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Posted on Apr 7, 2009 in Reviews

231 W. 40th St., between Eighth & Broadway. (212) 354-2130 Dinner, Mon.-Sun., 5 p.m.-11 p.m.; lunch, Mon.-Fri., 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. CUISINE: Traditional Japanese robatayaki. VIBE: Dinner theater. DON’T-MISS DISH: Chicken thigh skewers, Kaku Ni simmered Berkshire pork belly, Kinki deep-sea snapper, ginkgo nuts. AVERAGE PRICES: ­Appetizers, $10; entrees, $20; desserts, $5. RESERVATIONS: ­Recommended for the ­robata counter. About four years ago, I ate at Inakaya in Tokyo. The locals said I shouldn’t miss it. They warned me it’s touristy. Guess what? It is. And the food’s excellent. Now New York‘s got its own ­Inakaya, and the food is just as good. This one’s scaled to New York, so it’s triple the size of the Tokyo flagship, and so is the menu. It’s right across from the Port Authority at the edge of Times Square, in the Olive Garden–Red Lobster–Applebee’s...

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Le Cirque

Posted on Mar 31, 2009 in Reviews

In the lounge, it’s Le Cirque in blue jeans. 151 E. 58th St. (between Lexington and Third Aves) (212) 644-0202 Dinner, Mon.-Sat., 5:30-11 p.m.; lunch, 11:45 a.m.-3 p.m. CUISINE Modern French VIBE Elegant institution OCCASION Business lunch, romantic date, family affair DON’T-MISS DISHES Tuna with avocado tapenade, duck and green-mango salad, crème brûlée. AVERAGE PRICE Cafe prix fixe, $35; appetizers/entrées, $17; dessert, $12. RESERVATIONS Accepted but not necessary. I wore jeans to Le Cirque. My friend wore jeans and sneakers, and they didn’t throw us out. I felt a little guilty, but no one winced at us. Not even Sirio Maccioni, who still runs the show. What’s Le Cirque without Sirio — the man who wrote the playbook on working the dining room and keeping the rich and famous happy? But these days, Sirio runs the show from a...

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Chez Lucienne

Posted on Mar 24, 2009 in Reviews

An affordable French ­bistro in Harlem. 308 Lenox Ave., between 125th and 126th Streets (212) 289-5555 Lunch – 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m., M-F.; Dinner – 5 p.m.-11 p.m. Sun.-Thur., 5 p.m.- midnight, Fri.-Sat.; Brunch – 11-3 Sat.-Sun. CUISINE French bistro VIBE Charming haunt OCCASION Group dinner, neighborhood eats DON’T-MISS DISH Foie gras terrine, tuna tartare, nougat glacé PRICE Appetizers $8, entrees $16, desserts $7 RESERVATIONS Recommended This is the way New York works: Something unexpected pops up and it turns out to fill a crying need. In other words, it wasn’t so unexpected after all. I mean, why was I surprised to find a good French bistro at 125th St. and Lenox Ave. —and surprised to find it jammed on a Friday night, so jammed you couldn’t make your way to the bar? The city is full of unexpected restaurants...

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Casa La Femme

Posted on Mar 17, 2009 in Reviews

A new and improved Casa La Femme in the West Village. 140 Charles St., and Washington St. (212) 505-0005 Dinner: Sun. – Tue., 5p.m. – midnight: Wed. – Sat., 5p.m. – 3a.m. Cuisine: Egyptian Vibe: Sultry and exotic lounge Occasion: Intimate date, group grazing Don’t-miss dishes: Salataa tamatem, grilled lamb chops, baklava Average prices: Appetizers, $8; entrees, $20; dessert, $7.95. Tent prix fixe, $55 per person. Reservations: Recommended. How often do you get to eat dinner in a tent? And when you do, the bathroom is usually the great outdoors. But at Casa La Femme, a new restaurant that opened six weeks ago in the West Village, your table is tented in white organza from Egypt. At Casa La Femme, there’s a glass chandelier and chair in every bathroom. In fact, just about everything in the 200-seat restaurant is...

