Do people like, still blog?

Tag Archives: nyc

On my recent trip to NYC, I saw Mamma Mia on Saturday night so I had another opportunity on Sunday night to see another theatre show. I had a couple of options but chose This Is Our Youth. I chose this one because it was on a limited engagement so I might not get another chance to see it again. Also, this rendition casted Michael Cera (of Juno, Scott Pilgrim fame) in one of the roles (Kieran Culkin – Scott Pilgram’s gay roommate is also in the play).

The plot is supposed to be about 3 wayward tweeners in 1982, which seemed mildly interesting to me. In the end, I think I would have probably enjoyed seeing something else more. It is a play (rather than a musical) and the amount of dialog that each character had is impressive (there’s only 3 people in the play). I had to sit a little too far away to really make out the characters’ expressions (which, when contrasted with my seat for Mamma Mia was a big difference). And although I understood the plot and the character portrayal; I was confused as to what the play was trying to convey to me. I did not understand the implication of the ending at all.

I had a chance to be in NYC over a weekend so I took advantage of it and went to see some theatre. Usually if I’m in town for Sunday night, there’s no evening show or it’s early and I can’t make it in time to get rush tickets. This time I had a bit more time. My first pick was to see Once, but I was too late for their rush tickets. Then I tried my luck for the Wicked lottery – but didn’t get picked. Next I tried Mamma Mia for standing room tickets – they only sold those when the show was sold out, but I was feeling lucky for a warm Saturday night. I didn’t get standing room tickets, but they sold me a student rush ticket. It was “partial view (second row, and on an angle), but it wasn’t partial view for me (sure everything was on a slant, but I only noticed 2 times when I missed stuff – once because there was an ensemble member in front of me and another when they were purposely facing the other corner).

I actually didn’t remember that this musical was based entirely on ABBA songs until I sat down. I don’t mind though, although I’m not a huge ABBA fan, I enjoy their songs and I have a copy of ABBA Gold. In fact I think every song in Mamma Mia, except maybe 1, was from the disc (at least they sounded familiar to me). This gave the musical a leg up already, because I knew and liked the music. However, it was a drawback as well since the songs were sung by singers who didn’t sing as well as ABBA. One notable exception was the person who portrayed the Mom who had a distinctive singing voice in her own way (sounds like a country singer).

The songs were cleverly woven into the plot – actually the almost seem like they were written for the play (although we know otherwise) so that was actually pretty impressive. I’m pretty sure they changed some of the lyrics (probably in the verses), but I’m not a big enough ABBA fan to know. One thing I was disappointed with was the ending which, while the anticipated things happened, didn’t really go out with a bang. I guess that’s because ABBA never had any hits that were about happy times?

There was an encore of sorts, where they did a mini tribute band/dance party (Mamma Mia, Dancing Queen, Waterloo). That was good because it ended the night with high energy (something that the true ending didn’t do)

I’ve wanted to take Apollo to the Apollo Theatre in Harlem, NYC because obviously they have the same name! I haven’t been able to do it yet but on my last trip I decided to stay near there so I could visit it. There weren’t any events that day so I couldn’t go inside, but I was able to take some photos outside.

Aside from their iconic sign, I was actually disappointed at the theatre. From what I read, I thought it would be a monumental destination, but I guess it is monumental in culture and not stature. It only occupies two storefronts and seems like one of those (movie) theatres of old (in fact there is a derelict one just down the block). Even the sign, when I look at it up close now, is not as impressive as the website makes it out to be.

Usually when I make my work trips down to the US, I just stay over for one night and that night is usually taken up buy a team dinner. This time, I stayed for two nights and caught some theatre with my free night. Avenue Q was one of my alternates if I wasn’t able to get tickets to Chicago, but I was able to get tickets so I didn’t have to worry about that.

On the next day, it turned out that my team dinner was cancelled so after getting off work at 7PM I had a free night. I remembered that Avenue Q had a late start – most shows started at 7 or 7:30 but Avenue Q started at 8. I walked briskly up to the theatre hoping to get rush tickets and arrived at 7:20PM. The box office said there were no more rush tickets, but they were still doing their 20 for $20 promotion – where they would sell all their unsold seats for $20, 20 minutes before curtains.

