Shut up and eat presents: Mystery Menu: New York edition.
(Only a portion of places suggested are shown)
A couple of weeks ago, I was contacted by a few Twitter followers for some restaurant suggestions, but these weren’t just any regular restaurant suggestion. No they weren’t looking for Montreal’s most “authentic” something or other or the newest and hottest spot in the city, but they were looking for food in city of the Newest York. Having traveled to the Big Apple numerous times, I’ve amassed a list of great places to eat and snack while exploring the city and its three of five boroughs. Nic and Janie were planning their two week trip to New York and the only part of their schedule that was missing was where they were going to eat. I proposed a “mystery menu” idea; cross-referencing their itinerary, I would suggest restaurant destinations and meal ideas, and list this only by address according to what area of the city they were going to be in. I made necessary reservations, gave them the list and they appropriated the coordinates to their daily schedule. The two were on board and were enthusiastic about the idea.
So I wrote their gastronomic fates and sent them on their way… and this is what happened:
LAST DAY (Day 6)
Our last day in New York! It could have been exciting: filling our lungs with New York air in order to bring as much as we could the next day, running in the streets after cabs, buying thousands of “I love New York” t-shirts… But not really, people were packing up their stuff and leaving since Irene was now one day away from the city. And anyway, I can’t hold my breath for one day.
Even if we felt like in Independence Day, without Will Smith or Jeff Goldblum to throw one liners, we decided to go for a little breakfast at an unusual small cafe: the Habana Café. Unusual because it soon appeared to us that shutupandeat had brought us to a cuban inspired restaurant and even more, it serves alcohol in the morning to fight hangovers! Now that’s some Cuban medicine right there! Even with all the Margaritas, Mojitos and so on, we decided to stay sober for the morning and proceeded with the breakfast.
I took the plate simply named breakfast sandwich. In a really short moment, I got a fat panini like bread filled with eggs, tomatoes, onion, red lettuce, spinach, and a bean puree. Quite simple, but fulfilling, the last two ingredients sure added a taste of exotic to such a simple dish. The beans puree gave a salty and spicy color. To accompany the sandwich, a swarm of pickles and what seemed to be two leafs of lettuce, but I was so full after that simple sandwich, I didn’t even mind.
My beloved half took probably the less original choice in the menu: two eggs with potatoes. But even there, they had their own twist to it. The potatoes were
actually a mash mixed with various spices, a nice and delightful surprise. That didn’t charm Janie too much, thinking it was quite heavy for a breakfast, but it totally got me. Now I must say, even if they were salty and spicy, the softness of the mash made it feel sweet. It’s probably me that’s weird on that matter.
We said “Cuban inspired” before because purist will definitely complain. We won’t pretend to be expert in Cuban food, but it’s pretty clear that Habana Café takes pleasure in mixing American and Cuban gastronomy. After so many years of fighting, the solution for the two countries can only be in the plate! Add to that some Mexican plates, like the grilled corn topped with chili powder, and you have some nice blend of taste right there. But the aim seems simply to serve comfort food with a little twist and on that matter Habana Café is a win. Not too fancy, without inspiration for plate’s names (!), the plate’s presentation somehow messy, but the taste is where it should be.
The place is really small, even the efforts of the owners to expand: the restaurant is now divided in three addresses one next to the other with their own focus: the coffee shop, the take out and the dining room. The service was fast, although there was a lot of what I think were hangovers trying to grab a last drink. They strangely seemed to all know each other, or is it just that local magic we witnessed?
We decided to go around Brooklyn later that day. I’m personally a big fan of the Brooklyn boroughs, I would say that it’s the new New York, which makes New York….herrr…..something else. In short, there is a lot happening in Brooklyn now, and it’s easy to say that it’s reflected in the gastronomy too.
We had lunch at Watty & Meg, a restaurant specialized in new American cuisine. Located on Cobble Hill, the restaurant benefits from the proximity of the diverse food markets opening all around the neighborhood. They serve seasonal food made with local ingredients, something I’ve rarely seen in the United States (well, in restaurants under 100$ per head!) The set up feels really intimate, with a mix of old and new, we almost felt like we were in a fancier Mile-End.
Janie took the pasta of the day, scallop fettuccini with pesto and cream. She found herself in front of a superb plate. The portion looked kind of small, but she thought it was the perfect size. By inspecting that plate, we discovered a real attention to details. The pastas were handmade egg fettuccini, so soft you could cut them by looking at it! On top of that, asparagus, mushrooms and carrots lightly stir fried in olive oil. The scallops were so fresh; it was like biting in live ones at the bottom of the sea. Everything was covered with a strong pecorino, which added the little thing to bring everything together.
For my part, I went for the fancy beef hot-dog with fries. If there’s one thing you’ll always get me with, it’s German style hot dog with sauerkraut, I was secretly hoping for that and I was fulfilled. A gigantic hot dog; a delicious grilled sausage covered in strong mustard. The sausage had little in common with the usual Frankfurters sausages. I almost felt like I was eating beef barbecue, since the sausage had a really strong taste, and with an obvious freshness. The fries completed well the plate: they were still crispy and they had being cooked with the skin on. In my book, it’s a synonym for delicious.
Since it was only lunch, we only took those two plates, but by judging on the quality of what they served us, we’re willing to come back as soon as possible to try everything they have! Watty and Meg shows that you can do a lot with respect for the quality of the ingredients and the attention to details. Without being pretentious, without being overpriced, we are now firm believers that a fancy restaurant can open anywhere even in the place all those American action movies told us it was so dangerous! (Remember Dog Day afternoon or Do the right thing)
This concludes our Shutupandeat New York Special Edition! We left right after, since New York was getting evacuated for something that wasn’t so bad after all! Nonetheless, we can say that this trip was by far the most gastronomic we ever made, even thought we had plenty of time to do other stuff, we kept talking about what we just ate and we can all agree it’s a good thing! We are both proud to say that shutupandeat can still be our friend, and I would happily recommend any place mentioned above, or why not, asking him yourself and getting stuck in that game of Mystery menus?
Watty & Meg
248 Court Street Brooklyn, NY 1120
17 Prince St., New York, NY, 10012
at Elizabeth St.