Saturday, August 28, 2010

Villa Pacri: 55-59 Gansevoort St, NY NY

A few friends and I stopped here for impromptu drinks and apps after a lovely walk on the highline ( which, by the way, I HIGHLY suggest if you've never been.
We chose this spot because it was close and had outdoor seating with great people-watching tables. It was the most beautiful day and we couldn't have picked a better place to sit for an hour. I had a deliciously minty mojito and shared 3 appetizers. The chick pea bruschetta was filling but wonderful, it had a slight lemony flavor, a hint of garlic and a great consistency. The oysters were outstanding- pretty tiny (which I personally prefer over huge slippery mouthfuls) super sweet, extremely fresh and not at all fishy tasting. I loved topping them with the light shallot vinaigrette sauce that came with them to contrast the salty sweetness of the oysters. The cocktail sauce that came with them was also fine, but not particularly interesting. We also had the most incredible raw scallops with zucchini and squash and it was really amazing. I was not expecting to love it so much, but on a hot summer day, the cool sweet scallops were refreshing and succulent, not at all filling, and they totally satiated my curious palette. I was expecting ceviche and the lemon/lime citrus of it, but this really was not ceviche. It was much purer tasting and the integrity of fresh scallops were enough to make it an exciting dish.
What a great find this was. Isn't is the BEST when you stumble onto something by accident that turns out to be fantastic? I think so. Go check it out and see if you agree.

La Crosta Gourmet Pizzeria: 436 East 72nd st. New York NY

Just another disappointing chicken cutlet. (see my review of Lenny's for a similarly disheartening experience)
I had a realization as I ate half of this sandwich. I don't need to write a review of everywhere I eat. I can simply elect to skip it in cases like this when there is really nothing remarkably good or bad or otherwise interesting to say. 
And on that note, I'm not wasting anymore time thinking about this pitiful lunch- which, by the way, I asked for on a round roll with cheese. Neither request was listened to, apparently. 
Note to self: add La Crosta to my list of places to not bother repeating. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Fujiyama: 1466 First ave. NY NY.

When you walk into a restaurant that is empty except for one other person and the waitress, you may worry a little. I wasn't concerned because a) It was 3:30 on a rainy weekday and b )I've ordered in delivery from here a bunch of times and have always been happy with it. I think they mostly do their business via take-out and delivery since every time I walk by you can practically hear crickets chirping. Since I'd never actually gone in to eat, I picked it as a place to meet a fellow sushi-loving friend. This particular friend and I almost exclusively pick sushi places to meet, and we almost always order the maki roll lunch special. We've now been to about 10 different restaurants like this and Fujiyama did not disappoint. It's the standard lunch special: 2 maki rolls, salad and miso soup for around $10. The salad was made with mesclun lettuce (yay for NOT being iceberg) and the dressing was exactly what it should be. The soup was piping hot and belly-warming. I ordered spicy salmon and shrimp tempura for my rolls, and asked for seaweed on the outside, a request that was granted without batting an eye as some places do. Incidentally, when did inside-out become the norm, and why? I love the snap of seaweed and you really lose that when rice is outside. Anyway, everything was fresh, prepared well and served quickly. Fujiyama is reliable and consistent if not earth-shatteringly original and I will definitely continue to order in from there. I may visit again, considering that it's a 5 minute walk from my apartment and I KNOW I will always get a table without waiting.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Baraonda: 1429 Second Ave, NY NY

My friend- a fellow foodie, chose this restaurant for us to meet up for lunch on a rainy Sunday. It was pretty empty except for 2 other tables, probably because of the weather, and we really didn't need the reservation I'd made.
The atmosphere is awesome: bright, cheery, bold primary colors, paper lanterns hang from the ceiling and Picasso style art decorates the walls. The walls of glass doors were all open, allowing us to enjoy the sound and sight of rain falling without getting at all wet. On a nice day, the outdoor eating area is quite large, and makes for great people watching. Even on a not-so-nice day, the awning over the outdoor section offers enough shelter to sit there, though we opted for inside since it was really coming down.
The restaurant is in the same group as Per Lei, which I reviewed a few weeks ago, and judging by these two, I have a lot of respect for their endeavors. I'll have to plan to visit the other two soon.

I ordered an iced cappuccino- delicious and rather pretty, and the Insalata Baraonda: chopped mesclun salad with heart of palm, avocado, peppers, radish, celery & corn. What a perfect summer meal! The dressing was creamy but light, and the flavors of the garden-fresh ingredients complemented each other beautifully. With a side of bread and a sun-dried tomato spread, my lunch totally hit the spot without filling me up too much.
Our waiter was charming and attentive (and definitely took a liking to my friend, even feeding her a bit of her salad at one point, much to my amusement) and didn't seem at all annoyed that we stayed and chatted for hours.
Overall, I was pleased with another gem in the neighborhood and would be interested in going back to try other dishes.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

