We were mulling over the fact that so many of the most successful restaurants in New York City are the ones that go for tasty food. Not fancy or high flying, not innovative or unusual, the best places tend to make consistently tasty food that may change with the seasons but basically remains the same year after year. On a side note, have you ever noticed how many restaurants whose menus change seasonally are exactly the same for the corresponding seasons each year? Every spring, summer, winter and fall they return to their greatest hits list, saving any actual new inspirations for the daily specials. Not that it matters as long as the food remains good. There's nothing wrong with knowing what works for a particular place and sticking with it, as long as that's what makes you happy.
Yesterday we visited two restaurants that have become like staples in our repertoire. Since the last time we visited one of our staple places (neither of these) was sadly disappointing I was nervous about attempting two in one day. I'd hate to end up with no safetys in my back pocket. The gamble paid off. We were pleasantly surprised on both counts and had two good meals which is always a beautiful thing.
Momofuku was where we had our lunch. It was very entertaining sitting at the counter. The cooks and wait staff seemed to be in high spirits and having fun in the kitchen. The mood was infectious. The pickle plate was intriguing, the deep fried sweetbreads were fantastic, the hamachi was impeccably fresh, the steamed pork buns as satisfying as always, and the one mishap was quickly corrected and forgotten and a good time was had by all. The funniest moment was when we overheard the ladies beside us basically being told (nicely) that the pork belly was perfectly cooked (which it was) and that they couldn't cook the fat out of it because it was pork belly and it was supposed to have fat. This sentiment was presented as an impassioned statement by a man who had obviously heard the request many times before. I immediately flashed back to a pork belly eaten recently in Sydney that had all of it's fat surgically removed before being reassembled and arriving at our table. I found it odd but still good while Alex felt as though it missed the point of serving belly at all.
The second meal, actually with Mom for dinner was at Lupa. Lupa tends to be a go to place with Mom because she actually likes it almost every time we eat there. We haven't been there in February ever and were pleasantly surprised by some of the dishes on the menu. The braised oxtail with orange zest was delicious and paired beautifully with the 2004 Vietti, Tre Vigne Barbera d'Asti that we were drinking. The many pastas we ordered were perfectly cooked and nicely seasoned, standouts being the ricotta gnocchi, the special orrechiette, and the spicy linguine with mussels. The pork special was a yawn but the tartufo made up for it nicely. As always, the noise and cramped conditions are part of the ambiance and listening in on the conversations that swirl around can be very entertaining. Seated at a section of the communal table across from Mom and Alex I probably caught more of our neighbors conversations than our own. It was pleasant evening with good food, wine and conversation that didn't break the bank. What more can you ask for on a damp Wednesday evening in the city?