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Posted on Nov 11, 2008 in Reviews

Dinner as improvisation at Bouley’s Secession 30 Hudson St., near Duane St., (212) 791-3771 Mon.-Thur., 5 p.m.-10 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 5 p.m.-10:30 p.m. Cuisine: Franco-Italian Vibe: Gilded Tribeca affair Occasion: Downtown date, family dinner. Don’t-Miss Dish: Boudin blanc, Princess crab & avocado salad, chocolate banana with prune Armagnac ice cream. Average Price: Appetizers, $12; entrees, $23; dessert, $9. Reservations: Recommended Let’s start with the numbers. On the menu at Secession, there are eight charcuteries, a dozen salads, seven types of oysters and clams, four soups, three risottos and three kinds of fries. And that is only half the items. I haven’t mentioned the classics or the sides or, for that matter, what’s been roasted, fried, grilled or cooked a la plancha. You might be tempted to hand the menu back to your server and say simply, “Bring me food.” Order...

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Posted on Nov 4, 2008 in Reviews

Starting a chowder trend in Park Slope 833 Union St., near Seventh Ave., (718) 857-8828. Mon.-Thur., 5 p.m.-10 p.m.; Fri & Sat., 5 p.m.-10:30 p.m. CUISINE: Contemporary American VIBE: Domesticated firehouse OCCASION: Casual date, group dinner DON’T-MISS DISH: Crab chowder, sweet potato tortellini, Greek yogurt cheesecake AVERAGE PRICE: Appetizers, $10; entrees, $21; dessert, $7 RESERVATIONS: Accepted   Eating the crab chowder at Bussaco makes me wonder why chowder isn’t more popular. Was there a chowder trend? Did I miss it? Why don’t we have one now? After all, it’s a good time for one. The economy sucks and the weather is starting to suck, too. Just imagine – a cold evening, a warm restaurant and a hot bowl of chowder, the white not the red. And what makes it even cozier is that you’re seated in a roomy banquette...

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Double Crown

Posted on Oct 28, 2008 in Reviews

The urban tropics, Malaysia by way of the Bowery. 316 Bowery, at Bleecker St., (212) 254-0350 Mon.-Thur., 6 p.m.-midnight; Fri.-Sat., 6 p.m.-1 a.m.; Sat.-Sun. brunch, 11 a.m.-3:30 p.m. CUISINE: Fusion. VIBE: Hip Bowery eatery. OCCASION: First date, festive group dinner. DON’T-MISS DISH: Duck steam bun, sea bream sashimi, Singapore laksa. AVERAGE PRICE: Appetizers, $14; entrees, $25; dessert, $10. RESERVATIONS: Accepted. In the right kind of restaurant, eating out reminds you that you belong to a social world, something larger than yourself. Maybe it’s the gentle haze of conversation, the buzz at the bar, or the music thumping in the background. There’s a pulse, something electric in the energy darting about the room. How do you create that feeling? In the case of Double Crown, down in the Bowery, it was designed right into the restaurant. It is owned and...

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The Libertine

Posted on Oct 21, 2008 in Reviews

British pub grub altered – for the worse – for the American palate. 15 Gold St., (212) 785-5950. Lunch: Mon.-Fri., 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Dinner: Mon.-Thurs., 5:30-10:30 p.m.; Fri., 5:30-11; Sat.-Sun., 6-10. Brunch: Sat.-Sun., 8 a.m.-2:30 p.m. CUISINE: Brit comfort food VIBE: Think private men’s club. OCCASION: Business lunch, group dinner DON’T-MISS DISHES: Lamb potpie, hazelnut chocolate trifle AVERAGE PRICE: Appetizers, $14; entrees, $25; dessert, $10 RESERVATIONS: Accepted I’m all for whimsy and chefs who play with my food. After all, it’s just food. I’m game for a gimmick – as long as it tastes good. A Kobe-beef pig in a blanket? I can’t argue with that. Sliders? Overplayed, yes. But in the right hands, sliders can be worth a month-long wait for a table. Case in point: the gravy-smothered meatball sliders at the Little Owl. Apple pie with cheddar...

