New York minutes/End of November 2009

The pretty good: Safran, where my consort and I headed after the rather deserted Greenmarket on the Saturday after Thanksgiving when I remembered reading about it in the Wednesday Chef’s “goodbye to all that” roundup. We weren’t slaves to her pho advice, though. Overwhelmed by all the special choices, I ordered the Peking duck summer roll off the regular menu ($10 appetizer, and worth it, with just-right dipping sauces), while Bob finally decided on the $8.95 lunch box with surprisingly tender lemonglass-glazed pork chop, noodles with peanuts, rice, vegetable summer roll and mixed green salad with excellent creamy dressing. The place is rather elegant for that strip of Seventh Avenue (although the upholstery is getting grubby), and the European waitress could not have been more welcoming or attentive. WIGB? Definitely. For a real lunch. 88 Seventh Avenue near 15th Street, 212 929 1778.

The really bad: Palacio Azteca, which I passed on leaving the Hospital for Special Surgery in my usual state of elation (one-year followup visit on a “home run” thanks to Dr. Douglas Padgett) with a hankering for something Mexican and self-indulgent. I should have known York Avenue would be all white bread (even Bloomberg won’t eat around there), but I was still amazed at how lame this little dive was. The watery salsa tasted like dish soap, and not from cilantro. The $8.95 nachos were mostly bland beans and chunks of burned chorizo (allegedly; it had no discernible flavor). And the waitress was equal parts surly and inefficient (I had to ask for both flatware and a napkin after waiting forever for even a menu in a nearly empty little room). I guess I deserved everything I got for not being smart enough to flee immediately, though. I still can’t run, but I could have walked out.

The reliable: Fairway’s cafe, where four of us retreated after “Broken Embraces” when the “hostess” at Ed’s Chowder House across from the theater was so fuck-youish on learning we did not have a reservation and wanted to try the bar menu. Cheap wine is always the tipping point, and so we shared a bottle of New Zealand sauvignon blanc for virtually nothing. All their food was fine: Bob’s leg of lamb, the two huge crab cakes and the short ribs. But my Caesar (of course) was the best I’ve had there. The service was a little distracted, and beer-clueless, but WIGB? Absolutely. It’s even quiet enough to talk about what a provocative movie you’ve just seen. 2127 Broadway near 74th Street, 212 595 1888.