Big Apple bites
A JEWISH indulgence in chicken broth with matzo balls, pickled herring, potato and kasha knish, chopped liver sandwich, gefelte fish, real pastrami on rye and the Canter Deli’s revered seven- tier cake was a new and enjoyable culinary experience for me.
And eating downmarket at hot dog stands and country diners was both fun and, at best, instructive.
The most disappointing US eating experience was a special wine dinner for five at what is widely acclaimed as the top Italian restaurant in Los Angeles.
To accompany the host’s generous selection of top ’ 89 and ’ 90 vintage Barolos and Barbarescos came a menu of marrow bone where the marrow had been melted to a stringy, oily sludge, passable pasta with sea urchin roe, gnocchi in a thin, lemony broth, a beautifully cooked, salt- crusted striped bass, Southern- style smoked ribs on over- cooked risotto and, finally, a steak masquerading as the famed Florentine T- bone of Tuscany.
The others, moneyed and wine-knowledgeable all, seemed to confuse their food with the restaurant’s reputation and thought the Americanised- Italian fare superb. I kept wishing we were drinking the wines at Piccolo.
At the other end of the spectrum a dish I had at an old Italian restaurant in New York was among the most memorable of my experience, a dish which, for me at least, approached culinary perfection.
The restaurant was Barolo Ristorante at 398 West Broadway, SoHo. It was New York’s Restaurant Week and they offered a three- course lunch for $ 25.
Instead, I ordered their specialty, risotto Barolo, which, at $ 30, was a creamy mound of rice plumped with light chicken stock with a few peeled and warmed red grapes and a little parmesan tossed through, sitting in a moat of Barolo- wine sauce. No superfluous garnishing, no pretentious ingredients and the combination of flavours nothing short of delicious.
And, to make the lunch even more memorable, the restaurant was opposite the city’s oldest cigar merchant with a downstairs cigar lounge, one of only eight such lounges left in New York.
WEIRD AND WONDERFUL: Patrons at an eatery in Greenwich Village, New York.