The really good: The New French, yet again, where we met newly engaged friends in from Connecticut on Saturday night in the gods-must-be-infuriated rainstorm and where the right table and the right waitress combined with the food to make another exceptional evening. We were late thanks to the fucked-up trains, so we were able to sit right down at the table our friends scored and join in the red wine and, shortly, another go at the pizza bianca with kale, Fontina, apple and Parmesan. We also all shared a New French salad and the beet appetizer, both great, before my consort tucked into a special of peppery seared tuna with long beans and, I think, bok choy; Kevin into the roast chicken, and Dan into the pulled pork with (they’re back) great fries. I confused the smart waitress with my order for the steak salad, but she and the kitchen sorted it out immediately. A shared slice of cheesecake almost revived my interest in that normally leaden dessert — it was fluffy but still intense. WIGB? Early and often, again. 522 Hudson Street at 10th, 212 807 7357.
The pretty bad: Sido on Amsterdam Avenue, where I stopped for a quick falafel sandwich on a crazed day and where I was almost saddened to see the former stationary food cart has taken over the relatively swanky La Grolla space while ambitious La Grolla has become a pizza-by-the-slice sliver in the old Sido space. Chilewich placemats and flatware wrapped in paper napkins on each table were nice touches, but the poor cooks were running hard and running behind. My sandwich seemed about average until I got home and, an hour or so later, felt like a float in the Macy’s parade. Not sure what the secret ingredient is, but I suspect baking soda. WIGB? Not unless proximity overrules good sense.
The impressive: The Malaysia Kitchen for the World promotion at the FCI. Normally I wouldn’t write directly about a press event, but this was so smart and well-run every promoter could learn. It had the right mix of chefs to illustrate the disparate influences that shaped Malaysian cuisine and how it both differs from and echoes Chinese, Thai and Indian. Each of them demonstrated a definitive dish (roti canai, curry laksa, chicken satay, beef rendang), which was then served to us at our seats in the lecture hall. It all made me want to head straight out for Malaysian with new understanding of what to order and why, or at least to Chinatown to buy ingredients for the recipes provided in a sharp little booklet featuring those chefs. And the year-long promotion for restaurants all along the East Coast will make putting my education to work even easier. So many of these events are just gang-bangs where everyone gorges and runs, leaving no one more informed than on walking in. Figures that so few old-media types were in the audience. . .