One of the great things about New York City is that you can eat at the bar counter at many great restaurants. As I travel a lot for business, I often end up in some cities during the weekends with no business meals. And that, my friends, is a real luxury indeed.
Maroj Alliax sleeps better on an airplane than on terra firma. Maroj keeps himself sane during his many business trips by checking out nice restaurants and food places when abroad. In his student days, Maroj worked as a waiter in restaurants and went to cooking school briefly in Paris. He likes to cook for friends but has less time to do that now because of the travelling. He has not given up the idea of running a restaurant one day.
I was very fortunate to be in Tokyo recently, at the height of the sakura season. But the highlight of my visit was not the blossoming sakura but the simply sublime sushi at Kanesaka in Ginza. You may know that the well-known Shinji at Raffles Hotel in Singapore is actually a branch of Kanesaka in Ginza. I thought I should go straight to the mother restaurant in Ginza to check out the Kanesaka experience.
I have a sweet tooth and Tokyo is a well-known dessert haven. When I was in Tokyo over the recent Christmas holidays, I could not resist the many sweet temptations abound in the city. I am a huge fan of anything made with sweet red beans, so not surprisingly, I had an overdose of delicious taiyaki, which is the waffle-like, fish-shaped snack filled with thick, gooey, mashed red beans. As if this was not enough, my wife and I, plus our two boys, decided to check out one of the Pierre Hermé dessert boutiques in Tokyo.
“Zabar’s is New York …..New York is Zabar’s.” So goes the tag-line of one of the most exotic gourmet food stores in New York. Located on the Upper West Side at 80th and Broadway, Zabar’s is the place to go for, well, almost everything. But it is hands-down definitely the best place on the Upper West Side for smoked fish, olives, cheese, bagels, fresh bread and coffee beans.
In the heart of Harlem, a new restaurant called Red Rooster is quietly making waves. During a recent visit to the Big Apple, I decided to make the journey uptown to Lenox Avenue to check out the comfort-food restaurant launched by Marcus Samuelsson of Aquavit fame. I was hugely impressed, both with the quality of the food and the total experience.
Everyone knows that Rio is a carnival town. On a recent business trip to Rio, I discovered that it also has an exciting culinary scene. I chose a hotel facing Copacabana beach, a lively part of town with many side-streets filled with eating places. I prefer the Copacabana area because it has a more authentic feel than Ipanema, which tends toward a more “trendy” atmosphere. When you are in Rio, you have to check out the different beaches because each has its own feel and sub-culture. I was excited to be back in Rio, after more than ten years. I realised that the pulse of the carnival city has not changed but it has clearly become more prosperous, with many new buildings and fancy restaurants.
Each time I am in Paris, I am torn between trying out a new restaurant (and thereby discovering a potential gem) or returning to one of my old favorites in the city. On my most recent trip in May, I decided to succumb to my old habits in a city I have come to know well. It was a bright and warm spring day when I arrived from Brussels in the late morning at the Gare du Nord train station. I headed straight for Le Comptoir du Relais bistro at the Hotel Relais Saint-Germain on the left bank in the 6th Arrondissement and got there shortly before noon. A small queue had already formed outside the door (the best thing about Le Comptoir is that no reservations are required on a Sunday. For weekday dinners, the waiting list can stretch for several months in advance). Luckily, I managed to get a table inside the small and cozy 24-seater bistro. There are also seats on the sidewalk but nothing beats the cosy intimacy of the bistro’s ambience inside.