My Bday Extra-long Weekend in NYC – Part 1

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New York is a city I either need to spend more than 5 nights in or else keep visiting every year. There was a period where I went to New York City 5 years in a row, so when I realized it had been 2 years since I’d been there, it made sense why I was missing the energy and excitement of city so fiercely.

When I’m travelling these days, my focus isn’t on Michelin stars, nor do I intend to plan too much (although it seems I end up doing that anyway). I’ve been trying to keep myself open to exploring and allowing opportunities to stumble upon new experiences. For most people that would mean going into a trip without plans. For me, it means having a list full of options that I’m able to choose from through my “fluid” schedule.

A late afternoon arrival into EWR meant by the time I arrived in Manhattan, there was only time for a quick shower before my first cocktail. Attaboy in the LES has been recommended by many and was a quick walk from the hotel.

Attaboy New York
No menu means “dealer’s choice” for cocktails. You just tell them what you’re feeling, and the bartender decides what to make you from there.
Attaboy NYC cocktail
As always, my favourite cocktail adjectives are “refreshing, citrusy but not sweet”. My drink was a mezcal cocktail with grapefruit and ginger and the perfect way to start my NYC adventure.

Wanting something comforting after a long day of travel, the choice for dinner was “red sauce Italian”, or I guess more properly termed Italian-American cuisine. I wasn’t able to get a reservation at Rubirosa, so the choice was Lil’ Frankies. Sometimes second choices turn out to be the right choice as this dinner had so many memorable dishes, some of which I hope to recreate.

Lil Frankies NYC eggplant
Whole roasted eggplant cooked in the pizza oven and totally charred on the outside which adds a smokiness. Finished with sea salt and peperoncino oil, this dish was sweet, silky with the perfect kick from a little heat.
Lil Frankies NYC spaghetti limone
Spaghetti limone was the perfect choice for a warm summer’s evening. A bright sauce of lemon, parmegiano reggiano and butter seemed so simple, but it was one of the tastiest pasta dishes I’ve had in a long time.

A stomach full of carbs led to an amazing night’s sleep and I woke up the next morning excited to explore the city. But first, breakfast.

Blackseed bagel NYC.jpg
House beet lox, a signature at Blackseed Bagels with horseradish cream cheese, radishes and herbs. When you’re in New York, you have to have a bagel!

I’d recently seen a piece on 60-Minutes on JR who I believe is one of the most influential, inspirational artists of this generation. I started following him on Instagram and noticed he was opening a show at the Galerie Perrotin the night I arrived in NYC. Of course, going the 1st morning it was open to the public was tops of my list of things to do.

jr perotin galerie

To my good fortune, JR happened to be doing videos for his Instagram stories in the gallery as the doors opened and being the first in the building, I took the opportunity to tell him how incredible and inspiring I thought he was.

Susy Bando JR street artist
Totally geeking out to be standing beside such a creative, inspiring person and so uncomfortable having my photo taken next to someone who takes such incredible photos of people for a living.
JR artist container eyes.jpg
The final piece of his project “Women are Heroes”, JR created this image of a Kenyan woman’s eyes on 151 shipping containers, allowing the pained looked of a woman who has lived her life in a tiny village facing extreme challenges to face the infinity of the ocean.
jr art
Working cranes pick up the container pieces and recreate the piece on the other side. 
jr Kikito picnic
The picnic was held on both sides of the border wall on the day before Kikito was taken down.

I was on such a New York high after the exhibition, the only thing that I could follow it up with was a quintessential NYC experience.

Minetta Tavern black label burger
The black label burger at Minetta Tavern  is always on the “best of” lists so on this trip I was determined to try it. The burger’s cut in half because of course, I had to share it.
Minetta Tavern black label burger medium rare
Cooked medium-rare, which is actually more on the rare side, and only adorned with caramelized onions, this is a burger for a meat enthusiast, which luckily I am.

After my meat-coma/nap, it was time to press on again to one of my favourite New York activities, taking the subway to Brooklyn and walking back to Manhattan over the Brooklyn Bridge.


Yes Susy

Yes Ben

My original plan was to do this walk at sunset, as I’ve only ever walked the bridge during the morning light. But dinner reservations took precedence and I had to settle for the light setting into the Manhattan skyline rather than capturing the colours of a full sunset.

NYC Brooklyn bridge.jpg

Brooklyn bridge sunset

While I didn’t get to experience the sunset I wanted on the bridge, the compromise was worth it to keep my much sought after reservation at Wildair, a restaurant that came highly recommended by some very trustworthy sources.

