Having never spent Christmas before in New York, we decided to spend a week in New York for the Christmas week….Singapore to New York is about as far as it gets so the trip planning started some months ago with booking a biz class ticket. Usually travelling with Singapore Airlines, I almost clicked on the pay button for the S$10,500 (US$8100) fare it demanded but not being best pleased with how Singapore Airlines deals with its premium customers these days, a friend recommended I try the middle east airlines who are doing all they can to usurp SQ’s position in the travel hierarchy. A biz class ticket to NY via Doha on Qatar Airlines could be had for S$5500 or US$4400 or just over half the price of an SQ ticket! This price disparity was a no-brainer for me and I suspect many travellers who are despairing of SQs superior attitude and pricing strategy. We all want to be loyal to SQ but SQ does not seem to value this loyalty. The money I saved more or less paid for the rest of the holiday! There were a few things not great about the Qatar Boeing 777-300 flight…the communication with passengers at the Doha stopover was confusing to say the least and the in-flight entertainment system broke down 2 hours from NY but I think I can live with these glitches for the money saved. The lounge in Doha was big but crowded.
flying into the USA
So onto New York….where we chose to stay in the meat packers district just next to the HighLine…an old elevated railway track which had been converted to a sort of planted park with bits of railway track still present. It was a pleasant enough walk where I got a few nice pix but I wouldn’t say a ‘must do’ in the light of some many other major offerings that the Big Apple has to offer.
A visit to the 911 memorial was a must and a poignant way to start any visit to NY…tip: book a ticket on line first (you are encouraged to donate US$10) to avoid long queues.)
Of course the NY dining scene is well known and we had reservations for meals that ranged from street food to 3 Michelin star restaurants. As I suspected, Thomas Keller’s Per Se was pleasant enough but hardly worth the price of USD400 per head..one or two highlights but otherwise unremarkable (and surely we should expect remarkable for the price!) Maialino’s Italian fare was wholesome and thoroughly enjoyable at a quarter the cost of Per Se as was Nomad whose roast chicken was excellent. The Standard Grill was , well… standard.
Now as a connoiseur of chinese roast duck which I rate London as the best, (and Amsterdam as second) a friend of mine had mentioned that Big Wong in Mott Street had roast duck better than London’s….that was a challenge I could not refuse…besides after all the western and Italian fare, the thought of some chinese food was most attractive. Big Wong was a Big Wrong! With the lunchtime crowd we had to wait about 15 min for the table which was OK..except that the roast duck was really quite miserable when compared to juicy succulent London roast duck; New York roast duck was not meaty, not flavourful and worse of all, came with hardly any gravy for the rice (criminal!). We asked for more gravy 3 times only to be totally ignored. So folks…for world’s best Chinese roast duck on rice…London still reigns supreme in my book. (NY duck isn’t even on the same page.)
For Japanese, we tried Sushi of Gari which was a winner and Sushi Zen in Time Square which wasn’t.
While still on the subject of food, we decided to cook our own christmas steak lunch and we stumbled upon Ottomanelli the butcher in Bleeker Street. There was an hour long queue to get the Porterhouse, rib eye and bacon but everything was awesome here…absolutely brilliant meat…oh and their chicken pot pie was outstanding…in some ways better than all the michelin star restaurants!
Of course we also go to NY because of Broadway and its musicals. The family had wanted to see Book of Mormon and Matilda very much and we paid extortionate rates for very ordinary tickets…Book of Mormon was unremarkable, the content was crude in the extreme and the music forgettable. Matilda was better. BUT and a very important BUT was our discovery of a show that I feel was one of the highlights of our trip. We only read about “Beautiful” a musical based on Carole King in Playbill the magazine distributed at all shows and managed to get the best seats in the house as it was in previews. Beautiful is everything a musical should be….well crafted, great songs, outstanding performers…if you have ever heard and enjoyed Carole King’s songs like ‘You’ve got a friend, Will you still love me tomorrow” or even if you haven’t, watch this show! Jessie Mueller was a revelation in the role of Carole.
Finally, to end this long blog post, it wouldn’t be christmas without the christmas lights in NY…everyone knows about the christmas tree at the Rockefeller Center but the christmas light displays that Cartier and Bulgari in particular put on were staggeringly impressive..I made a special trip there to shoot the lights….
We also found time to visit the Met and do some shopping so what was Christmas in New York like? Brilliant…and we’d do it again in a heartbeat.