Happy Sinhalese and Tamil New Year! Better yet, let’s try that in Sinhala, shall we? Suba aluth avuruddak veva! I am sure that went over well :) Wishing my fellow Sri Lankans around the world a beautiful year with blessings and a fresh start!
For me, New York City is the perfect way to enjoy the jumpstart to spring. Last week in the city, we had successive 65 degree days that made me think spring kicked in for real this time, thus perking up my NY energy. Having said that, I was walking literally miles a day, exploring restaurants and hotels I wanted to visit but had previously evaded me, while nibbling on cute chocolate truffles and cupcakes along the way to keep my sugar levels stable of course. Despite my imbibing of the city, I managed to go down 2 holes in my belt. Aaaah I love NY!
NY is known for fashion, stock exchanges, big money, real estate, travel, food, etc. Okay, the list can go on in perpetuity with all the things that make Manhattan shake and move as hard as it does. Let’s go back to food: On an island saturated with restaurants, where do you go? I think there are 24,000 restaurants – crazy! As any New Yorker will tell you, you need to know where you are going in this big city. Sounds simple but it’s good advice; not all is terrific out there or around the corner, even in the sea of bobbing bars, cafes, grills and bistros.
I took the liberty to conduct food and beverage reconnaissance for you (tough job!) and jot a list of places good enough to share. I always appreciate a restaurant recommendation while in NY and thought you may as well.
Check out these hot spots next time you’re in the city!
Waldorf Astoria: An iconic property
301 Park Avenue (Midtown East)
Great place to stay, have tea in the afternoon and people watch.
The Strand Hotel
33 West 37th Street (Garment District/Midtown)
Visit bartender Jeffrey. Main lobby bar. He had me at “I know Sri Lanka… Dutch, Portuguese, and so on” Very knowledgeable and just plain old nice. Go see him and try the sliders – so juicy. His pour is not so bad either!
Located in the Dream Hotel: 355 West 16th Street (Chelsea)
Hand-crafted cocktails and not the high-fructose syrup disasters. The Bordello is bright and refreshing. It’s hard to decipher the cherry blossom note but it’s still damn good. A hard slap of the Japanese mint from the bartender and the leaf imparts its anise-y taste. Rick had the Noisette, a bourbon concoction with walnut bitters. I had a sip. Not my favorite, perhaps it was the walnut bitters, but if you like a stiff, assertive cocktail try this.
The bar is swanky. Red plush furniture throughout. Sexy vibes. The co-owner is from Bondst on Bond Street, where the sushi is amazing. Safe to assume Cherry is the same. Next time! For now, it was off to satiate my Lomo Saltado craving at…
Raymi: Peruvian/Asian Modern Cuisine
43 West 24th Street (Flatiron District)
Food is delicious and the space was packed (even on a Tuesday night). Wait staff is extremely friendly and attentive. I will definitely go back.
Started out with the salmon ceviche with Asian flair. Absolutely phenomenal. I would have sipped the ginger syrup reduction juice in the bowl if I were not in public; NO shame in my game.
Lomo Saltado: Amazing! Just look at the color of the sauce. Very rich in flavor, the sauce was everything. I’m pretty picky with how lomo saltado is prepared, and I was impressed. The fries could have been thicker for sauce soaking. Mmmmm, selfish reasons. The habanero sauce is fiery hot!
Vegetable Saltado: Peppers, mushrooms and other veggies topped with sesame seeds… Delectable
Buttercup Bake Shop
973 2nd Avenue (Midtown East)
The buttercup cupcakes were super moist. I delved into red velvet and carrot cake as I walked back to the hotel. Sorry, no pics – I ate them before I could snap any!
Various locations (I went to the Grand Central one, 107 East 42nd Street)
Great cupcakes if you like a lot of icing. I’m all about the brownies at Magnolia’s. Cream cheese brownies… So heavy that I still have residual aches in my wrist.
Sigiri: Authentic Sri Lankan Cuisine
91 1st Avenue (East Village)
If you are looking for a Sri Lankan restaurant, I highly recommend Sigiri. I never miss a visit when I’m here. It’s a BYOB, cash-only establishment with about 500 square feet of dining space. I absolutely love it. So NY.
I appreciate the authenticity of the food. The spice level is spot on, meaning they don’t deviate from the inherit spices a dish calls for. Chef Vincent Dias upholds the integrity of the food. If you want it less spicy, you will need to ask; otherwise, prepare to enjoy the cuisine as it would be served in Sri Lanka. Service is amazing. Melodious Sinhala ballads and bailas play in the background. All I need is the Indian Ocean…
We finished off our night with watalappam, a custardy pudding with similar consistency to flan…
I left NY on a high! Can’t wait to come back. I’ll miss you…