I was able to get a great seat for $20 all-in. I sat in the fourth row, near the centre. There were a lot of seats empty – the theatre has a capacity for 581 but I figure there were only 100 people there.

I heard about Avenue Q several years ago but missed it in Toronto when they were touring. From what I remember, it was a play with Muppets that was an older version of Sesame Street and dealt with gay issues. I guess I remembered kind of right. It’s a Sesame
Street targeted to post-college students who are struggling to find their way in life. One of the story lines is about a gay character, but there were several other story lines that were just as prominent. Basically it discussed a wide range of issues.

My first impression was that I liked this musical more than Chicago. The songs were catchy (i.e., more in a pop manner). The humor was sharper (especially when it was offensive) and it’s just amazing to see the Muppets in action. I figure I spent the first few musical numbers just marveling at the actors. Muppets basically have 2 mouth motions – open and closed, so all the emotion and expression was done by the actual muppeteers.

However, after awhile the novelty wore off. Beneath the veneer of humor, funny songs, and Sesame Street allusions; the story itself was not that interesting. I felt that it was too much like Sesame Street and they beat you over the head with the story and their morality. I would have liked it if it was faster paced. But for $20 it was well worth it and quite enjoyable.

I actually had a free night on this trip to NYC so I took advantage of it and caught a Broadway show. Before I arrived, I scoped out a couple of potential ones where I could get rush tickets, Chicago was my first pick because it is a well-known musical, has been running for a long time, and actually had Sunday night showings. The unfortunately things was that their rush tickets were sold starting when their box office opens, which since they had a Sunday matinee, meant that rush tickets would have been selling for more than 5 hours by the time I got there.

Fortunately for me, when I got to the box office a little past 5PM, the lady said that it was a little slow that night and gave me another seat for the same price ($37). I didn’t bother checking out TKTS or the other discount ticket places so I don’t know how that price compares. I felt I got a decent seat though. The only other theatre show I had seen on Broadways was Rent in 2007 and I remember that one of the reasons why I enjoyed it was because the theatre was small and intimate. I got a Row H orchestra seat so I was pretty close to the stage and it felt similar (however, upon exploring the theatre during intermission, I saw that it was very big – there were huge number of seats in the mezzanine). I was on an angle, but it didn’t take away too much. The people to my right also had rush tickets, so if I got there sooner, I could have had more central seats. However there were about 6 seats to my left with worse views in the row so I can’t complain.

I felt the story was great. It was simple to understand and I understood the singing. It made sense and drove the song & dance. The play focuses on 4 characters and I think they were all excellently portrayed. It felt like all the actors were playing parts they were born to play! In fact, because Chicago has been running since the 90s, some of the actors have been playing or reprised their roles that they played in the 00s. They were definitely pros as after doing the same show for so long, it didn’t felt they were dialing it in (plus there were no understudy substitutes on a Sunday night!)

I seem to remember that the music of Chicago garnered a lot of praise. I didn’t think the songs or music was that intriguing; although it fit well with the dancing and story. It was interesting that the orchestra was part of the set, and the conductor was actually used extensively as a “4th wall” character in the show. Another thing that is striking was that the set is super simple – there is no set! There are basically no costumes either – everyone was wearing sheer black or no clothing. The only tools were lights and a couple of simple props. It goes to show how strong the story is when they didn’t use gimmicks and I was still entertained.

By chance, we ended up going to a bunch of Japanese places for food in NYC, although it was not the conventional sushi & ramen fare so was a bit more interesting!

The first place we found using Foursquare Explore function and was a place tucked upstairs in a little stretch of Japanese restaurants north of Times Square called Yakitori Totto. We arrived around 9PM on a weekday and had to wait for an hour before being seated, so it was quite popular! While waiting, we saw a bunch of people show up, and then leave because it was too packed. We also saw that they didn’t just pick the other Japanese restaurants nearby instead so that was a good sign for us!

We had some food beforehand (at Halal Guys) so weren’t that hungry, which bode well because the yakitori were like Tapas – you could go crazy and order a lot, but they were $3 a skewer so would quickly add up. We shared a bunch of them:

  • Chicken liver ($3) – meh
  • Chicken gizzard ($3) – meh
  • Asparagus wraped in bacon ($4) – good
  • Pork mustard with sauce ($3.5) – meh
  • Ginko beans ($2) – not that good
  • Skirt steak ($5) – good
  • Shiitake mushrooms ($3) – meh
  • Sukiyaki ($8) – meh

We wanted to get the Chickn Oyster (rare part of thigh) but they were out. I didn’t think the food was that great, but it was a fun experience and you can watch them grill the yakitori.

