Archive for May, 2010

New York minutes/Late May 2010

May 2010

The half-good: The New French, again, where the service, again, seriously lagged the food. Two friends and I held down a table for more than an hour and a half (not by choice) and got water and wine exactly once. And the place was not slammed, although the sidewalk tables are clearly stressing the front of the house if not the kitchen. Luckily, the special of polenta-crusted softshell crabs with favas was outstanding, with a sauce that had the best kind of flavors: cascading. The two salads (salmon, house) across from me were happily eaten down to the last bite, too. WIGB? Undoubtedly, once I get a craving for a perfect cheeseburger or some inventive fish dish. But it will be at an off-hour for sure.

The lamer than I had even imagined: The Monkey Bar, where a travel writer friend in from Santa Barbara and staying at the hotel gulled me into wasting good money on lunch. If I had checked the menu in advance, I would have refused, because it was chicken, chicken, and more chicken (even in the club sandwich, and even in the special), and I don’t eat that dirty bird.  The food costs must be 8 percent, max. I didn’t want beef but suspect the burger was the way to go. Instead I succumbed to the $26 “bacon lobster roll,” which should be cited for menu mislabeling — it had maybe four bits of the former ingredient scattered over the top. Compared with Pearl’s, the filling/bun were cafeteria quality, too. Coleslaw with it tasted decent, although potato chips seemed a definite letdown after Rebecca Charles’s fries. Leslie was quite happy with her Cobb, but I think of that assemblage as being all about the protein — an Everest of julienned lettuce with sprinklings of avocado, egg, blue cheese and, yes, fucking chicken doesn’t do it for me. A $12 glass of riesling was as unchallenging as the cooking. WIGB? Not even with Sy Newhouse.

New York minutes/Latish May 2010

May 2010

Wow. Did I really eat out nowhere this week? I know I had endless Champagne at Mireille Guiliano’s book party at her home. And I ate some great short ribs braised in Austrian vinegar at a press party, plus a great fava bean salad with pumpkinseeds and pumpkinseed oil, all tucked into a crunchy cornet. But I also realized, yet again, why chefs should be wary of those kinds of promos: What I tasted from a restaurant I’d been wanting to try was rated NG. For all a certain chef’s alleged fear of cooking for 200 in a kitchen set up for that, the awful truth is that way too much turns to rubber chicken when you have to transport it and serve it to a crowd.

New York minutes/Early May 2010

May 2010

The reassuringly decent: Qi downtown, where we took refuge after the zooish market at Union Square when my consort wanted Asian. The hoisin duck banh mi was as satisfying as always, so the just-adequate mushroom spring rolls didn’t matter (and I’d pay $8 for the sandwich alone). Bob was happy with his spicy basil chicken thing, and the sauce on his fried chicken-shrimp dumplings had more zest than the syrupy one with my appetizer. We were in and out for $20 with tip. WIGB? Sure. Location’s great, and the place looks phenomenal — just not sure I’d brave it for dinner. 31 West 14th Street, 212 929 9917.

The surprisingly bad: The Red Cat in Chelsea, which Bob picked for lunch with our Italian friend in from TPW for the New York Photo Fest in Dumbo who had an appointment close by. Now I worry Carlo will think I know nothing about restaurants. I don’t know about his “fettucini,” but my cod sandwich was a mess — the fish was okay, and fried right, but so much wet slaw had been loaded onto the lame sliced(!) bread that it fell apart on the first bite. I almost didn’t order it because of that apple slaw, too. Decent greens came with it, and they were a relief after all the glop. Bob was even more bummed by the carnitas salad, which was like the driest ropa vieja laid dispiritedly over greens and beans, with a little crema and crisp tortilla strips on top. Even the usually fabulous tempura green beans were slopped out, greasy. As for the service, the inattentive waiter seemed intimidated by our friend, which felt odd in a neighborhood that should be so cosmopolitan. My cappuccino was one of the worst I’ve had in New York, and Bob later said the espresso was not even hot. WIGB? J’doubt it. Two days later we were still talking about how off it all was. Maybe the lesson is: Never expect much from a restaurant where the chef is hanging out on the sidewalk at the start of service. . .

New York Minutes/Early May 2010

May 2010

The pretty good: Tre Otto on the Upper East Side, where my consort and I went in search of material for our co-op newsletter when we couldn’t face the two “new” places on our side of the park (the latest incarnations of Roth’s steakhouse and La Rural) and where the evening would have been a nightmare if we had not been accepted as walk-ins and escorted straight to a corner table in the back of the surprise garden. The narrow dining room was full of just the kind of rich, fixed fucks who ruin all UES restaurants; it sounded about as serene as a subway car, and a waitress on the run jostled me as we were waiting for the hostess’s attention. Outside was an oasis, and we stayed mellow even after seeing only one waiter had all the tables. But he was great, both personable and efficient, so we soon had wineglasses and an ice bucket for our BYOB rosé from K&D down the avenue plus good bread and olive oil. He made the grilled scamorza appetizer sound irresistible, and it was, laid over spinach with a nice drizzle of sauce. Rigatoni alla norma had been cooked and sauced right, but the eggplant was pretty taste-free. And the pizza oreganata was missing a certain herb, and could have used a few more minutes in the oven to crisp the crust, but we didn’t mind because the balance of tomatoes, anchovies, garlic and asiago was ideal. Plus we got away for all of $41 and a tip. The walk across the staggeringly green park beforehand was just Italian-American gravy. WIGB? Absolutely. But only if we were guaranteed a seat outside. 1408 Madison Avenue near 96th Street, 212 860 8888.

Also, I forgot to note that Bob and I recently had Motorino pizza, three kinds, at our friends’ apartment right down the street from the oven. It was okay.

New York minute/Late April 2010

May 2010

The good: Recipe on the Upper West Side, where we headed after the gripping “The Secret in Their Eyes” with too much popcorn and landed just in time to get one of the tiny tables. I only wanted an appetizer, but my consort insisted we split the excellent beet salad with goat cheese and pecans beforehand. I had the crab cake, which may not have been jumbo lump meat but was a steal at $10, with crab bisque underneath and julienned Granny Smith apple on top. And Bob was beyond pleased with his roasted game hen, not least because it was all of $17 and came with a big mound of farro, asparagus, carrots and spring onions plus a sort of corn pudding. I never like wine in tumblers, but the pours were good, and the superb waitress handled the white-red confusion well. WIGB? Absolutely. It’s great value, and the ingredients are top grade. 452 Amsterdam Avenue near 82d Street, 212 501 7755.