One Fish, Two Fish: 1399 Madison Ave. NY NY

I attended a baby shower for a friend here and was pleased to see lots of De La Vega art on the walls.  ( Aside from that and particularly efficient waitstaff, this restaurant is not what you'd expect of a Madison Ave address.
The luncheon included salad (very basic no frills), a beverage ( I had a 1/2 ice tea, 1/2 lemonade- yum!), and a choice of a 3 entrees: Fish & Chips, Chicken Parmesan with linguine or Salmon with a baked potato. I was actually surprised by the chicken parm....but I kind of wrote it off to: 1) being really hungry and 2) the fact that if you bread & deep fry anything, and then melt some mozzarella on top, it's pretty hard to make it taste bad. That said, credit where credit it is due. The chicken was crispy- not at all soggy, and the cheese was broiled the perfect amount. The pasta, however, was unremarkable. The grated Parmesan that came with it in a plastic cup? Well, I'm pretty sure it came out of a green can.
 Overall, this wasn't much different than a good diner. I'd be somewhat interested in going back for seafood since judging a seafood restaurant on it's Italian chicken dish doesn't seem quite fair. The reality, however, is that the chances of me walking 35 minutes to go to a decent diner type place for a second try  are pretty darn slim. If you go in for seafood and it's wonderful, will you please let me know? Thanks :)

Flex Mussels: 174 E. 82nd st. NY NY

I'd been meaning to try Flex Mussels for a year or so, having walked past it a number of times. It looks really cool as you pass by with it's sleek, hip bar entry. A friend and I decided on an impromptu dinner around 9:30 on a Friday night, and the place was totally packed.
It's a hopping scene with a young, hip looking crowd. It has more of a village-y feel than uptight-uptown, which is a good thing. We were lucky enough to score an outdoor table and were seated quickly. Bright green chairs at pressed tin tables extended the feel of the modern bar area to the small outdoor section. There is, by the way, a pretty good sized seating section in the back, which you don't realize when you are at the narrow bar. It's a bit odd though, the decor feels like a different place altogether. Still pretty and welcoming, just strangely different.
We were offered flat or sparkling water free of charge, which I thought was a nice touch.  The menu is exhausting, but in a very good way. There must be about 25 different sauces/broths/stews to choose from and almost all them sounded appealing. Good thing we both like to share plates. Our waitress, Carly, was awesome. She knew the menu cold, and was more than happy to engage in conversations discussing it. We went for the south pacific first- a very light summery broth with flavors of lime, lemongrass, cilantro. A piping hot pot was placed before us and steam came pouring out when the lid was removed. Really, an impressive presentation.  While it was not as bold of a flavor as we expected, and actually needed a little salt, it was the perfect first course where we could really just taste the freshness of the mussels without them being overpowered by a heavy sauce. It tasted stronger toward the end of the pot, which makes me think maybe we should have let it sit for a little bit while we ate our salad. The spicy salad was incredible, and I'm terribly sorry that I forgot to take a picture of it. Arugula, fennel, awesome quality very razor thin slices of Parmesan and a peppercorn vinaigrette. We also shared a side of hand cut fries and they were just the way I like them, very thin, with the skin on, hot and crispy. We were still hungry and decided to order a second pot of mussels. We decided we wanted a bolder flavor and on Carly's suggestion opted for the lobster bisque. It was rather exciting to see the many larges chunks of lobster on top of the mussels when the lid was removed this time. This was maybe the best pot of mussels I've ever had. The sauce was much broth-ier than I expected with just a touch of cream- not at all heavy.  The lobster pieces were generous, and cooked perfectly. The flavor that seeped into the mussels was seriously delicious and I think I might have to go back for more soon since here it is, only 24 hours later and I'm already craving them.
And now, for the dessert portion of our evening. I could write a whole entry just about this dessert it was so amazing. I did a double take when it was placed on the table. The picture really doesn't do it justice so I will do my best to explain. The bottom layer is graham cracker cake, above that is frozen key lime filling with whipped white chocolate. On top are 8 flawless blueberries sprinkled with gold dust. The whole dish sits in a shallow pool of raspberry sauce. Now I am normally an 'if-there's-chocolate-on-the-dessert-menu-that's-what-I'm-getting' kind of woman, but this was a wonderful time to stray from that rule. To enhance the experience even further, right before my first bite I happened to overhear the pastry chef who was hanging outside with some friends, say he'd conceived the dish. Apparently, this charismatic young chef Zac Young, will be on Top Chef Desserts next season and based on this sample, I'm SURE he'll be a tough one to beat. Keep an eye out for him.

