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September Restaurant Round-Up

 

Here’s where we went in September:

Bell Book and Candle

This little west village gem was the site of our bi-monthly book club meeting. It’s totally charming and pretty spacious given the location. The appetizers were varied, unique, and delicious – making this a great group spot. They even grow some of their own ingredients on top of the restaurant in their rooftop garden. It’s not necessarily the best meal I’ve ever had, but it was casual and fun, and an excellent value spot. Be sure to take advantage of the $1 oysters at the bar!

The Mark

Remember when I said that Jean-Georges restaurants tended to be hit or miss (last month’s review of ABC Kitchen)? Well, this was a miss. From the wall-to-wall carpet, to the been-there-done-that food, this place screamed hotel restaurant. With so many other amazing options in NYC, this one is a total pass.

Torrisi

Even though I mentioned this restaurant before, I have to rave about it again. Brad and I went here for our 4 year anniversary dinner and did it big with the 20-course tasting menu. It was AMAZING!!! If you are looking to do something really special in NYC, this is it. I seriously think I liked it better than the tasting we did at French Laundry (like that name drop? Just trying to keep things in perspective here!). The service is stellar and the food is inventive and ridiculously good. There were multiple times throughout the night when Brad and I would just look at each other completely unable to describe the amazing food in front of us. This place lives up to the hype!

Candle 79

People have been raving about this vegan, upper east side spot for ages. So when my mom was in town a few weeks ago, I decided it was just where we should try. Neither of us is vegan, but my mom is all into the Paleo thing and has some limiting diet restrictions, which made Candle 79 the perfect choice. I thought all of the food was very flavorful, but I really wasn’t fond of many of the “imitations” they tried to pull off. If you are vegan and haven’t had feta cheese in years (or ever), than you might love the nut version. But I just thought it was a poor second. Same for the meat substitutes. What can I say, I’m partial to my high-calorie, artery-clogging options. If you are vegan, you absolutely should try this place. If you aren’t, go with a vegan friend and stay away from any meat/cheese substitutes.

Gari Sushi

My new favorite sushi spot (sorry Yama!). This place totally rocked my world. I personally like my sushi with a bit of flare – some kind of fruit, crunchy topping, something that makes it more than just a piece of fish. My husband, sticking to his Japanese roots, likes the more traditional sashimi style, with an emphasis on the freshest fish available. We have found our happy medium at Gari. They are known for their “toppings,” which add just the right amount of oomph but still lets the beautiful flavors of the fish shine through. We tried the tuna with tofu puree, salmon with sauteed tomato, and yellowtail with jalapeno sauce, with the salmon being our favorite (multiple orders went down!). Brad was also totally in love with their mini bowls of udon. There are numerous outposts of the original Sushi of Gari around town, so be sure to stop in and give one a try!

August Restaurant Round-Up & Giveaway Winner!

ABC Kitchen

I feel like the Jean-Georges restaurants I’ve visited have been a bit of a hit or miss. There are a few that I love (like Nogatine & Dune) and some that I really don’t (Lagoon in Bora Bora). But after 3 visits to ABC Kitchen, I can assure you that this one definitely falls into the love category. It won a James Beard best new restaurant award in 2011, and is consistently serving up delicious organic and locally sourced dishes. Everything is super fresh and seasonal (pretty much all of nyc has jumped on the farm to table bandwagon). It’s great to know that there is always going to be something new and delicious each time you go, but I have a few favorites that I would really like to see back on the menu this fall (squash toast and fried chicken, please!). At this visit, we started with a heirloom tomato toast, then split the burger and squash blossom pizza. The pizza was amazing, and worth going back for in itself. For dessert we had the ice cream sundae, which includes popcorn and candied peanuts and is swimming in chocolate sauce. Hungry yet?

The decor is also reason enough to visit. It’s pseudo located within ABC Home and is full of chic, modern furniture paired with elegant and mismatched china. It’s charming and sleek all at the same time. If you can’t get a reservation, we’ve had great luck just walking-in on the earlier side. You might have to have a drink at the bar if you want to wait for a table, but there are a number of bar tables that you can order from as well. Best of all, the staff is among the friendliest I’ve met. They’re a great source for information on what dishes to try since the menu changes frequently – definitely ask for their recommendations!

