The pretty good: Rain, where friends who know from health horrors treated me and my broken self to dinner and where I thus was feeling more accommodating than usual despite being seated at an awkward table right under a speaker. My tea-smoked duck was fatty and not the freshest bird in the flock, but the portion was enough for three (and Banshee next day). The peanut sauce and chips on the table to start were fine, and my hosts seemed satisfied with everything foodwise (green curry chicken, lemongrass grouper) but the greenery in the summer rolls. The by-the-glass wine list is strange — I refused to spring for a $14 sauvignon blanc and wound up with an $8 Alsatian syrup before switching to a pinot grigio that was like water against the food. And the waiter seemed programmed to push wine refills, to the point that Kevin said: “He’s a bit of a dick, isn’t he?” Hard to argue with that. WIGB? Maybe, if I remember it’s there. 100 West 82d Street, 212 501 0776.
The seriously off: Spice in Chelsea, where I took refuge at lunchtime after the market on a Wednesday when Rosa Mexicano was full for the first time ever, Tarallucci & Vino was ditzed out and the relocated Markt was backed up like a sewer. Bad sign in an old favorite when the bar had been eliminated to pack in more tables. The waiter screwed up my order, delivering fried chicken dumplings rather than steamed vegetable, and the check arrived with no pen to sign it, while the many waiters wandered around distractedly. Worse, the duck salad off the regular menu was a diabetic coma waiting to happen. WIGB? Maybe. Got to support anything to keep it from becoming converted to a bank in this borough. 199 Eighth Avenue near 20th Street, 212 989 1116. [Latish June 2007]