Despite having lived in DC for two years, I hadn’t taken the requisite weekend trip to New York, until now. For Labor Day weekend, I went to visit some friends who had recently relocated. It was the perfect vacation, because all we did was eat, drink, shop, and walk around. Here are some tasty highlights:
Ramen from Rai Rai Ken
Nestled on a quiet street in the East Village, Rai Rai Ken is a little shoe box of a restaurant. There is an L-shaped bar that seats maybe 12 people, and chefs lowers steaming bowls of ramen over the edge of the counter. Rai Rai Ken serves miso, shoyu, and curry ramen, along with a handful of other seasonal noodle dishes, appetizers, and yakitori. This place kind of reminds me of the movie Tampopo and the protagonists’ quest for the perfect broth. Rai Rai Ken’s is rich and multi-layered, and the egg noodles are fresh and wonderfully chewy.
Rai Rai Ken Japanese Restaurant
214 East 10th St, New York, NY 10003
Chocolate Covered Bacon from Roni-Sue’s
Bacon + Chocolate? How could we go wrong? My friends and I saw this on Serious Eats and thought we’d make a stop at the Essex Street Market to give it a try. The first bite is all creamy chocolate, but then as you chew, all the salty, porky, bacon-ness starts to come out. It’s very strange, fatty, and delicious. Roni-Sue also make some great truffles. Big ups on the coconut, pineapple, and toffee flavors.
Essex Street Market #24, 20 Essex Street, New York NY 10002
Korean BBQ at Kum Gang San
My aunt’s friend, a long-time New York resident, gave me two recommendations for Korean food–Kum Gang San and Hanbat. They are only a few blocks from each other, so I let my friends make the final selection. They chose based on which restaurant had the dirtier sounding name. We feasted on grilled galbi, bulgogi, shrimp, vegetables, seafood pajun, and sake, all while being serenaded by a piano/cello duo that performed in this strange rock wall outcropping. Their kimchi is especially good–so good in fact, that the placemats extol the its health benefits (children love New York kimchi, for it has no offensive smell!). Service was harried, and the restaurant was packed on a Saturday night. Ultimately, you can get Korean BBQ that is just as good, if not better, in the NoVa suburbs for cheaper. However, it’s a fun place to eat with a group, and it fit perfectly with post-dinner karaoke plans.
Kum Gang San
49 West 32nd Street, New York, NY 10001
Interlude: The Return of KTV
If you’ve ever spent some time in Asia, you’ve hopefully had the pleasure of experiencing KTV. In Asia, they love karaoke and have these bars where you rent out a private room with your own tv, microphones, and drink service. The whole thing was freakishly reminiscent of the bars I went to in Hong Kong–unmarked building, nondescript elevator that opens up to a metallic, overly air-conditioned maze of rooms, all blasting pop music. I don’t know the name of the bar we went to and I’m not entirely sure I could find it again, but I suspect that 32nd Street between Broadway and Madison is filled with these places.
This was bar #3 of our Saturday night jaunt, so forgive me if my memory is fuzzy. (The other bar was really small, crowded, and I can’t remember it’s name.) Uncle Ming’s is this unmarked second floor bar somewhere in Alphabet City. The space is dark and a sort of like cavern meets sexy French lounge decor. People make out on these couches by the window. The bathroom door lock is broken. The bouncer didn’t card any of us. Everything was red. But it was way less crowded than the last bar.
225 Avenue B, New York, NY 10009
Free comedy show at Beauty Bar
This was actually my favorite bar of the whole weekend. It is resplendent with 60s kitch decor, including old salon chairs, bullet-shaped hair dryers, glitter, and beehives. We saw a free comedy show, which started out as truly abysmal and ended up pretty decently, with the last 3 or 4 comics actually being quite funny. The DJ also played some great music (sounded like the Ramones?) and the drinks were cheap, for NY and DC at least ($5 rail drinks). The only downside was that it quickly grew crowded and too loud to talk.
231 E 14th St - New York, NY 10003
A good weekend all around, even though I didn’t make it out to Flushing to sample some bad ass Chinese food. It’s okay. I’ll be back soon. After all, I’m still hungry.