David Burke Kitchen

Another farm to table concept, David Burke Kitchen is delicious, laid-back, and, as we’ve come to expect from Burke, quite inventive. One of the standouts of our meal were the peanut butter stuffed, bacon wrapped dates, which were just as crazy and amazing as they sound. We also loved the pretzel crusted crab cake and the peach bbq short rib. Best of all, we got it on the cheap since it was restaurant week!! They even had specially priced bottles of wine, which you know we took advantage of. For dessert, a must have is the toffee monkey bread for 2. It’s massive, and even after it’s served for 2 (table side) half of it is still left in a cute little tin to take home and enjoy the next day. The woman next to me actually made the comment that it was the best thing she’d ever eaten. I certainly was glad to have that 3rd & 4th serving! The staff was attentive and helpful, and when our dessert was taking a little too long, they promptly brought over champagne to make it up to us. A classy touch.  We will definitely be back!

Il Palazzo

Everyone has their pick for Little Italy, and this is ours. If you are visiting nyc, Little Italy should definitely be on your go-to list. They close the street to vehicular traffic, so there’s tons of people walking around, vendors selling everything from pashminas to gelato, and a plethora of outdoor cafes serving up classic Italian fare. I’ve had great experineces at a number of restaurants down there, but I’ve been going to Il Palazzo since I first came to the city as an intern nearly a decade ago. There’s outdoor and indoor seating, and they also have a great atrium type space. The staff is always friendly and helpful and the food is excellent. If you are looking for classic Italian cooking, you really can’t go wrong here. The portions are also large so plan on sharing! My husband and his family absolutely love their capellini primavera. Ferrara Bakery is also right around the corner, so you must stop there for something sweet and delcious – I vote for the chocolate dipped cannoli!

Robert

Have an occasion coming up, like an anniversary or birthday? Look no further than Robert, which is located atop the Museum of Arts and Design. From their spot at the top of Columbus Circle, you get fabulous views of Central Park and Broadway. Ask for a table next to the window! I loved the vibe from the decor – very modern and fitting of a museum restaurant. The crowd was decidedly chic, as was the food. The menu isn’t extensive, but everything we tried was delicious and presented beautifully. I’ve been to The Modern, inside the MOMA, and I would choose Robert any day. You just can’t compete with the views and food.

Boite en Bois

Classic French food all the way. This is a neighborhood haunt, and has pretty much zero scene. I really don’t have too much to say about this one. If you are in the area (great for early dinner before hitting Lincoln Center) and are in the mood for excellent traditional french food without all the fanfare, this is your spot. Some might call it romantic, and some might call it small and quiet – while I really enjoyed my food, I would have to side with the latter.

And Kimster you’ve won the kitchen scale giveaway on behalf of Slimkicker! Please email me at themommygames@gmail.com and I will make sure you get set up. Congrats!

July Restaurant Round Up

   

Here’s where we visited this month:

Boulud Sud

Daniel Boulud has a whole slew of restaurants all over NYC, and this is his newest addition. It was so thoughtful of him to locate it just steps from our apartment on the UWS. The menu is mainly Mediterranean, but it’s pretty extensive so I’m sure anyone could find something they liked. The atmosphere is modern/minimal, and is more appropriate for a business dinner than a romantic date. The food was absolutely spot on. You must, must have the fried artichokes – I’m still dreaming about them. We all (there were 4 of us) had different fish dishes and they were all exceptional as well. Do yourself a favor and forgo dessert and just go around the corner to Epicerie Boulud and have the most incredible chocolate chip cookies (or one of their other amazing treats) and enjoy the views of Lincoln Center at night.

The Dutch

I don’t have too much to say on this one – it just didn’t live up to the hype for me. The restaurant is pretty large, and was only half occupied when we went. Granted it was on the early side (7ish), but the people there seemed like tourists – not a great sign for a NYC restaurant. We found shell (lots) in our crab appetizer, the entrees were so-so, and the dessert pairing of peanut butter pie and lemon granita was just gross. On a positive note, the fries were pretty awesome (they waiter told us they’ve actually won awards for them). Don’t think I’ll be rushing back anytime soon.

Telepan (brunch)

This is an awesome “white tablecloth” brunch. It’s not necessarily where you want to be nursing a hangover, but it is delicious, fresh and just fancy and fun for a weekend morning. There is a price fix menu that lets you choose 2 courses. I think this is just plain genius since I usually spend a lot of time trying to decide if I would rather have something sweet or savory for brunch – now you get both! Do not miss the bread basket, it’s probably the best selection I’ve ever had.

Milos Estiatorio

Oh Milos, how I love thee! We have been going to Milos for years and years, and it’s still my most craved restaurant – and that’s saying a lot! The restaurant is this beautiful open space that makes you feel like you’ve been swept out of NYC and dropped right onto the Greek coastline. The food is well, crave worthy. If you like Greek food, you must try this place. They are known for their tomatoes, so start with a tomato salad (it’s seriously bizarre how their tomatoes taste amazing even in the dead of winter), then have the Milos special to share as well. It’s thinly sliced/fried pieces of zucchini and eggplant piled high around the most delicious tzaziki. Oh, and the chunks of fried cheese on the side aren’t bad either. Then you have your choice of seafood, which is all laid out beautifully on ice for you to see. My husband and I generally split one serving of dover sole, which is plenty when paired with everything else. Finish with a piece of chocolate mousse and you have the most scrumdidliumptious dinner ever.

