Archive for July, 2008

New York minutes/Late July 2008

July 2008

The good: Both Fairway and Pearl. What’s left to say about a great cheap burger and a sublime fried skate sandwich? Well, maybe that you can tell a lot about an establishment by how stable the staffing is (same waiter I’ve had a dozen times at Fairway) and how well a bartender can juggle seating, serving and schmoozing (the regular babbling on the next stool at Pearl never noticed that the attention being paid her was less than total).

The not bad: Sookk, where I wound up with a friend who wanted Thai for Saturday lunch in the neighborhood. I’d been warned, so my expectations were low, but the room was surprisingly pleasant (although it does look like a fabric store), the service was fine and the sound level was reasonable. We both ordered from the lunch menu, so it was also hard to complain about tasteless spring rolls when they came on a platter with surprisingly good imitation duck with spicy noodles for all of $8. Pam seemed happy with both the steamed shrimp dumplings and a combination of five-spice beef in soupy noodles that she usually makes at home. WIGB? Sure. Even though they were running the AC with the front door criminally open. 2686 Broadway near 102d Street, 212 870 0253.

New York minutes/Latish July 2008

July 2008

The pretty good: Mermaid Inn uptown, where my consort and I headed for neutral territory after a week apart and where we had a decent meal despite being seated in the old folks’ room in the back and being served by one of those waitresses who think the brim is the proper level to fill a wineglass. My gazpacho with peekytoe crab was heavy on olive oil and light on seasoning until Bob dumped in the leftover cocktail sauce from his shrimp appetizer, but my calamari salad with feta and mushrooms was surprisingly satisfying, not to mention copious; his skate with succotash and bacon was similarly so generous a portion he took home enough for lunch next day. The gone-too-fast bottle of rose priced like two glasses was also a deal. 568 Amsterdam near 88th Street, 212 799 7400.

The not awful: Citron, where we stopped in desperation for a snack after “Wall-E” and after remembering the options only look bleaker the farther north you go on Columbus. We got a booth to ourselves, which turned out to be a mixed blessing on a torrid night; no breeze from the open door and windows could get past the high backs. The house salad was rather tasteless despite the blue cheese gravel among the beets, walnuts and bits of haricots vert. Bob’s frisee salad with lardons was more meat than greens, and the poached egg on top was too cooked to ooze. But the waitress was charming, the wine pour was reasonable and the bread was warm. I guess it was worth nearly half a full meal at Mermaid. 473 Columbus Avenue near 83d Street, 212 400 9401.

New York minutes/Mid-July 2008

July 2008

The good: The New French, where I met the Not-So-Tyro-Anymore for a perfectly pleasant lunch at that great little table in the window and where I was mostly relieved that I had not oversold the tuna sandwich (confit makes it as much as the proper proportion of bread). I had the special BLT pizza bianca, which tasted great but was tough to eat either by hand or with knife and fork; the judiciously applied creamy dressing on the greens over the tomato slice and under the bacon bits was outstanding, though. And we each had a glass of the Spanish rose. Like old pros. WIGB? It’s become beyond a habit, and lunch, even when the place is busy, is so mellow. 522 Hudson Street near 10th, 212 807 7357.

The hellish: Barceo 95, where I met a friend for location’s sake on a sweltering night when all the doors were open to the street and where we somehow managed to survive a few hours wedged into a tight table directly under a blaring speaker with the most inattentive service since Helen Keller last waited tables. We should have stayed at the uncrowded bar for our two rounds and a shared order of roasted peppers stuffed with cheese. As it was, the busboy got the bread, napkins, silverware and oil to us right away and kept our water glasses full no matter how tricky it was to navigate through too many chairs crammed into too small a room. The waiter was either overwhelmed or out of it; we might have ordered more if he had seemed half-engaged. I was fine with the $11 verdejo (quartino), but Valerie thought her $13 monastrell — listed as “full,” with extensive tasting notes — was on the wan side. Luckily, the place had emptied out enough that she was able to send back her second choice because the glass reeked of bleach. Unluckily, around 11 someone started to use that same cleaner to swab up around the bar. Not the best effect in a place where aroma is part of the pleasure. The only saving grace was that the human larva at the next table when we were first seated did not throw the shit fit you always anticipate from those ticking time babies. WIGB? Not likely.

New York minutes/Early July 2008

July 2008

The ideal: Fairway upstairs, where a very motley crew of us assembled to appease some who hate fish, some who were bored with Italian and Mexican and one who wanted mashed potatoes. We walked in around 8 on a Thursday and immediately got a round table for seven and an accommodating waiter and good food at a great price (although I doubt that the Atlantans and the Illinoisans would agree on the latter). I just had the pizza with prosciutto and arugula and a few bites of my consort’s perfectly executed (for a change) skate and a forkful of my littlest sister’s daughter’s Caesar. Everyone seemed happy enough with the chicken schnitzel and skirt steak on the great-value special menus, and I will never complain about sauvignon blanc that cheap. Plus we could hear each other talk. Most of us, anyway. And for some reason, the 20 percent service included struck the outlanders as a bonus. 2127 Broadway at 74th Street, 212 595 1888.

The serviceable: Spice, where five of us took refuge in a drenching rainstorm when we set out to explore the Greenmarket at Union Square and two of the out-of-towners balked at Rosa after having tried the Atlanta branch. The place was deserted for a change, and the staff could not have been nicer. I got a noodle-free pad Thai that was gloppy and good with lots of smoked tofu and vegetables, after the crispy spring rolls, and none of us could finish our food (even with the much smaller cup-size of rice shaped in a Madonna bra). The bill with tip was $44 if that says anything — I think I spent that much on produce four blocks north once the skies cleared. 60 “Universal” (University) Place, 212 982 3758.

Also, I was not invited to the celebration of the unholy marriage but would still have chosen to trek to Tribeca to another party the same night. The chef is engaging as hell (despite his lineage), his partner’s no dummy and the pastry chef has credentials to spare (Blackbird impresses me more than the Big E, though). The space they found looked great, too, but that might be because the Sancerre-filled wineglasses were the size of Prada chalices. I only tried a little of the food, but even this chicken shunner was impressed by the deep-fried nuggets. WIGB? Soon, I hope.