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Char No. 4

Posted on Oct 14, 2008 in Reviews

Hard times call for hard liquor.  And Southern cooking at Char No. 4. ADDRESS: 196 Smith St., between Baltic & Warren Sts.; (718) 643-2106. HOURS: Sun.-Thurs., 6 p.m.-midnight; Fri.-Sat., 6 p.m.-1 a.m. CUISINE: Southern comfort food VIBE: Hip house of whisky Destination dining, group dinner DON’T-MISS DISH: Crispy cheddar curds, sage pork sausage, smoked honey glazed chicken AVERAGE PRICE: Appetizers, $8; entrées, $16; dessert, $9 RESERVATIONS: Accepted How many bourbons can you name? Do you know the difference between rye and Scotch? Is there really a Scotch named Compass Box Vatted Grain Hedonism? For the answers to these questions, visit Char No. 4 on Smith St. in Brooklyn. Be prepared to drink. A lot. I thought I knew a thing or two about bourbon until I sat at the bar. It’s a glowing shrine to all grains distilled and...

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Bar Pitti

Posted on Oct 7, 2008 in Reviews

Happiness is a plate of pesto pasta. 268 Sixth Ave., near Bleecker St., (212) 982-3300 Seven days a week, noon to midnight CUISINE Italian VIBE Downtown sidewalk scene OCCASION First date, group dinner DON’T MISS DISH Pesto pasta, veal meatballs, eggplant parmigiana AVERAGE PRICES Appetizers, $7; entrees, $13.50; dessert, $6.50 RESERVATIONS Accepted for parties of four or more Wasn’t last week a miserable one in New York? The markets were down and so were some of the candidates.Some people lose their appetite when things seem gloomy. Not me. All I wanted was a bowl of pesto pasta. And nobody makes better pesto sauce than Bar Pitti. If you’ve ordered it, you know exactly I’m talking about. Every New Yorker should eat it at least once. But it was late in September, so my chances were slim. High basil season...

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Posted on Sep 30, 2008 in Reviews

It’s not dinner at the zoo. It’s dinner in Hell’s Kitchen. 329 W. 51st St., between Eighth and Ninth Aves., (212) 315-3315 Sun.-Wed., 5 p.m.-1a.m.; Thu.-Sat., 5 p.m.-3 a.m. Cuisine: African barbecue Vibe: Funky Hell’s Kitchen spot. Occasion: Casual date, group dinner. Don’t Miss Dish: Venison sosoties & chicken bobotie. Average Price: Appetizers, $12; entrees, $23; dessert, $8. Reservations: Recommended Do you ever read the menu online before you go to a restaurant? It’s a bad idea, at least at Braai. I skipped lunch and all of my mid-afternoon snacks because I planned to take down a barbecued ostrich that evening. And what did I get? I got one dainty skewer of overcooked ostrich, domestically raised. I didn’t want domestically raised. I had my heart set on ostrich right off the veldt. And where’s the antelope? I came for...

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Posted on Sep 23, 2008 in Reviews

60 Third Ave., between 10th and 11th Sts. (212) 254-0888 Mon.-Thurs., 5:30-11 p.m.; Fri-Sat., 5:30 p.m.-midnight; Sun., 5:30-10:30 p.m. CUISINE: New American VIBE: Stylish E. Village eatery OCCASION: First date, group dinner DON’T-MISS DISHES: Roasted peaches and serrano ham; spice-crusted lamb PRICE: Appetizers, $12; entrees, $25; dessert, $8 RESERVATIONS: Recommended CAPSULE: Honey and spice Apiary reminds me how hard it is to get it right. To most of us, dinner is just dinner. But to a restaurant’s chef and its staff, it’s much more complicated. Imagine all the questions that have to be answered before your entrée arrives. What’s fresh today? Can we make a profit on that? Am I going to shoot myself if I have to roast another chicken? Is this dish too much like Bobby Flay’s? Would anybody notice if I just pulled it off the...