A bit of warning though, that the seafood portion of the meal will not be easy on your pocketbook. And the waitstaff definitely errs towards the pretentious side. Just be aware of this going in. Not necessarily rude, but not overly nice either – unless you are ordering for 10, expensive bottles of wine included. None the less, this is probably our most frequented restaurant in NYC and would be a great place to go to before a show as it’s not too far from the theater district.

Quality Meats

Steakhouses in NYC are practically as rampant as bodegas, but in truth, most are pretty excellent and will put your local Ruth Chris to shame. QM has a great decor – walls of wine bottles and a labyrinth type layout that is rather interesting to navigate. It has a trendy edge, but given the location, it will be packed with suits at 7pm on a Tuesday. The steak we had was amazing, and they make the steak sauce table side (it was excellent and unique as well, but the steak on its own was so good I didn’t even think it needed any sauce). They really pay ice cream its due in the dessert section and offer a ton of different flavors as well as house made ice cream cakes. Yum!

June Restaurant Round-Up

                              

  

Brad and I go out on a date night every Wednesday. We have a standing babysitter so we plan these dinners out way in advance and love to try the latest and greatest on the NYC scene. Here’s some of the places we went to in June…

Torrisi

Amazing. Ranked one of the best new restaurants by NY Mag for 2012. You choose between either a 7 or 20 course price fix menu. We went with the 7, but I totally could have done the 20! You start off with a bunch of antipasti type dishes, then move into the main and a small dessert (we actually ordered an additional dessert and then stopped by Rice to Riches on the way home since we were in the neighborhood – pigs!). Oh, and Oprah, Gayle, and Diane Sawyer sat at the table next to us. We have one lousy picture that Brad took while trying to be inconspicuous. This is a very small restaurant and reservations can be tricky, so call early!

Bar Boulud  (brunch)

This place is right around the corner from us and we seriously go there once a month. This time we took the kids after church for brunch and sat outside. This is a great place for outdoor seating since it’s pretty spacious and you are far away from the traffic. If you have an event at Lincoln Center this would be the perfect place to go before/after. Your typical french fare, but I especially love the steak and fries. Insider tip – if you can’t get a reservation, they have a long bar that’s for walk-ins and is totally comfortable to sit at.

Red Rooster

Not our first (or last!) time at this spot. Marcus Samuelsson’s unique take on comfort food in the heart of Harlem. It’s worth trekking up there for the people watching alone! All the dishes we’ve had from here have been stellar, but you must get the cornbread. We actually order an extra portion just to take home for leftovers. If you can’t get a table (and reservations are hard to come by), the outside seating is a great walk-in option and provides even better people watching. Be sure to try the sweet potato doughnuts for dessert as well.

Recipe

An upper westside gem. Great seasonal menu with really fresh and inventive dishes. Intimate atmosphere and really friendly staff. Nothing pretentious about this place, just consistently great food. I always get a fish dish for my main course and usually get the dessert special, which was a peach and blackberry clafoutis this time – delicious.

Beauty & Essex (brunch)

Yet another place we have frequented a handful of times. Great for a fun night out with friends. The scene is second to none in the city and the food is really exceptional given how cool this place is. Inside tip – yes, the weird looking storefront is the entrance. You just walk through it and into the door in the back. Not sure if they actually sell anything there, but it definitely threw me off the first time I went (we actually followed up that night by trying to get into a cab that was part of a movie scene – what a tricky city this is!).

I took Brad here for Father’s Day brunch thinking that a babysitter and adult beverages were exactly what he needed. I’ve always loved the food here for dinner and brunch was more of the same. Inventive bites meant to share. Everything is very flavorful. Even the cocktails were unique and packed a bunch. Must try the beignets and the fried chicken biscuit bites. The lobster tacos and spiced fries (they taste like bbq chips) are also great for either day or night.

Ditch Plains (brunch)

Done by the same people as Landmac (where we go or order from almost weekly). There’s nothing revolutionary about this place, but I mention it for all the parents out there. The UWS locations has TVs in each booth. Oh yes. It’s the best form of babysitting there is. Although I have seen strollers at even the most expensive restaurants in nyc, it’s always nice to be able to eat with both a fork and knife while the kids are entertained. And the food is actually really good. A diverse menu so everyone is happy.

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