The nearly perfect: Momofuku Ssam, where my consort suggested we head for lunch on a good friend’s advice after our neighborhood Greenmarket diverted us to Union Square in search of turkey nether regions and where we could only wish for an uptown branch, ideally slightly north of the Milk Bar. As directed, we ordered at the back counter and chose seats at the elevated communal tables facing the rotisserie; while Bob was washing his hands and I was back ordering a glass of wine, our first three choices landed: sublime pulled-pork buns with smoky mayonnaise; broccoli crunchy with smoked bluefish vinaigrette, and perfectly fried duck dumplings laid over pickled red cabbage teamed with sriracha mayonnaise for dipping. Our duck sandwich (banh mi, the menu did not say) was just as sensational, the filling like sliced duck sausage. Every single staffer was professional but engaged, too. WIGB? Can’t wait — especially after watching a duck spin on a spit and everyone around us tuck into rotisserie duck on rice, with or without chive pancakes. 207 Second Avenue at 13th Street.
The seriously good: Osteria Morini in SoHo, where we were able to meet Jersey friends dying to try it because we reserved (online) on a Monday night. We under-ordered, but I at least felt full after tasting three pastas and a bit of two mains (seafood in brodo, mixed grill). The pastas were Italy-worthy, particularly the garganelle with radicchio, cream, prosciutto and truffle butter and the stracci (“pasta rags”) with mushrooms. One friend also knew to ask for the off-the-menu chocolate dessert, essentially a big bowl of melted chocolate. Service was relaxed but superb, and the noise level was bearable. But the wine list tilted toward downtown; the cheapest still red was $46 (at least it was as singular as promised). WIGB? Definitely, although we may try another White joint first. 218 Lafayette Street near Spring, 212 965 8777.
The pretty good: Sookk on the Upper West Side, where we met up with Dr. Bugs before his appointment with our landline and where the food/space were so much better than you would expect in this glasian wasteland. I realize lunch in is a whole other experience from delivery, but I’d rate it at least a B. The room is tiny but nicely designed, even if the textile rolls on the walls do invoke a fabric store, and the staff is super-accommodating. The deal is $7/8 for sublime soup plus appetizer of choice plus main course (w/ or w/out rice) plus coconut ice cream. No wonder none of us cared that our curry/pad see euw/rama dishes were just adequate — fresh hot sauce helped. The good shiitake spring rolls only needed to be dunked into the fried chicken dumplings’ sauce to sing, and the dessert was as finely wrought as the soup. WIGB? Can’t wait, especially with vegetarian friends who are still wasting time/calories at Aangan close by. 2686 Broadway between 102d and 103d, 212 870 0253.
And the abysmal: Landmarc in the dread TWC, where I am mortified to admit that I led five others after the too-long, too self-congratulatory “Artist” in overpriced-restaurantland and where everything was one step above a diner. I asked the hostess for a quiet spot, and after letting us the reserved cool our heels in the crowded entrance while walk-ins were seated she led us to a back dining room with interrogation-room lighting where two huge tables were sitting, un-set. And we took it because she promised “privacy.” And it went downhill from there. We split the chewy, gummy fried calamari, and it arrived before our wine. (If the waiter had put in the app order later, he might have sold a second bottle.) The busboy cleared away bread plates sloppily before our “mains” arrived, one of which, the calves liver, looked like a fried-hard abortion. (Sunday special of spaghetti and meatballs looked emptied from a can by that good old chef, Boyardee.) And my Caesar looked as if someone had flicked something from a nostril onto rusty-edged romaine; I sent it back while audibly hoping no one spit on it (the replacement was okay). The waiter went AWOL, the busboy crudely cleared everyone’s plates while one person was still eating and we had to beg for water refills. At least it wasn’t deafening, but by the end we had all noticed the sound went up whenever a song started and then down again. We spent too much time after the table was cleared thinking of where we should have gone (consensus: Loi). Thank allah someone thought to check whether service had been added before we surrendered credit cards: Yes, it was 20 percent on the taxed total. WIGB? That AWOL waiter resurfaced to toss out a jaunty “see you later” as we were leaving, and it was all I could do not to respond: “Not on a fucking bet.” I’m even having severe reservations about ever going to Ditch Plains again. I ruined five people’s evening.