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Posted on Sep 15, 2008 in Reviews

46 W. 22nd St., between Fifth and Sixth Aves. (212) 206-0555 5 p.m.-11 p.m. CUISINE Southern French VIBE Think yacht chic OCCASION First date, group dinner, business lunch DON’T-MISS DISH Heirloom tomato salad, seared dorade, chocolate fondant PRICE Appetizers, $15; entrees, $26; dessert, $10 RESERVATIONS: Recommended Capsule: You’ll want to become a regular at Allegretti.   Allegretti is growing on me. And that very fact demonstrates one of the few drawbacks of being a restaurant critic. I don’t get to be a regular anywhere. What could be better than a restaurant where you don’t even have to order, where the server already knows how you like your steak and martini? (Ice-cold vodka in a martini glass, please. Olives on the side.) There’s a lot of pleasure in trying a new dish every night, but there’s something to be said...

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La Superior / The General Greene

Posted on Sep 9, 2008 in Reviews

La Superior 295 Berry St., near S. Second St., Brooklyn, (718) 388-5988. Mon.-Thu. 12:30 p.m.-midnight, Fri.-Sun, 12:30 p.m. – 2 a.m. Cuisine: Mexican street food Vibe: Dingy taqueria Occasion: Destination dining Don’t miss dish: Mushroom quesadillas, enchiladas suizas Average price: Appetizers, $4; entries $10. Reservations: No reservations, cash only, BYOB. To say La Superior is understated is an understatement. “Do you think this is it?” a friend said nervously. We were standing outside a dingy storefront on an empty street in Williamsburg. “It must be,” I answered cheerily. “I need a cocktail,” she grumbled as she followed me through the door. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that the restaurant doesn’t have a liquor license. The dining room at La Superior looks like a diner on its last legs. The table settings are disposable – red and...

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Posted on Sep 2, 2008 in Reviews

54 Prince St., at Lafayette St. (212) 226-0211 Mon.-Sat., 7:30 a.m.-1 a.m.; Sun., 7:30 a.m.-midnight. CUISINE Creative comfort food. VIBE Open-air theater. OCCASION Casual date; group dining. DON’T-MISS DISH Bangers and mash, Ovaltine pudding parfait. AVERAGE PRICE Appetizers, $7-$11; entrees, $12-$24; dessert, $8. RESERVATIONS Recommended. Not many delicatessens require reservations. Then again, Delicatessen isn’t a “deli” in any conventional sense of the word. It’s a sleek, open-air theater in SoHo – floating leather banquettes, glossy white tables, a backlit bar and black Escalades parked out front. The restaurant spills onto the corner of Prince and Lafayette, and the corner spills into the restaurant. Waiters walk out onto the sidewalk to bring you your food. Right out front, slim young things smoke cigarettes and stare at their cell phones as if they were compacts. The social electricity lights up the...

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Parlor Steakhouse

Posted on Aug 26, 2008 in Reviews

1600 Third Ave., at 90th St. (212) 423-5888 Sun.-Thur., 5:30 p.m.-11 p.m.; Fri. & Sat., 5:30 p.m.-12 a.m. CUISINE Modern American steakhouse. VIBE Butcher-shop sleek. OCCASION UES date; group dining. DON’T-MISS DISH Tomato and watermelon gazpacho, filet mignon, sour-cream cheesecake. PRICE Appetizers, $9-$15; entrees, $22-$42; dessert, $8-$10. RESERVATIONS Accepted. You need a road map through the menu at Parlor Steakhouse. Here it is: Order the gazpacho, ask for the filet mignon medium rare, and finish with any one of Andrea Bucheli‘s desserts. If you don’t eat meat, order the branzino. If you don’t eat meat or fish – seriously, what are you doing at a steakhouse? You can still have a glass of wine and order dessert, which is probably worth the trek uptown. Did I mention the desserts? Save room, lots of room. They’re created by Bucheli, 28,...

