The pretty good: La Camelia in the West Village, where my consort and I trotted after two friends’ opening at Leica Gallery after regretting passing it up despite a Twitter recommendation a few nights before. Outsized tequila bottles in the window made me fear for my ears, but we got a table in the window and had no problem talking, not least because the place never filled more than halfway. (Having Cantina Loco* a couple of blocks away must hurt.) The room is really quite lovely, and the waiter actually addressed me as both Milady and Madame. I just had a chorizo quesadilla, with low expectations, but it arrived in four wedges laid out over deflamed sliced onions with a bit of tomato and cilantro, and it was excellent for $10. Bob finally got his wish of mixed fillings for his $16 plate of tacos — chicken, mushroom, chorizo — so who cared that the beans and rice had apparently bypassed the flavor filling station? His margaritas were exemplary, my Chilean sauvignon blanc worth $8 a glass. WIGB? Absolutely, especially given the proximity to Film Forum.
*Oops. Cantina Loco’s a few hundred miles away. I meant Toro Blanco, of course. And wonder if I will miss my mind when it’s fully gone . . .
The half-good: Murray’s Cheese Bar in the West Village, where we headed with two friends after the turgid and narcissistic “Before and After Dinner” on Andre Gregory at Film Forum. And may I just ask why restaurants pay OpenTable to show a place fully committed when you can call and get a reservation and then spend your entire evening looking at a half-empty dining room? Late for our 7:30 phone booking, we had a choice of two big tables in the front and eventually managed to figure out hear each other speak despite the din. Our first shared dish, a kale Caesar, was faultless. Our second, the macaroni and cheese I’d balked at, was above average, not least because it was so creamy and the onions atop it such a smart counterpoint. Chorizo chili came with tortilla chips, so it was like a chunky queso fundido, and a fine one at that. (Each little dish was $12.) I balked at ordering a cheese board to start because it seemed so stupid when a fully stocked store was just a couple of doors down, but I was glad we gave in for a bit more sustenance for the last course. Naturally the torta del casar etc. were in peak condition, and each was paired with a fruity/acidic counterpoint. Breads and flatbreads also merit an A, as did the two bottles of cheapest-on-the-list red. The demerits? The server was just slightly smarter than rennet. She obviously couldn’t tell chevre from Shinola (and was clearly blowing wine words out her fanny). Which would be tolerable. But we’re talking cheese here. Still, WIGB? Probably, but to sit at the bar.