Little mandarin discovering the Big Apple
“Concrete jungle where dreams are made of… There’s nothing’ you can’t do, now you’re in New York..” New York, New York. A city so nice, they named it twice.
Shoot me in the face, but it took me a few visits before I could fully appreciate the New York Madness. “Go to New York” they said, “You’ll love it” they said. Stubborn as I was (ok – am), I never really believed that I would actually like that great stone desert. I couldn’t imagine it would have anything more to offer than any of my favourite Asian cities, and it would definitely be much more expensive.
The year I turned 30, I ended up going to New York thrice. The girls and I decided a while ago to visit the city in the one month we would all be 30, me being the youngest of our pack. Not taking into account that by the time I was turning that age, I would be working for Belgians’ biggest New York tourist supplier. Not having been to New York was perceived as very strange at that company – to say the least. Not being utterly excited about going to New York even more.
Before the big Birthday-trip was finally there, I joined our CEO, our product director and my fellow project companion (3 New York connoisseurs in heart and mind) on a trip to the City to visit a fair. Showing me the secrets of the city, depict their disappointment in me still not being convinced. It might have taken me a little longer than the average person to get excited, but before I returned from the second trip, the third one was already booked.
I’m not the one to tell you what to do or not to do once you arrive. This city has too much to offer anyone. But I can give away that the High Line is my absolute favourite spot and that my love for rooftop bars was well nourished (try Le Bain at the Standard or PH-D at Dream Hotel – among many more).
Where to stay is very personal. For a first visit, The Belvedere Hotel was the best choice my boss could have picked out for us. Centrally located New York charm. But the girls and I equally enjoyed the affordable luxury at trendy capsule-styled Yotel. For the third visit, we chose to stay at Best Western Bowery Hanbee, offering us the most space for our money and located on the border of China Town and Little Italy, exactly where I belong. (All of these can be booked at Connections.be by the way).
Where to eat is more my cup of tea. Listed below my absolute musts. Sorted alphabetically since it’s not fair to either one of them to do favouritism. Don’t mind the fact if there’s a picture available; it has nothing to do with the food nor the atmosphere, only with the matter that I tend to eat my food before thinking of capturing it on film (or phone).
- ABC Kitchen – 35 E 18th Street
If you’re a foodie, “Jean George Vongerichten” will be enough said. This farm-to-the-table movement doesn’t only guarantee extremely yummy dishes, but the interior is just as inspiring as the menu.
- Balthazar – 80 Spring Street (Soho)
Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day. Eggs Benedict my favourite breakfast around the world. At Balthazar they are just perfect.
- Buddakan – 75 9th Avenue (Meatpacking district)
It has something to do with SATC. Not a fan enough to tell you with certainty, but I guess that Carry hosted her engagement diner at this place or something like that. The cocktails are amazing and worth a visit of their own, but I still dream about their edamame dumplings on a regular basis.
- Dean and Deluca – 560 Broadway (Soho) – 1150 Madison Avenue
Traditional deli. Choose-your-own-salads. Great variety of breads, meets, cheeses,…. The Madison Avenue branch is just perfect to stock up on snacks for a pick-nick at Central Park.
- Grand Central Oyster Bar
Stop to have a glass of wine and relax at the bar of this historical landmark. Choose between over a dozen types of oysters. Or over a dozen types of fish.
- Fanelli’s Cafe – 94 Prince Street (Soho)
The best accidental discovery I have ever made. Old NYC style speakeasy. Great burgers accompanied with outstanding fries (huge compliment coming from a Belgian).
- Ping’s – 22 Mott Street (China Town – where else?)
- Sakagura – 211 E 43rd Street
A Japanese restaurant that caters to Japanese customers living in New York, in the basement of an office building. Walk by the night porter and down a metal staircase to find the best sushi – and Japanese dishes I’ve never had before – along with an extensive sake list.
- Spice Market – 403 W 13th Street (Meatpacking district)
I’ve been spoiled as far as Asian food goes. And this place is adjusted to our Western taste buds, but in a good way. Lovely food, great scene. Don’t go if you can’t handle the noise or the dark though.
- The Bar Room (at the Modern) – 9 W 53rd Street
Conveniently at my fondling MoMa. When lingering in this amazing museum, one tends to get a bit hungry. Or maybe that’s just me. Not your typical museum restaurant, this elegant establishment is worthy even when you’re not into Modern Art.
- The Spotted Pig – 314 W 11th Street (Greenwich Village)
No list could be complete without a nice gastro-pub. Walk-in basis only, but call in to check how busy they are. It can get very crowded, but the food definitely deserves the wait.