New York minutes/Mid-January 2012

The very close to perfect: Boulud Sud, the bar at, where I dragged my consort after the excellent opening of Luceo Images around the corner at @25CPW and where we left feeling quite smug on contemplating what the little people were eating that night across the street at the overpriced/underperforming Atlantic Grill. We did have to bribe a guy drinking alone to scoot over one stool by offering to buy him the beer the bartender generally would have, but from there on it was the right place/right time. We only had appetizers, and all were faultless — I woke up next morning thinking about the green-with-herbs falafel on the $15 chickpea/eggplant tray, with its baba ganoush and hummus flavored and colored with red pepper. Neither of us is a soup person, but the perfectly executed $17 soupe de poisson with garlic rouille was, as I anticipated, a mini-meal. And I was very happy the $16 rabbit “porchetta” delivered as more of a paté so both the rodent lover and I could enjoy it. Add in $9 picpoul and not-cheap but affordable reds, and it was one of those experiences that make you not just happy to live in NYC but appreciative of how brilliant the Big Homme was in opening these canteens to the banksters while making them welcoming to the 99 percent. WIGB? Anytime. The bar is so great I would consider an actual table again despite the whiff of God’s waiting room. 20 West 64th Street, 212 595 1313.

The why-the-hell not?: El Paso Taqueria on the Upper East Side, where of course I swore I would never go back over at least a year ago but of course where I have succumbed many times simply because no place closer to home does Mexican anywhere near as good. A friend and I had just been through the “Manhattan before the grid” show at the Museum of the City of New York, followed by the Cecil Beaton sensory overload, and he had a train to catch and I had a post to post, so we went for location, location. We both had enchiladas, and they took longer than usual to arrive, which for once was a sign of a kitchen not losing it but putting some muscle into the food; the tomatillo sauce and beans were much jazzier than usual, and they’re never less than satisfying. He had a Dos Equis, I had a white wine, and I think it was $20 apiece with tax and tip. (Warning, though: As great and longtime friends, we split the tab, and I noticed both halves were charged to his card. They fixed it, but beware.) 64 East 97th Street, 212 996 1739.