Every couple of years about a half dozen (give or take) long-time friends/cousins have a brief out-of-town get away for a night or two. This year six of us ushered in the first day of Spring in New York City. One often thinks of balmy days when talking Spring, however Mother Nature threw one last curve ball to those in the Northeast this year. While driving in with Carolyn Evans and Maureen Evans Kelly, sleet and snow were coming at us from every which way.
And despite the fact that I was also trying to overcome a cold, nothing was going to dampen our enthusiasm. We scored two, side-by-side “mini-apartments” (compliments of Carolyn) on the 17th floor of the Manhattan Club situated very conveniently on 56th St. between 7th and 8th Avenues. Earlier in the day, Margaret Manero and Marie Collinson trekked into the city via the train from Maplewood; and after working her job in Bayonne, Eileen Sullivan drove in to round off the posse.
We had some time to kill before our dinner reservations at TAO, a short taxi ride away, so out came bottles of wine, Blue Moon beer and cheese, crackers and meats to munch on. Eileen even presented a magnum bottle of Dom Pérignon (although for the life of me, I’m not sure why it never got opened that evening!) What a blast we had catching up with one another and taking selfies.
But since this is a food blog, I guess I should get down to the business of writing about our dinner.
Originally a 19th century stable for the Vanderbilt family and then a balconied movie theater, TAO New York was transformed into a majestic Asian “temple.”
The Tao focal point is a towering 16-foot tall Buddha that floats above a virtual reflecting pool complete with Japanese carp. In addition to the Buddha, there’s plenty of bamboo, silk upholstery and backlit screens. Chinese, Japanese, and Thai artifacts are skillfully placed throughout the 300-seat space with dining on three levels; including the prized Skybox which offers views of the entire restaurant from its two-story, 35-foot high perch. We were seated on the second level and had an uninterrupted view of pretty much the entire venue, which is a social swirl that spreads out over two large floors; however the noise is deafening, and we found it a bit hard to converse.
Once seated, and at the waitress’ suggestion, we anointed her to select a variety of appetizers and small plates for starters. First up was a large basket of edamame with sea salt, one of my faves (although a few in the group were not too impressed—YET.) Then in efficient fashion we received Lobster Wontons with Shiitake Ginger Broth; Satay of Chilean Sea Bass with Wok Roasted Asparagus; Pan Fried Chicken Gyoza with Napa Cabbage and Soy Dipping Sauce; Avocado and Sweet Potato Tempura; and a superb platter of sliced Short Ribs that melted in the mouth!
Truth be told I could have stopped there and been totally satisfied. Two confessed non-fish eaters in the group were stunned over how they loved the satays of Chilean sea bass. In between all of the food we also enjoyed some signature cocktails, so much so that Maureen ended up with a “smiley face” in her specialty drink.
Among the entrees ordered were Crispy Orange Chicken; Roasted Thai Buddha Chicken; Wok Seared New York Sirloin with Shiitake Mushrooms and Szechwan Potatoes; Omakase Chef’s Choice Sashimi; Trio of Salmon, Tuna, and Yellowtail Sashimi with Wasabi Salsa (and another dish which I have forgotten.) Everything arrived so artfully plated on an array of interesting asian-inspired vessels. Finally, a couple of desserts were ordered for those who wanted to share. I’m guessing here, but I think they were Crispy Fuji Apple Blossoms (Tahitian Vanilla Bean Ice Cream) and an additional scoop of some sort of ice cream.
Most of the gang hoofed it back to the rooms, but both Carolyn and I were nursing colds and didn’t want to compromise our “delicate” health in the bad weather, so we hailed a cab. With dinner reservations at 6:30, we were back in the rooms early which gave us plenty of time to continue our gab-fest and talk about our possible adventures in the City for the following morning…
After breakfast at a nearby diner, we walked in Central Park past Trump Tower and stopped in West Elm where many in the group purchased some homemade brownies and breads. The stroll continued past Carnegie Hall, Radio City Music Hall, Rockefeller Center, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. And for the fashion-focused we window shopped along 5th Ave. at Cartiers, Harry Winston’s, Dolce & Gabbana, Gianni Versace, Gucci, Fendi…. you get the idea.
While all good things must come to an end, we parted ways mid-afternoon but not before promising to get together again before too long. Thanks ladies for a fun-filled weekend, one I’m sure to never forget!
PS—At one stop in IT’SUGAR Candy Store, home of the world’s largest supersized candy, fun gifts and novelty items, I was attracted to a key lime assortment of gifts. And knowing my hubby’s affection for anything key lime, I bought him a couple of souvenirs which he plans to bust open soon…