As an adorable final touch, we were given a couple of Swedish Fish with our check. There is no question in my mind that I will be coming back with friends and making this one of my neighborhood favs. Now that I know there is a $20 all you can eat mussels special from 5-7pm, I'm guessing I'll be back sooner than later.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Agata & Valentina: 1505 First ave, NY NY

This is a beautiful gourmet grocery store that has recently upgraded and expanded their cafe, even adding outdoor seating. I shop here once in a while, mostly for the rubbing-elbows-with-upper-east-siders-experience and excellent customer service- but not for the outrageously high prices or crowded aisles. I sometimes go in for produce, some cheese and a piece of fresh fish, and walk out $50 later wondering where my money went.
The cafe however, seems to be from another world. The prices are totally reasonable, the service is super fast, and you can always get a seat inside or at the new outside tables. My lunch today was a delicious prosciutto, mozzarella, roasted red pepper, arugula sandwich on amazingly fresh baguette with a balsamic vinaigrette. The ratios of meat to cheese to bread were spot-on and the quality of the ingredients were superb. I had a peach ice tea to drink that was SO fruitylicious- not a chemically note to be found (like some other mainstream brands). This lovely lunch cost me around $8 and was worth every fairly-priced cent. I will definitely stop in more often now that I know what a perfect meal I can get there when time is an issue. It's only about 2 blocks from my apartment which makes it even better. Almost all of the seats are up against windows which makes for an excellent people watching vantage point. See ya there!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Yorkville Creperie: 1586 York Ave, NY NY

Yorkville Creperie is exactly halfway between my friend's apartment and mine, so it made a great meeting spot for Sunday brunch. Added to the fact that I recently bought a "Pay $10 for $20 worth of food" coupon, it was the obvious choice.
It's a cute little place, and although it was fairly busy, we were seated right away. The waitress took our order, but wasn't particularly welcoming or friendly- and maybe even slightly put off. She did, however, agree to combine 2 crepe descriptions with no problem to let me order what I really wanted.
The menu was pretty simple, but had plenty to choose from. There were salads and panini that also appealed, but to go to a crepe place and not order crepes would just be silly. I choice strawberry/lemon/confectioner sugar and was pleased. Light and fresh, nice consistency, with just the right amount of sugar sprinkled on top. My friend also enjoyed his crepes with berries and whipped cream. We both cleaned our plates and left feeling comfortably satisfied, not overstuffed, as is often the case with the crepe's heavier cousin the pancake. I will plan to go back again when I want a special treat- the nutella and chocolate filled crepes sounded great and the other dishes that we saw on our neighboring table looked tasty. It's not like it's the most incredible food around, but super convenient and very fairly priced. Glad I finally tried it!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Cafe Sabarsky: 1048 5th ave, NY NY

My mother and I decided to go out for a ladies' lunch today. We chose Cafe Sabarsky based on it's highly-rated desserts, great reputation and a convenient location. We shared 2 salads and had cappuccinos and a piece of cake for dessert. The salads were presented simply, but elegantly. Everything tasted quite good, but to be honest, for the cost, they were pretty tiny portions. We asked for a basket of bread, which helped to turn our appetizer sized salads into a more complete meal. The bread was wonderful, and without it, we would have been left hungry. (which, after a $50 lunch seems a bit unforgivable) The beets with pines nuts and goat cheese were just that. No bed of lettuce to bulk things up. The cheese was of wonderful quality, but again, not much of it. The crab meat salad included a few slices  of radish and cucumber and half an avocado. The crab was light and delicious, but doused in too much mayo. The basil vinaigrette was wonderful and I wouldn't have turned down a bottle to go home with- but they didn't sell it. The best part, without question, was the chocolate apricot cake with fresh whipped cream. The waiter told us that was the most popular choice on the (very appealing) dessert menu and that made a difficult decision much easier. It was not dense and heavy- although it looked that way. It had a decedent chocolate ganache layer on top, but underneath was a relatively light chocolate cake. The apricot was almost undetectable...but once every few bites I would get a little aftertaste of it- very nice. The homemade whipped cream on the side hit the spot. The setting is pretty casual but comfortable. Make sure you sit facing the windows for the best vantage point. Overall, I'd totally suggest stopping in for a coffee drink and some dessert, but skip the overpriced, under portioned lunch.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

David Copperfields: 1394 York Ave, NY NY

Two friends were here visiting from the burbs today and we wanted an easy place to go have lunch...the requirements were: nearby, a/c, beer, sandwiches and salads. Easy enough. Copperfields is just a few blocks from my apartment and since I'd never been in before we thought it sounded perfect for what we wanted.
My first reaction walking in was to turn around. There was one person at the bar and 2 people sitting in a booth in the restaurant. I worried that this was a bad indication, but my friend pointed out that it *was* 3:15pm on a Tuesday and what did I expect? So, okay. We sat down.
Typical bar food menu, with a pretty extensive beer selection. I had a grilled portobello with swiss and onion rings, my friends had a chicken sandwich and a santa fe salad. Everything was fine. Nothing was remarkable. The onion rings, while hot, crunchy and with nice thick rings of onion (not chopped up mush) were so super greasy that napkins between bites were necessary. The roll on my sandwich was very eh, and could have easily upgraded the meal if it was replaced with a fresher, tastier one.
The service was friendly but very slow. By the time we left (an hour and half later), there were 3 full booths and about 6 people at the bar...and in her defense, she was the only one on the floor...maybe they should have a waitress AND a bartender instead of making her do the job of 2 people. That said, we were pretty happy to have a leisurely escape from the humidity and 90 degree weather outside.
Will I go back? Probably not. Would I tell you to avoid it? No, it's fine- especially if you like beer.