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Posted on Aug 19, 2008 in Reviews

  If you’re looking for a sign of the times, Convivio is it. 45 Tudor City Place, at 42nd St. (212) 599-5045 Sun.-Thur., 5:30 p.m.-10:30 p.m; Fri.-Sat., 5:30 p.m.-11:30 p.m. Cuisine Southern Italian. Vibe Warm Tudor City haunt. Occasion Business lunch; group dinner. Don’t Miss Dish Four-course prix fixe or the sweetbreads piccata, tuna & caper ravioli, roasted squab. Average Price Appetizers, $13; entrees, $25; dessert, $11. Reservations Recommended.   Sometimes, a restaurant doesn’t really need a makeover. All it needs is a make-under. Convivio is a perfect example. Just six weeks ago, L’Impero shut its doors on a quiet block in Tudor City. Two weeks later, it reopened as Convivio. A quick wardrobe change, a few tweaks to the menu and voila, a new restaurant. Sort of. It’s the same chef, Michael White, same owners, and yet everything...

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Posted on Aug 9, 2008 in Reviews

  605 Carlton Ave., at St. Marks Ave., Brooklyn (718) 942-4255 Tues.-Sun., 5:30 p.m.-midnight; Fri.-Sat., 5:30-1a.m; closed Mondays. CUISINE Modern American cuisine VIBE Romantic neighborhood haunt OCCASION Intimate date; neighborhood dining DON’T MISS DISH Spinach salad; seared diver scallops; lemon almond pound cake PRICE Appetizers, $8-$12; entrees, $14-$29; dessert, $8-$10 RESERVATIONS For parties of six or more   It’s 1 a.m., do you know where your chef is? If you’re a regular at James you do. He’s on the roof in his garden, among his herbs, weeding, watering, unwinding. It’s the end of a long night in the kitchen at the corner of 605 Carlton Ave. and St. Marks Avenue in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. Bryan Calvert, the chef, has a short commute. He lives just above the restaurant and just beneath his rooftop garden – 600 square feet of...

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Posted on Aug 5, 2008 in Reviews

Paradise found in a bowl of soba noodles. 241 Church St., at Leonard St. (212) 925-0202 Tues.-Sun., 5:30 p.m.-midnight; Fri. & Sat., 5:30 p.m.-1 a.m; closed Mondays. CUISINE: Taste of Tokyo VIBE Hip, tranquil Tribeca haunt. OCCASION Intimate date; business dinner; serious noodle endeavors. DON’T-MISS DISH Homemade tofu; Matsugen special soba; inaka soba with goma dare sauce; grapefruit jelly. PRICE Appetizers, $9-$65; entrées, from $12; desserts, $9-$14. RESERVATIONS Recommended   The last time I ate food cooked by the Matsushita brothers, the chefs at Matsugen, was in the Ginza District of Tokyo. I went to both of their restaurants. It was my first serious introduction to the simple, intense flavors and ingredients of Tokyo cooking – astonishingly fresh soba noodles, grilled pork belly, homemade tofu, even my first taste of uni. And I can tell you that Jean-Georges Vongerichten...

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Posted on Jul 29, 2008 in Reviews

134 Reade St., between Hudson & Greenwich Aves. (212) 941-9401 Tue.-Sun., 5 p.m.-11 p.m. CUISINE Modern American VIBE Wintry Tribeca haunt OCCASION Casual date; group dinner DON’T MISS DISH Kampachi tartare; fettuccine “carbonara” PRICE Appetizers, $12-$18; entrees, $26-$34; dessert, $9-$11 RESERVATIONS Recommended Larry Forgione is often called the “godfather of American cooking.” His restaurant in St. Louis, An American Place, is a tribute to our country’s rich culinary history, a place where home-cooking standards like mac and cheese go to get refurbished. For Marc Forgione, Larry’s 29-year-old son, that’s a tough act to follow. But after working beside his father for a couple of years, he has opened an American place of his own, Forge, in Tribeca. The windows have been flung open onto the overheated streets. Customers have come in a summery mood, wearing sundresses and sandals. And...

