Friday, September 21, 2012

Up, up and away … in & around manhattan’s flatiron district

Manhattan’s “Flatiron District” – an area bounded by Gramercy Park, Chelsea and Greenwich Village – is, as many of you well know, a neighborhood replete with all kinds of commodious parks (Madison Square, for one; see my earlier blog post), public spaces, restaurants of every ethnic variety & cuisine, cafes, great and small buildings & somewhat atypical architecture. We tend to gravitate to this neighborhood for one or another reason … a comfortable park in which to read & relax on a sunny summer afternoon, or simply to make it a destination for an outdoor concert, or lounge, or an (indoor) resto.   

All this – we did, twice during the past week, or so.
Once, high up above The City on the 20th floor rooftop garden of 230 Fifth (a lounge and resto at 230 Fifth Avenue & 27th St., open year round, from 4:00 pm to 4:00 am; no minimum, no entry charge!) where we had sun, sauvignon blanc, soft winds, and a wide variety of Pan Asian specialties:  from softly sautéed shrimp & pork dumplings in a mild chili vinaigrette “sauce” … to spicy beef short ribs “Rendang” cooked in coconut milk with coconut rice & Malaysian herbs; an oyster omelet with cilantro, chili vinegar & bean sprouts; calamari with a sweet chili sauce; and a bowl of (seemingly) Thai-inspired veal & pork meatballs simmered in a turmeric curry gravy.  

But the raison d’etre of 230 Fifth consists, surely, of the breathtaking views of the Manhattan skyline, including that of the Empire State Building which you feel you can almost touch a little way off in the clear blue, pre-fall, late afternoon sky, while facing just northward from this rooftop lounge. Despite the extensive tourist trade which obviously & regularly packs the place – and amid the throngs of people coming in and leaving on an hourly basis – meeting friends for an early dinner and some extensive sipping (exotic drinks or just a few glasses of white wine or pinot noir) in a quiet corner of this king-size, sky-bound, space above 5th Ave. proves just the treat to please us deeply on occasion … and, with views among the borough’s best, to rejuvenate us jaded urban inhabitants with the magic, & within the magical world, of Manhattan … up, up and away.  (When you visit – tourist or no – you just might want to have your digital camera at the ready!)

Away, but ground level this time, and a short walk in another direction (almost directly west on 22nd Street), you will find the newly opened (since late May) Silk Rd. Tavern, featuring an Asia-based menu constructed by Executive Chef Leo Forneas (born & raised in The Philippines & a graduate of the CIA) who brings, as the restaurant web site proclaims, “his extensive global experiences to create dishes that showcase playful and unique Asian & American flavors, while paying homage to tradition with unexpected fresh and sustainable ingredients.”  We took up residence here for a couple of hours just the other night (Wednesday, the 19th) for a 7-course tasting menu at $45./person, featuring a hearty, rich & (even) delicate blending of the restaurant’s specialties and coupled with an equally interestingly exotic selection of beers (e.g., oyster stout, Atlantic lager, imperial porter) supplied by Flying Dog Brewery (of Frederick, MD). The match – the paring – with each of the seven courses was, proverbially speaking, as well as in the consummation itself, right on target.

The 7-course dinner “event” – each dish presented with care, creativity & attention to detail – began with an “amuse” of crispy spice clam strips mingled with ginger & a scallion tartar sauce (mayonnaise-based, of course), and served with a Horn Dog barley wine; next, we received an organic Scottish salmon carpaccio, along with edamame amidst sprinkled (smallish) baubles of a Kalamansi ponzu jelly, and accompanied by an In-Heat Wheat Hefeweizen.  So far, well, so good … with another course soon to be placed before us … a big-eye tuna tartar in a sea urchin vinaigrette dressing, pared with a Pearl Necklace Oyster Stout. We were now beginning to get the hang of the meal – the pace & structure of the dining event … as well as of the tangy & unique flavors of the food, along with the distinctive tastes of the brews presented with each course. We would move on, ahead … awaiting the “official” 3rd course, a rather large, unexpectedly sumptuous, Korean-inflected  bowl of  “mac & cheese” (with Korean rice cakes incorporated into the mix instead of the usual macaroni noodles), suffused with a Vermont cheddar & a New York sharp cheese & topped with bits of crunchy (panko?) “crumbs” … all to be washed down with a Snake Dog IPA. (Two additional courses – and dessert – still to be tasted.)
A soy-glazed portion of “melt-in-your-mouth” pre-cut pieces of pan-fried Long Island skate – with pickled shallots & scallions mixed in & around the bone – would be next, and delightfully pared with a Wildman Farmhouse IPA. BBQ Braised short ribs with lightly fried kimchee Brussel sprouts & “sunny-side up” egg followed, and, along with an Under Dog Atlantic Lager, proved our final (savory) course, prior to dessert. And, finally, accompanied by a Gonzo Imperial Porter functioning as our end-of-dinner coffee, an enticing dessert appeared capping the preceding meal:  a peanut butter tart, with a small ball of milk ice cream & caramel nuts atop the tart. A very nice, not cloyingly sweet, low-key finale for an evening’s 7-course extravaganza!  
Not too much to eat, not too little, and not overwhelming in heft … but, as is often trumpeted, just right!   

We’ll return to Silk Rd. Tavern in the near future … and try other items posted on their relatively short, circumscribed, but intriguing dinner menu! We certainly, eagerly, look forward to tasting the veal breast ‘n buns (in mint & Thai basil), the curry coconut mussels, the Singapore chili crab pot pie, the Sichuan petite filet (with spinach & black garlic), among other tempting items that are suggested. And, perhaps, more "limited  release" beer selections, too, from Flying Dog!

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