My second day in New York and I awoke to a cloudy and rainy day in Wall Street. I got a cup of coffee to go from the Andaz Lobby before heading out with an umbrella from the front desk towards the subway station which I took to alight at Spring Street. The rainy weather, while not the optimum for walking and exploring NYC, was a welcome change to ensure little crowds in the streets compared to the previous night when the crowds were all out in full force in the East Village.
The area around the Spring Street subway station is filled with charming buildings and lined with cafes and dessert shops which would really make a nice place for a walk to search for snacks. I had decided earlier on for brunch at Cafe Gitane, and I proceeded in the direction of Mott Street, but upon reaching Mott Street, I headed south instead, thereby reaching the outskirts of New York’s Chinatown. Realizing my mistake, I went back to the opposite direction towards St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral before arriving at my destination for brunch. I did not have to wait for a seat at the bar counter and after perusing the menu, ordered waffles and a cup of iced tea for brunch. It was a delicious brunch and just sweet enough for my taste.
From Cafe Gitane, I took a walk towards Houston Street which is a main thoroughfare in New York before turning right towards Bowery. It should be noted that the SoHo district in New York got its name from ‘South of Houston’ and the area around Bowery and Houston are made up of similarly low-rise buildings, seemingly a disconnect between the skyscrapers in Midtown and Downtown Manhattan and creating a sense of space. This is precisely the reason why urban planners need to take into account congestion and the ‘claustrophobic’ effect of skyscrapers.
Given that many of the low-rise buildings in this area are perhaps decades old, or maybe even close to centuries-old buildings, many feature the water towers so characteristic of a Manhattan skyline. They form a nice beacon on top of each building, breaking the monotony of flat roofs. Another feature amongst buildings are the exterior fire escape staircase which again adds texture to a row of brick buildings. Nowadays these staircases are also painted in colours, giving the area a splash of scenery.
The walk along Bowery brought me to Cooper Square where the Astor Place Cube sculpture could be found at. I was then able to board the subway again from Astor Place towards 59th and Lexington Avenue. I thought that the rainy day made it an opportune time to head for the shops at this area. First stop was Bloomingdale’s which is situated conveniently atop the subway station before the luxury boutiques of Madison Avenue. Though I got to discover that some shops in Madison Ave closes on a Sunday, like in Paris. Shopping in New York is perhaps nice in that sales tax are usually lower than the west coast and no taxes are applicable for purchases of clothing and accessories less than $100. Not to mention the choices available in this metropolis!
However I was just window shopping at the luxury shops here, and it was fortunate the rain has started to subside as I was getting bored. I proceeded to check out Central Park, taking a walk around the Pond and can’t help noticing that much of the pond is still frozen though the clearer weather has brought out the birds and ducks around the Park. The area around the Pond by the streetside wasn’t one of the nicest part of Central Park due to the foul smell of the horse carriages, though the fresh air in the Park proper is a welcome change to the street noise. It is amazing how one can feel at peace and have some quiet moments right in the middle of the city while in Central Park. Strolling across the Park, I reached the opposite end at Columbus Circle where I found my second rest stop as it started to rain again.
Time Warner Centre and its twin towers dominate the skyline in this bustling area. With such a large development, I was able to find shelter at the Shops at Columbus Circle. It is a relatively small shopping mall when one compares it to mega shopping malls in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore and Jakarta, but it offers a nice view of the Columbus column and traffic around the circle from the glass-fronted atrium. I was looking for a place to sit down and have a cup of coffee but because of how packed some of the cafes was in the centre, I just browsed around the shops and took in the views of the traffic around the Circle. After spending some time in the Centre, I headed out to a subway station towards the Meatpacking District, where I checked out the location of Spice Market since I had a dinner reservation for the night there. However, being very early for me to have dinner, I returned to the hotel for some snack, rest and shower.
With the sun-setting and the rain stopping, I left the umbrella back with the concierge and took the subway once again towards Chelsea district and returned to Spice Market for dinner. What attracted me to dine here was my fantastic dining experience at Market in Shangri-la Vancouver. The food in Market and Spice Market is quite similar as it draws inspiration from eastern cuisines. The restaurant itself was huge, occupying 2 storey and had a decor drawing from Iranian, Persian and Ottoman influences. It was a nice restaurant which had a more distinctive character as opposed to Market in Vancouver. After placing my order, where I opted for a tasting menu which had 7-8 courses of food, the server brought out plates of crackers with an accompanying dip. It seems to be made of chickpeas with sauce that made it look like Nachos, though I enjoyed the crackers served here which was a lot finer for the palate.
The next few dishes served was more like an amuse bouche and sushi platter which had a nice mix of spices that made it look like a Thai-Japanese fusion cuisine. Then came the skewers with dipping sauce. Perhaps I came from a region where these skewers are called satays which comes with amazing peanut sauce, I found the skewers a bit tough and not as tasty. Next came the spiced chicken samosa with cilantro yogurt which was perhaps one of my favourite dishes served till this point. The samosa was crispy and not too oily like those served in Asian restaurants and the dipping sauce was perfect!
Main course arrived and I had the char-grilled chicken with kumquat lemongrass dressing. I found the chicken to be over-grilled to the extent of making it bitter. The sour and sweet dressing made the taste better somewhat but this course was something I rather pass upon. The last main course which was ginger fried rice topped with a crusted sunny side up, however was a redeeming factor in the meal. I liked the amazing burst of flavours in the fried rice which was cooked to perfection. The crusted sunny side up was also great for this dish. However as I had gotten a bit full by this stage, I wasn’t able to finish this large portion of fried rice.
The last 2 dish of desserts was not too bad as I had the Ovaltine Kufli, Caramelized Banana and Spiced Milk Chocolate Sauce along with the Thai Jewels in Crushed Coconut Ice. The latter was the nicer one as it was more refreshing and thus more delectable after the heavy meal. Overall the meal was composed of some hits and misses, and due to the large portion, I wouldn’t recommend the Tasting menu unless one is feeling really hungry or has a hearty appetiite. At the end of the meal, I regretted not to bring my umbrella along as it rained again, only much heavier this time. It was fortunate I was able to hail a cab just outside the restaurant to bring me back to the hotel. It seems that the rain in New York City can persist for the whole day and when in doubt just bring the umbrella along.