sorts of tasty fillings. The style of buns they serve up look similar to the more famous Momofuku buns but with more variety for the innards.
We were going to a New York Knicks v Houston Rockets NBA game that night, so I ordered a Jeremy Lin Bao to commemorate the occasion. This fluffy bun features a fried curry pork chop with lemon aioli, pickled radish and carrot, with coriander (the Americans call it “cilantro”) and jalapeno to add some spiciness. I had high hopes for this bao because of who it was associated with, but unfortunately I’m not a fan of pickles and I found that the sour flavour overpowered the flavours of the rest of the bao, although the curry pork chop wasn’t too bad.
Jeremy Lin Bao, $3.90 and Birdhaus Bao, $2.99
I had much better luck with the Birdhaus Bao which had a deliciously crispy piece of all natural fried chicken which was sprinkled with Haus Seasoning Salt, Taiwanese red sugar, crushed peanuts and some coriander again. The bun makes a fantastic snack because it’s not a very big serving, but luckily we had ordered some other sides to go with it.
All in all, Baohaus is a great spot to drop into for a quick snack. The shop itself is nothing too flash looking but has a few tables out the back and a counter area to eat at with cheeky cartoons framed on the wall with captions which play on the word “bao”.
238 E 14th St, New York
NY 10003, United States