Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Upscale Cafeteria Food? Why not - it's NYC!

During my recent trip to New York, I had one night to myself. I was so excited! Then I got there and it was pouring down rain, cold and windy. Boooo! NYC is a walking city and it was not walking weather. 

Luckily I was staying at a really fun hotel with an interesting restaurant concept! I stayed at the Hudson on W 58th (very close to Lincoln Center & Central Park). The hotel - it's very hip. Dark, funky and unique. The rooms - the size of a cracker box of course. All of the girls remarked about the lack of room in the bathrooms - if you're over 5'5" - it's not gonna work for you. But - it's very cool. 

I was starving and decided to check out Hudson Hall. It's a very unique dining experience - it's a fancy, funky cafeteria. 

I was seated at this giant chair and felt very regal. The seating is long communal tables - which is a bit intimidating when you're by yourself. But - it's dark - so I didn't feel too out of place. It was hard to take pictures inside - the walls are all giant picture frames. They had 70s rock concert videos playing but the music wasn't matching the videos. It was unique - but funky. Definitely a "You're not in Kansas anymore Toto!" moment. 

The concept is cafeteria style - which is so unique. There are placards with the name and price of a dish and some are ready for you. They're all fresh - the staff keeps a close eye on how long things are on the bar. If there's a placard with no food below it - just ask and they'll make one up for you.

I LOVED the concept - it was so different. A fancy cafeteria - whodathunkit?

Here's a shot of the brussel sprouts ($10) with house made sambal and puff rice. I should have gotten these - I'm so bad at making decisions when all the food is in front of me. I really like brussel sprouts (thanks Dad - he made me eat every vegetable as a kid).

Here's what I did choose - 72 Hour Sous Vide Short Ribs with fresh horseradish ($14)! I'm a self-professed Top Chef Junkie and have heard the term "sous vide" so many times - I had to finally try it!

Sous vide is French for "under vacuum" and is a method of cooking food sealed in air tight plastic bags in a water bath for a long time - apparently 72 hours. :-)

Sous vide should really just mean delicious! These short ribs literally fell apart as I ate them. They were rich and juicy. I didn't realize they had horseradish (I wasn't paying close enough attention) and there definitely was a pungent taste but it was so amazing. Almost like a salt & vinegar chip - it's strong and a little off-putting, then completely addicting. I enjoyed every bite!

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes with garlic confit & thyme ($8). Confit - another term you hear a lot on the cooking shows. Confit is basically a means of preserving food in a substance - duck confit is immersed in duck fat, garlic confit is typically garlic soaked in olive oil.

The potatoes were fine - I should have been more adventurous. I could definitely taste the garlic and salt and there were crispy pieces, soft pieces and everywhere in between. They were good but I wish I'd tried the brussel sprouts or something more adventurous. Shame on me!

Chocolate & Peanut Butter Pudding Sundae ($6) - you can guess how this was. Rich and tasty!

The dessert options were pretty nice - they had these incredibly huge donuts and one was even coconut cream...but it seemed a little too giant. I decided on the dainty cup of pudding.

Dainty it was not! It was extremely rich - I almost couldn't finish it after filling up on meat & potatoes! It was so good - the different textures were great. The chocolate was almost like a thick creme brulee, the peanut butter was fluffy like mouse and then the crumbles and peanuts added crunch and a little salt.

Why Should You Go? Not expecting my Cincinnati folks will hop on a plane to go - but if you're in NYC - it's a great option. The hotel is funky and cool - very chic feeling - and pretty affordable for NYC. (I stood out like a sore thumb - it's the Iowan in me.) The food was excellent and I liked it even more than the place we went the next night! (review coming...) It's so different to have this cafeteria like set-up - I loved the uniqueness of it. The food definitely did not disappoint.

The best part was there was something for everybody - if you're not adventurous - a slider & fries is a good choice. If you are adventurous - the cheese plate looked pretty unique and there were lots of other funky options. I also like that the menu is always changing - so I can't wait to go again next time I'm in the city!


Hudson Cafeteria on Urbanspoon
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