Wildair NYC tartare
Beef tartare, smoked cheddar, horseradish, brazil nuts – this dish was the most mind-blowing I had all trip, perhaps of the year so far. I’ve heard the secret to its addictive seasoning is fish sauce, but I can’t confirm that. But even thinking of it now, it’s a dish I’d fly across the country to try again.
Wildair NYC lettuce pistachio
Littlegem lettuce, pistachio, chili, and herbs look like a green explosion on the plate, but despite this, the flavours were focused and lively.
Wildair NYC uni potato
Potato darphin, hokkaido uni, jalapeno – I am a sucker for uni and potatoes so of course, this was a must order for me. As much as I wanted to love this, I felt the uni to potato ratio wasn’t quite right, leaving me feeling that the parts of this dish were greater than the sum.
Wildair NYC softshell crab
Fried soft-shell crab, lemon, spring onion – a dish that tomade up for the disappointment of the uni dish. While the perfectly fried softshell crab was delicious, it was the pieces of fried lemon dipped in aioli that had me swooning.

I will always forgo dessert for another cocktail, so after dinner, we did just that. Bar Goto, a Japanese-syle cocktail bar was just around the corner and seemed the perfect place to end the night.

Bar Goto cocktail
The L.E.S. with gin, Cointreau, lemon, chili, cucumber and shiso. The perfect combination of Asian flavours to cap off my evening.

I’m not a brunch person, but it feels like when you’re in New York, sitting down for one is a must. To work up an appetite beforehand, we wandered the streets to check out more art.

Tristan Eaton’s “Audrey Hepburn” in Little Italy
os gemeos NYC
Os Gemeos’ Tribute to Hip Hop in the East Village

Two Hands was another newbie on my list that was listed as a “must”, so it seemed the best choice to satisfy my NYC brunch desire. We visited the newer, larger Tribeca location in hopes we wouldn’t have to wait that long and were lucky just to beat the rush. The restaurant was light, bright and completely insta-friendly, but what wow’d me the most was their delicious food.

Two hands NYC granola
They were out of the acai bowl, so I settled for this passionfruit yogurt with granola and berries, which turned out to be an amazing choice. I’d eat this for breakfast every day if I could.
Two Hands NYC Breakfast roll
The heartier breakfast roll with fried egg, bacon and avocado surrounded by a light and slightly sweet brioche bun is something that looks so simple, but I know it’s the quality of ingredients that make up this sandwich that makes it so special.

A walk was definitely needed after the big brunch and luckily, when you’re in New York, it seems you’re always in a neighbourhood to see something amazing and iconic.

One World Trade Center
Outside the Oculus
A view from above of the entrance of the Manhattan bridge
One of the reasons why I booked my stay at the Hotel 50 Bowery was to have access to this view from their rooftop patio.

Feeling exhausted and hot from so much walking, I craved something easy, fast and cold.

xian famous food noodle
Xian Foods is “famous for many reasons” but particularly the dishes I ordered. Cold skin noodles with spongy gluten and a soy sour sauce, stewed pork burger and the super refreshing spicy Asian cucumber salad.

No New York trip is complete without a Broadway show, so attending one was a must. When I found that Josh Charles was in a show with Armie Hammer, of course, that was my choice.* But before that, I wanted to hit a happy hour for a pre-show snack.

Sel Rrose NYC oysters
These Buck a Shuck oysters at Sel Rrose paired well with a large bucket of truffle fries.
Sel Rrose NYC bubbly
I couldn’t believe this (huge) glass of bubbly was the first of my trip. Wasn’t I celebrating my birthday weekend after all?
I always get goosebumps in anticipation when I stand outside and see the poster for the show.

The show was good, not great, but I loved sitting in this small theatre watching these wonderful actors in a show (in a nutshell) about white privilege and living up to expectations. It was a play that led to discussions afterwards, which is exactly what we did over a cocktail down at Pier A at the stylish, Cuban-themed BlackTail, which was named by Conde Nast as the Best New Bar in America in 2017.

Blacktail cocktail
The Bladerunner cocktail with rum, bourbon, ginger, maple cassis and mint paired with a Cuban sandwich was the perfect way to end the evening.

I couldn’t believe my birthday weekend was more than half over, but it was an amazing first few days. I was giddy in anticipation of the next days to come as there was so much awesome still to come…


*Yes in the movie of my generation, “Dead Poets Society”, it was Josh Charles and not Ethan Hawke that caught my eye. But then again, I also had a crush on Potsie and always thought that if I were in a John Hughes movie, I’d always pick Anthony Michael Hall over any one of the beau hunk stars. 

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