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Butcher Bay

Posted on Mar 10, 2009 in Reviews

East Village fish shack Butcher Bay’s no keeper Tuesday, March 10th 2009, 4:00 AM Sunshine/News (Butcher Bay serves up fish in the East Village.)   Not quite everything you hope for in a fish shack. 511 E. Fifth St., near Avenue A. (212) 260-1333 Dinner: Mon.-Sun., 6 p.m. until late. CUISINE: Fish shack VIBE: Down and dirty East Village OCCASION: Neighborhood dinner, bar bites DON’T-MISS DISH: Scallop pan roast, steamed mussels with bread AVERAGE PRICE: Appetizers, $6; entrees, $17. No desserts. RESERVATIONS: Not accepted. A hell of a lot has changed at 511 E. Fifth St., near Avenue A. It used to be called Seymour Burton. It wasn’t the prettiest place to look at, but the food was wonderfully hearty. And they had a great burger. Now Seymour Burton is Butcher Bay, a wanna-be Pearl Oyster Bar. Adam Cohn,...

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La Fonda Del Sol

Posted on Mar 3, 2009 in Reviews

The back room is the place for a full, leisurely meal at La Fonda del Sol.   CUISINE: Modern Spanish VIBE: Buzzing midtown hub OCCASION: Business lunch; after-work tapas; group dinner DON’T-MISS DISH: Grilled calamari, pumpkin seed-crusted lamb, suckling pig, Mexican chocolate cake AVERAGE PRICE: Appetizers, $9; entrees, $28; desserts, $9 RESERVATIONS: Accepted Josh DeChellis has bounced around a bunch over the past few years. He’s what I call a restaurant drifter, a chef with no home. It all started with the closing of Rocco DiSpirito’s Union Pacific. And you can taste it in his cooking. The back room is for grownups who want to talk business in a suit and exercise their table manners. And each room gets an appropriate menu. If you want affordable tapas, go to the front room. If you want a traditional suite of...

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Posted on Feb 24, 2009 in Reviews

Apparently the city needs one more pizza joint. 230 Ninth Ave., at 24th St. (212) 243-1105 Dinner, Tues.-Sat., 5-11 p.m.; lunch, Tues.-Sat., noon-3 p.m. Closed Sun. & Mon. CUISINE Pizzeria VIBE Casual Chelsea chaos OCCASION Group dinner, neighborhood bites DON’T-MISS DISH Pizza bianca, pizza flambé, chocolate breadcrumb torte PRICE Appetizers, $5; entrees, $15; dessert, $5. RESERVATIONS  Not accepted There must be as many pizza ­places in NYC as there are ATMs. And ­everyone’s got a favorite slice. Talk about a tough culinary genre to break into. Who makes the best crust? Who uses the freshest sauce? Who creates the perfect ratio of cheese to sauce to crust? People argue about these things all day long. Forget the local Ray’s. Some say there’s no better pizza than the pie at Di Fara in Midwood, Brooklyn. Others love Grimaldi’s on Old...

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Bar Breton

Posted on Feb 17, 2009 in Reviews

Brunch is more like it at Bar Breton. 254 Fifth Ave., near 29th St. (212) 213-4999. Dinner: Sun.-Thu., 4 p.m.-11 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 4 p.m.-midnight; brunch: Sat.-Sun., 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. CUISINE: Casual French bistro VIBE: A bit like home OCCASION: Brunch, casual date DON’T MISS DISH: Croquettes de bacalao, Chelsea buckwheat galette, Mont Saint-Michel galette, Red Eye cocktail PRICE: Appetizers $11; entrees $21; desserts $7 RESERVATIONS: Accepted I think Bar Breton should change its name to Brunch Breton. Even Breakfast Breton would make more sense. Because the best dishes on the dinner menu are items you’d order for breakfast. Cyril Renaud, the chef and owner of this new restaurant on Fifth Ave. near 28th St., is from Brittany – or, as the French say, Breton. And Brittany is famous for its galettes. Galettes Breton aren’t dainty or delicate crepes....

