samedi 15 mars 2008

Paris versus New York: The Culinary Challange

restaurants mentioned in this post:

there's a bunch but we go to the one near pilar's at 55 rue montorgueil


the noodle bar that we went to (there's a meat bar too) is on 171 first ave, nyc 

this is an entry that has been a long time in waiting.  since my visit home at christmas to be exact.  but i was reminded recently about the subject recently when we hit up PLANET SUSHI (huge fan) and that really tasty thai restaurant on rue tiquetonne (crap i forget the name).  

anyway, as a foreigner living in a new city (i'm not a huge fan of the word "expat", can't really explain why), i often find myself comparing every aspect of city life - from the metro system to food to cross walk signs (east berlin baby you win) to service to conveniences.  

for instance: 

category: metro system

candidates: paris, new york, london, athens, berlin, boston

winner: PARIS 

i love the paris metro.  there's cell phone reception (which is extremely convenient, and rarely an annoyance).  it's incredibly frequent (every 2 minutes) pretty much all day long.  and goes everywhere you need to go.  though it doesn't run all night long, grandma alki doesn't mind.  that way, she can use it as an excuse to leave early (topic of another blog entry: the "social clock revolution" - instead of party hours being 11pm - 5am, let's start it early!!  7pm - 1am baby, and in bed by 2!! )

i digress.  anyway, for me, paris is the clear winner in the category of the metro system. 

next category: FOOD.  the winner here is a bit more fuzzy.  it's true that some of the best restaurants in the world are just meters (yup, i've adopted the metric system) away from my doorstep.  some would argue that paris is THE culinary capital of the world.  

but after going to new york in december, i realized something about paris.  there are hundreds of incredible restaurants in paris... but more specifically, these restaurants are FRENCH restaurants.  and even MORE specifically, they are traditional bistrot-type french restaurants.  i would argue that hands down, the best "magret de canard", "steak au sauce roquefort", "boeuf tartare" can be found in paris.  

but for me (and this is when i will start personally offending my frenchie peers), i'm not a huge fan of french food.  i like meat but i don't like eating too much of it, especially weird non-muscle-y parts, like liver and kidneys.  

and being in paris, i miss good asian food.  and mexican food.  and bagels....

 i think what i miss most, is-- diversity.  

paris has the BEST FRENCH RESTAURANTS in the world.  but if you want to eat something different from french food, your palette won't be satisfied in the same way.  

this is where new york comes into the picture- for me, more than shopping (it's close), more than museums, ... new york is a culinary experience.  
i have rarely ate at a restaurant in new york that was less than DELICIOUS (shout out to jason!!).  
while in new york, shin-jung and i had lunch one day at RICE.  a concept restaurant based on rice, where you chose what kind of rice you want and then pick the meal to go with it.  and the decor was really cool and tasteful.  and then food was simple - i think i ordered brown rice and black beens.  and it was DELICIOUS.  (you would never find this in paris)

another night, sue and i ate at her favorite restaurant, MOMOFUKU.  the chef is a young korean-american guy who has won awards for best new chef (or something- i don't know the details).  anyway, the food is korean ... with a twist.  again, quite simple but ... DELICIOUS.  those steam rolls man.  (also, never to be found in paris)

both restaurants were what i would call STYLE (found in london) and QUALITY (found in paris).  to sum it up, paris restaurants are delicious but very traditional.  and french.  london restaurants are hip and interesting.  but the food's not that good.  new york restaurants are delicious, diverse, and innovative.  

category: FOOD

winner: NEW YORK

that being said, pilar, celia, and i found a sushi restaurant that was more interesting and delicious than the typical "14 euro brochette and sushi menu" found in paris' surprisingly numerous copy-cat japanese restaurants.  don't get me wrong, these restaurants are pretty good and decently-priced, but sometimes you want that extra kick.  
and when you have that inkling, you can go to PLANET SUSHI.  the atmosphere is a bit weird- trying to be a bit too cool.  and the service is actually quite bad.  BUT- the food options make up for it.  instead of offering just seaweed salad, they have about 12 options for different types of salads.  AND they have fun and interesting rolls (like dragon rolls mmmm)!

anyway, for me, the restaurant selection in paris is pretty good.  in new york, it's amazing.  but what is cool about being in paris, is that people take a lot more pleasure in eating (meals last about 3 times longer than they do in the US) AND cooking.  i think that my favorite meals in paris have been at people's houses (hence, the base of this blog).  and what's more, i have been inspired to experiment more in the kitchen.  example: the pad thai experiment.  another post.  i need to get out of my pyjamas.  and start my saturday.