New York minutes/Early April 2010

The half-good: The Mermaid Inn uptown, yet again, where a friend and I settled after a special screening of “How to Live Forever” when we knew a pizza as enticing as the one we had just seen would be hard to find anywhere close by. We got a table in the back in the five minutes the hostess promised, and I stupidly didn’t insist we sit on the empty side of the room rather than between two big, loud groups (although it was still less deafening than in the front). I thought we’d had that waitress in the past, and she had been superb, but this night she was a trudging example of dazed and confused (although she did pour generously once she finally took our muscadet order). Joanne seemed happy with her huge grilled shrimp sandwich and fries, and I was amazed that my lobster bisque actually had chunks of meat in it — I don’t think I’ve ever experienced that; usually it’s flavor over substance. WIGB? Always. It’s a deal. 568 Amsterdam near 88th Street, 212 WHY DONT restaurants print phone numbers on receipts?

The good at the time: Aangan on the Upper West Side, where we met friends in from Chicago checking out Columbia before the vegetarian daughter decided on which of the six colleges she’s been accepted by. The place looks disturbingly swanky, especially for the neighborhood, which made the $9.95 veg thali that much more appealing. It might be the most elegant one in town, with salad presented first and then the tray holding little bowls of dal, curds, samosas, chutney, two curries and dessert ringing a mound of rice, then a basket of naan. That bread was easily the best I’ve had in New York, not at all greasy and perfectly pliable to use as a scoop. And the samosas were fascinating; if I had not ordered meatless I could have sworn they were chicken. Aside from the dal, though, everything else was tame, even tasted off a fork or spoon rather than bread alone. Our friend Paul seemed happy with his huge tandoori salmon, and my consort ate all his lamb/chicken thali. But afterward he said the flavors were too muted. And as we walked for the next hour and then settled back at our desks, both of us started feeling ready for the Macy’s parade, and not as spectators. I have no idea what was in the food, but it was painfully bloating. WIGB? I’m torn. That’s a great deal even for bland food, just not for the after-effects. And I didn’t even clean my tray. 2701 Broadway near 103d Street, 212 280 4100.