The Best Meals We Ate in NYC: Northern and Eastern Europe Edition

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In a recent post, I mentioned that we will be moving overseas again but haven’t publicly shared where we’re going. Today I’m going to give you a big hint: it’s somewhere in Europe that’s east of Germany and north of Greece. Any guesses? (No giving it way if you already know!)

Europe Map

We’re going to live somewhere in here!

To give us a little taste of what to expect in our new home, we recently hopped up to New York City and sought out the cuisines of Northern and Eastern Europe. We sampled everything from Jewish deli sandwiches and matzo ball soup to caviar-topped blini and veal stew. We reveled in the flavors, some familiar, some tantalizingly new. Here’s a rundown of the cafes and restaurants we visited and the flavors we most look forward to finding in our new home.

Aquavit

We were very keen to sample Scandinavian food so the first reservation we made was for Aquavit, Manhattan’s premier Nordic restaurant once helmed by Top Chef Masters winner Marcus Samuelsson. We took advantage of the prix fixe lunch menu, US$42 for three courses, a relative bargain for a Michelin-starred meal.

Aquavit’s nondescript exterior gives way to a crisp white dining room filled with elegant yet refined decor. The resident sommelier discussed our wine selections (my white Côtes du Rhône was said to be a beautiful choice!) and the quick-footed staff served up a basket of freshly baked bread and sea-salted butter which hubby contemplated eating alone once the bread ran out.

The prix fixe menu offered a choice between two appetizers and two entrees so naturally we tried them all and shared. I started with the lemony Dill and Cucumber Salad and was wowed by the presentation as buttermilk, frozen with liquid nitrogen, was spooned over the bowl. While the salad was refreshing and fantastic to behold, I preferred the Shrimp Skagen, a deceptively simple shrimp salad atop a nutty rye bread.

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For the next course, I devoured every heart-warming morsel of the traditional Swedish Meatballs served with a velvety-smooth potato puree, earthy chanterelle mushrooms and tart lingonberries. The other choice was Scandinavian Bouillabaisse, a frothy stew of the freshest fish and seafood. I thought the broth was a touch too salty but hubby deemed it perfect and likewise left an empty bowl.

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The dessert option was Caramel Panna Cotta and it was spectacular. The thick custard was topped with chunks of white chocolate and pistachio bark as well as bits of freeze-dried raspberries. Equally satisfying was the dollop of dark chocolate and blueberry sherbet, which really needs to be packaged and sold for home consumption.

 

Katz’s Deli

A New York institution that celebrated its 125th anniversary last year, Katz’s is THE PLACE to go for classic Jewish delicatessen fare. Don’t be deterred by the line stretching onto the sidewalk; we put our name on the list for table service and were seated within 15 minutes. (You can also order from the counter and find your own seat in the cavernous space.)

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Hubby opted for the no-nonsense pastrami on rye while I went all out with the Reuben, a towering feat of corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Russian dressing. It was messy, no doubt about it, but also the best Reuben I’ve ever tasted.

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Russian Tea Room

When I lived in NYC, most of my money went towards paying rent; afternoon tea was a luxury I could not afford. Now that exorbitant housing costs are a thing of the past, I’m able to indulge myself from time to time… to time. One of Manhattan’s most iconic tea spots is the Russian Tea Room, opened in the 1920s by former members of the Russian Imperial Ballet.

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The Russian Tea Room is worth visiting for the decor alone!

We opted for the classic afternoon tea set – sans champagne – and were each presented with our own three-tied tray of savory treats. The waiter recommended we start at the top, with the tiny blinis topped with two different types of American caviar, and work our way down from there. Each bite was seemingly better than the last, though standouts included the shrimp salad with rémoulade, smoked salmon with chive cream cheese and cucumber, and Roquefort bleu cheese and pear with walnuts.

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Our jaws dropped when the table was cleared and new towers of sweets arrived. This time we were told to start with the warm scones on the bottom and eat our way to the top. My favorites in this bunch were the vanilla cupcake with rich and slightly salty dark chocolate frosting and the chocolate truffle.

 

Andre’s Cafe

Having recently fallen head-over-heels for the zesty cuisine of Hungary, we were delighted when our online research turned up a highly-rated Hungarian restaurant on the Upper East Side. Although Andre’s appears to be little more than a bakery from outside, the menu is awash in classic dishes like the ones we first sampled in Budapest.

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We started the night off right with a bottle of Bull’s Blood wine and Korozott in Paprika, an enticing blend of feta and cream cheeses with paprika and other spices served with bread and tomatoes. Remembering our favorite meals from the summer, we went straight for the Chicken Paprikash and the Veal Goulash, the meat so tender it practically melted. Both came with mounds of delicate noodles and scrumptious sauces. As we were enjoying our dinner, the proprietress walked by with a freshly-baked cherry cake which sealed the deal for dessert.

