New York minutes/Mid-February 2010

The good: Nam in TriBeCa, where four of us headed after the amazing “That Night’s Wife” with original score at the World Financial Center and where I could only wonder why we had never tried it before. The elegant room looks like $30 entrees, but I don’t think anything was over $18; Oyster Bay SV was only $30 when wine stores are gouging at $13 or $14. We split outstanding beef rolls and seared tuna rolls plus exceptional grilled eggplant; only the bland green papaya salad with shrimp and scabs (a k a dried beef) was a letdown among appetizers. Roast duck might not have been the freshest bird ever, but it was perfectly cooked, and a noodle dish with pork-and-shrimp meatballs and grilled pork rivaled it. WIGB? Absolutely. Len was longing for the Vietnamese coffee we saw at the next table, and it would only be safe at lunchtime. Plus the staff was so chipper. 110 Duane Street near West Broadway, 212 267 1777.

The sad: Quinto Quarto in the West Village, where we stumbled in for late lunch after finding Market Table closed for a wedding reception and where we soon learned $14.95 is no deal for two courses, wine and coffee. Bob described the food as profoundly mediocre, but I think he was too kind: My “orzo” salad of barley, radicchio and tomatoes with a dusting of grated pecorino bordered on flavor-free, as did his “ribollita,” a mess of mixed vegetables in bland broth. Worse was the baked lamb, allegedly with rosemary; it tasted as if it had been sitting on a steam table long enough to turn to mutton. Only my “bombolotti alla gricia” was half-worth eating, although it arrived cold, a mortal sin in Italy; the sautéed onions, guanciale and pecorino hung together despite the absence of the promised “hot chilly pepper.” Trebbiano and Montepulciano were big pours but also wan. Espresso and macchiato, though, tasted almost Trieste-worthy. And the waitress who made them was incredible: super-friendly, efficient, upbeat. Too bad she wasn’t doing the cooking. WIGB? If a real chef were around. The room is quite nice.

The believe-the-hype: Momofuku Noodle Bar in the East Village, where a friend and I landed after Sigiri was closed despite the open-hours sign on the door on a less-snow-than-expected afternoon; we were able to walk right in and get seats at a relatively quiet table in the back and were soon sharing a superb pork-kimchi tamal, fabulous steamed buns with shiitakes (more like soft tacos) and spicy noodles with Sichuan sausage, spinach and cashews. I never like wine in teeny tumblers; it never feels worth $9. But that’s a tiny complaint when the staff was so hospitable, the ingredients so clean and the experience so uplifting. WIGB? Can’t wait. I’m even half-tempted to buy the cookbook. 171 First Avenue near 11th Street.

The decent: Turkuaz on the Upper West Side, where we hooked up with three friends after another great “Selected Shorts” at Symphony Space on a snowy night and where the staff let us linger well past midnight in an empty back room. Raku to start was not the smartest idea, but it kept us to one bottle of Turkish white for $32. I’m not sure the “platter” of spreads was worth $19.95; it was more the size of a dinner plate, and we got two baba ghanoush because they were out of a fifth spread. Everything tasted fine, with excellent bread, though. I didn’t try the two meat shish kebabs or $26 lamb chops, but the decent vegetable casserole was overpriced at $14.95. The bathroom was a trip, too, back to the 1950s or a backward country, with old armchairs and that disinfectant reek. WIGB? Maybe. It was certainly comfortable, with more than accommodating service. 2637 Broadway at 100th Street, 212 665 9541.

The design/food fail: Community Food & Juice across from Columbia, where Bob and I settled after a preview program on the enticing “Latin Music USA” series on PBS at the  J-School and where we might have been happier if we had taken seats on the banquette rather than evading two self-absorbed crazy women at the door. Instead we were crammed into a ridiculously tight table in an alcove where the waiter and runner could only get to the next table by slamming into Bob and where the jerk at the next table was bellowing about tits. It all made me think a new rule should be that any restaurant designer should have to suffer a meal at every table greedily wedged in. But all that might have been forgiven if the zucchini-scallion pancakes had not been both desiccated and tasteless and the shrimp dumplings had not been so sad. Only the spicy green beans with peanuts redeemed the meal. Does no one monitor what leaves the kitchen? WIGB? Not on a bet.