Monday, March 30, 2009

STI: I love NY

March 22, 2009

I love NY

Take a big bite of the Big Apple, from its talked-about restaurants to its landmarks you have seen in the movies

By Frankie Chee 



Celine Chua

Age: 29

Occupation: Model

Length of stay: Seven years


For model Celine Chua, New York is all about variety, whether you are talking about culture, nationalities or cuisines.


Certainly when it comes to food, she has tried some unusual fare, including lamb tongue, lamb brain and rabbit meat. Of course, there is also the American staple of greasy burgers and thick milkshakes.


The 29-year-old bachelorette, who has been based in the city for seven years, is also a big fan of the enormous range of brands available in the Big Apple.


But she has a surprising recommendation for a memorable souvenir buy: the Metro Subway card.




The best way to explore the city is by...


Walking and getting lost. Subways cost from US$2.50 (S$3.82) a ride or US$7.50 a day for unlimited rides, or US$81 per month for unlimited rides on buses too. Taxi fares start from US$2.50 and you have to add a 10- to 15-per cent tip on top of the final bill.


The best time to visit is...


Spring or fall. It is the best time as the weather is mild and not too hot or cold, and comfortable to walk around in. Visit the parks with their beautiful flora and enjoy the city.


Which places excite you?


Central Park, East Village, Lower Eastside. Central Park has a zoo and skating rink. It is huge and great for picnics, soaking in the sun, skating or visiting the animals.


East Village is great for body-piercing and has a punk feel to it. Yet, it also has a little Japanese village with a ton of other cuisines and bars. The place is diversified and full of energy.


Lower Eastside used to be a drug junkie's scene but over the years, they have cleaned it up. Many restaurants and little independent boutiques and stores as well as bars have sprouted up since, making it a real hip place to hang out and shop.




Your favourite breakfast is at...


Five Points Restaurant (31, Great Jones Street) which has fabulous baked or poached eggs, churros with Mexican hot chocolate and lemon ricotta pancakes. A decent meal would be about US$20, with a free flow of coffee. Breakfast food is one of my favourites and in Singapore, it is hard to find good brunch without going to hotels.


Your favourite eating places are...


Balthazaar, Shake Shack Burger in the Park, Gyu Kaku, Basta Pasta and Babbo.


Balthazaar (80, Spring Street, Tel: +1-212-343 1274, ) is good for duck confit and escargots. Its bakery is also awesome - my favourites are raisin pecan bread and Valrhona chocolate loaf. A meal there would cost about US$50.


The flavour of the frozen custard at Shake Shack Burger (Southeast corner of Madison Park near Madison Ave and East 23rd Street and 5th Avenue, tel: +1-212-889 6600, ) changes daily, and my favourite burger is the shack stack, which is two cheeseburgers with a deep-fried portobello mushroom stuffed with cheese.


Oh yeah, the milkshakes and cheese fries are great too. A meal will cost about US$15 and you can drink alcohol too. It is nice as it is not really legal to drink alcohol outside.


Gyu Kaku (34, Cooper Square and 2nd floor, 805, Third Ave, ) is a Japanese barbecue place. There is one in Singapore too. Their beef tongue and lamb chops with garlic kalbi are my all-time favourites. A meal costs about US$40, depending on how much you eat.


Basta Pasta (37, West 17th Street, tel: +1-212-366 0888, ) has been my favourite place for years. It is Japanese and Italian fusion. There is mozzarella pasta with prosciutto served in the cheese wheel, sea urchin pasta (my real favourite) and fish. They are all great and the ever-changing desserts, such as whisky coffee panna cotta and cheesecake with grated cheese and fruit, are yummy. A meal will cost around US$50.


Babbo (110, Waverly Place, tel: +1-212-777 0303, ) by famous American chef Mario Batali is my favourite when it comes to Italian food. Lamb tongue with three-minute egg, lamb brain pasta, goose liver ravioli and rabbit with brussels sprouts are my favourite dishes among the many there. A meal costs about US$60.


The coolest place to chill out is...


East Village. There are tonnes of different cuisines as well as lots of bars and cafes.


Shake it for burger




What do you think Singaporeans will like most about your city?


Shopping and food. Singapore has a less diversified culture and, thus, cuisines; whereas New York City has all sorts of people from all around the globe and it is really interesting to learn about different cultures and food.


Shopping is great here as this is, of course, one of the biggest fashion capitals. What is exported to Singapore is just a fraction of the brand names available here and you pay much more in Singapore compared to New York. Whatever you wear in the city is fashion, and no one really cares how you dress.


What's the biggest difference between Singapore and this city?


Singapore is much smaller and younger in terms of history, buildings and architecture, as well the art scene, whereas New York is more varied and interesting. The international cuisines are amazing and ranges from affordable to those that cost an arm and a leg, which we do not really have in Singapore, and perhaps the quality of food is not quite there yet.




Where is the one place you always take your friends when they visit?


Shake Shack burger. It is a gourmet burger stand in the middle of Madison Park. It is quite an experience just queueing up for the burger and milkshake, and then eating it under the trees and sun in the park, with the ravenous birds, on the tables and chairs that are provided.


What is the one thing you must do in your city?


Visit the museums - from the Museum of Modern Art (11, West 53rd Street, ) to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1000, Fifth Avenue, ) and the Guggenheim Museum (1071, Fifth Avenue, ).


What do you do on your weekends there?


I watch movies, play Wii at my friend's place, have brunch, check out new restaurants, go to a karaoke or do some bar-hopping.




Where is the best place to go on a shopping spree?


The best would be to check out where the sample sales are held - where design houses sell their samples or overstock for much less than retail prices. These outlets offer cheaper items and you get better bargains than paying full retail prices at the usual haunts.


The best way to check is to go to which runs updates on where the sales are and when. But people always love Woodbury Common Premium Outlets (498, Red Apple Court, Central Valley), where you can find everything, from Coach and Gap Outlet to Jimmy Choo and Prada.


What's a good souvenir of the city?


The Metro Subway card.




Are there any notable festivals that travellers should look out for?


Halloween Parade falls on Oct 31 and that is when everyone in the city dresses up, sometimes for work too. They will parade in the streets and kids will go around trick-or-treating.


Macy's Department Store celebrates Thanksgiving Day with floats in the famous annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on Nov 26.


Are there things to do or see outside of the city?


Brooklyn has a botanical garden that has cherry blossoms every spring, and is worth the trip. Brooklyn is far but the garden is about 30 minutes away if you take the subway from downtown Manhattan.

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