Yo yo yo! New York is the place to be!
After my recent trip to New York City, I’ve decided that, excluding Hong Kong, New York is the place I would most want to live in… at least for a year. It’s got everything I want – fantastic restaurants, astounding number of things to do, a diverse array of people, everywhere is walkable and through public transportation, and I adore a competitive and driven city – laid back cities are not for me at the moment.
I’ve been to New York many times, each time trying to accomplish something touristy and never really experiencing ‘living there’. This time, I did feel like as if I was ‘living there’, as if I was a resident in this city. Super fun. Every time I come back, New York grows more and more for me. As I’ve mentioned to other people, NYC is the place to be if you’re 25-30 years old.
Innside by Melia New York NoMad (website)
I’ve heard many times that Manhattan is an expensive city to stay in. But given the price I paid for this hotel, compared to other big cities such as San Francisco and Europe, I found that the ‘value’ I was getting for the hotel rooms was fantastic. This room I stayed in, in Innside, was extremely convenient as it was located in downtown just below Koreatown, on 27th street between 6th and 7th avenue.
I really liked the hotel. The lobby was sleek and sort of trendy and cool, and the rooms were actually quiet. The bathroom lights when turned on were slightly penetrable through the bedroom, which I always see it as not the best design, but the shower and bed was extremely comfortable. The ironing board was a bit ‘short’, but other than that nothing else to complain. The location is about a 20 mins walk to Chelsea Market and 25 mins walk to Grand Central Terminal.
By the way, you have to pay some sort of ‘hotel fee’, which is not included when you book through a third party, and it’s actually pretty expensive like USD 20-30 per night, but you get to use all of their mini bar which includes coke, diet coke, orange juice, apple juice, and two bottles of water. There is also a 24 hour gym available to use as well.
WestHouse Hotel New York (website)
WestHouse is a hotel also very convenient, located on 55th street and 7th avenue. It’s right perpendicular to Park Central Hotel, which seems to be more “business” hotel that matches the upper echelons of business hotels like Marriott.
On the other hand, WestHouse Hotel feels like more boutique style feel, but at the same time it is also glamorous as well.
Initially, WestHouse seems very impressive from the start. The lobby was small but attractive and stylish, and I even got an upgrade to what I believe to be a one bedroom suite! Amazing.
But after that, everything sort of went… downhill. The suite was amazing of course, but the lights weren’t bright enough and while it had that sense of boutique and stylish feel still, the lights made the suite feel a bit spooky.
The sink drainer wasn’t running properly at first and I had to manually get the Sink Drain up to get the sink water removed. The Concierge, Front Desk numbers were always busy and they always told you to leave your number so that they can get back to you. Then they even texted you to let you know that they are available 24/7 for anything and you can just text them back, and when I texted them for a toothbrush (mind you, it was like 2am that time), they never responded back to me! Then they charged a USD 47 hotel fee for all drinks in your fridge/mini bar (which is just two bottles of water) and happy hour from 5-7pm which, by the time I checked in, was already too late for that.
It was for one night, and a suite is a suite, so can’t complain too much. But it’s the little details, the operations and the design details, that could be improved.
I mainly relied on subway and walking. If late, I would call an Uber.
Restaurants and Eating
You know how some foods you grow up you don’t like as much? I thought that food was pizza.
Then I came back to New York and realize… it wasn’t pizza I disliked. It was pizza in Hong Kong that I disliked. Pizza in Hong Kong is terrible!
But after my friend brought me to one of his favorite pizza joints in NYC, I began craving for pizza literally everyday. So! For 7 of my meals, I ended up eating pizzas. I’ll let you know the good ones and the not so good ones. By the way, out of the 7, this also included the one I had in Lancaster, which was my third favorite slice of pizza.
The Halal Guys (website)
What began as a food cart on 53rd street and 6th avenue has now become a quintessential part of New York’s things you must eat. Halal Guys is most notable for their Gyros and Chicken. At the urging of my multiple friends, I finally gave it a try and ate Halal Guys despite being really full. Ordered a chicken over rice.
