More Food in NYC

December 31, 2009

Some friends had suggested we meet at Ping’s restaurant at 22 Mott St.  The place is a favorite among locals.  It was a split level restaurant, and we were seated upstairs, at a table near the  front steps.  Every time the front door opened, a gust of wind would scurry in and nip at our ankles.  Luckily the day’s cruel elements were quickly forgotten with sips of hot tea and a plethora of well prepared dishes: shiu mai, hao cao, and a hybrid of these two aforementioned classics. We appreciated the innovation but not the taste. There were also chicken feet, tripe, pastries, rice rolls, spare ribs, and repeats of some dishes.  This was not your bustling, clanking dim sum affair. The laid-back atmosphere suggested a dining experience where both restaurant folks and patrons knew how dim sum should be served up.

Afterward, we headed up to the Met, where a line stretched up a block, in the blistering cold.  There was plenty of tension inside the museum. Visitors (including us) went rabid when faced with long lines and lack of tables at the cafes.

For an early dinner we headed to the Isle of Capri.  This was old-school Italian.  The decor, the heavy wood trim, and  the red paint were well-aged, and the wooden floors were well-worn.  Display cases of expensive cognacs had unfinished bottles that was once opened for mobsters–or at least that’s the feeling you get.  The entire staff, including those who did not look Italian, had an Italian accent.  There were diners in tinted glasses, camel cashmere jackets, hunched over, loud, and particular about the preparation of their Nova Scotia lobster on top of their spaghetti with the red sauce, “just on top and not mixed in.”  Our main courses, however, were a reversal of what one would expect from a traditional lobster-and-pasta establishment.  The pasta dishes were amazing–from the rigatoni in pink sauce to the cheese tortellini.  However, the osso busco and grilled rack of lamb lacked imagination and taste.  The kitchen, however, did provide a cocktail fork for the osso buco’s marrow.  Desserts were heavily chocolate, and a round of raspberry and lemon liqueurs were on the house.  It was a great setting for a memorable gathering with family.

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