Archive for October, 2008

New York minutes/Laterish October 2008

October 2008

The always good: Chola, where two friends and I convened at a crappy table for a few glasses of catch-up wine and the reliably satisfying buffet. I guess I’ve never been on a Friday, because there was a new, very spicy vegetable dish on offer (the name tags on the buffet are hopelessly generic), and a new potato dish (ditto), and the whole plate was just happy-making. The naan was a little flatter and drier than usual, but I was just happy to get it after flagging down several waiters. WIGB? In a second. There’s a reason it’s the only place jammed at lunchtime on that block. 232 East 58th Street between Second and Third Avenues, 212 688 4619.

The convenient: PJ Clarke’s across from Lincoln Center, where four of us headed after the intense “Rachel Getting Married” just because it was cold and it was close. The music was too loud and the waitress was too impatient, but my turkey club (with cheese) was actually beyond decent, and Bob’s chili was something we don’t get every day (bubble and squeak, either, but that I could skip). Our friends had burgers and shared fries, we split a bottle of cheap red and all got out for $26 a head including tax and tip. WIGB? Inevitably. The half-sandwich the replacement waiter happily offered to “box up” for me was actually still edible next day. 44 West 63d Street, 212 957 9700.

New York minutes/Latish October 2008

October 2008

The good: Bocca Lupo in Brooklyn, where friends who live nearby lured us for a good catch-up meal and where my only complaint would be the noise level, although we certainly contributed to it after way too much of the reasonably priced wine. Walking there I realized yet again how much has been sacrificed to real estate greed on the big island; my neighborhood is totally overrun with Fuckin Donuts while Smith Street has small shops and character (at least from what I could see walking fast in the dark). Dr. and Lady Bugs know their food, I know, and so we let them do the ordering of a bunch of small plates to share. Veal and porcini meatballs were excellent swimming in sauce on a slab of sturdy bread, and braised endive was as good as it gets. Farro with mushrooms was also superb. We split bruschetti with eggplant and with butternut squash and an order of broccoli rabe, too. I’m not much on lamb or shrimp, but everyone else seemed happy with those dishes and with the Nutella and banana panino. WIGB? Absolutely, but we’re ready to go exploring other places around there first. 391 Henry Street, 718 243 2522.

New York minutes/Mid-October 2008

October 2008

The pretty good: Porchetta in the East Village, where my consort and I trekked after the Greenmarket even though he would have preferred a sit-down lunch as Saturday-usual and where the sandwich alone was worth the schlep, as promised by the Robs. The perfect roll from Sullivan Street Bakery sopped up the fat and was just the right contrast between crusty and tender. The pork itself is outstanding, seriously seasoned and beautifully cooked (although also seriously salty, and I could eat salt as an entree), but it was better on bread for $9 than as a $12 plate with excellent broccoli rabe and nicely spiced white beans. We also split an order of roasted potatoes and burnt ends, also quite good. It all held up even though we shared it all on a park bench in bizarre Tompkins Square — a little unnerving to see a drunk getting hauled into an ambulance as we walked in; Central Park is Epcot Center by comparison. WIGB? Eventually. The pork is undeniably outstanding, but the order taker needs a better system for sure. 110 East Seventh Street, 212 777 2151.

The adequate: Thalia in the insane Theater District, where we ducked in for a glass of wine and Caesar salad as an alternative to Toloache after the unsettling “Religulous” (some scenes a little too close to a Palin rally for comfort). The hostess tried to shunt us off to a cramped little table in the noisy lounge, but we moved to the bar and the bartender was excellent. The good salad came almost as fast as the $9 wine. 828 Eighth Avenue at 50th Street, 212 399 4444.

New York minute/Early October 2008

October 2008

The lame: Baluchi’s in the West Village, where an Indian-craving friend and I wound up after deserting a wineless new Thai place whose web site promised a full bar and where the food was only slightly better than the service, which sucked the big one. Ironically, Wally had said as we walked up and saw it was all but empty: “At least they’ll treat us well.” First they gave us a crappy table right by the kitchen door, but my consort was wise to insist we move once he arrived. And then cobwebs were forming on our menus by the time we were able to order. The wine “list” was a few varietals on a table card, with neither producer nor price produced; we tried to order a bottle of sauvignon blanc but settled for glasses of pinot grigio from the dim bulb in a waiter’s uniform. The naan was not as bad as I’ve had elsewhere, and the chana masala and vegetables jalfrazie  had nice-enough sauces. But we were a long, long, long way from Chola. Or even Sixth Street. WIGB? Not even at gunpoint.