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best meals in New York City


In addition to the meals I have previously written about in my 2013 visit to New York City, these meals are worthy of separate reviews. Apart from one, all were moderately priced places. More often than not, the tiny ramshackle places that have been around for decades served the best food.

At Maya, a modern Mexican restaurant in the Upper East Side, you can enjoy an amazing all you can eat and drink brunch for $35pp + tax and tip. I booked with guarded optimism, assuming that there must be a catch as it seemed too good to be true. Fortunately, this was one of those rare occasions when the offer turned out to be real.

The dishes were small share plates from the considerable menu, and including mixed seafood ceviche, chicken tamal, squash blossom quesadila, smoked brisket tacos, carnitas torta, wild mushroom enchilada, caramelised plantains with chipotle butter and a couple of modern fusion dishes like mini hotdogs made with smoky chorizo and bacon and Mexican French toast with nutella and banana. They kept coming, and coming…

The drinks included bloody marias (bloody mary but with tequila instead of vodka) and regular and frozen margaritas. We had a bloody maria and three margaritas each. All the food was great and there was no shortage of drinks. It’s probably illegal in Australia to serve all you can drink in this manner, where your margarita gets topped up at your table from a large jug, not watered down and tart with lots of fresh lime juice.

Maya was full of 30somethings talking and laughing and having a great time. We staggered out of the restaurant back towards the nearby museums realising, even in our sloshed state, that we’d possibly had the best meal of the trip.

Almost as outstanding, albeit in a very different and less glamorous setting, was the food at the Dominican restaurant Margot in Washington Heights, a tiny shabby place with about 6 tables and where English is a second language, which makes ordering a minor challenge for anglo tourists. We ordered the pork ribs and meatballs, rice and beans and plantain fritters.

Also noteworthy were our meals at the Michelin starred Wallsé (modern Austrian) and the unassuming Lomzynianka (traditional Polish – see my separate review). Located in Greenwich Village, Wallsé served us entrees of quark spätzle with braised rabbit and snail ravioli, and mains of roast venison with elderberry sauce and roast duck with foie gras sauce. I had some quality American white rind cheese and my girlfriend had a spectacular Salzburger nockerl. The service was excellent.

We were expecting the diversity of foods we found as this is simply the result of immigration; what took us by surprise was how cheap some food was, and how important seafood is in the New York diet. The range of seafood, including lobster rolls (traditional American), catfish (southern American), fish tacos (Mexican) ceviche (South America) and the ubiquitous lox (smoked salmon) bagels, was something of a revelation.

We were fortunate to drink some great American wine while in New York. The highlights were a 1995 Rabbit Ridge zinfandel and a 2011 Broc valdiguié. I was also pleased to discover the Custom American wine bar in Williamsburg, which serves only American wine and spirits, where we enjoyed a New York state dry riesling and a Washington state sangiovese.

The juices from Red Jacket Orchards in New York state are amazing, particularly the cherry juice. Available in Wholefoods, bigger better supermarkets and direct from the producer’s stall at the Abingdon Square Greenmarket in Greenwich Village. It’s like strudel in a bottle. Divine.

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