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Posted on Feb 10, 2009 in Reviews

Guerilla molecular gastronomy at Desnuda 122 E. Seventh St., (212) 254-3515 Hours: Dinner, Mon.-Thurs., 5 p.m.-midnight; Fri.-Sat., 5 p.m. – 2 a.m.; Sundays: closed CUISINE: Ceviche VIBE: Sexy Ceviche Bar OCCASION: Bar bites, Casual date DON’T MISS DISH: Tea-smoked oysters, mackerel ceviche, apple & fig mixto with pomegranate molasses. AVERAGE PRICE: Appetizers, $4; entrees, $16. RESERVATIONS: No reservations There’s no kitchen at Desnuda, a new cevicheria on Seventh St. in the East Village. There’s a popcorn popper, a microwave, a dinky sushi fridge, and a toaster oven. So how does Christian Zammas, the chef, manages to smoke raw oysters every night? In a gravity bong, of course. Zammas made his bong from scratch, using a Sprite bottle and a glass bowl he bought on St. Marks Place. He packs the glass bowl with Lapsang souchong tea leaves and Sichuan...

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Posted on Feb 3, 2009 in Reviews

Chinese cooking too clever for its own good.   187 Orchard St., near Allen St., (212) 260-7900 Hours: Dinner, Mon.-Sat., 6 p.m.-11 p.m. CUISINE: Global fusion VIBE: Glossy hotel haunt OCCASION: Group dinner, business dinner, date. DON’T MISS DISH: Singapore slaw with salted plum dressing, turnip cake, chickpea sweet onion fritters. AVERAGE PRICE: Appetizers, $16; entrees, $28; dessert, $10. RESERVATIONS: Recommended. I worry about new restaurants. Especially big, glossy ones with 130 seats to fill. I mean, who could’ve predicted such a frosty economy? Opening a restaurant requires years of planning. Think of all the details that have to be settled — financial backers, designers, vendors, inspections, a liquor license and getting Con Edison to finally flip the switch. I’m sure the Thompson Hotel Group had big plans when they first set their sights on the fashionable lower East...

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Buttermilk Channel

Posted on Jan 27, 2009 in Reviews

524 Court St., at Huntington St., Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, (718) 852-6872 CUISINE: American comfort food VIBE: Country B&B OCCASION: Casual date, bar bites, kid-friendly family dinner DON’T-MISS DISHES :Maple- and bacon-roasted almonds, delicata squash tart, duck meatloaf AVERAGE PRICE: Appetizers, $8; entrées, $16; dessert, $7. RESERVATIONS: Accepted for parties of four or more   Owner Doug Crowell named his new restaurant in Carroll Gardens after a shallow strait that runs between Governors Island and Brooklyn. Once upon a time, farmers used to walk their cattle across this strait during low tides. That was more than a hundred years ago, but I imagine that back then a corner restaurant might have looked like Buttermilk Channel. A single candle flickers in every window, and a clunky wood dresser stands along the edge of the room. Wooden pews from a church down...

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Macao Trading Company

Posted on Jan 20, 2009 in Reviews

311 Church St., near Walker St. (212) 431-8750 Seven days, 5 p.m.-4 a.m.; CUISINE Global fusion; VIBE Exotic speakeasy; OCCASION Swanky date, bar bites, festive group dinner; DON’T MISS DISH Sticky rice-stuffed quail, Portu-guese-style shrimp with green sauce, trio of flans; AVERAGE PRICE Appetizers $8, entrees $22, desserts $7; RESERVATIONS Highly recommended.Macao Trading Company At the moment, the most beautiful bar in New York may be the one at Macao Trading Co.. It’s a grownup’s bar – owned by grownups, staffed by grown-ups. But really, it feels like a bar for 8-year-olds. That’s a good thing. I suppose you could get a Grey Goose martini, dirty. But why, when you can drink Drunken Dragon’s Milk or down a Bashful Maiden or be treated by Dr. Funk? After all, what’s a bar for, if not to free you inner 8-year-old?...