My opinion? Perhaps it was the barbecue sauce, but I actually prefer eating the Chicken over rice on another food cart down on 27th street and 5th avenue.
Food Cart on 27th Street and 5th Avenue
I discovered this place on a rainy day at night. Past midnight and being hungry, I chanced upon this food cart and decided to order something, as I couldn’t resist the temptation anymore. Ever since the first time I tried it, I came back for two more times for a total of three times of ordering, my favorite, chicken over rice. I only get the white sauce and the spicy red sauce, and bring it back to my hotel. Soooo good.
Grand Central Oyster Bar (website)
Having been here a couple years ago, I last remembered of having such an amazing experience with the oysters that I had to give it another go.
The oysters here didn’t disappoint, but the venue did. In my mind I was imagining this place to be, in a sense, grander than what it appeared. But it turned out to be more fun and casual than what I pictured it to be.
Regardless, I had a good time eating oysters here. I tried the Manhattan clam chowder, which was a replica of the Boston clam chowder but with tomato based instead of cream based, and I definitely prefer the Boston clam chowder… this is coming from a guy who never eats cream based stuff and always prefers tomato based stuff.
Anyway doing a bit of research, I found that this Oyster Bar was actually just as old as Grand Central Terminal itself, being opened both around the same time at 1913. No wonder why they go hand in hand!
Regardless, for what its being known for, a fast casual burger restaurant, shake shack’s burgers, fries, and milkshakes fit exactly the expectations of what I’d imagine a fast, casual burger restaurant to be like in terms of taste quality.
Heard this restaurant was supposed to be good, and as I was walking up from Soho, I walked by Carbone and decided to give this a go by walking in.
SPOILER ALERT. Was unsuccessful; I couldn’t get in. What I noticed about New York (and while this makes most people hate it, but I absolutely love it) is that a lot of restaurants require reservations beforehand and that many bars and nightlife scenes are very exclusive, in the sense that you need to be on the guestlist or you need a table or pay a lot to attend.
Anyway, if you can, try this restaurant, and let me know what you think.
Lupa Osteria Romana (website)
So, after being rejected by Carbone, I walked in to the restaurant diagonally across the street, which was Lupa Osteria Romana.
An Italian restaurant without the usual Italian traditional dishes (mind you, it’s neither a fusion nor an Italian restaurant with a twist… OK on the website it says Italian trattoria fare which makes more sense), Lupa Osteria Romana was a decent restaurant that you’d expect. Great, but not superb.
Basta Pasta (website)
Another restaurant that I chanced by, but that I didn’t try to walk in for a table this time ^__^. Anyway, it looked interesting enough, so just wanted to put in my blog. First established in Tokyo, now in New York serving creative Italian dishes.
Since most of my meals consisted of pizza and Chicken over rice, I actually didn’t get a chance to do a lot of fine fine dining.
But Aldea was close enough and it was sort of my ‘only’ meal the entire day (including the one slice of pizza at the dollar slice pizza store).
It’s a one star Michelin restaurant in 2017. Not sure what to say about this, but it fit the bill of a one star Michelin restaurant – small dishes, creative dishes, great service. Nothing astounding and mesmerizing like those in Japan and Barcelona, but still it was really great and amazing.
Il Pesce (website)
The seafood restaurant that’s located in Eataly in NYC Flatiron. Alright.
Restaurants were packed everywhere in Chelsea Market and in Meatpacking district. Fortunately enough, Serafina’s wait was only for 10-15 minutes, so we decided to go here rather than having to wait 1-2 hours at the other restaurants (by that time it would be 10 or 11pm!).
Actually, I would have to say Serafina was quite surprisingly delicious. It serves up a tasty Northern Italian cuisine. I would actually use the word impressed by what it had to offer, as I expected it to be just another one of those average Italian trattorias that cooks up a half hearted meal to their customers.
So yes, come here, it’s actually decent.
You know, I actually frequented this shop quite often… back when it was in Hong Kong, in Wan Chai! Somehow, someday, it just disappeared. This was started by an American who studied / worked in Beijing and really loved the “fried pancake” with Beijing duck in it, or other meat assortments in it, and decided to open up a food cart. I guess he moved back to NYC or something.
