Monthly Archives: January 2017

Pizza from Arcade Bakery

My choice for desert island sustenance after bread and butter would probably be ice cream. But my New York self (the one where I incorrectly go by Ree-ahhhh-na instead of Ree-anna) would advocate strongly for pizza. Not a shocking factoid given its origins in yeast and flour. It’s baked in a hot oven. It gets topped with something fatty and/or sweet-acidic. You eat it with your hands. Pizza is just my beloved all tarted up.

I would hire a lawyer to petition for pizza to be included in my bread and butter (perhaps for the court’s purposes, bread and fat) desert island food choice if I was to be banished. The border between them is loose enough that I think I’d have a strong case. I could call witnesses. There are notable places here where there’s a successful mash-up between pizzaiolo and baker. Dan Richer at Razza makes fantastic pizza and bread. There’s Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery who branched out with pizza at Co. And now that I’ve tried the delicious pizzas of Roger Gural at Arcade Bakery, I’m confident a judge would listen to me.

Like when I indulged in the laminated baguette, the weekday-only, daytime hours of the bakery mean I can only have an Arcade pizza on a day off. That rarity definitely increases its allure. As does its location. The lobby of an office tower sounds as comfortable as a bus station, but the effort that Arcade has put in to create wooden wall nooks for seating has paid off. They’re comfortable, and despite not completely forgetting you’re in a corridor, they create enough of a sense of place to make you feel like you’re eating at Arcade, not the lobby of 220 Church St.

It is hard to ignore Arcade’s sandwiches, bread, and pastries, but when I want pizza, I want pizza. The cornicione presents puffier than most Neapolitan pies I eat, but it doesn’t eat as fluffy. The chew and pliability are there, and some char that’s not textbook leoparding. There’s the traditional margherita-like pie (fat + sweet-acid) that can be embellished with extras, and there’s also a daily special, usually a white variation. It might be an affront to other pizza lovers that I prefer white pies, but I think I do. Tomato sauces easily overwhelm me if they’re not balanced with both their own sweetness and the other toppings; a white base doesn’t take the spotlight away from what else might be on the pie.

Does this come from me preferring my bread with butter only and rarely with jam? My lawyer might advise that I should take the plea deal if offered to include white pies only…

 

Special with butternut squash, ricotta, pumpkin seed pesto, parsley, and pickled onions

Tomato, mozzarella, basil, with addition of pepperoni, onion, garlic

 

Momofuku Noodle Bar

Whether you agree with him or not, there’s no denying that The New York Times restaurant critic Pete “The Punisher” Wells has become a bit of lightening rod for the role and impact of restaurant criticism. Leaving the recent controversy of his review of Locol in Oakland aside, I always look forward to reading his reviews and trying to understand a restaurant from his viewpoint. Thus, I devoured the profile of him that The New Yorker published a few months ago. Learning about his work and process was all well and good, but I think my favourite aspect of the profile was the participation of chef David Chang. I thought it was fantastic that he would go on record with his emotions (anger/disappointment/frustration) about the impact of Wells’ review of the young Momofuku Nishi in Chelsea. Regardless of his motivation for doing so, I think his willingness to take part was admirable, especially given the forum. It is easy for him or anyone to respond to a review, to discount it, but to respond to a review within a profile of the reviewer is more rare. I think it ultimately is a respectful nod to the strange, but at times crucial, relationship between restaurants and esteemed publications. If David Chang has the opportunity to tell his side of the Nishi story and feelings about Wells, then why wouldn’t he do it when The New Yorker comes asking? I think it was an all-press-is-good-press moment.

But it’s not like David Chang needs good press. The crowds come and business stays. And I don’t think it stays because of a brand. Whatever my opinion might be worth to you, I have never had a bad meal at a Chang restaurant. I’ve only been to Nishi once, but I very much enjoyed my meal. I loved the one I had at Ko. If I was a bigger fan of fried chicken, I’d be at Fuku more. Ssam Bar never disappoints. And then there’s Noodle Bar. The place that started it all.

Momofuku Noodle Bar opened a few months before my first trip to New York, and I remember reading about the ramen place that had everyone talking. But I was like, ramen? Really? I wasn’t going to New York to seek out ramen. (Hindsight is 20/20?) In any case, all these many years later, and Noodle Bar still commands a wait. As it should. The food is always excellent, and for me, serves as a reminder of how Chang can take something like ramen or pho or fried chicken or cacio e pepe and tweak it in such a way that makes it innovative and yet still leaves it familiar and comforting. The vegetable dishes at Noodle Bar always grab my attention, easily moving me away from ordering the more popular buns. The pea shoot salad (I think it’s currently being made with chard) is one of my favourite dishes anywhere. Fresh, crunchy, crispy, spicy. I never fail to inhale it. I had a thing for the Hozon chickpea ramen, then the ginger scallion noodles, but now the chicken pho tempts me.

I know that listicles and Best Ofs can often be more about PR than actual tastemaking (I’m looking at you, Grubstreet), but I like reading them, especially the year-end ones. I agree with Bill Addison of Eater who keeps Noodle Bar on their list of Best Restaurants in America. It has been around for more than a decade and is a consistently packed place that both locals and tourists—and critics—like to eat at. I would bet even Pete the Punisher.

I like sitting across from the kitchen.

Soy sauce egg

 

Pea shoots – Asian pear, sesame, kimchi vinaigrette

 

Shaved fennel – dan dan, cilantro, ricotta

 

Chicken pho – culantro, fried shallots, jalapeno oil