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The Little Owl

Posted on Jun 22, 2006 in Reviews

90 Bedford St. (at Grove) (212)741-4695 TYPE: American-Mediterranean VIBE: Quaint quarters OCCASION: Scene-scape GO WITH: It’s got date place written all over it. DON’T MISS DISH: Broiled tile fish DON’T BOTHER DISH: Hamachi appetizer PRICE: $35 & up RESERVATIONS: Recommended (A week in advance). HOURS: Dinner, Tuesday-Sunday, 5:30-11 PM, Closed Mondays.  Lunch/brunch, Saturday & Sunday, 11:00-3:00 PM (starts this Sunday). INSIDE SCOOP: Brunch starts this Sunday, 11-3. RESTAURANT GIRL RATES (1-10): 7 FINAL WORD: Perfect summer block party QUICK CHEAT SHEET: Start with – Ricotta cavatelli Eat – Broiled tile fish Side – Butter beans and escarole Finish with – Sorbet trio Amidst the continuous barrage of elephantine-sized restaurants, The Little Owl has quietly moved onto the restaurant scene, modestly emerging as an overnight neighborhood success.  After helming the kitchen at The Harrison and now defunct Pace (currently home...

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Cafe D’Alsace

Posted on Jun 17, 2006 in Reviews

1695 Second Avenue (at 88th Street) (212)722-5133 TYPE: French with a German twist VIBE: Breezy neighborhood bistro OCCASION: Summer is here & outdoor seating’s aplenty GO WITH: Friends or family – it’s a casual affair DON’T MISS DISH: Baeckeoffe (a meaty Alsatian stew) DON’T BOTHER DISH: Asian or Americanized fare PRICE: $30 & up HOURS: Dinner, Monday-Thursday, 5:30-11 PM, Friday & Sat. 5:30-12, Sunday 5:30-10:30.  Lunch/brunch Monday-Friday, 11:30-3:30 PM, Saturday & Sunday, 10:30-3:30 PM  INSIDE SCOOP: Take Beer 101 – tableside with Aviram (the beer sommelier) RESTAURANT GIRL RATES (1-10): 6 FINAL WORD: Eat outside your comfort zone. QUICK CHEAT SHEET: Drink –  If you don’t have too big an ego, let Aviram order for you.  If you do, experiment with the beer menu.  Of course, you can never go wrong with a bottle of Red Wine Start...

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Chinatown Brasserie

Posted on Jun 6, 2006 in Reviews

380 Lafayette (at Great Jones St.) New York, NY 10003 (212)533-7000 Chinatown Brasserie TYPE: Cantonese-style Chinese VIBE: China chic OCCASION:  Any – Besides, dim sum’s the new brunch GO WITH: A date or a group (Chinese is Chinese for sharing) DON’T MISS DISH: Mushroom dumplings with sweet corn DON’T BOTHER DISH: Ginger Dragon cocktail PRICE: $35 & up (Dim sum is less expensive) HOURS: Monday-Friday, lunch 11 AM-5 PM, Dinner 5 PM-1 AM Saturday & Sunday, dim sum, 10 AM-5 PM, dinner 5 PM-1 AM INSIDE SCOOP: Dining lounge open until 2 AM every night RESTAURANT GIRL RATES (1-10): 7 FINAL WORD: Chinese that’s too damn good for a take-out box Nothing like Chinatown, this dramatically vibrant space possesses more opulence than all of the gritty Canal Street haunts stacked together.  Set in a generous space (formerly Time Cafe),...

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Burgers & Cupcakes

Posted on Jun 2, 2006 in Dessert, Reviews

458 Ninth Ave. (btwn. 35th & 36th Sts.) (212)643-1200 VIBE: Cafeteria cool OCCASION: Breakfast or your lunch break GO WITH: Co-workers or go it alone DON’T MISS DISH: Beef Burger DON’T BOTHER DISH: Fresh squeezed lemon Fizz PRICE: under $ 10 INSIDE SCOOP: Will deliver anywhere in the city if you pay the cab fare HOURS: Monday-Saturday, 8-9 PM, Sat. & Sun. 10-9 PM RESTAURANT GIRL RATES (1-10): 6 FINAL WORD: What could be better? You’ll think you’ve died and gone to heaven at Burgers & Cupcakes if only it weren’t in Hell’s Kitchen with a window view of Lincoln Tunnel traffic.  This simple, but perky cafeteria-style luncheonette with pink & brown painted walls invites you to rediscover your inner child, bringing you back to a time of blissful naivete when calories and carbs didn’t matter.  I took the...

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Posted on May 30, 2006 in Reviews

250 Park Avenue South (at 20th St.) (212)995-0242 TYPE: Mediterranean VIBE: Festive oasis OCCASION: Take a Mediterranean vacation GO WITH: A group (birthday) or date DON’T MISS DISH: Octopus meze DON’T BOTHER DISH: Dessert PRICE: $50 HOURS: Lunch & Dinner, Sun & Mon 5:30-11:30; Tu-Th 5:30-12; Fri-Sat. 5:30-12:30 PM RESTAURANT GIRL RATES (1-10): 6 FINAL WORD: Sink into a pillow & go fish. Even a gourmet junkie, like myself, can get tired of eating foie gras foam and other molecularly-altered edibles night after night, which is why Barbounia may be the perfect vacation not only from post-modern fare, but also from the city itself.  In fact, Barbounia seems to embrace a “recline & dine” Mediterranean philosophy. Upon entrance, waves of creamy fabric draped from a soaring ceiling evoke a dine-by-the-sea feel.  From an oddly feathery chandelier to pillow-stuffed banquettes,...

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Mr. Chow – Tribeca

Posted on May 19, 2006 in Reviews

Mr. Chow Tribeca 121 Hudson Street (at North Moore) (212)965-9500 VIBE: Downtown Swank OCCASION: Stargazing GO WITH: A group – Dishes served family style DON’T MISS DISH: Signature Chicken Satay DON’T BOTHER DISH: Beijing Duck PRICE: $ 60 & up (But 10% cheaper than midtown outpost) INSIDE SCOOP: Pricey takeout before 7 pm HOURS: Monday-Sunday, 6-11:30 PM RESTAURANT GIRL RATES (1-10): 5 FINAL WORD: Go for the show, stay for the satay There’s no place like Tribeca for Mr. Chow, the culinary wizard who has managed to open gourmet doors around the world to Chinese food, once not even considered haute cuisine by the dining elite. Having always attracted a fabulous downtown artsy crowd to his 57th street flagship for nearly three decades (from Andy Warhol to Puff Daddy), it would have seemed like a no-brainer to set up...

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Posted on May 12, 2006 in Reviews

85 Tenth Avenue (at 15th Street) (212)400-6699 RESTAURANT: CRAFTSTEAK VIBE:  MEATPACKING ELEGANCE OCCASSION: CLOSING A DEAL (BUSINESS OR PLEASURE) DON’T MISS DISH:  WAGYU BEEF (ANY CUT WILL DO!) DON’T BOTHER DISH:   ROASTED JERUSALEM ARTICHOKE PRICE: EXPENSIVE RESTAURANT GIRL RATES (1-10): 6.5 As the dirt continues to settle from the onslaught of mega-restaurants fashioned with sky high ceilings, super-sized Buddhas and Asian fusion fancies, the Meatpacking District has overnight become a Vegas-like restaurant row.  A disappointing visit to the much-anticipated opening of Buddha Bar (official American outpost of the infamous French hotspot) which included less than mediocre sushi, out of place lamb chops that spoke to neither my French nor Asian sensibilities, and an offensively microscopic droplet of tasteless tuna tartare, caused me to dismiss the Meatpacking District as an aural amusement park with very short culinary legs to stand...

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Quality Meats

Posted on May 3, 2006 in Reviews

  In a midtown littered with pre-theater menus and mega-delicatessans (Carnegie Hall), Quality Meats emerges as an unlikely dining destination that may just revolutionize the concept of The American steakhouse.  After an impressive 22 year seafood-stint as the Manhattan Ocean Club, Alan Stillman, legendary restaurateur of The Smith & Wollensky group, has decided to do what he does best — steak.   He’s even handed the restaurant’s reigns over to his son, Michael Stillman, who has magnificentally transformed the space into a butcher shop chic steakhouse with a greenmarket vibe.           Teaming up with AvroKo (designers of Stanton Social & Public), they’ve stripped the restaurant down to its original exposed brick walls and steel columns, adding authentic meat locker accents by way of butcher block stairs and chandeliers fashioned from meat hooks, pulleys and Edison bare bulbs.  Oh,...

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Posted on Apr 28, 2006 in Reviews

RESTAURANT: Chanto CUISINE:     International Japanese WINE LIST:  30 sakes & 40 wines (8 Japanese wines) VIBE: moody elegance DON’T MISS DISH: King of Kimchee DON’T BOTHER: Snapper sashimi OCCASION: When you want to dine uptown, downtown. Take your Japanese clients. HOURS: M-Th dinner 6-12,  Fri. & Sat. dinner 6-3; Sun. dinner 6-11. RESERVATIONS:     Recommended PRICE: $50 & up RESTAURANT GIRL RATED: (1-10) 6 Already well-loved for its 49 restaurants in Japan, the Chanto dynasty is determined to make this Greenwich Village outpost the 50th star on their proverbial dining flag (think Nobu gone Wolfgang Puck).  Once home to former 90’s hotspot Moomba, the red and black glassed-in lounge complete with come hither red leather banquettes creates the perfect atmosphere to mingle over Japanese spirits and oysters.  If you decide to take dinner more seriously, allow not one,...

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Turks & Frogs

Posted on Apr 21, 2006 in Reviews

458 Greenwich Street, btwn. Watts & Desbrosses (212)966-4774    PLACE: TURKS & FROGS TYPE: Turkish OCCASION: Perfect date place VIBE:  Trendy Mediterranean DON’T MISS DISH: Char-grilled calamari DON’T BOTHER: Lamb skewers A LITTLE ADVICE: Stick to fish RESTAURANT GIRL RATED: (1-10):  6                     Finally awakening from an Easter Peeps sugar coma, I thought I should get out and see the world, so I traveled down to the Turkish side of Tribeca to check out the latest installment of Turks & Frogs.  When the Cakir brothers first opened up an accidental wine bar in their West Village antiques shop, I dabbled in their Turkish wines and treats.  But this time, they wanted to be taken seriously as culinary contenders on NYC’s food frontier. Open less than a week and this moody Mediterranean space was...

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Posted on Mar 30, 2006 in Reviews

Don’t hate me because I went to Dona even before its official open on this magical Monday evening.  I, restaurantgirl, had taken it upon myself, to wander selflessly from restaurant to restaurant, throwing myself at the mercy of chefs across the five boroughs, bravely risking bad service, an upset stomach, and weathering, well, the weather, all in search of the perfect dish so that you may never waste a meal again. I happily sacrificed my Saturday night to give you a sneak peek at the restaurant formerly known as Bellini  (Donatella Arpaia of david burke & donatella’s first born).   Did you ever have that “go to guy” you could always count on for a good time, even though you knew he wasn’t “the one”?   Bellini was mine.  That is, until he decided to change his name, menu and wallpaper. ...

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Posted on Mar 24, 2006 in Reviews

When word spread about Buddakan, a practical legend in his hometown of Philadelphia, I threw on my hot off the Barneys’ sales rack miniskirt and scurried down to his Meatpacking pied-a-terre.  In my wildest dreams, I never imagined he actually owned the entire block.  Rumor has it this mega-restaurateur, Stephen Starr, had magically transformed a 16,000 square foot lumber company into  a dazzling two-floor dining mecca where the Asian fusion sizzles and all of Buddakan’s a stage.  A theatrical maze of candlelit corridors and room for every mood, his sleek palace was a feast for the eyes and mouth. I don’t know if it was the spectacular forty-step staircase, wooden chandeliers, or massive communal table fit for royalty and of course, a princess like me, but I was ready to move in with him.    Hell, I would’ve happily...

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Posted on Mar 20, 2006 in Reviews

          It’s been over a week and fantasies of Falai still linger in my stomach.   After building pastry castles in the air at Le Cirque, Iacopa Falai has migrated to the Lower East Side, a sudden utopia where foodie’s dreams come true.           While everyone else has been busy trying to impress with the latest trend, it was refreshing to meet someone so uncomplicated, boasting of simple Modern Italian Fare — he knew what he had to offer.  He wined and dined me by candlelight in his sleek new white digs.  From the moment I laid eyes on the impressive bread menu (compliments of the house), it was love at first bite.  I don’t like to pick favorites and luckily, I didn’t have to because Falai let me have my way with the entire...

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A Voce

Posted on Mar 9, 2006 in Reviews

So maybe I was that annoying girl in junior high who ran to the front of the line at recess, and I may have crossed the starting line before the official even blew the whistle, and just maybe, I ate at Andrew Carmellini’s A Voce on opening night.  A restaurant girl never tells. Of course, I’ve been warned by countless critics to wait until after a restaurant had fine-tuned the food and ironed out all the wrinkles, but I was, well, I was hungry.  By the dark of night, I scurried down to Andrew Carmellini’s new pad on Madison & 26th, a practical culinary wasteland except for Alex Urena’s new digs only blocks away.  You might want to sit because what I discovered may astound you. As if he’d moved in months ago, he seemed surprisingly at home in...

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Posted on Feb 20, 2006 in Reviews

                Hot on the trail of the opening of Mr. Chow’s Tribeca outpost (I’m still mourning the loss of Danny Meyers and Abrams’ underrated sleeper of an offspring — Pace) comes Philippe, a Chow spinoff from the former executive chef of Mr. Chow, coincidentally also named Mr. Chow (Philippe is his first name).   Just as Madonna, Beyonce and Cher once shed their last names in the wake of newfound fame, Philippe has outed himself as a celebrity chef and branded himself the king of Chinese haute cuisine, leaving his sur name behind.  From the signage to the dishes, practically everything in this minimalist two-story House of Philippe proudly wears the name of its owner.                In the past year, droves of celebrity chefs have been getting bad raps for being...

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David Burke at Bloomingdale's

Posted on Jan 30, 2006 in Reviews

   DAVID BURKE AT BLOOMINGDALE’S? The grand dame of department stores is getting a modern makeover as celebrity chef, David Burke, opens a 2500-square-foot restaurant within its doors—with its own separate entrance and hours to boot.  Having already mastered upscale Modern American Fare at davidburke&donatella, he aims to reinvent lunch at his dual-concept eatery.  While the restaurant serves imaginative fare to ladies who lunch, those who run in a fast crowd can order gourmet to go from the Burke in the Box take-out counter or grab a drink after work at the sleek coffee and wine bar.  Of course, the whimsical world of David Burke wouldn’t be complete without an innovative creation: calorie-free flavor spray, a guilt-free condiment to complement any one of his edible works of art.  So if you crave “parmesan” on the risotto of the day,...

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Posted on Jan 30, 2006 in Reviews

BLAND DATE: It was a beautiful summer night, love was in the air and I was determined to find it, so I turned to a friend for a last minute set-up.  I wanted to dine under the moon with someone new and different.  He suggested someone who’d just moved to the East Village with an extensive knowledge of Italian, homemade pastas and organic wild salmon.   When I arrived, my hostess shuffled me through a narrow dining room to a dark back alley and disappeared leaving me without so much as a menu or a waiter.  What should’ve been a luminous moon hanging over my head was a menacing fire escape and the garden seemed suspiciously more like an alley cramped with strangers.  With the heat of the kitchen exhaust blowing gently against my neck, I started to sweat...

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