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The John Dory

Posted on Jan 13, 2009 in Reviews

A little like Le Bernardin in blue jeans. Address: 85 10th Ave., near 15th St.Phone: (212) 929-4948 Seven days, 5 p.m.-2 a.m.Cuisine: SeafoodVibe: Kitschy fish shackOccasion: Posh counter dining, date, group dinnerDon’t Miss Dishes: Razor-clam ceviche, chorizo-stuffed squid, oyster pan roast, sautéed cod milt:Average Price: Appetizers, $16; entrées, $28; desserts, $10Reservations: Highly recommendedThe John Dory If you could draft a fantasy restaurant team, who would you pick? It depends on what’s on the menu, of course. Italian? I’d take Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich. British pub? I’d take Ken Friedman and April Bloomfield. (Have you eaten the deviled eggs, devils on horseback or Roquefort burger at the Spotted Pig?) These people are first-round draft picks, in my opinion. Together, they could open a restaurant called Dumpster, serve trash, and people would probably line up. So I’m not surprised that...

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Bar Bao

Posted on Jan 6, 2009 in Reviews

Redefining Vietnamese on the upper West Side. 100 W. 82nd St., (212) 501-0776. Mon.-Wed., 6 p.m.-1 a.m.; Thurs.-Fri., 6 p.m.-2 a.m.; Sat., 5 p.m.-2 a.m.; Sun., 5-10 p.m. CUISINE Vietnamese VIBE Cozy meets cool upper West Sider. OCCASION First date, group dinner, neighborhood outing. DON’T-MISS DISH Daikon duck hash, cuttlefish with salsa verde, duck fried rice. AVERAGE PRICE Appetizers $11, entrées $20, desserts $8. RESERVATIONS Recommended When I was just an eater and not a writer, I used to dine at a number of Bao restaurants – Bao Noodles, Bao 111, and also Mai House, where Bao was in the kitchen. It was like a chain of Bao restaurants, a chain in time, not space. Now there’s Bar Bao on 82nd Street. If you order one way at Bar Bao, it’s like eating at an old Bao restaurant. Order...

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10 Downing

Posted on Dec 23, 2008 in Reviews

10 Downing St., at Sixth Ave. (212) 255-0300 Tue.-Wed. 6 p.m.- 12 a.m.; Thu.-Sat. 6 p.m.-1 a.m.; Sun. 6 p.m.- 12 a.m.; closed Mon. CUISINE French-inflected American VIBE Bustling downtown eatery OCCASION Casual date, neighborhood bites, family or group dinner DON’T MISS DISH Trout tartare, squid ink agnolotti, coffee-scented semi freddo AVERAGE PRICE Appetizers $10; entrees $24; desserts $8 RESERVATIONS Recommended Here’s the first thing you need to know you about 10 Downing. Order the charcuterie, especially the duck liver mousse and the duck prosciutto. There’s a lot of charcuterie in this town, even housemade charcuterie, a lot of it obligatory, a lot of it ordinary. I overlooked the 10 Downing charcuterie on my first two visits. When it comes to the table, pay attention because the chef is paying attention. Here’s the second thing you need to know....

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Vesta Trattoria

Posted on Dec 16, 2008 in Reviews

Vesta Trattoria 21-02 30th Ave., Astoria; (718) 545-5550 Lunch, Mon.-Fri., noon-4 p.m.; Dinner, Sun.-Mon., 5-10 p.m.; Tue.-Thur., 5-11 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 5 p.m.-12 a.m. CUISINE: Italian VIBE: Warm nabe spot OCCASION: Casual date, neighborhood bites, family or group dinner DON’T-MISS DISH: Three-meat lasagna, lamb shank, baby Jesus cake PRICES: Appetizers, $8; entrees, $14; desserts, $5.50 RESERVATIONS: Accepted Have you ever had wine by the shot? I hadn’t either, until a few weeks ago. I don’t mean shot, as in a one-ounce shot of whiskey. I mean a port glass of Primitivo – a spicy, medium-bodied red from Puglia – for $2.50. This is a wine you could drink all through dinner. But why bother? If you can drink wine by the shot, you can try many more wines and pair them more closely with each course you order. And still...

