The Meatball Shop - Lower East Side
Choose your meatballs, choose your sauce and choose how it arrives in front of you. I take the classic, juicy beef meatballs smothered in spicy meat sauce, served simply and piping hot in a bowl with a slice of foccaccia for mopping it up. TPG goes for the meatball smash - 2 spicy pork meatballs on a brioche bun with spicy meat sauce, cheese and a side salad. Or there's a meatball hero (try beef, spicy pork, chicken, veggie or the daily special) served in a crusty baguette with cheese sauce. A range of sides include risotto, polenta, spaghetti or daily roast veggies.
Executive chef/co-owner Daniel Holzman trained for 4 years at super upmarket Le Bernadin, but is lighting up the happening Lower East Side with this simple but fantastic place that is what it says on the tin. It's a hit with all the hip and happening people that flock to the Lower East Side, an area heaving with similarly lively places to eat. Expect to work through quite a few drinks at the bar while you wait for a table - unless you arrive after 10.30pm (which we did, arriving late from our flight from London) by which time we only had to wait for the time it took to drink a beer. Pure gold.
The Meatball Shop, 84 Stanton Street, Lower East Side, New York, (Ph: (212) 982 8895) - open noon til 2am/4am
Fatty Crab - West Village
I've reviewed it before, but when your feet are aching from pacing the cobbles of the Meatpacking District and the galleries of 21st Street, this is a great, casual little spot to refuel with some zingy, Malaysian inspired bowls of goodness. On my list to try (still) is Fatty Cue, the related Malaysian/BBQ joint which has opened in Brooklyn.
Fatty Crab, 643 Hudson Street, West Village, New York (Ph. 212 352 3592) (They also have a branch at 2170 Broadway on the Upper West Side).
Torrisi Italian Specialties - Little Italy/NoLita
I've told my tale of 3 New York sandwiches already, but the chicken parmigiana schnitzel hero from Torrisi Italian Specialties deserves an honorable mention. There's minimal seating in this old fashioned, basic deli come restaurant, and many take away, but the big, juicy sandwiches are well worth the short wait. My chicken parma sandwich ($8) was crammed with large, succulent pieces of breaded chicken schnitz and a tasty tomato sauce. It's all so fresh and simple, so why is it so hard to find a sandwich this good?
The walk in only restaurant also has a daily changing, Italian family style dinner menu made from all American ingredients for around $50 per person - it allows for no substitutions (including for vegetarians or children) but sounds the goods to me.
Torrisi Italian Specialties, 250 Mulberry Street, NoLita, New York (Ph: (212) 695 0955)
If I didn't despise the overused phrase "achingly hip" so much, I'd use it to describe the Stanton Social. A large dark, seductive room with a mix of tables and alluring, round booths is humming with a big, boisterous, Saturday night vibe from early til late. The menu bears an intriguing mix of modern sharing plates with a twist - like Kobe beef burger sliders, red snapper tacos, Thai spiced baby back ribs and butter poached lobster pizzetta. However, the execution had more misses than hits on our visit - French onion soup dumplings are cheese drenched soggy balls and the "chicken and waffles" (brick pressed chicken, aged cheddar waffle, corn pudding and balsamic spiked maple syrup) is interesting but doesn't really hit the mark.
A fun place for lively drinks and sharing plates, but the food doesn't live up to its promise. (This was confirmed by the experiences of our New York friends also). And hereby heed my very annoying website warning.
The Stanton Social Club, 99 Stanton Street, Lower East Side, New York, (Ph: (212) 995 0099)
Momufuku Noodle Bar - East Village
David Chang's casual noodle bar is definitely worth a visit. The momofuku ramen with pork belly, pork shoulder and poached egg was good (perfectly cooked noodles, nice pork, subtle broth), but the ginger scallion noodles were fabulous - shiny, toothsome squiggles of joy, mixed with the delectable flavours of pickled shiitake mushrooms, cucumber and menma. The short menu is rammed with loads you'll want to try - steamed buns, roasted foie gras with almond, pear and smoked tea, smoked chicken wings with pickled chilli, garlic and scallions. The noodle bar is said to serve a fantastic fried chicken - call ahead to reserve it. The setting is quite spacious and modern, with blonde wood and long, communal tables. Momofuku Noodle Bar is good - one to go back to again and again.
Momofuku Noodle Bar, 171 First Avenue (Between 10th and 11th), New York
Finally, Momofuku Milk Bar (207, 2nd Ave, East Village, New York) - I've mentioned it before. But now they have birthday cake truffles - cakey, doughey balls of rainbow cake crumble, sprinkles and vanilla frosting. They sound ridiculous. They taste amazing. I'm addicted. $3 for 3.
For more on New York, see my earlier posts:
Still to come: More brunch spots and 2 nights of five star dining