New York minutes/Mid-November 2010

The good: Lyon in the old Cafe Bruxelles in the West Village, where we were lucky enough to arrive early when it had just opened and got a nice table in a quiet corner in the back and tried not to dwell on why we had been so underwhelmed by food in the real Lyon. There it’s belly-busting heavy, so I only ordered two appetizers: escargots in risotto, a nice idea, and quenelles, which someone should have warned me were not real — chicken is foul when you’re expecting fish — although the sauce with black trumpet mushrooms was excellent. My consort loved his lamb shank on a few white beans with spicy merguez, though. And wines are a deal (starting at $7 a glass), but they took forever to arrive. WIGB? Absolutely. Although no one will take the place for authentic because the waiters are too thin. 118 Greenwich Avenue.

The pretty good under the circumstances: Donatella in Chelsea, where four of us headed after “Long Story Short” in the hellhole that is the Theater District and where the din was definitely put in dinner but the food redeemed everything. The kitchen was slammed, maybe thanks to the great review in the Village Voice, so my consort and I should have known better than to try to order things we’d loved previously. A first go-round of the fried calamari with aioli spiked with bottarga lived up to memory, but the second looked over-browned and heavy. His spaghetti with sea urchin also seemed more sodden this time. Eggplant parmigiana, though, a tiny portion in an iron pot, was exceptional if dainty for $13. And my mushroom-and-smoked mozzarella pizza was soggier than I expected but had great flavor and ingredients; the Enzo, with sausage and broccoli rabe, probably qualified as true Neapolitan because it sagged at the center as well. Comped zeppoli made our friends who know from the Jersey Shore very happy. WIGB? Probably, if we’re near there. The waitress was a bit of a ditz, and someone really needs to teach the staff which wineglasses go with which wine, but the food and value (with both food and wine) make it far better than anything on that strip. Despite the din. 184 Eighth Avenue near 20th Street, 212 493 5150.

The surprising: City Winery in Tribeca, where I stayed to try the product while on another mission and was happy to find the chardonnay straight from the barrel in the cellar was a serious wine and the flatbread made with lees left from the winemaking was beyond respectable. The special that day was chorizo and padron peppers with Manchego, and it held up well despite the charred chiles. The waitress, once she kicked into gear, was also outstanding. WIGB? Definitely, especially after Film Forum, and absolutely for a concert. 155 Varick Street at Vandam, 212 608 0555.