Charlie Bird (website)
I made sure my friends and I had a spot by reserving online. Quite punishing if you don’t show up though, it’s like USD 10 if cancelled.
Anyway, out of all the recommended restaurants, this was a better valued restaurant, and so we went to check it out. Quite good as well in terms of value.
Big Gay Ice Cream Shop (website)
New York people recommend going here. I don’t recommend coming here. Not my thing at least.
Other restaurants to try:
Some websites/names I found to help my research on New York restaurants:
Grabbing a sandwich at Katz’s Delicatessen
Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market
Maison Premiere (oysters)
Fette Sau (BBQ in Brooklyn)
Peter Luger Steak House
Di Fara Pizza
Salt Bae Restaurant
P.S. Oh by the way! Walk along 55th street from 7th avenue heading towards 3rd avenue. There were sooo many fine dining, nice looking restaurants along the way! I will try them all someday!
Things to Do
Chelsea Market (website)
Chelsea Market is a mixture of booth food hall and shopping mall, more of the former, that’s situated on 18th street and 9th avenue.
While the time I explored here was short, I could sense the energy and vibe in this place – there seemingly has a lot of food restaurants I would love to try!
Some bakery in Chelsea Market called Big Booty Bread Co. (website)
Eataly NYC Flatiron (website)
If you’re looking for a market that provides a flavorful variety of Italian ingredients, look no further than Eataly. Anything food related to Italy, such as buying ingredients, going to a restaurant, or checking out wines, can be found in this marketplace.
Now I didn’t actually do or try anything in Ktown, but since Innside was so close to Koreatown, I managed to take a few pics around the neighborhood. As you can probably imagine, Ktown consists of many Korean restaurants.
Grand Central Terminal
This attraction for both locals and tourists is a must. The grandiose of this terminal is more than impressive, and you can feel the greatness when entering upon this historical landmark.
Being opened in 1913, it’s not only cool that it’s been here for more than a century now, but also they have an overwhelming number of train platforms. I’m sure taking a train is very confusing!
The trouble with shopping in most major cities is that you really have to do your research to find local brands or uncommon brands that don’t appear in your city, otherwise you’ll come across the common international big brands like H&M, Pull & Bear, Topshop, J.Crew etc. Especially for American brands since they tend to permeate most of the world’s major cities. And living here in Hong Kong myself, a lot of American brands are already familiar with me.
That said though, I’ve managed to discover a few new brands either through exploration or through researching boutique shops. In fact, I had to go to Soho New York twice to get everything I needed (which also entailed the suit I purchased for the wedding in Lancaster).
Allbirds (website) – I’m guessing this is an up and coming brand? Since there were a lot of people here actually. On the website it brands itself as the world’s most comfortable shoes.
ABC Carpet & Home (website) with lots of expensive vintage furniture and tableware
I believe this is The apartment by the line (website) which is on the 3rd floor
Opening Ceremony (website)
Palace (website). If anything, Palace to me has a much cooler appeal than Supreme, and they are both skateboard streetwear apparel. Originated from London, the quality of the clothes are higher, more comfortable, better fit, and are simpler. Cool shop.
What’s funny was that I was not intending to go in here. I was just peeping my head into this store when the bouncer asked if I was going in, then I was like OK. And I was impressed by the store layout (spread out) and the cool designs of the clothing. I think they are also known for their 3D logo on their hoodies. I didn’t buy that, I ended up buying a sweater instead.
IF (website) high end avant garde and handmade designer clothing with artsy, downtown flair
Katya Dobryakova (website) I like the high end soft quality of the sweatshirts with intricately designed animals or Picasso-ish human figures on these clothing with bright shining colors being used. Also bought something from here. They have stores in Russia and U.S., but their products are also available through other distributors globally, including Hong Kong, but the product variation isn’t as much.
New York Vintage (website) on 25th street and 6th avenue
What’s New York shopping without including the Fifth Avenue? But like I mentioned earlier, big brands can be found globally, and all the biggest brands are on Fifth Avenue. Gucci, Hermes, Uniqlo, Michael Kors…
Other boutique shops I noted down:
- Free People – 79 5th avenue
- La Vie – 632 Hudson St.
