Back from New York, Part 4: Food, transportation, and ethnicities

With one notable exception, Barbara and I enjoyed our meals in New York. We had decided to try to pick walkable destinations whenever possible, and that wasn’t difficult since our hotel’s Murray Hill neighborhood contained a bunch of restaurants that were highly rated without being excessively expensive. The first night we walked east on 33rd Street to Le Parisien Bistrot, an authentically French bistro(t) that couldn’t have been better — especially since I was able to have French onion soup, duck confit, and crème brulée. Yum!

Since we get too little French food at home, we went to another French restaurant on 33rd Street our third night as well: La Tarte Flambée, which of course (!) is an authentic Alsatian bistro featuring those giant rectangular pizza-like tartes. Mine had bacon, onions, and gruyere cheese — no tomato sauce, so you can tell it isn’t really a pizza. (Surprisingly, it turned out that the Tarte d’Alsace that I sometimes buy at Trader Joe’s was almost identical, giving me confidence in Trader Joe’s authenticity.) Barbara went for ham, mushrooms, peppers, and mozzarella. I also couldn’t resist starting with French onion soup — good, but not as good as the Parisien’s. Both of these restaurants were tiny, as is to be expected in midtown Manhattan.

In between the two French places — i.e., our second night — we had an elegant Italian/Croatian dinner at Villa Berulia, a couple of blocks away. Actually, the Croatian notes were few and far between, so you can pretty much think of it as an Italian restaurant. The food was excellent, despite the white tablecloths and the bragging about famous customers:

Since 1981, notable people from around the world have enjoyed their visits here, from Derek Jeter, to Hillary Clinton and more.

We also had a very nice Japanese lunch at the sushi joint across the street from the hotel, and we had two lunches at the Met (as I said in my last post, we returned to the Met for a second day): once in their very informal roof garden and once in their much fancier “dining room.” Food was good in both, ranging from a casual lobster roll to a well-prepared prime rib.

I seem to be avoiding our last night’s dinner, which was at the Ainsworth Midtown. By that point we were exhausted, so what could be easier than walking downstairs to this restaurant that was right in the same building as the hotel? As this branch of the Ainsworth restaurants got quite good reviews, we decided to take that route. The food was fine, but…

This was not a good experience. A total of only 50 minutes for a nice dinner, because the service was so rushed. The food was pretty good, based on our limited experience. I had a burger with salad, my wife had short-rib tacos, both of which were fine. The burger was cooked rare, as ordered. My wife’s cosmo was good, and our wine was exactly what we ordered. So why only two stars? Noise level and service!!! It was so loud that we could barely talk to each other, and the server had trouble understanding us despite standing right next to me. The music was (literally) painfully loud, and the excessively enthusiastic nearby conversations didn’t help. Apparently this is a sports bar, not a restaurant. Clearly the Ainsworth is aimed at 20-somethings, not 60-somethings; I wish we had known beforehand. Pricey for a meal with no appetizers and no desserts, especially for a burger and tacos rather than steak or something. Also, although the server was nice enough, she was clearly rushing us out the door, starting with asking for our order before we even had a chance to study the menu and before she had asked about drinks. All in all, seems odd for a restaurant attached to a hotel (Hilton Garden Inn).

That was the review I posted on Yelp.

A couple of final observations:

  • We took the Acela both ways, which I highly recommend. Much easier and much more pleasant than flying, and only barely longer than flying when you take into account getting to and from the airport and going through security. Train travel all the way!
  • The ethnic distribution that we observed was notable. When we first moved to Boston in 1985, we saw de facto segregation everywhere, especially in housing and restaurants. But now we see great diversity everywhere in Boston, and we expected the same in Manhattan, since we know that the borough is extremely diverse. But clearly the Murray Hill neighborhood isn’t. With one exception, almost everywhere we went was close to 100% white and Asian (customers and visitors, that is — not employees). In all those restaurants mentioned above, we saw a total of two black people and nobody who was obviously LatinX, other than — let me repeat — the staff. The one big exception was the National Museum of Math, which I discussed in an earlier post. The school groups there were heavily non-white (unlike the Morgan, which apparently attracts upscale private-school groups that are almost entirely white and Asian). Oh well….



Categories: Food & Restaurants, Travel