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Hamptons feast! Best new restaurants on the East End

Posted on Jul 22, 2008 in Best Of, Reviews

  Going to the Hamptons used to mean grilling at home. One good reason was local produce, local fish and local meats. But it was also nearly impossible to get a reservation at the best restaurants in the area. Now everything’s changed. Suddenly there are a lot of restaurants worth leaving home for. Some of them will become fixtures (with impossible reservations) before long. These restaurants share a real pride in what Long Island grows – fresh sweet corn from the farm stand just down the street, flounder straight from the dock, rosé from a neighboring vineyard, sweet strawberries hiding under their leaves in a nearby field. For young chefs here, it’s a perfect opportunity. There’s a captive audience of diners who are accustomed to eating in the best restaurants in Manhattan and around the world. Read more: Classic...

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Restaurant Girl's fave Hamptons spots

Posted on Jul 21, 2008 in Best Of, Reviews

  The classic lobster roll is what’s for lunch at Lunch, off the Montauk Highway. BABETTE’S Marvelous breakfast. Get the whole grain pancakes. 66 Newton Lane, East Hampton, (631) 329-5377 BLUE DUCK BAKERY & CAFE French baguettes and sunflower bread. 30 Hampton Road, Southampton, (631) 204-1701 BRIDGEHAMPTON CANDY KITCHEN Old-school soda fountain with great milk shakes, malts and lime rickeys. Main St., Bridgehampton, (631) 537-9885 DURYEA LOBSTER DECK Best barefoot outdoor dining on clams and lobsters. 65 Tuthill Road, Montauk, (631) 668-2410 DAVE’S BAR & GRILL Locals want to keep the wonderfully fresh fish here all to themselves. 468 West Lake Drive, (631) 668-9190 GOSMAN’S Chefs buy their seafood here. Enough said. 500 West Lake Drive, Montauk, (631) 668-5645 LUNCH A dynamite lobster roll. 1980 Montauk Highway on Napeague, (631) 267-3740 ROUND SWAMP FARM Fantastic fresh-baked blueberry and strawberry...

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Classic Hamptons restaurants that are still going strong

Posted on Jul 21, 2008 in Best Of, Reviews

Nick & Toni’s in East Hampton remains the top table in town. DELLA FEMINA As much about the guests as its fine American cooking. Cuisine: Modern American. Don’t-miss dish: Maine Day halibut with local asparagus; Strawberry shortcake. 99 North Main St., East Hampton, (631) 329-6666 EAST HAMPTON POINT A terrific view of the harbor matched by a terrific raw bar. Cuisine: New American. Don’t-miss dish: Gazpacho oyster shooters; milk chocolate Ovaltine semifreddo. 295 Three Mile Harbor Road, East Hampton, (631) 329-2800 FRESNO A romantic garden with excellent wine list. Cuisine: American. Don’t-miss dish: Calamari with coriander-chipotle aioli; grilled pork chop. 8 Fresno Place, East Hampton, (631) 324-8700 LA PARMIGIANA Families flock to this Southampton spot for its pastas and pizzas. Cuisine: Casual Italian. Don’t-miss dish: Spaghetti with frutta di mare; baked lasagna. 48 Hampton Road, Southampton, (631) 283-8030 MIRKO’S...

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Posted on Jul 21, 2008 in Reviews

Miranda offers a marriage of Mexican and Italian food.   A block north of Bedford Ave. in Williamsburg, old women sit in lawn chairs along the sidewalk, fanning themselves with the crossword puzzle. Kids play catch in the middle of the street. A cyclist stops to high-five a friend through the large open window of a restaurant. It’s a new spot, open only since December, but already it seems to belong to the old neighborhood. It’s called Miranda. Inside, the tables are set with dishtowel napkins and grandmother china. Most nights, the co-owner, Mauricio Miranda, greets you at the door. And if he’s not there to greet you, you might want to come back another night. That’s how much difference his presence makes. The other co-owner is Miranda’s fiancée, Sasha Rodriguez, who is the chef. She and Miranda met...

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