New York minutes/Early March 2012

The good: Northern Spy Food Co. in the East Village, where my consort and I finally made our way after contemplating it many times for Saturday lunch but always being dissuaded by the brunch focus (AKA eggs). This was early Monday dinner, so we were able to walk in and get a table in the cramped dining room; it filled up fast. I was worried the food would be too much like eating at home, since we both source from the same Greenmarket, but the menu had lots of twists. We started with $7 bluefish rillettes that, luckily, did not taste too much of bluefish and came with great garlic toasts plus pickled onions to cut the richness. Then both of us just had outsized starters, of which only the $12 kale salad was underwhelming; as Bob said, it was a bit of a slog, with nothing to break up the greens but bits of sweet potato, almonds, Cheddar and pecorino. File it under negative calories. A little acid would have helped. But the $12 farro and egg, with rye, sunchokes and cured lamb belly, was clever, and the $14 crispy potato gnocchi with sage and brown butter was superb, even though I don’t care if I ever eat a Brussels sprout again. We also split an order of duck-fat fries with malted spiced yogurt, and they were amazing, big wedges with no funky duck flavor and great baked-potato-type texture inside. We almost never order dessert, but we felt on such a roll we forged on with the $7 honey mousse with parsnip cake and poached pear. And it was okay but maybe not intended for the tastes of recovering Catholics. Wines by the glass came in tumblers, which I generally hate, but at least they paired perfectly with the food. WIGB? Absolutely. It’s like Brooklyn without crossing the water.

The great: Hunan House in Flushing, where three of us with smoked duck on the brain headed for St. Patrick’s Day lunch on a shopping outing and where the whole experience was worth braving the drunken O’Snookis on the train there and back. Everything we ordered was perfect if you don’t count the soup dumplings mistakenly delivered to the table next to us, where a bunch of young guys were obviously inhaling their lunch mindlessly. The smoked duck was as spectacular as we remembered, very tender and flavorful, with just enough crispiness to the skin. Fresh tofu with scallion sauce came in cubes as a cooling counterpoint to the mustard greens Hunan style, with slivered garlic and chilies, and especially to the platter of blue crabs in super-spicy sauce, which our friend spotted as a photo on the menu, with only Chinese characters and a price listed. Each dish had nuance and intensity and no greasiness. Aside from the dumpling glitch, the service was great (the waiter made it clear we should not try the “stinky tofu” but stick with the fresh). And the whole place is so pleasant, so very different from Chinatown. WIGB? We could become regulars. With tax and tip, the tab was all of $60. 137-40 Northern Boulevard, 718 353 1808.