Every time someone heard that this was my and B’s first trip to New York, they seemed really surprised. No one was really more surprised than we were that we hadn’t made a trip yet. I guess it does seem like a city we would have visited before, but neither of us ever really had the reason. The Champions Classic changed that.
Last week, B and I made the long (very long) flight cross-country, arriving in New York City Thursday afternoon. In addition to a few local friends, we also had several of B’s friends joining us from other Eastern cities. ST and his girlfriend, TP arrived from Pittsburgh while SS and MS took the train from D.C. I admit I was nervous about the logistics of such a large group (we were six at a minimum, nine at our height) and it was tough at times, but we made it work.
As far as restaurant planning went for this trip, I sort of took the Dublin approach. I really didn’t plan much. I would have done more, but I assumed others would have their own preferences and agendas too, so it seemed safer to leave things a bit more to chance. Besides, it’s New York. It’s not like we’d have a shortage of choices.
B and I arrived a few hours ahead of the rest of the group and after a harrowing cab ride (the only one of the trip that truly fit all bad NYC cab stereotypes) from the airport, we were ready for a drink and some food. After checking into our postage stamp sized hotel room, we walked around the corner and into ‘inoteca. I liked it right away. We sat on the bar side, and though they weren’t all that busy (yet) when we arrived, it was an inviting and energetic space. They had a nice cocktail list (though I later noticed B and I were the only people not drinking wine) and good meat and cheese options, so we opted for cocktails, Salumi, a cheese plate and a selection of their bruschetta.
Unfortunately, their website is just a landing page, so I can’t tell you which we tried, but they were all really good. The meat was probably a bit more than we bargained for pre-dinner, but it was a very nice selection. The only drawback was the super slow service. I’m not talking a little slow. I’m talking, people getting up and going to the bar to ask if someone is coming to help them, slow. I suppose I felt a bit better that they weren’t slow just with us, but they could stand to pick up the pace a bit.
We also had plans for a late dinner with the group at Yakitori Totto. One of our local friends, B2 (of many prior Thursday night dinners), suggested it and at least a couple of people in our larger party really wanted to try it. I honestly didn’t have an opinion on the idea, so I was ready to go with it.
The restaurant is tiny and given our needed table for six, we figured we’d be in for a bit of a wait. Settling in for a beer and a catch-up at the Irish pub across the street, our promised 30 minute wait ended up being something closer to an hour. I can’t blame it on the restaurant. They only have two tables in the whole place that can seat a party as large as ours and they were both occupied. They communicated well, though, and called us when it was almost time. In the end, our table was great, tucked away in a semi-private room. I think I would have enjoyed sitting in the main dining area a bit more as it looked like a fun, energetic space, but our table suited us very well.
Ordering proved to be a bit more daunting. We weren’t sure if an order of something was one skewer or 2-3 skewers, so we initially ended up with a lot less food than we expected, thinking that more was coming when it wasn’t. It was a bit of a trial and error process sorting out what we needed. In the end, there was a lot of reordering and sharing, but we tried quiet a few items in the process. Among them was the rice rolled zucchini and (a clear favorite) the chicken meatball.
They also had quite a few dessert options to choose from. I went with the frozen bananas (with tapioca in coconut milk) while B chose the green tea ice cream. The bananas were unique and I certainly enjoyed them, but green tea ice cream is always a favorite for me.
I’d like to try Yakitori Totto again. The food was delicious. I did leave the restaurant pretty hungry this time around, but I don’t think that would be the case armed with a little more experience and knowledge the next time.
From Yakitori Totto, we moved on to St. Andrew’s for after dinner drinks. It was awfully slow there on this Thursday night, but I could tell it would be a great place to sit at the bar on a busy night. Besides that, it’s a Scotch bar with a super knowledgeable bartender , so B and B2 were happy.
And post-drinks? I was glad everyone else was hungry now too, despite the fact that it was almost 3:00AM. It was the perfect time for our first street vendor Halal experience. No photos of this meal because it was so dark, but also because we inhaled it too quickly. B and I shared a combo plate and everything from the rice to the extra hot red sauce (that I accidentally sampled on its own) was amazing. It may have been some of the best food we had the whole trip. We finally arrived back at our hotel after 4:00 Friday morning, hardly twelve hours into the trip with days in the city still ahead.