NEW YORK – It’s vastly less complicated for me to walk through a book store and browse through books, before I decide to buy something I take a liking to, than to meander through a street full of food stalls, with exotic fare from around the world. While the eye can take in a lot, there is only so much a tiny stomach can intake, in a certain span of time – however big a gourmand one can tout himself or herself to be, or just a plain, old-fashioned glutton.
The number of eateries and restaurants in New York City vary, but some estimate it to be around 24,000 just in Manhattan; and more than 30,000 in the New York City tristate area, including the other boroughs. A fun fact terms the mind boggling variety as giving the choice to eat out every night for 54 years, and not have to visit that same place twice. Perhaps, that’s an understatement. One can add lunch too to that figure.
For most ordinary mortals, who have to bear (or suffer) in stoic silence, fake appreciation, or rejoice heartily, as the case may be, dishes served at home by one’s better half, or others, a biannual Broadway Bites pop-up food market, that’s currently doing duty in Greeley Square – a pocket park on Broadway between 32nd and 33rd streets – is a good choice to savor some tasty treats. Run by Urbanspace, the market, which began earlier this month, is open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. through November 10th.
The first day I wandered into Broadway Bites, last week, I had also read that an unsung restaurant called The Black Swan at Oldstead, in England, had won the TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Restaurants awards in the fine dining category.
A Bloomberg report said that the only option in that favorite of the locals in Oldstead, which since the report came out has been booked solid for a year by traveling gourmands, is a tasting menu for £95 ($126) that focuses on local produce. A sample fare: snacks of langoustine on a spruce skewer, with caramelized whey and fermented strawberry; a dumpling of confit chicken legs wrapped in brioche; and raw Dexter beef fed on beer, with grated chestnuts and smoked bone marrow; cod topped with grated roasted cauliflower, served on a parsley sauce; Crapaudine beetroot slowly cooked in beef fat, topped with pickled beetroot, smoked roe, goat’s curd and linseed.
Closer to home, there is tasting menu restaurant Eleven Madison Park, in Manhattan, which made its debut last week. There’s a choice of $295 per person, 8-to 10-course meal and a $155 per person, 5-course bar menu. The place is booked solid through November.
It’s not as fancy at Broadway Bites, which serves street food, but if one is dexterous enough, one can make quite a delicious combination from some of the stalls. For example, savory Japanese vegetable pancakes from Oconomi; empanadas with a Latin-French twist from Empanada Papa or instead substitute it with the Bolivian version of empanadas from the Bolivian Llama party – Beni or Chimba baked meat pastries with a juicy, stew-like filling. If vegan, go for the Cliza – smoked portobellos, stuffed with quinoa and squash.
The Bolivian Llama Party’s meat sliders are really a terrific option too, if one has gotten used to what’s dished out by Qdoba, as also their specialty papitas. If one is tired of eating the same Chinese baked or fried pork dumplings, try out the Daa! Dumplings – the Russian variety. The lamb and feta dumpling doused in sour cream, stuffed into a cone which allows one to walk and eat at the same time, is what can keep one energized strolling to the next stall, to savor another delight.
If you have had enough appetizers and entrees, along with some wine or beer to go with it, and are ready for something sweet to tuck into, try out a Caramel Green Apple or Pumpkin Ginger Snap ice cream from Mochidoki. My personal favorite: the Matcha Pistachio.
Now, for those who cannot do without good Indian food, a saunter through Broadway Bites would be excruciating. There are no Indians stalls.
But, don’t despair. Not too far away is Pondicheri, on 27th Street, between Broadway and 5th Avenue, started by Anita Jaisinghani, which is serving some traditional fare gourmet style. One favorite is a coconut enriched sweet-tasting dosa stuffed with a pumpkinseed chutney, sautéed greens, curry leaves and mustard seeds. There are also appetizers like pomegranate-filled paani puris.
For those who like their dosas plain or masala style, or just white rice with some good curry, one need only walk a few more blocks to Saravanna Bhavan, on Lexington Avenue. For me, on a day when I’ve skipped breakfast, nothing better there than the lunch thali, which comes with a generous portion of rice, chapatti, and pappadam, all to be downed with myriad small bowls of curry and fried and stewed vegetables, with curd and a sweet dish.
Now, like me, if you are hungry by evening after that humungous thali, just walk then to Broadway Bites, where you can drink, eat and mingle, in the open.
(Sujeet Rajan is Executive Editor, Parikh Worldwide Media. Email him: email@example.com Follow him on Twitter @SujeetRajan1)