Welcome, Dear Reader, to another volume of unexpected events on my road of Becoming A New Yorker!
Normally, I am not that open to trying out different food but this Friday one of my Chinese friends who lives in Brooklyn came to Manhattan and took me to a Chinese restaurant for lunch. I am a pescatarian — I only consume fish, not meat so the one we went to was a vegetarian restaurant called Buddha Bodai.
The benchmark of my 30 minute-walk from campus was about halfway as the diverse New Yorker population suddenly transformed into a Chinese-only atmosphere as I felt I discovered a hidden Chinatown near Soho. Everything written in Chinese, reinforcing their culture, yet taking five steps back meant re-entering New York’s busiest neighborhoods. I embraced my culture shock and arrived at the destination.
The menu was in English yet somehow, I had no idea what half of the words meant so I let her decide what we ate. Small plates appeared one after the other and before we knew it, the table was set excessively with food I had no idea consisted of which ingredients.
We had vegetarian dumplings, sesame rice, and lots of other traditional items whose names still remain as mysteries to me. Some of them tasted interestingly good and some not so much, half the table I didn’t even get to try because she ordered too much.
The taste is not the point here, the interesting road I had to take to arrive there and the conversation I got to have with an Americanized Chinese student is what really matters. These are the special opportunities that make New York, New York. How the entire atmosphere can change with a blink of the eye and how you can engage with people from all backgrounds, always widening your horizons.
Another hit event of the week was meeting friends at Vandal, a hit NYC restaurant/bar known for its interesting interior style and social media renowned customer profile.
The vibe you get when you first enter is that the place has been created for Instagram and only for Instagram. The entrance immediately takes you into a room covered in an attractive black and white illusion wallpaper where fifteen women with the same mini, shiny dress and high heels fighting over whose turn it is to get a ‘cute’ picture.
Once you get your Insta-worthy shot, you enter the restaurant through a door covered in the same wallpaper as if you are entering a Wonderland of some sort. The seating area, in my opinion, is not a must-see, it is barely interesting. The customers however, are worth staring at because some really dress up in unconventional ways— so much so you either feel inspired to renovate your closet or to intensify your inner minimalist because seeing how extra they are makes you appreciate the less is more mentality.
Now, let’s dive into the fun part: Food! For 21+’ers, Vandal offers a wide selection of refreshing cocktails but the minors that we are, settled for non-alcoholic Mojitos. The menu was fine, mostly containing of items that are meant to be shared. We challenged the norm and ordered food separately but the sharing plates of nearby tables seemed to be worth a shot. I ate grilled Branzino (a fancy fish type) and both of my friends had the hyped Prime Skirt Steak of Vandal. Was it the best fish of my life? Have my friends not had better steak before? Would I go again to have it? NO. But the overall atmosphere was definitely worth experiencing but Vandal didn’t appeal to the stomach as much as it did to the eye.
To me, Vandal is nothing more than just another overhyped Instagram destination. I am glad that I have seen it but I do not feel the need to pay a second visit. I took my photo (which took over 45 minutes) and I felt as my mission was accomplished. All in all, neither Buddha Bodai nor Vandal had great food to satisfy my taste but if there is one thing better than great food, it is great time with great people. I have met both my lunch gal and one of my dinner partners in person on that they for the very first time. The power of New York is that it opens doors that are so spontaneous that new opportunities become your best friends and I am so grateful that I have taken the incentive to spend my day full of unexpected twists!