A Sarcastic Appetite

Ten Restaurants
October 4, 2009, 5:50 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

People often ask me for restaurant recommendations – poor souls, most of them, since they’re usually just looking for a quick answer, a suggestion or two, and instead they get a monologue on the state of New York’s restaurant world in the midst of this recession, and here’s a list of places going neighborhood by neighborhood, or did you want only ones that have some kind of dining deal? Or happy hour? Or celebrity chef?

At this point, their eyes sort of glaze over, and I can see the resignation set in: we’re going to be at this for awhile, apparently, because I’ve never seen someone get so riled up about a simple ‘Where should we eat?’, it was like shooting a clown out of a cannon or something, and I needed to be somewhere twenty minutes ago but she’s showing no signs of slowing down so I guess I’ll just let her do her thing.

I, meanwhile, continue to chatter on about this place or that place, or perhaps you should have dinner here and dessert there, but if you really wanted to do it up right, you’d have drinks here and then dinner there, and tell me again which neighborhood did you want to stay in?

Whew. So, uh, for those of you who haven’t yet asked me for a restaurant recommendation….consider yourself warned. But if you are actually looking for a couple new places to try, and don’t want to hear my sermon on the subject, here’s a fairly condensed list. Some are old, some are new, but all are worth a try (or a repeat visit).

Locanda Verde, Andrew Carmellini’s place in Tribeca, is turning out consistently good Italian food in the old Ago space. Thankfully, he seems not to be undone by the absurd amount of press they’ve consistently gotten since they opened….almost four months ago. I’m told they recently opened up the interior courtyard space, so you might want to request a seat in there, and the Monday Night Fried Chicken is supposed to be spectacular. ($55 gets you dinner, a drink, some pie, and even live music in the restaurant’s back room.)

Nougatine, Jean-George’s other restaurant at 1 Central Park West. He was among the first to expand and extend his recession-friendly menu pricing – and he’s still doing it; get 2 courses for $28 at lunch, or a special Autumn Promotion gets you lunch for $26 and dinner for $38.

Kefi, on the Upper West Side, is no less jammed even after it reopened in a larger space a few blocks north of its original location. But we should expect nothing less from the duo who brought you Mia Dona and Anthos – the menu is “rustic” Greek at reasonable prices. Sit downstairs if you can; it’s a little quieter. And definitely order the warm feta.

Recipe, also on the UWS, has been open since early 2009, but I only managed to get over there for brunch about three weeks ago. The place is tiny, serving Greenmarket-ish stuff in smaller portions – which, ahem, is sometimes a good thing. I like that they’ve got a late-night menu – I don’t know that at 1 in the morning I’d really be jonesing for a “simply grilled whole dorade,” and in fact might be better off sticking with the BBQ pulled pork sandwich, but I admire their efforts nonetheless.

Mary’s Fish Camp, in the West Village, does a mean lobster roll. And by “mean,” of course I mean “really, really absurdly good.” Be warned: they’re done up with mayo, so if you’re a lobster roll purist or hate the white stuff, don’t bother, but if you’re into it, by all means make the trip. Their fried clams are delicious, too – and did I mention that last time I was there, they had Victory Prima Pils on draught? Need I really say more? The place is always jammed, so go right when it opens, and early in the week to try to beat the rush.

Co., in Chelsea, is Sullivan St. Bakery’s Jim Lahey’s ode to pizza. They don’t take reservations, so of course when the place opened last winter, lines were around the block and I couldn’t be bothered to make the trek to stand around. The hype has died down a bit, but that doesn’t mean the pizza’s suffering; the Ham and Cheese, Popeye, and Flambé are supposed standouts. It’s not classic “New York Pizza,” so don’t go expecting something that can topple the greatness of Di Fara, but as long as you can stomach that, you should try it.

Momofuku Ko. I know, I know, the Chang-ster just raised prices, you can hardly get a table, why does lunch take three hours compared to dinner’s two hours, and what is with this online reservation thing? I have just a few pieces of sage advice: find a nimble friend to handle othe online reservation part, and be prepared to fork over some serious dough for a seriously good meal. And while you’re at it, spring for the best wine pairing – chances are, you might not be back, so you may as well live it up while you’re there. The food’s revelatory.

Bianca, on Bleecker Street, is a teensy tiny little Italian joint, a perfect date-place, that turns out some excellent pastas at surprisingly low prices. They’re cash only, and don’t take reservations – and their by-the-glass selection is severely limited (for the reds, Chianti or California merlot, that’s it?), so spring for a bottle if you can. And have the lasagna. Oh, my, the lasagna.

Resto, just off Park Avenue South, has a special place in my heart. Ryan Skeen created their burger, and it’s better than the one he later installed at Irving Mill. (I say that with absolute authority, having sampled them both…more than once.) Sit at the bar, have a glass or three of the blanc de blancs, and order extra sauce for those delicious fries. You won’t be disappointed.

Boqueria, in the Flatiron, is a great tapas place. It’s, oh, about twenty times bigger than Bar Jamon, so you’ll actually have a shot at getting a seat, but a little livelier than, say, Txikito. The bacon-wrapped dates are a delight, as are the lamb meatballs. As is often the case in these places, what seems like a reasonably priced menu adds up quickly when you’re ordering lots of little things – so just don’t flinch too badly when the bill comes.

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[…] 2009 Ten New Restaurants to Try January 31, 2011, 11:09 pm Filed under: Uncategorized Many, many moons ago, I gave you a list of restaurants to try. Those are all still great, but here are ten […]

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