As you may well imagine, New York wasn’t all pork pies and wine gums. A surprising number of duck hearts were involved too. I ate them first at Momofuku Ssäm Bar (207 Second Avenue @ 13th) where they came with fava beans and chili oil. And then I had ‘em again at Craftbar (900 Broadway @ 20th) where they came with smoked bacon, black garlic, a dumpling and a Fried Egg. Personally I could have done without the egg, but otherwise they were great, and much richer and more complex tasting than the ones at Momofuku Ssäm, and I enjoyed them much more: I think it may have had a lot to do with the bacon and black garlic.
But the duck hearts weren’t the best thing I ate in either place. People apparently go crazy for the pork buns at Momofuku – and I had one of those, and it was pretty good, but I can’t say I loved it quite as much as I felt I was supposed to. But I also had a plate of Edwards Wigwam Ham, from Surry, Virginia, which was just devastatingly wonderful. I’m quite a newbie to the world of the southern ham (the Loved One swears by them), and this wasn’t quite what I expected – it was more like prosciutto, but none the worse for that. Whether duck hearts, a pork bun and a plate of ham really constitutes a balanced meal, I’m not sure, but I had no complaints.
Smoke also figured in the best thing I had at Craftbar: a brined, smoked pig’s head terrine. The words sum it pretty thoroughly. It was salty, smoky, fleshy, chunky, quite loosely packed, and right now I find myself drifting off into a fugue state just thinking about it.
There’s not much succor for vegetarians at Craftbar, and none at all at Momofuku Ssäm where the broccoli salad comes with crispy duck skin, and even the “bread and butter” has a side of whipped lardo. I can live with that. But to my amazement, two of the things I most enjoyed eating in New York were vegetable dishes. The first at an Indian restaurant called Devi (8 East 18th Street); was dal makhani (creamy black lentils with tomatoes, it said on the menu, though I gather kidney beans are usually involved as well). It’s pretty hard to make dhal exciting, and very easy to make it bland, but this was just great.
And then, perhaps more surprising still, at a restaurant place called Co. as in Company (230 Ninth Ave. @ 24th Street) - essentially an up-market pizza joint, though but it doesn’t look that way when you first go in – I had shaved asparagus salad.
It was just wonderful, very thin, long shavings of raw asparagus in a very light citrus dressing. I kept thinking it must have been marinated or blanched or hit with gamma rays or something, but the waiter assured me it was simply raw. Who’d think that raw asparagus could be such a winner? (Co. also offers it as a pizza topping, in which case it becomes baked and charred which seems a whole different ballgame.) And since I got home I’ve been shaving my own raw asparagus and it works. It really works.
Travel: it broadens stuff.
Momofuku Ssäm bar: http://momofuku.com/new-york/ssam-bar/