Later in our trip, we went to a fast-food Japanese burger place called Kobeyaki and tried their “kobe beef” burger ($9). It didn’t taste like kobe beef, but that was their only beef burger so maybe it was just a name. The burger had a chinese bun and was good overall, although not in the American burger way. they also had teriyaki ketchup and wasabi mayo which was pretty cool.

The same night, after some FroYo, we tried the pork katsu at Go Go Curry. Looks like this is a Japanese chain that opened locations in NYC. The katsu was really crisp and we finished it even though we were already full! The curry was not bad and the portion size for a “small” ($7) was pretty good too.

Nelson had mentioned to me that there was this great pizza place in Brooklyn with a brick oven called Grimaldi’s and since we were staying in Brooklyn during our recent trip to NYC; this was be a perfect time to try it out. I wanted to go sometime during the week after work, but we didn’t end up fitting it in until we were about to leave on Saturday. We showed up right when it opened, at 12PM, and there was already a line up out front. We didn’t make it in the first batch, so had to wait about half an hour for a table; we ended up getting a table when a tour group left (looks like they were seated before the restaurant opened).

Because it’s so well known, I think Grimaldi’s gets away with some weird rules. It’s cash only, there’s no delivery, there’s no slices, and you have to pay for each topping. We got pepperoni ($2), italian sausage ($2), and mushrooms ($2) on our small regular pizza ($14). We wanted to get oven-roasted sweet peppers ($4) but they didn’t have any (maybe because it was the beginning of the day and they hadn’t made them yet?) The pepperoni by itself was very good – it had a spicy flavor that didn’t come from the italian sausage. I didn’t notice the italian sausage or mushrooms much. The pizza itself was also really good, lots of cheese and flavouring with basil. The small pizza (6 slices) were sufficient for the two of us – although the slices were cut weird with some of them being real big (the table beside us folded the slices to eat them by hand).

Afterwards, we headed to the nearby Brooklyn Bridge park. It looks like it was recently redesigned and looked pretty good. The design with unfinished wood, gravel and metal wires contrasted well with the greenery. The park had a nice view of the Brooklyn bridge and the Manhattan skyline and a lot of chairs but the park wasn’t that full that day (it was drizzling). All the spring leaves had also come in so the foliage was a nice light green.

The first time I went to Shake Shack was in Washington D.C. at a new location they had just opened. I happened to be staying near the Shake Shack on 44th St so went there for dinner one day.

One of the things you hear about Shake Shack is that there is usually a big line up. I arrived at about 8:30 on a Tuesday night, and there was still a lineup; it took me about an hour to get through the line and for my food to be ready! I ended getting a Shake Stack which is their cheeseburger + a deep fried portabello mushroom, and their cheese fries. The burger was pretty good but the fries are a kind of waste. I like how the fries are shaped/cut, but the cheese is just extra calories! I think I got fooled by cheese fries the last time too, so I need to try and remember not to get those next time.

I ended up staying at the Four Points by Sheraton just a few streets south of Shake Shack. It is on a kind-of sketchy street, beside the NY State Parole Board (there were lots of sketchy characters lined up outside it every morning) and my window view was of the Port Authority. Other than that, it was a solid, no-frills hotel that seems to be recently renovated so its clean and functional.

I was in NYC last week to start with my new company. We worked a bit too later for me to catch Broadway shows or other events, so I ended up trying a couple of restaurants.

On Monday, I went over to the Momofuku Noodle Bar. I know that one opened up in Toronto recently, but I haven’t had a chance to go there ever since my son was born. So I might as well go to the original one.

It was tough getting there; there just happened to be a snow storm at that time and I had a fair bit of walking to do to/from the subway. But I got there and although it was packed, I was lucky to get a seat right away (the benefit of being a single eater).

I ordered the pork buns and the Momofuku ramen. The pork buns came first and were pretty good, although I’m not sure they were $5 each good. My pet theory as to why they are so popular is because the first bite into the buns are extremely soft (since you are biting through pork fat and soft dough) but still has the strong taste of pork belly. I think it’s kind of a cheat though because you’re eating pure fat!

