If you have good attention to detail or, like me, have hungry eyes, then you might have felt short-changed when reaching the end of my last New York post and not being told more of the earlier promised ‘incredible tapas dinner’. Well, fear not, as this is one foodie filled post!
The evening began in a bar, but not just any bar. Michael & I had arranged to meet for a drink at Please Don’t Tell (PDT), voted one of the world’s best bars. Although, without the strong recommendation from a local friend, we would never have discovered it on our own, since the entrance is via Crif Dogs, a humble-looking hot dog joint.
But it gets even quirkier, as to actually enter PDT you have to slide yourself into a tiny vintage phone box (thank God I don’t suffer from claustrophobia) and dial 1, and wait for someone to answer, take your name, and tell you that they will call you “when the bar is ready for you”.
I have to say that this kind of built-up hype isn’t really for me – I’m too impatient for these too-cool, secret password-esque types of places. Nonetheless, we were eventually invited in (to a fairly empty room), and took a perch at the colourful bar.
PDT is renowned for its cocktails, courtesy of famous mixologist Jim Meehan. We picked two from the menu, sat back, and watched the show.
To be perfectly honest, the cocktails didn’t really wow us. I don’t usually order cocktails but, when I do, I tend to stick to safe options that l know I will like, i.e. cosmo’s & mojitos (so much love), as I hate spending money on something I don’t enjoy. Don’t get me wrong, they weren’t bad, they just weren’t my preferred flavor.
Ultimately, both Michael & I thought that PDT was cool as a dark and mysterious place to visit during the midst of winter, or for a late night aperitif, but it perhaps wasn’t the best shout during a scorching hot summer’s day. A beer garden would have been ever so slightly more fitting!
Onwards & upwards, dinner time. Five of Michael’s friends joined us for the long-awaited tapas dinner at Traif in Williamsburg, which celebrates “pork, shellfish and globally-inspired soul food”.
The first thing that you notice is the long, open kitchen and the ultra-trendy chefs; we were in Williamsburg after all.
Everything on the menu is designed to be shared, so we wasted no time getting stuck in and ordering a bunch of dishes.
But, first, an unexpected amuse bouche of some chilled delicious liquid was served & downed.
We decided that the best thing to do would be to split off into 3 groups and order amongst ourselves, otherwise sharing could become a bit hectic.
First up for Michael & I was the hampshire pork belly, rhubarb, fresh runner beans, blueberries, apricot marmalade ($14.00). D-I-V-I-N-E. Seriously, sensationally good. The pork was unbelievably tender and melted away in the mouth. The blueberries added juicy bursts of flavour and a touch of acidity, which balanced the sweetness from the marmalade perfectly. An excellent start.
Next arrived the spicy bigeye tuna tartare, tempura Japanese eggplant, kecap manis ($10.00). Another blowout dish. The quality of the tuna was superb, and the little floats of succulent, meaty, battered aubergine that it perched atop provided for a unique and delicious combination.
The one thing that I will say about Traif is that the food comes when it’s ready, so be prepared for a slight overload of dishes if you don’t stagger your ordering. However, none of us were complaining; we were all too busy stuffing our faces!
Then came the sauteed broccoli rabe, roasted mushrooms, truffle toast, fried egg, aged asiago ($14.00). A slightly rogue order on my part, which was tasty enough, but nothing compared to the two dishes that we had just sampled. The broccoli rabe was too bitter for my liking and overpowered the other delicate flavours of the dish. The textures, however, were sensational. The truffle toast was the perfect sponge for the runny egg yolk. Chewy & saucy; my kind of combo!
The BBQ braised short rib sliders, sweet potato fries, smoked paprika aioli ($11.00) stepped up the game again. The rib meat was intensely smoky and juicy, and the sweet potato fries were bang on the money, even giving those at Mildred’s and Hotbox a run for their money!
Next up was strawberry-cinnamon glazed berkshire baby back ribs ($14.00). An unusual combination of ingredients that I can kind of see where they were going with, but which didn’t quite work for me. The cinnamon added a grainy texture to the ribs and, although I do love sweet-glazed ribs, actually biting into both meat and strawberry at once was a little too weird for me and didn’t achieve the same result. I’m afraid to say that the ribs at Eight over Eight, Yauatcha and Buddakan are in an entirely different league.
We finished with the salt & pepper shrimp, pineapple, sweet potato, snow peas, sweet-spicy thai vin ($12.00). This was probably the most disappointing of all the dishes that Michael & I ordered. The battered shrimp was (obviously) a success, but I disliked the warm sweet fruit and stodgy potato counterparts that were served with it. In my opinion, they should just stick to the snow peas and some scrummy sauce, like at Sushi Samba, which I firmly believe makes the best shrimp tempura around.
All in all, some hit & miss plates of food, but I loved the creativity of the chefs and the boldness of the flavour combinations, even if some of them didn’t quite do it for me. Plus, the boys were certainly impressed, so I couldn’t have asked for much more.
No good evening can end without dessert. Particularly when bacon doughnuts, dulce de leche, coffee ice-cream (Traif’s signature dish) ($7.00) are on the menu. They were a true culinary accomplishment; light, fluffy and eggy, with a crisp-glazed exterior. Just think pancakes, bacon and maple syrup, and you’ll be on board. The coffee ice-cream provided a refreshing element, and balanced the sweetness of the doughnuts nicely.
Another winner was Mom’s key lime pie, graham crust, pineapple ($7.00). It was deliciously light & creamy, with a firm biscuit crust and strong citrus tang. A very well-executed dessert.
The 75% dark chocolate pudding, peanut fudge, sea salt ($7.00) was always going to be well received. The fudge was dark, dense and rich, as it should be, with the peanut butter brittle providing welcomed contrasting texture and yummy nutty flavour, which was rounded off nicely by a dollop of vanilla ice-cream.
We had such a great evening at Traif; the service was so personable and the majority of the food so tasty and unusual, for excellent value.
Since I only had 1 day left in New York Michael & I decided to leave the boys to it and call it a night, and headed back to the hotel for a cosy evening in. However, I might have taken him on a sliiiiight detour under the premise of ‘going for a romantic walk’ since, having read Laura’s post on Milk Bar, there was no way I was returning home without having me a slice of that crack pie!
Milk Bar is famous for its indulgent baked goods, and has an extensive mouth-watering menu that makes you wish more than anything that food didn’t contain calories.
In the end, I narrowed it down to two choices; the much-sought after crack pie and the b’day cake truffles. The crack pie earned its name on the premise that it’s as addictive as crack and, considering its ingredients list, it’s easy to see why it gives you a sugar rush equivalent to that of a rocket being launched into space. Butter, sugar, light brown sugar, eggs, heavy cream = one rich, salty-sweet pie, that you never want to end. It’s sickeningly-sweet, but unstoppably moreish, and was most enjoyed by my insatiable sweet tooth.
The b’day truffles, however, were nothing to write home about. Obviously they were not at all offensive, but they were nothing more than very sweet little balls of a one-dimensional claggy texture. It’s safe to say that the crack pie won the dessert race by leaps & bounds; you really MUST grab a slice when you next visit the City.
And with a very full, happy tummy, it wasn’t long before I fell into a deep sugar-induced coma.