New York minutes/Latish September 2008

The good: Wu Liang Ye in Midtown, where I dragged my consort with his queasy Stella stomach after the zooey opening at ICP and where we were both transported (I’ve only been to Hong Kong, and once; he’s been there and to China at least four times on extended trips). I thought of it after reading Ray Sokolov’s piece in the WSJournal, although I have long known Zarela raves about it. And just walking there felt authentic, with mega-cockroaches claiming right of way on the sidewalk and with the requisite stairs to the dining room one flight above street level. We got a table right away, surrounded by roughly 75 percent Asians, and when the buzz-cut waiter snarled at us for asking whether the Sichuan dumplings could be fried (“Fried? You can get fried anywhere!”), we knew we were in good cooks’ hands. The (boiled) pork dumplings were sleek and silky, in a sublimely spicy chile sauce, and the green beans with spiced sauce (pork? onion? both?) were absolutely worth the shocking $14.95. But the winner was the camphor-smoked half-duck, not as smoky-wonderful as one that still haunts me from Hong Kong but very succulent and flavorful and not at all fatty — plus the meat tasted fresh, which is far more remarkable than you might think. Big glasses of wine were around $7.50, and we walked out with enough leftovers for a huge lunch next day for a little over $50 before tip. WIGB? Can’t wait. 36 West 48th Street, 212 398 2308.

The reliable: Toloache, yet again, where we headed after “Burn After Reading” and had our usual satisfying experience at the oven-facing bar watching that amazing cook do her thing so efficiently. We split the huitlacoche quesadilla and the tacos de pastor and were totally happy with food, wine and service. The cat might be away with Yerba Buena etc., but the mice are not playing. WIGB? Over and over, obviously. 251 West 50th Street, 212 581 1818.

The geographically adequate: Stella Maris at the South Street Seaport, where three of us retreated after the scrum around the Murray’s Cheese table at the Edible Manhattan soiree and where we paid too much for too little but were happy to have a sidewalk table despite the racket from the dining room (if the Wall Street meltdown sobers assholes up, it might be worth the suffering). I had just come from a press event and had no interest in more food, but I tasted the tiniest bit of the sausage and the duck confit and was happy that was as far as I went when Bob woke up next morning feeling the room spin. And not from the overpriced wine. Remind me never to order torrontes again, though. That is a grape finding its way in the world. WIGB? Only if I could not crawl farther uptown.