Archive for April, 2010

New York minutes/Mid-April 2010

April 2010

The pretty good: Pearl Oyster Bar, where my consort and I headed after the slowly transporting “Mid-August Lunch” at Film Forum and where we were obviously too mellow and willing to wait half an hour for seats at the bar and then a short eternity for our food from a slammed kitchen. Bob’s whole roasted pompano qualified as superb, and beyond generous with roasted shiitakes, red peppers, haricots vert, fennel and tomatoes plus a huge handful of fresh herbs. And of course the bartender/waitress was outstanding, accommodating us through various glasses of white wine (big points for a list where five glasses cost the same as one bottle so we didn’t have to beat ourselves up about not being forward-thinking). But I chose the place because I had that “baby lettuce” salad with Fourme d’Ambert on my brain after a large popcorn, and it was a major fail. I think there were two leaves of green on the plate; all the others were red or worse (not my favorite, to say the least), and they were the size of Paul Bunyan’s hands. WIGB? Undoubtedly. It is quintessential New York. 18 Cornelia Street, 212 691 8211.

The not bad: Dickson’s Farmstand in Chelsea Market, where I made a special trip after the Union Square Greenmarket to try the chili after spotting it too late the week before. And it was vaut le voyage. I’m not much on chili, but great meat makes a serious difference, and this was topped with homemade crema (my new obsession). A hefty cup for $7 came with a buttery roll that The Cat thoroughly enjoyed when I brought a cup home for Bob. WIGB? Absolutely, but next time I might spring for the miso sausage with kimchi or some other special. The new wall of condiments is also tempting. 75 Ninth Avenue, 212 242 2630.

New York minutes/Early April 2010

April 2010

The half-good: The Mermaid Inn uptown, yet again, where a friend and I settled after a special screening of “How to Live Forever” when we knew a pizza as enticing as the one we had just seen would be hard to find anywhere close by. We got a table in the back in the five minutes the hostess promised, and I stupidly didn’t insist we sit on the empty side of the room rather than between two big, loud groups (although it was still less deafening than in the front). I thought we’d had that waitress in the past, and she had been superb, but this night she was a trudging example of dazed and confused (although she did pour generously once she finally took our muscadet order). Joanne seemed happy with her huge grilled shrimp sandwich and fries, and I was amazed that my lobster bisque actually had chunks of meat in it — I don’t think I’ve ever experienced that; usually it’s flavor over substance. WIGB? Always. It’s a deal. 568 Amsterdam near 88th Street, 212 WHY DONT restaurants print phone numbers on receipts?

The good at the time: Aangan on the Upper West Side, where we met friends in from Chicago checking out Columbia before the vegetarian daughter decided on which of the six colleges she’s been accepted by. The place looks disturbingly swanky, especially for the neighborhood, which made the $9.95 veg thali that much more appealing. It might be the most elegant one in town, with salad presented first and then the tray holding little bowls of dal, curds, samosas, chutney, two curries and dessert ringing a mound of rice, then a basket of naan. That bread was easily the best I’ve had in New York, not at all greasy and perfectly pliable to use as a scoop. And the samosas were fascinating; if I had not ordered meatless I could have sworn they were chicken. Aside from the dal, though, everything else was tame, even tasted off a fork or spoon rather than bread alone. Our friend Paul seemed happy with his huge tandoori salmon, and my consort ate all his lamb/chicken thali. But afterward he said the flavors were too muted. And as we walked for the next hour and then settled back at our desks, both of us started feeling ready for the Macy’s parade, and not as spectators. I have no idea what was in the food, but it was painfully bloating. WIGB? I’m torn. That’s a great deal even for bland food, just not for the after-effects. And I didn’t even clean my tray. 2701 Broadway near 103d Street, 212 280 4100.

New York minutes/Early April 2010

April 2010

The half-good: Papatzul in SoHo, where my consort and I settled when I wanted Mexican after the too-small Saturday Greenmarket in Tribeca we detoured to rather than face the prides of designer dogs and bewildered tourists in Union Square. Our timing was perfect; Bob paid the check just before a baby shower hit high hysteria (margaritas and cute-gift overload  are a dangerous combination). My $8 torta with chorizo and “Manchego” (really Oaxacan cheese) on a great roll had cascading flavors, with avocado, black beans and red onion. The $10.95 chilaquiles, unfortunately, played exactly one note. The tortilla chips were soggy, the sauce bland, the chicken for $2 extra insipid. But we couldn’t fault the service, and the room looks great at midday. WIGB? Sure — the brunch menu had too many enticing choices — but probably not at night. I imagine the crowd would put the din in dinner. 55 Grand Street near West Broadway, 212 274 8225.

The right place on the right night: Fairway’s cafe, yet again, where I headed with a friend who lives nearby for a cheeseburger and cheap wine after I came by to meet her new kitten, and where the only letdown was not getting table near the window. The fries were erratic (some wide, some thin), but the burger itself was fine, and the coleslaw with it tasted particularly lively. As always, $5 sauvignon blanc buys a lot of goodwill. I left not minding that Ruth Reichl, whom we’d spotted getting into a cab on WEA, undoubtedly went somewhere hipper, or that my consort had had happy meals last week at Cookshop and Recipe while I was left behind (V&T pizza, though, was apparently not so wonderful).