I wasn’t that impressed with the ramen but then I was already kind of full from a bun.

Later that week, after dinner at Katz, I walked up to the Momofuku milk bar. I was already quite full from my pastrami on rye but wanted to try a milk shake. I ended up getting a chocolate chip passion fruit cake milkshake – whoa that was a mouthful and it tasted like a cake too!

I haven’t been reading as much lately, but did a bit on the weekend:

Where Did the Korean Greengrocers Go?
Mostly talking about NYC, it’s a predictable result of immigrant success, and high rents; with a dash of xenophobia as well.

The Physiology of Foie
An interesting dive into Foie Gras with the first part focusing on how Foie Gras is farmed. The latter half is also interesting as it explains why Foie Gras might not be inhumane as it seems to be – ducks don’t have a gag function, don’t chew and breathe through their tongues!

How a Remote Town in Romania Has Become Cybercrime Central
This small Romanian town is the Silicon Valley of cybercrime:

And just as in Silicon Valley, the clustering of operations in one place made it that much easier for more to get started. “There’s a high concentration of people offering the kinds of services you need to build a criminal scheme,” says Gary Dickson, an FBI agent who worked in Bucharest from 2005 to 2010. “If your specialty is auction frauds, you can find a money pick-up guy. If you’re a money pick-up guy, you can find a buyer for your services.”

On our flight back from NYC, going through EWR, Pauline got pulled into secondary screening. In all of our flights, that was the first time that we got lucky (and she has a big S printed on her boarding pass to prove it)! We think the reason she was chosen was because:

  1. We were flying one-way,
  2. No checked luggage,
  3. Pauline didn’t register a frequent flyer #

In the end it was silly, the lady who did the screening wasn’t really into it (and I guess she didn’t think we were terrorists), so she just did a quick pat down and we were on our way.

One of the reasons I wanted to go to New York City was because Foursquare was founded there and a lot of badges where NYC-specific. It’s as big as Facebook and Twitter, and advertised in brick & mortar stores:

I’m not a freak though, and didn’t drag people around to specific destinations to get badges (well except that Apple store, but that’s because it’s a tourist attraction!). I just checked in at the various places that we went too. Over the 2 days and a bit there, I ended up getting 7 new badges, with 4 of them coming on the first day. Actually I am a little disappointed that I wasn’t able to get more, especially since two of them I could have obtained in Toronto (the Barista and the Jobs badge).

I also didn’t get any core 4sq NYC badges, the ones I got were due to my following a brand. I got three Bravo badges (Bravo Newbie, Real Housewife, and Fashionista), a History channel badge, and a Wall Street Journal badge. Why couldn’t I get the Far Far Away (check in above 59th street) or Gossip Girl badge??

On our trip to NYC, we went to this café called D’Espresso. It’s a recent spot and its claim to fame is that its decor is like a library, sideways. Here’s what we saw:

I guess if you turn your head and chant “it’s sideways” three times, it kind of looks real. Part of that is the fault of my p+s camera, but it’s also because it wasn’t that cool.

Of course, when I first read about it on this blog post, it did look cool! It was so bright and big! That’s why we checked it out. But we look to be semi-fooled by good lighting and a wide angle lens. I guess we never learned from looking at real estate postings.

We’re off this weekend for a trip to New York City. We’re trying a new way to get there though; we’re taking the overnight bus down on Friday night, which saves us a night of hotels. Then on Monday, we’re flying back to get back for work. That seems to maximize our time down there, although we lost some advantage because we booked our flight too late so we have to leave a bit earlier on Monday than I wanted too.

We actually don’t have much of a plan once we’re down there. The only thing we’ve decided to do is eat at several restaurants! I guess we’ll try and keep it under 4 meals a day.

We were fortunate enough that the Jays were in New York this weekend so we’re catching the game from the left field bleachers. We were a bit late but arrived just in time to see the Yankees score 11 runs in their half of the 3rd inning on a grand slam, hit batter, a couple of walks and an error. I don’t know what else could go wrong. Now we just need to sit thru the rest of the game in 31 degree weather under the cloudless sun.

* moblogged from my phone. How cool is that?

When I get lazy with blogging, I just post links to some neat stuff around the web: