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Aureole – Reviewed

Posted on Sep 8, 2009 in Reviews

*** Three StarsAureole Address: 135 West 42nd St., btwn. 6th & 7th Aves.Phone: (212)319-1160Cuisine: American Vibe: Sleek, haute midtownOccasion: Business lunch; Group dinner; oeniphile destination Hours: Dinner; Sun-Wed, 5:30p.m..-12a.m., Thu-Sat, 5:30p.m.-1a.m.Don’t Miss Dish: Pastrami pork belly sliders; Steamed branzini in lemongrass-coconut broth;Sweet corn souffle.Average Price: Appetizers, $15, Entrees, $30, Dessert, $10.Reservations:  Reservations recommended. Capsule: Aureole does upscale Vegas by way of Times Square. Aureole used to be a sure thing.  When everyone else was doing haute French, Charlie Palmer trailblazed haute American cuisine in the 90’s.  Aureole became synonymous with fine dining, impeccable food, and a wonderful wine list.  Eating in the restaurant — an elegant, Upper East Side townhouse — felt like you were a dinner guest at Charlie Palmer’s house.  But over the years, Aureole lost its luster.  Even with Adam Tihany’s redesign, the food no longer...

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The Mott

Posted on Aug 25, 2009 in Reviews

The Mott: A cozy find with thoughtful cooking pops up in Nolita Cuisine: Modern American Vibe: Charming downtown nook Occasion: Casual date, group dinner, intimate evening Don’t Miss: Fluke crudo, ricotta gnocchi, duck breast with spinach and figs Price: Appetizers, $11; entrees, $22; desserts, $7 Reservations: Recommended Phone: 212-966-1411 Location: 173 Mott St., at Broome I have to admit: Dinner’s a lot more affordable when there’s no alcohol on the menu. But most people like to have a drink with dinner. These days, you need one. Or two. It’s hard enough to open a restaurant, never mind a sobering one. The Mott, a new establishment in Nolita, had to debut without a liquor license. There was some saga about how Emma Cleary, a former owner, parted ways and took The Mott’s liquor license with her. But you know what?...

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Posted on Aug 18, 2009 in Reviews

New Nolita Italian spot Civetta makes disappointing debut Cuisine: Italian-centric Mediterranean Vibe: Inviting downtown kitchen Occasion: Group dinner; drink date downstairs Don’t Miss: Rigatoni alla Bolognese, lamb goat cheese polpettine, lamb sausage with drunken raisins Price: Appetizers, $13; entrees, $28; desserts, $7 Reservations: Recommended Phone: (212) 966-9440 Location: 98 Kenmare St. between Mulberry St. and Cleveland Pl. If a restaurant could have a midlife crisis, Sfoglia is having one. Sfoglia is an irresistible Italian spot on the upper East Side with wonderful food and tons of charm. Judging from the reservation book, everyone else thinks it’s irresistible, too. Sfoglia is run by Colleen and Ron Suhanosky, a husband-and-wife team who work alongside each other in the kitchen. But maybe they needed a little space, because they have just built a bigger kitchen in a much bigger restaurant way downtown....

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The Standard Grill

Posted on Aug 11, 2009 in Reviews

The Standard Grill: High life on the High Line – at a reasonable price Cuisine: American Vibe: Bustling High Line haunt Occasion: Night on the town, date, group dinner Don’t Miss: Octopus with sweet potato & chilies, lamb chops, rainbow trout with currant and pine nut relish, shaved lime-mint ice Price: Appetizers, $9; entrees, $18; dessert, $7 Reservations: Recommended Phone: 645-4646 Location: 846 Washington St., at 13th St. Hip usually comes at a cost. When a restaurant’s hip, you can’t get a reservation or you can’t afford one. If you somehow manage to get a table, it’s too noisy to hear yourself eat or too early to eat. The Standard Grill’s different. It’s undeniably fashionable and entirely affordable. The dining room’s filled with celebrities and everybodies. The restaurant opened in the Meatpacking District, right underneath Andre Balazs’ Standard Hotel...

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Hotel Griffou

Posted on Aug 4, 2009 in Reviews

Hotel Griffou: Setting the bar high for drinks Cuisine: Retro-American Vibe: Subterranean swank Occasion: Night out; impress a date; cocktail cravings Don’t Miss: Every cocktail; lobster thermidor fondue; deviled crab croquettes Price: Appetizers, $10; entrees, $25; dessert, $9 Reservations: Recommended Phone: (212) 358-0228 Location: 21 W. Ninth St., bet. Fifth & Sixth Aves. The cocktails at Hotel Griffou are phenomenal. There’s one called the Trophy Wife. I wanted to dislike it based on its name alone, but it’s excellent – a vibrant mix of cachaca, Champagne and passionfruit puree. My favorite is the Tarbell, a soothing combination of cucumber vodka, elderflower liqueur, cucumber and mulled red grapes. It’s the kind of drink that’s a little too easy to drink – as is the Mexican Rose, made with tequila, strawberries, lime and a fragrant dose of cilantro. The Griffou isn’t...

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Prime Meats

Posted on Jul 28, 2009 in Reviews

Good meat, well-aged ambience Cuisine: Northern European Vibe: Victorian barroom Occasion: Neighborhood dining; bar bites; meat cravings. Don’t Miss: Daily punch, herb and Gruyere spaetzle, Vesper Brett, Prime Meats burger. Price: Appetizers, $9; entrees, $13; dessert, $5. Reservations: No reservations accepted. Cash only. Phone: (718) 254-0327 Location: 465 Court St., at Luquer St., Brooklyn Remember when Sam the butcher used to make house calls to the Bradys? The Brady-era butcher shops were different from earlier ones. Through the end of the 19th century, most New York butcher shops were owned by Central European immigrants. They didn’t just sell ground meat, tenderloins and pork chops. They also sold sausages, spaetzle and sauerkraut. Prime Meats, a new restaurant in Carroll Gardens, honors the tradition. In fact, the restaurant was inspired by a German butcher-shop sign from the 1880s that hung on...

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Posted on Jul 21, 2009 in Reviews

Seafood shrine is a great catch. Cuisine: Coastal Italian Vibe: Breezy fine dining Occasion: Business or bargain lunch, romantic date, dinner for an occasion Don’t Miss: Lobster with burrata, brodetto di pesce, garganelli with sausage ragu, zucchini torte with frozen yogurt Price: Appetizers, $11; entrees, $18; dessert, $9 Reservations: Recommended Phone: (212) 582-5100 Location: 240 Central Park South, between Broadway & Seventh Ave. Chef Michael White is either really confident or completely out of his mind. These days everyone is scaling back and lowering prices. Everyone, that is, except for White and partner Chris Cannon, who just opened Marea, a haute seafood restaurant on Central Park South. The main dining room is furnished with high-gloss rosewood, chocolate leather banquettes, silver-coated seashells and roaming silver trolleys lined with liqueurs. And what’s most compelling about Marea’s dining room isn’t the decor,...

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DBGB Kitchen & Bar

Posted on Jul 14, 2009 in Reviews

Cuisine: Global Vibe: Tavern chic Occasion: Group dinner; casual date; night out Don’t Miss: DBGB dog, tuna crudo, lamb Tunisienne sausage, raspberry pistachio cake Price: Appetizers $11, entrees $18, dessert $9 Reservations: Recommended Phone: (212) 933-5300 Location: 299 Bowery., between Houston & First Sts. If Daniel Boulud ran a hot dog stand, how would it look? Now we know. DBGB Kitchen & Bar looks like a gourmet mess hall. The bar is loud and crowded – so crowded that on most nights, bar traffic spills out between the tables in the upfront dining area. The floors are cement, and the mirrored walls are covered in a collage of quotes. Boulud’s always been an uptown guy. He’s got an uptown empire of French restaurants: Daniel, Café Boulud, DB Bistro Moderne and Bar Boulud. His newest one is way downtown on...

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Locanda Verde

Posted on Jul 7, 2009 in Reviews

Cuisine: Italian Vibe: Buzzing trattoria Occasion: Group dinner, casual date, night out Don’t Miss: Blue crab crostino; fettuccine verde with white Bolognese; almond semifreddo Price: Appetizers, $13; entrees, $22; desserts, $8 Reservations: Recommended Phone: (212) 925-3797 Location: 377 Greenwich St., near N. Moore St. What a disaster Ago was. It seemed to have everything going for it – Robert De Niro, the Greenwich Hotel, a distinguished designer, and it was an Ago, an offshoot of the original Hollywood eatery famous for its celebrity clientele. The one in Tribeca was like a cafeteria that served miserable, overpriced Italian food. It opened and closed in less than six months. Ago was dreadful, but the new incarnation, an Italian trattoria called Locanda Verde, is excellent. This was quite an exorcism. It’s got two high-powered chefs, Andrew Carmellini and Karen DeMasco, a hip...

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Mesa Coyoacan

Posted on Jun 30, 2009 in Reviews

Cuisine: Mexican Vibe: Laid-back chic Occasion: Group dinner, communal dining, neighborhood bites Don’t Miss: Tacos de suadero, enchiladas de mole, churros Price: Appetizers, $8; entrées, $14; desserts, $4.50 Reservations: Accepted only for six or more Phone: (718) 782-8171 Location: 372 Graham Ave., between Skillman Ave. and Conselyea St., Brooklyn The first time I ate tacos de suadero was from a street cart in Mexico City. The persuasive aroma of cooked meats and freshly baked, corn tortillas drifted down the crowded, sweltering streets. I had no idea what “suadero” even meant, but when I eyed the meat simmering in a deep metal pan, I had to order it. It’s Spanish for thin, smooth brisket, and in the right hands, it’s amazingly tender and tasty. You rarely see tacos de suadero in New York. But they’re on the menu at Mesa...

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Monkey Bar

Posted on Jun 23, 2009 in Reviews

Cuisine: American Vibe: Swanky supper club Occasion: Stargazing; see and be seen. Impress your date. Don’t Miss: Monkey bread, Nora’s meatloaf, sticky toffee pudding Price: Appetizers, $13; entrees, $25; dessert, $9 Reservations: Highly recommended Phone: (212) 308-2950 Location: 60 E. 54th St., near Park Ave. Monkey Bar isn’t really a restaurant. It’s Graydon Carter’s uptown dinner party. The editor of Vanity Fair ­began dabbling in restaurants a few years back when he revived the aging Waverly Inn. Some people like buying vintage cars. Carter likes buying vintage restaurants and restoring them. Monkey Bar still looks like the original, 1930s supper club – rich red-leather banquettes, brass trimmings, monkey lamps and a 65-foot mural of New Yorkers along the walls. Most of the servers wear white steward jackets with long tails and striped patches on the shoulders. The dining room...

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Posted on Jun 16, 2009 in Reviews

Cuisine: Mediterranean Vibe: Civilized Occasion: Intimate date; business dinner; chef’s counter. Don’t Miss: Sea urchin toast; calamari with squid ink and herb purée; escolar; arroz de pato. Price: Appetizers, $9; entrées, $23; desserts, $9. Reservations: Recommended Phone: (212) 675-7223 Location: 31 W. 17th St., btwn. Fifth & Sixth Aves. There’s not much to look at in Aldea, a restaurant that recently opened in the Flatiron District. There’s no artwork on the walls, no flashy furniture, just a scattering of blond wood tables and muted blue banquettes. It’s a long, narrow space with an open kitchen in the back and a staircase leading to the upstairs dining room. The only prominent flourish is a large cluster of acrylic tubes that dangle over a six-seat chef’s counter right in front of the kitchen. I highly suggest you sit at the counter...

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Table 8

Posted on Jun 9, 2009 in Reviews

Cuisine: Contemporary American Vibe: Clubby chic Occasion: Group dinner, casual date, scene-y supper Don’t Miss: Rabbit sausage, scallops on wilted spinach, baby chicken Price: Appetizers, $9; entrees, $24; dessert, $9 Reservations: Highly recommended Phone: (212) 475-3400 Location: 25 Cooper Square, between Fifth and Sixth Sts.   On a busy night at Table 8, it’s easier to get a drink in the rest room than the dining room. Instead of handing out hand towels, the restroom attendant pours Prosecco. It’s not the best of times for diners or restaurants, but considering how hard it was to get a reservation, Table 8 seems to be doing just fine. The first time I ­tasted Govind Armstrong’s cooking was at a Mediterranean restaurant called Chadwick’s in Beverly Hills over five years ago. That’s where he first came up with the concept for Table...

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Posted on Jun 2, 2009 in Reviews

Cuisine: Roman-style Vibe: ’20s trattoria Occasion: Group dinner, casual date, long lunch Don’t Miss: Grilled lamb Scottadito Price: Appetizers $10, entrées $18, dessert $6 Reservations: Recommended Phone: (212) 966-1234 Location: 231 Mott St., near Prince St. Over the past few months, five Roman-style restaurants have opened in Manhattan. What is it about Roman cooking? For starters, it’s simple and cheap. And right now, simple and cheap is a very good thing. Roma means carciofi alla giuda (Jewish-style fried artichokes), fried asparagus, fried zucchini flowers stuffed with mozzarella and anchovies. Rome means salads made with fresh fava beans, chickpeas, anchovies and mint. And Pecorino Romano, a salty, aged sheep’s milk cheese. Rome is also famous for pizza with wafer-thin crust topped with mozzarella, tomato, capers and anchovies. If you don’t know what a Roman pie tastes like, visit Emporio, a...

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Posted on May 26, 2009 in Reviews

Cuisine: American comfort food Vibe: Country chic diner Occasion: Late night munchies; neighborhood bites; after-work hangout Don’t Miss: Jalapeño Bloody Mary, mac and cheese, blueberry sour cream pancakes; Michigan sour cherry pie Price: Appetizers, $8; entrees, $16; dessert; $5. Reservations: Accepted Phone: (212) 219-0666 Location: N Moore St & Hudson St, New York, NY 10013, USA Ron Silver worked the breakfast shift at Florent 15 years ago. Then he became obsessed with pies. That’s when he opened Bubby’s, a pie shop – a pie shop that became so popular he couldn’t resist turning it into a restaurant. But breakfast was still in his blood, and so was the concept of late-late-night dining, which is how the current Bubby’s evolved. I’ve eaten brunch at Bubby’s in Tribeca tons of times. They make a spicy Bloody Mary, great house-smoked salmon Benedict...

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Posted on May 19, 2009 in Reviews

Cuisine: Mediterranean Vibe: Subterranean sanctuary. Occasion: Romantic date, group dinner, preconcert bites. Don’t Miss: Roasted poussin, braised lamb shank Price: Appetizers, $8; entrees, $16; dessert; $5. Reservations: Accepted Phone: (718) 599-0069 Location: 345 Grand St. between Marcy & Havemeyer Aves, Brooklyn. I’m not big on atmosphere. I’m the type who prefers phenomenal food to phenomenal décor. I’d take a great steak over a great scene any day. But even I was put off by the grungy entryway to Vutera, a restaurant that opened in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, a few months ago. Open the door, and you’re standing in a dark hallway with a whole mess of concert posters taped to the walls. Just ahead, there’s another door with two hand-scrawled signs in light boxes hanging over it. The sign with the arrow pointing right reads: “For Drinks or Music.” That...

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Posted on May 5, 2009 in Reviews

Cuisine: Seafood Vibe: Nautical chic Occasion: Dinner at sea, cozy date, group dinner Don’t Miss: Maine mussels with cabbage and bacon, clam chowder, butterscotch pudding Price: Appetizers, $12; entrees, $24; dessert, $8 Reservations: Recommended Phone: (212) 989-6410 Location: 290 Hudson St., at Spring St. Do you ever just go out and eat?” a friend asked me at dinner a few months ago. “Rarely,” I answered before returning to the menu. But a lot of people do. There are plenty of people who don’t need to know who the chef is before making a reservation. Can you picture someone walking into their local diner and demanding to see the chef’s résumé? There’s no denying food gets much more attention than it used to. Think about it: food TV, food bloggers, food porn and celebrity chefs with cooking shows. I thought...

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Minetta Tavern

Posted on Apr 28, 2009 in Reviews

Cuisine: French bistro Occasion: See-and-be-seen dinner, date, group ­dinner Don’t Miss: Lobster salad, roasted chicken, ­Minetta burger Price: Appetizers, $14; entrees, $20; ­dessert, $9 Reservations: Highly ­recommended Phone: (212) 475-3850 Location: 113 MacDougal St., near ­Minetta Lane. When did we become so self-conscious about burgers? I’ll bet that back in the 1930s, when someone ordered a burger, they ate it and that was the end of it. They didn’t photograph it or write home about it. These days, chefs compete for ­burger bragging rights. They battle over exclusive access to butchers, prized cattle and prime cuts. Everybody’s got a burger these days, but Minetta Tavern‘s got two — the $16 Minetta burger and the $26 Black Label burger. For 26 bucks, that had ­better be a good burger. The patty had a nice, crusty exterior, good sesame brioche bun...

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Fatty Crab

Posted on Apr 21, 2009 in Reviews

Cuisine: Malaysian Vibe: Funky UWS bustle Occasion: Neighborhood bites, casual date, kid-friendly Don’t Miss: Scallop satay, short rib Rendang, watermelon pickle & crispy pork Price: Appetizers $7, entrees $1 Reservations: Accepted Phone: (212) 496-2722 Location: 2970 Broadway, between 76th and 77th Sts. I think you can taste when the chef’s not in the kitchen. On the chef’s night off, the food’s never quite the same. It’s a little like going to the theater and finding out you got stuck with the understudy. Of course, at a restaurant, they never tell you that kind of thing. Can you imagine? The server hands you a menu and says, “Welcome to Fatty Crab. Tonight, the part of the chef will be played by one of the line cooks. Can I get you a cocktail?” That’s how I felt the last time I...

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Posted on Apr 14, 2009 in Reviews

Cuisine: Italian Vibe: Rock ‘n’ roll trattoria Occasion: Business lunch, romantic date, family affair Don’t Miss: Squid-ink tagliatelle, Scuderia pizza, buttermilk panna cotta Price: Appetizers, $9; entrées, $18; dessert, $8.50 Reservations: Accepted Phone: (212) 206-9111 Location: 10 Downing St., between Bleecker and Houston. Stand at the corner of Downing St. and Sixth Ave. and take a look around. What you may be seeing is the core of a New Little Italy, complete with neighborhood feuds and family businesses passed down to the next generation. The old Little Italy, to the east and downtown, is slowly fading away. But here are Bar Pitti, Da Silvano, Silvano Bistecca and Scuderia, which just opened six weeks ago. Thirty years ago, Silvano Marchetto opened Da Silvano – it’s upscale, it’s hard to get into, it’s like a celebrity supper club of sorts. But...

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