Archive for August, 2008

New York minutes/Early August 2008

August 2008

The predictably good: The New French, where my consort and I schlepped after buying way too much at Union Square and where our reward was food not dissimilar from what we could have made out of our many bags at home (aside from the fries) but where the whole experience was just self-indulgence with Provencal rose. I finally got my tuna sandwich with great fries; Bob had the Nicoise-inspired salad with salmon, with a great anchovy dressing. Half the pleasure of eating there is just appreciating the design, which is why lunch is so much more rewarding than dinner. You can see and hear. 522 Hudson Street, 212 807 7357.

The predictably abysmal: Hudson Beach Cafe in Riverside Park. Even in the dark, a salad cook should not think the proper proportion in a Caesar is 1 cup dressing to 1 1/2 cups Romaine. Gruesome would be an understatement. I didn’t dare brave a bite of Bob’s burger, but his fries were just what you would expect in a joint that exists solely to take advantage of people too un-enterprising to pack a picnic. Thirty-five bucks a head?

The adequate: Mermaid Inn uptown, where Bob and I headed in search of neutral territory after 2 1/2 weeks apart and where we were lucky enough to arrive so late we got a nice big table outside, away from the bedlam inside. The gazpacho with peeky-toe crab was much better this time and the calamari-frisee-feta salad was fine, plus he seemed happy with his special of seared octopus. Wine, service, “bread,” were all what they always are.

The more than adequate: Cafe du Soleil, where I wound up with a wise-beyond-her-years friend new to the neighborhood who had suggested a reprise of Sookk but decided she wanted something different once we got to the door. We scored a sidewalk table far from the nightmare of the mechanical rocking horse and survived a waiter who apparently pegged us as two non-tippers by gender alone. Pam lost her gazpacho virginity, only to have the experience ruint by the cilantro I had assured her would be nowhere near it (she has the Zest gene when it comes to that taste). But she was a good sport and just fished out all the offending greenery and picked at the side order of squash and eggplant we also ordered. I went for the endive salad with blue cheese and walnuts and couldn’t really complain. As always, busboys, olives, bread and wine were unobjectionable. Lots o’ new stuff opening in the neighborhood, though.

New York minutes/Late July 2008

August 2008

The if-it-were-a-candidate-it-would-be-presumptuous: Bar Milano, where a friend lured another friend and me to take “advantage” of Restaurant Week and where we all staggered out two hours later senza $46 apiece and underwhelmed to boot. Value-wise, I guess I can’t complain; they threw in an extra course for the $24.08. But the kitchen must have been on muscle relaxants — the gap between each of those four courses was long enough to write a cookbook. The weirdness that is RW also tainted the experience; waiters don’t want to be accused of pushing, so they don’t do what they might any other week and offer refills on wine etc. From the two to three choices for each course, we chose mostly the same things: ribbons of Tuscan kale drenched in creamy dressing with wonderful mini-croutons; rabbit terrine (I passed); “conseci” stuffed with chard and ricotta (gummy) and tagliatelle with ragu (salty); trout on “montecato” (bland), and “frittelle” with alleged rhubarb. I liked the last taste best, mostly because it was more vegetal than fruity. Bread plates sat empty the entire meal while I saw other tables dunking into olive oil, and the flatware fought the plates and bowls for balance and largely lost. Even half-full, the place was noisy (and we got a great table for three near the front). I can’t imagine setting foot inside at dinner. In any other city, this would be the swankiest joint in town. They spent the bucks, on the bathrooms, the liquor carts, the design in general. But soundproofing? Not so much. WIGB? Not likely. 323 Third Avenue at 24th Street, 212 683 3035.

The redeemed: Crema, where a friend and I retreated after getting our minds set on Mexican after Aimee Mann at Barnes & Noble, only to be told Rosa Mexicano had more than an hour’s wait. I had sworn I would never go back, but the host this night was so welcoming and gave us the quietest table in the front so quickly that it was hard to hold that grudge. Even for $18 quesadillas. We split the guacamole, which was light on jalapeno, cilantro, onion and tomato, but the chips were good. Kevin was a bit flummoxed by the weirdness of his top-shelf margarita, but I realized it was the mescal giving it the woodshed aspect. And my second choice of wine, after the Veramonte was gone, was decent enough. WIGB? Maybe. 111 West 17th Street, 212 691 4477.

The time-warpy: Pete’s Tavern, where I met my friend for a drink for proximity-to-Barnes-&-Noble’s sake and where the wine choices and prices ($6 for sauvignon blanc) were right, plus the happy hour feast was movable: a little guy came around repeatedly with a tray of fried things and teeny triangles of gummable “pizza.” The place reeks history (O. Henry), and it is undeniably cool that it exists in a city hellbent on destroying anything that might be able to support a 30-story high-rise. On the debit side, the bartenders do seem to respond only to their hung patrons. WIGB? Maybe. Nostalgia can be a very good appetite. 129 East 18th Street at Irving Place, 212 473 7676.