I arrived late on Thursday night after sitting on the runway in Orlando for about two hours. After fighting car sickness on my bumpy cab ride, I met up with the girls at the apartment in Tribecca, and following a glass of wine we went for a quick dinner at one of the neighborhood eateries: Viet Café.
My first impressions of the ambiance were of immediate sophistication and comfort. Hence I was not surprised to learn on their website that the Chef/Owner focused on fung shui principles with the furnishings, all of which were imported from Viet Nam. Between the amazing real life photographs, bistro-open style kitchen, and Elliot Smith in the background, I felt right at home. I was also thrilled to read about Chef Lan Tran Cao who is originally from Viet Nam but studied in Australia. She became a restaurateur while receiving her Masters in commerce, and opened Viet Café while working on Wall Street.
On the recommendation of our hostess for the weekend, I got the Pan Seared Snapper for dinner. (At this point in the day we didn’t bother with apps). Served in a creamy lime tomato sauce, it was accompanied with small chunks of pineapple and strips of crispy tofu. I’m glad I took the recommendation because I was absolutely thrilled with my meal! The fish itself was perfectly cooked, tender and moist. I found the sauce to be delicious, light and tangy. The pairing of the crisp 2005 Trout Valley Sauvignon Blanc made for a perfect meal.
If you are ever in the area, I would definitely check this place out: www.viet-cafe.com
On Friday, we basically just wandered and shopped. We did stop for lunch at Le Pain Quotidien (the daily bread) to enjoy a meal at the communal table. Literally, communal tables. Again I was transfixed with the atmosphere: tall ceilings, bright light and absolutely beautiful large wooden tables. With a quick glance at the website, I was shocked to see all of the locations of Le Pain Quotidien: Belgium (where it originated), France, Kuwait, Lebanon, Qatar, Russia, Switzerland, Turkey, the UAE, the UK, and locations in NYC and LA.
We started the meal with some yummy breads and spreads. (Sorry Dr. South Beach, but when in Rome…) The Brunette Belgium Praline Spread was highly recommended, but it was a bit too sugar grainy for me. We did have an excellent sliced baguette and a fantastic raisin bread. I then had a cup of the gazpacho (it was really really hot out) that was pretty much the antithesis of the Infusion gazpacho from last week. Over pureed, it was nothing to write home about. My tartine (a fancy word for an open face sandwich) however, was decent. Grilled chicken with smoked fresh mozzarella and arugula; it was served on thinly sliced wheat bread. The cheese was out of this world and really put the sandwich over the top for me.
Overall this was a great meal experience and I wish I could do it again. I think the main problem was that I just didn’t order correctly. Other tartines I was considering were: roasted peaches/prosciutto/asparagus and ricotta/fig. I know better than to ignore my gut instinct! I would recommend this place if anything for the originality of the experience. Check them out: www.lepainquotidien.com
That’s it for now! Check back in a few days and I’ll have the rest of the trip….including my big night at Nobu!!