Manhattan skylineBy Larry Levine –

4 ounces a day for 23 days … not bad for a vacation trip devoted largely to eating and containing very little serious exercise. Put another way, I gained six pounds on the trip

I didn’t step on a scale until we got back to L.A., but in case we hadn’t gained enough weight during the first 17 days of this trip, filling ourselves with barbecue, soft shell crab, and strange Jewish styled food, we would graze our way through New York the final week.

It was a memorable week of dining. We hit some world famous restaurants, said “hello” to some personal old favorites and met a few new places to which we will return.

Mixed in were some touristy things, some of which we’d never before done. We walked the High Line in a light mist, took a Hansom Cab ride in Central Park on a warm, sunny afternoon, spent a glorious Memorial Day at Coney Island and went to Roosevelt Island. We shared meals with our cousins Barry and Beverly, who came in from Toronto, and we were joined by our friends Anne and Jeff for a lovely afternoon and a wonderful dinner.

There’s a line in a song that goes, “New York’s my home sweet home.” I guess I’ll always feel that way. As soon as we emerge from Penn Station, stand on the street corner to flag down a cab, and hear the sound of a car horn, I know I’m home. It’s not my real home any more. That distinction belongs to Los Angeles, a place I love dearly and couldn’t imagine leaving. But New York is in my blood.

Barry paid me a high honor our second day in town when he remarked about how quickly my instincts for crossing busy streets and walking on crowded sidewalks had returned. A street hawker paid me another compliment when he didn’t try to hand me a tourist brochure, thinking I was a local.

Now, for the food. Here’s a rundown of the meals that standout in the memory of our week in New York.

Le Bernardin our first night in the city – If there is a Citadel among fish restaurants on this planet, this must be it. This three-star Michelin restaurant opened in Paris in 1972 and moved to mid-town Manhattan in 1986. A four-course prix fixe menu features fish, fish, and fish. Pen Shell Clam sashimi … charred octopus … monkfish with morels … an elegant room … helpful waiters with just the right balance of professionalism and friendliness … and was the couple over there really getting engaged in front of the whole restaurant?

The Modern our second night – There’s the bar room and the main dining room, two totally different feelings. A fabulous meal in a beautiful setting at the Museum of Modern Art. And for this Californian it was a “get-out-of-foie gras-jail free” card.

Keen’s Steakhouse 128 years in the same location – a James Beard award this year, what could be bad. Well, just the food. Barry’s mutton chop was flavorful if you like full, gamey tasting lamb, which I do. My T-bone steak was over-cooked, had little flavor and no char. Jennifer and Beverly split a rib eye steak that neither finished, and it wasn’t because there was too much food; there was too much food that wasn’t good.

Brooklyn Diner at the original location on 57th Street – a long-time favorite of ours. Monster-size chicken pot pie, 15-bite hot dogs, egg creams, malted milks and real diner hustle. My skirt steak was cooked perfectly and full of flavor.

Sardi’s, where history lives – 90 years of dining before and after shows in the theater district. My mother hung out here with Broadway columnists and celebrities during her time as a big band singer in the 1930s. I scanned the room, imagining where she might have sat.

The Plaza Food Hall by Todd English a food court at the swank Plaza Hotel – kind of confusing at first. Not sure where you are supposed to go or sit. We finally figured it out. A nice lunch one day and a light supper another day.

Tiella’s Restaurant at the foot of the Queens Borough Bridge on the Manhattan side – a great neighborhood Italian place where I got roast quail stuffed with foie gras. Sometimes the world just seems to want to make me happy.

Eatery at Madison Square – a Mario Batelli food court type restaurant and Italian market. Each section features a different menu and it all leads to the gelato counter near the entrance.

Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs at Coney Island – a warm sunny Memorial Day with lines 15 and 16 deep all weekend at the newly-reopened Nathan’s. Take that, hurricane Sandy. Still my favorite hot dogs anywhere, with just some mustard and kraut and a side of those thick, crinkley fries.

2nd Avenue Deli now on 33rd Street – the final proof that Jewish deli is dead in New York. Dry corned beef on Oroweat- like rye bread and cold tongue on a poor imitation of a Kaiser roll.

So, that’s a wrap. 23 days on the east coast from South Florida to New York City – ahead of the humidity and mosquitos and back in Los Angeles before the tropical storm season. I’ve said it often: if I can live in L.A., drive around with the top down on my car on New Year’s Day, play golf without a jacket or sweater in February, visit New York frequently and eat at great restaurants on both coasts … life will continue to be good.

Share this: