During my latest visit to my beloved New York, I spent eight days gleefully eating my way around the city, as I have done in countless trips past. I am continually asked for NY recommends as many of us in the Bay Area are either East Coast transplants, do business in both cities, or are savvy frequent travelers. Check out my Perfect Spot newsletter-archives for much more NY food and drink, but now I bring you part two. (Check out part one here.) A mini-list of great eats in varying categories:
GREEK SEAFOOD in QUEENS
Taverna Kyclades – You won’t regret trekking to Astoria, Queens, for an unforgettable Greek seafood feast at Taverna Kyclades. The humble, convivial space feels like a casual seafood/fish house, which in fact, it is, serving family-style platters of Greek food. House bread arrives piping hot, addictive with olive oil or one of their house dips, like yogurt-garlic-cucumber ($5.50). Peasant salad ($7.50 small; $10.95 large) is plenty large, even as a small. Plump, red tomatoes, heaping amounts of onions and olives, and a big slab of fresh feta cheese… a beautiful salad. Mythos beer washed down grilled sardines ($14.95) and lemon potatoes, tasting vividly lemony but with an almost unnatural yellow hue. Filet of sole stuffed with crab meat (19.75) was the one ok dish: old school, not the freshest crab, reminding me of the 1950’s style of seafood entrees you find at SF’s Tadich Grill. The piece de resistance is grilled octopus ($11.95), a succulent spread of plump invertebrates, envigorated by a squeeze of lemon. Opa!
Lookin’ good at Luke’s
CHEAP, AUTHENTIC LOBSTER ROLLS
Luke’s Lobster Shack – In the heart of the East Village you’ll find Luke’s Lobster Shack, a humble hole-in-the-wall with a couple stools, take-out Maine seafood and a second location on the Upper East Side. Operating on principles of sustainability and New England authenticity, the prices are “cheap” for NY and for lobster rolls: get a whole Lobster Roll for $14 or an ideal “snack size” for $8. Loaded with buttery lobster from Maine and a light coating of mayo, it may not be my beloved (and the ultimate seafood stop) Pearl’s in the Village, but it’s a tasty steal. For an extra $2, get the roll with Maine Root Soda, Miss Vickie’s chips and a pickle.
Aquavit Bistro – Aquavit, the restaurant through which chef Marcus Samuelsson left a mark on modern Scandinavian cooking, has become one of the great Scandinavian restaurants, a cuisine not easy to find in the US. I adore the region’s focus on fresh fish, salmon, caviar, herring and, of course, the namesake spirit, aquavit. Looking for deals, I dined in the spare, upscale IKEA bistro, versus the more stuffy, pricey dining room. Quality does not suffer in the bistro, while service is gracious and well-orchestrated. I ordered a $17 flight of three (or $7 each) of the house-infused aquavits, though narrowing down flavors was problematic, as all three were all lovely, from a crisp cucumber, hot mango-lime-chili, to my favorite: horseradish. Each dish delights and portions are generous. Gravlax is heaping slices of bright, cured salmon in hovmastar (a mustard/white vinegar based sauce) with dill and lemon. I equally fell for matjes herring: thin slices of herring with finely diced yellow beets, red onions and sour cream. Swedish meatballs were the best I’ve ever had, redolent with cinnamon and gentle spicing in the meat, piled next to whipped potato puree, pickled cucumbers, sweet lingonberries, and addictive cream sauce. This is a New York favorite and I’m more than a little sad not to have a place like it here in SF.