Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Murray Hill Will Never Be Cool, But Still...

The restaurants are shaping up.  Thankfully.  

I found myself in the 20s/30s around snack time (aka mid-afternoon) ready to collapse from hunger.  Artisanal is expensive, but I'd recently read that they had launched a pocket-friendly bar menu. 

Actually, if you speak to any of the uninformed people working at Artisanal, you, too, will learn that they don't actually have a bar menu, per se.  What they do have, however, is a series of grilled cheese sandwiches that are less atrociously overpriced than the rest of the menu.  Not that spending $16 for a grilled cheese is a deal.  But whatever.

There are several different varieties and I wanted to order them all, but I settled for cheddar cheese, applewood smoked bacon, and apple.  The sandwich--and this is true for all of them--came with homemade potato chips (think Cape Cod), wide bread-and-butter pickle slices, and olives.  It was yummy, no doubt, and I ate almost all of it. But it wasn't really that cheap.  I'm intrigued by the version made with comte and truffle honey as well as the Berkshire pulled pork version.  Next time, assuming I'm willing to shell out the cash.  

Since I was in the neighborhood, I ducked into Szechuan Gourmet on dingy 39th Street for some Chinese takeout.  For later, of course.  I ordered so much food, the woman at the front actually asked me if she could give me some complimentary noodles.  

I don't care if my Chinese food is hot, I really don't.  The one dish that would have benefited from heat was the crispy lamb with cumin, which translated to soggy lamb that tasted only of cumin.  It was not good, but that's probably my fault for not eating it sooner.  

What was good was everything else.  Szechuan pickles included daikon, turnip, Napa cabbage, and carrot, doused in fiery chili oil.  That same oil made an appearance in all the different dishes, offering background flame in the wake of other flavors.  Despite the disconcerting orange slick it left behind on my plate, I found it quite addictive.  Prawns with ground pork and asparagus benefited from the spice.  Sliced pork belly with scallions swam in a sea of orange and brown, a sweet and spicy turn from the strict sichuan peppercorn. Yum.  

Ground pork dumplings, light as air, possessed a secondary spice: crushed ginger.  Sesame noodles, glossy and--you guessed it--orange, were everything you want in a noodle.  They had great texture, just enough grease, and a warming sensation that came mostly at the front of my tongue.  

There were leftovers, my favorite part about takeout, though I'm deep-cleaning today with millet, blueberries, and oat milk.  I'll save the hedonism for later. 

2 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10016

Szechuan Gourmet
21 W. 39th Street
New York, NY 10018

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