- Legacy – 109 Thompson St.
- Dover Street Market – 160 Lexington Ave.
- ONS – 71 Greene Street
- Creatures of Comfort – 205 Mulberry Street
- Totokaelo – 54 Crosby St.
- What Goes Around Comes Around – 351 W. Broadway
- Assembly New York – 170 Ludlow St.
Strand Bookstore (website)
I believe one of the largest bookstores in New York, this bookstore contains new, old, rare, and out of print materials. Most of the stuff here, especially those that are topic oriented and non visually creative topics (so not fashion, but music for example) are geared towards past, historical information and lesser of modern, from the books I’ve touched upon. The newest books tend to be nearer to the entrance, no surprise.
Unlike Powell’s City of Books in Portland, Strand was very cramped and less big than Powell’s. I found the bookstore in Powell to contain a lot more books interesting for me actually. Also, there were so many people in Strand that it made it uncomfortable to take the time to actually preview the books.
Walking Around New York City
One of my favorite things about New York City is that you can pretty much walk around anywhere or take the subway easily to get to places. Everything is in a grid so it’s easy to navigate, and with street names like 5th avenue, 6th avenue, 42nd street, 43rd street etc., you will be able to know your location easily.
My friend and I were talking about Instagrammable places and how he dislikes how people are only attracted to places that are “Instagrammable” these days, which I guess in another way means pretentious and seeking attention for the sake of using the location as photos to post on your Instagram to show off to your friends. This is an Egg Instagrammable Room. Personally, I have no problem with things that are “Instagrammable”… unless it’s purely for the sake of it… there should be more to it is what I mean.
Just like any great city that is liveable, there must exist some sort of a glamorous nightlife scene (Hong Kong, Tokyo, Shanghai). New York City fits right in the bill, with a diverse range of options for nightclubs, bars, lounges, speakeasies, underground events, and more.
What New York is notorious for is how difficult it is to get into good restaurants and nightclubs / bars / lounges, especially during the weekends. You either have to pay a lot for minimum spending, have a table, be on the guest list, or have to ‘look like the type’. Most people will be turned off by this… I am the opposite of those people. They say the bouncers are rude and give bad attitude, and too many people have this mentality they have the right to go in wherever they want. You know what? I actually like this exclusivity, it makes everything more fun, a better crowd with better mixture of people, and at the end of the day it’s the establishment’s rules you have to respect, not your ‘I can be entitled to anywhere rule’.
One of the more happening places in New York City is this bar in PUBLIC Hotel (website)
Good Room (website) in Brooklyn. More for the underground scene.
One is le Bain at the Standard (website). We couldn’t get into Top of the Standard in the weekend due to a private event, and we almost couldn’t get into this… the next guests after us weren’t allowed.
The other place at the Standard, which I managed to get in on another day. Top of the Standard (website). Very glamorous, chic, and high end. Whereas le Bain next door is for partying, Top of the Standard is for a good night of drinking and conversations.
Met up with a friend at Charles Hanson 169 Bar (website)
Wanted to visit a speakeasy, and it was between Raines Law Room (website) and Please Don’t Tell. With the latter being in Hong Kong, we decided to check out Raines.
Passed by The Skylark (website), but it was closed.
230 FIFTH Rooftop Bar (website), with their signature igloo houses on the left.
Other things I’ve written down for nightlife:
Wythe Hotel rooftop
The Blond Lounge in Soho
The Box (http://www.the-gorod.com/nightclubs-nyc/)
Bossa Nova Civic Club
PH-D at Dream Downtown
The Press Lounge
The Garret East
The Living Room
The Late Late
Monarch Rooftop Lounge
Two E Project
I had such an incredible time in New York. Super fun. I would totally live there for a couple months (the months being not in the Winter of course). There’s just so much to see, so much to do, and so many different kinds of people. It’s essentially like Hong Kong but a reflection of it, with different restaurants to venture, different nightlife scene to accustom to, and cool things to try.
Coming for you again soon New York!