The lame: Laut off Union Square, where my consort and I stopped for a fast late lunch after the Greenmarket and spent most of it wishing we had walked the extra blocks to Tue. The waiters were all welcoming and smiling, but the room smelled like a urinal cake and a group with a screaming child made it hard to hear with all the hard surfaces in the strange design. And while my steamed dumplings (at $6, a buck apiece) were amazingly light, with a superb dipping sauce, they could have been filled with either mushrooms as billed or ground pork — impossible to determine what I was ingesting. Poor Bob chose the enticing-sounding masak kicap: “cinnamon, turmeric, star anise, ginger, garlic, shallot, onion, bell pepper, sweet pea, tomato, sweet soy sauce.” Rather than being amalgamated into a sauce, half the things on that list seemed to have been just tossed onto the chicken and vegetables. The unsatisfying mess came with a big mound of brown rice, but the same $9 would have bought two good courses farther away. WIGB? Not likely. This place makes Spice seem polished.
Archive for September, 2009
The really good: Locanda Verde in Tribeca, where my consort and I trekked after the New Amsterdam Market after finding Governor’s Island oversubscribed as a follow-up destination. We made it in just before the kitchen closed on Sunday brunch, and our food came faster than anything else but water, despite the fact that the staff had that punch-drunk, end-o’-brunch demeanor. Having overindulged in so much richness — porchetta to creamy yogurt to bacon peanut brittles — at The New Amsterdam market, I was thrilled with the crostini of the day, heaped with blue crab on a spicy base with jalapeno and cucumber. (For all of $7.) Bob was equally happy with his dainty portion of maltagliatti with sprightly pesto, broad beans and tomatoes, the sauce very light and the balance sublime. We each had a $10 glass of rosé and walked out happy. The space was perfect on a brilliantly sunny September day, too. WIGB? In a heartbeat. 377 Greenwich Street near Franklin, 212 925 3797.
The good yet again: The New French, where Bob and I headed after he saw “Inglorious Basterds” in the Village while I was working and where we both had a whole new experience, not just because we sat outside. Remembering the chef’s Tabla background, I ordered the vegetable curry, which was unsurprisingly sensational (although it made me realize I will never love bok choy), with an amazingly balanced sauce and gussied-up couscous on the side rather than the rice I find so dreary. The portion was huge enough that I got lunch and a midafternoon snack out of the kitty bag I took home (Wyl-E got nothin’). Bob had the chicken pho and polished it off despite whimpering that it was too rich. The waiter seemed distracted, but it was his first night on the sidewalk, so who would complain? 522 Hudson Street at 10th, 212 807 7357.
The good except for my food: Mermaid Inn uptown, where I landed with my Main Line friend when he chose seafood over new Greek for dinner within walking distance on a depressingly chilly night. We shared the calamari salad with feta, which was even better than usual with shiitakes tossed in with the frisee, and Don actually deemed his scallop special, with cauliflower tossed with capers, “exquisite.” The waitress was, no surprise, great, even topping off his glass of white for free (and correcting the $2 overcharge Don spotted on the special). But I was bummed by the skate, no longer a crispily seductive indulgence but a big wet slab still on the cartilage, under a watery cascade of sautéed mushrooms (regular and shiitake) with sliced garlic. And the cartilage was trouble; I started thinking I would have to dust off my restaurant-school Heimlich training when Don got a mouthful of slivers. Still, WIGB? Absolutely. Value/experience is outstanding. 568 Amsterdam Avenue near 88th Street, 212 799 7400.
The decent: Jane in the Village, where I steered us after a story-scouting expedition for my consort in Washington Square because of the $15 Sunday night special — steak, salad or mussels with rosemary fries or salad. One of us should have opted for the greens, because the mountains of fries that came with his meat and my fish were mountainous (the excellent waiter jokingly asked if we wanted a side of them). The beef was either butchered wrong or singularly tough, but the flavor was great; my salmon would have been even better with anything sauce-like. If we hadn’t had that $32 bottle of rosé, we would have scored a real steal. 100 West Houston, 212 254 7000.
The flawed: Rainbow Falafel off Union Square, where we ducked in for something quick while loaded down with 500 pounds of produce and where the reality does not live up to the reputation. The counter guys were enraptured by Jacques and Julia working over a fish on a tiny teevee up on the wall, but they should have been tuned in to some Middle Eastern cooking show. In the mere minutes it took us to walk back into the park to a table, my pita had disintegrated. The flavors and the frying and the sauces were better than average, but I wound up with a sloppy soup/salad, not a sandwich — and no fork to tackle it with. WIGB? Pointless.