 

Moishe’s Bake Shop

You can’t throw a rock in the East Village without hitting a Jewish bakery. We walked by several on 2nd Avenue specializing in cheese blintzes and potato knishes, enticing smells wafting out onto the sidewalk, but were so full from our lunch at Katz’s Deli that we couldn’t imagine eating another bite. Then I saw Moishe’s Bake Shop across the street and it was as though I were caught in a magnetic force field. I just couldn’t stop myself from crossing the street and opening the door to Pandora’s cookie jar.

After savoring the heady fragrance of chocolate for a few minutes, we got a pound of apricot and raspberry jam-filled sandwich cookies dipped in dark chocolate. And we ate every single delicious one on the bus ride home the next day.

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Restaurant Information:

Aquavit
Address: 65 East 55th Street, New York, NY
Pricing: US$42 for three-course lunch
Katz's Deli
Address: 205 E Houston St, New York, NY
Pricing: Hot sandwiches cost US$14-19
Russian Tea Room
Address: 150 West 57th Street, New York, NY
Pricing: US$50 for the standard Afternoon Tea
Andre's Cafe
Address: 1631 2nd Avenue (near 85th Street), New York, NY
Pricing: Dishes range from US$8.50 to US$19.95
Moishe's Bake Shop
Address: 115 2nd Avenue (near 7th Street), New York, NY
Pricing: US$9.50 per pound of cookies

 

 Have you been to NYC? What are some of your favorite restaurants? Which of these dishes would you most like to try?

 

Heather Hall

Heather Hall

Passionate about travel, food, history and animals, Heather brings a curiosity and fun-loving attitude to most any experience that comes along. The Virginia native has lived abroad since 2011, first in Shanghai, China and now in Riga, Latvia. Follow along as she explores the cultures and cuisines of Europe on her blog, Ferreting Out the Fun!

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30 thoughts on “The Best Meals We Ate in NYC: Northern and Eastern Europe Edition

    • I feel your pain, my dad is super picky too. Hopefully you’ll get to eat there at some point. I looked over the a la carte menu and don’t remember seeing reindeer as an option. Though I hope to try it when we visit Scandinavia!

  1. Love, love, love this post! Eating in NYC is one of my favorite things to do, and how exciting that you’re sampling your new cuisine! I really want to try Andre’s now:-)

    As for where you’re moving…I’m going to take a wild, wild guess…Bosnia?;-)
    Jess @UsedYorkCity recently posted…FoodPorn Friday: Convivium OsteriaMy Profile

    • Thanks Jess! My weekends in NYC always seem to revolve around food 🙂

      And great guess! Sarajevo made our top 5 list of places we wanted to live, but another fab city won in the end. I’ll be sharing the destination soon 🙂

  2. If it was me I’ll be straight into the bakery shop trying not ot buy everything, I’m addicted to bakery, can’t help it! 🙂

  3. What a great post! The Russian Tea Room is beautiful. There was a lot of food on this post that I would certainly try. I like turkey Reubens. Hope they have them in your next stop. The cookies would have been my downfall.

    • Turkey isn’t widely available outside of America so you’ll just have to try them with corned beef or pastrami 🙂

  4. That meal at Aquavit looks so GORGEOUS. Our time here in Asia has kind of weaned us off of fancy expensive food (because the cheap stuff is so darn good), but it definitely looks like a worthy splurge!

    And, seriously, how good are the sandwiches at Katz’s? Each bite probably takes a week off of your life, but it’s totally worth it!
    Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted…Mini Budget Breakdown: Malaysian Borneo Travel CostsMy Profile

    • That Katz’s sandwich was worth every single calorie! My hubby was so sad once his was gone he toyed with the idea of ordering another one. But then he remembered we had a lot more eating to do on this trip. Dinner at Aquavit was definitely out of our price range, but the lunch deal was great. Still a splurge but not enough to make us choke on our coffee when we saw the bill 🙂

  5. so funny, the romantic lived across the street from andre’s for about a year–right on 85th & 2nd! we paid a visit before our trip to hungary and fell in love with the food & the bull’s blood. good choice on your foodie stops. katz’s forever <3

    and based on this post, we're guessing a move to budapest is in your future??
    the lazy travelers recently posted…weekend warriors: there’s no place like romeMy Profile

    • Great guess, we adore Budapest! But we’ve been there twice before and wanted to explore a new pocket of the world. I’ll be revealing the destination soon!

      And I think I’d be in trouble if I lived across the street from Andres.

    • I’m really excited to reveal the destination – and even more excited to move there! But I’m going to build the suspense just a little longer 🙂 I can’t wait to read about all the fun things you get up to in New York!

  6. I love NYC and don’t think I would ever get sick of going back there – like London, it’s got so many great food finds that it’s hard to know where to start so I’ll definitely be bookmarking this page for my next trip and can’t wait to try out some of these – that caramel panna cotta looks divine!
    Shikha (whywasteannualleave) recently posted…Locking down your love in Salzburg, AustriaMy Profile

    • Thanks, Shikha! The trouble with weekend visits is that it’s always hard to narrow down the places you want to eat when there are so many great choices. So seeking out restaurants within a specific theme made things a lot easier this time 🙂

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