New York minutes/Middish October 2010

The somewhat good: Atlantic Grill, the new one across from Lincoln Center, where my consort and I wound up after a surreal photo opening at the Essex House, which had had finger food ambitious enough for us to want better than we normally settle for. It’s amazing how the Ginger Man was transformed so quickly, and it was even more amazing how packed it was right around showtime. We settled for a table out in the north forty, which at least was quieter although apparently farther from the kitchen, because the food took just short of forever. And when it came it was more strange than satisfying, particularly the weird maki (we ordered one with spicy tuna, eel and avocado but the bill shows one with scallop and crab salad, and it could have been either). The seared octopus had too many accouterments (smoked paprika, chickpeas, mint, harissa etc.), and the poor creature was either old or abused; either way, it was tough chewing. Even the salad, frisee with bacon, was more shopping list than satisfaction (green beans, mushrooms, pecorino etc.) Wines were only $10 a glass, though, which was good because we were on our second by the time the plates arrived. WIGB? Maybe. Location, location. And Bob liked the look of the place. 49 West 64th Street, 212 787 4663.

The fully reliable: Mermaid Inn uptown, where I made two poor friends meet me again because I was too stressed to think of anything more ambitious and where we were at least rewarded with the usual. My cod with mashed potatoes and crispy spinach was a little bland, but at least the portion was enough for my dinner, two tastes for them and lunch the next day for me and The Cat. I liked what I sampled of the pecan-crusted trout with sweet potatoes, too, and the skate looked good. Service was rather dismissive, I guess because I was the only one springing for wine. But we all left happy enough.