New York minutes/Early January 2009

The great yet again: The New French in the West Village, where we made our first pilgrimage in exactly two months to meet a friend and where the perfection was the same as it always is. I had had the cheeseburger on my mind since eating it on doctor’s advice last time, and it lived up to my memory: great meat cooked right, topped with sauteed onions and pickles with a chile sauce on the side; the good fries as usual came in a too-big-to-finish heap. Consort and friend had steak salads, also superb (anchovy vinaigrette is the way to dress), and she raved about her latte. A tiny table with a cushion for a window seat turned out to be ideal because we could all hear each other no matter how the throngs flowed in around us. Service and wine were also faultless. No wonder the food mafia is finding its way there, with two boldface names in one week. 522 Hudson Street at 10th Street, 212 807 7357.

The well worth the journey: Franny’s in the alien borough of Brooklyn, where friends who live nearby lured us with the promise of fabulous pizza and where the payoff included three of those plus amazing octopus and interesting wine (bianco di Custoza for $34 a bottle). Not to mention relatively few of the human larvae I was dreading. We shared the olive oil-sea salt pizza, one with tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella and one with clams and parsley, all little masterpieces on charred bread from the wood oven. Marinated olives as a starter were fine, but the octopus, which normally is blackened rubber, was totally tender, surrounded by a few chickpeas in great olive oil. WIGB? Absolutely, with a meat lover to try the house salumi, but the whole experience actually made me want to go exploring more. 295 Flatbush Avenue, 718 230 0221.

The right place on the right night: Kefi on Columbus, where we headed on New Year’s Eve because it met key criteria for us traditionalists — regular (read: non-gouge) menu, and location before Champagne at our friend’s in the Beresford and the fireworks at midnight in the park. For those whose first question is: Was Donatella there? The answer is yes; she showed us to a table on the lower level and apparently alerted Michael to our presence, because killer sardines and amazing Greek sausages arrived between the array of always-brilliant spreads we’d ordered as a starter and Bob’s fat slab of swordfish and my appetizer-as-main-course fried cod with garlicky potatoes. We should have split a bottle of wine because we ordered by the glass as a pacing mechanism and of course kept ordering, but it was worth it. The place was packed and beyond festive, especially after Donatella went through the room passing out hats and noisemakers. Which was reassuring when we remembered how many wonderful Dec. 31 meals we’ve had over the years in just-opened empty restaurants that are now long gone (can you say Toqué!?) WIGB? Early and often. 505 Columbus near 84th Street, 212 873 0200.