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Posted on Dec 9, 2008 in Reviews

Bistrong overdirects his menu at Braeburn. 117 Perry St. between Hudson and Greenwich,                  (212) 255-0696 Open seven days; lunch, noon- 4 p.m.; dinner, 5:30-10:30 p.m. CUISINE: AmericanVIBE: Cozy corner spotOCCASION: First date, group dinnerDON’T-MISS DISH: Smoked brook trout, breast of duck, pumpkin cheescakePRICE: Appetizers, $12; entrées, $26; desserts, $6RESERVATIONS: Accepted The other day, I called Braeburn. The general manager answered, “Thank you for calling The Harrison.” Then he hung up, embarrassed. It was a natural mistake. Almost half the staff comes from The Harrison, a Tribeca restaurant that embodies the idea of American bistro cooking. In fact, some dishes make you feel like you’re at The Harrison and some dishes make you wish you were at The Harrison. What The Harrison does in a relaxed way, Braeburn does in a way that’s both fussy and tiny. After an appetizer,...

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Rouge Tomate

Posted on Dec 2, 2008 in Reviews

10 E. 60th St., between Fifth and Madison; (646) 237-8977; Open seven days, noon-4:30 p.m., 5:30-10:30 p.m.; CUISINE: Modern American; VIBE: Glossy culinary spa; OCCASION Midtown lunch, business dinner, detox dining; DON’T MISS DISH: Arctic char, yellowjack crudo, rabbit with chestnut pasta; PRICE: Appetizers $10, entrees $20, desserts $10; RESERVATIONS Accepted in downstairs dining room. Different menu in upstairs cafe; both equally good. There are 393 calories in the rabbit Fleischnacke at Rouge Tomate. The nutritionist counted. How many restaurants do you know that have a nutritionist? Fleischnacke is German for minced meat rolled in pasta and cooked in a stock. At Rouge Tomate, this means farm-raised, braised rabbit rolled up in chestnut pasta and sautéed in rabbit jus. None of the ingredients requires quotation marks. There’s not a mock anything anywhere in this dish. Those 393 calories also...

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Mr. Jones Yakitori

Posted on Nov 25, 2008 in Reviews

Mr. Jones: A little swank with your yakitori. 243 E. 14th St., (212) 253-7670. Sun.-Wed., 5:30 p.m.-midnight; Thur.-Sat., 5:30 p.m.-2 a.m.;  CUISINE: Traditional Japanese VIBE: Stealthy yakitori den; OCCASION: Night out, casual date; DON’T MISS DISH: Chicken wings, wagyu with wasabi, escolar with citrus sauce; PRICE: Appetizers $6; entrees $15; desserts, none; RESERVATIONS: Recommended Some people like to invent imaginary friends. Lesley Bernard likes to invent imaginary friends who design restaurants. He created Tillman’s, a Harlem soul lounge in Chelsea, named after its fictional proprietor, Mr. Tillman. Mr. Jones is the name of Bernard’s new restaurant on E. 14th St. The question is — who does Mr. Jones think he is? And more importantly, do you really want to eat in the mind of a fictional character? Especially a mind that resembles James Coburn’s in “In Like Flint”? But...

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Cipolla Rossa

Posted on Nov 18, 2008 in Reviews

Recession-proof dining. 1762 First Ave., at 91st St. (212) 996-9426 Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sun, noon-10 p.m. CUISINE: Tuscan Italian VIBE: Humble neighborhood spot OCCASION: Neighborhood dining, family dinner DON’T MISS DISH: Grilled calamari, venison ­pappardelle, wild boar meatloaf, tiramisu AVERAGE PRICE: Appetizers, $7; entrees, $14; dessert, $5 RESERVATIONS: Accepted Why aren’t more people talking about Cipolla Rossa? Maybe it’s the location — First Ave. near 91st St. Maybe it’s the narrow storefront. It has a bright yellow awning and it looks more like your average takeout joint than a real restaurant. The only reason I knew about it was the wild boar meatloaf. Someone had tipped me off, knowing I’m fond of game. So, I trekked up to Cipolla Rossa on a cold, rainy Saturday night and waited 30 minutes for a table. As it turned out, the...

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