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Everything posted by Mayur

  1. FWIW, I think the Italian places offer the best oenophile experience going in NY right now. Batali's restaurants (Otto, of course; Lupa and Babbo do excellent wine service and have exceptional lists as well), 'ino and 'inoteca (I actually vastly prefer the former; 'inoteca's decor is a bit boring for my tastes), In Vino, and Il Posto Accanto have knowledgeable staff, voluminous wine lists, and good prices.
  2. Well, yeah. I guess I just find the combination of Centovini's location, atmosphere, and comestibles a bit underwhelming. Sure. I've only been twice (once for a quiet drink and once for a wedding anniversary bash), so others may have more to say. Let me preface this by saying that I really like the food at the Public; largely because I am a big fan of the current Australian/kiwi approach to cuisine. I like its adventurousness, exuberance, and willingness to work with bright colors and big flavors on the plate. The Monday Room's "cuisine," so to speak, is not like that; it's much toned down, but the food probably represents the best set of small bites to accompany wine in NYC right now. The place is (IMHO) quite charming; the overall effect is sort of English gentleman's club. It was very crowded both times I was there, but that didn't seem to really hurt the vibe. The decor is rather strikingly different from Public's avant-garde riff on civil architecture. The wine list is gently priced, ever-changing (or at least it was substantively different on two visits separated by only ten days), and broken up into a suitable range of tastings, flights, and paired wine/savory courses. Nicely done; although I feel like I've seen it done elsewhere, the Monday Room version is clearly the product of an elevated gastronomic sensibility, though masked by the simplicity of the food pairings (compared to the Public's everything-on-a-plate mains, anyway!) and the menu language. Food quality is excellent; about up to the standard of the Public's main dining room. Unlike the main room, the portions are *tiny.* In most cases, that seemed fine; The sea urchin was about as much as you get with a slightly oversized piece of uni sushi, which seemed fine to me, and the richer preparations (foie gras, chicken livers, etc.) were nicely portioned. In others (carpaccio, salads, etc.), I'd say they went a bit too far in trimming down the dishes, if only because complexity and intensity of flavor seemed to suffer. The best example of that is the venison carpaccio, which was about on the level of a barely-passable catered canape. The crowd was rather annoyingly scenesterish both times I went (yes, including the private party I went to). Strong Upper East Side/Connecticut socialite quotient and a few self-styled "media" people. IMHO, ick. However, the owners' warmth more than compensates for this; they really are quite hospitable and knowledgeable enough about food and wine to enable those centered around the substance of the place to have a good time. Of course, what worries me is that the crowd is only likely to get worse over time, given that this place is in NoLIta.
  3. Il Posto Accanto does (very generous!) quartinos as well. I'll support at least part of what Nathan said. Some elaboration: 1) Still negative points for Centovini. Sorry; I just don't like the vibe or the block, and I'm actually not crazy about the selection. 2) While I like the Room (it was my regular in law school many moons ago, and has been a frequent meeting place for friends since), it's never blown me away on the wine selection. Like Von, it's a nice place to hang, but not an epicure's wine bar of choice, IMHO. (Also, it's *loud* and the music selection, again IMHO, leaves something to be desired.) 3) Otto has a fabulous selection, excellent prices, and knowledgeable service, but it is a bit of a crush; be prepared. I've done it on early evenings or at weird times on weekdays, but otherwise I just steer clear. 4) 'ino, its larger sister 'inoteca, Epistrophy, and the Public's Monday Room are excellent wine choices. Some other options if you go northeast are Bar Veloce and its sister winebar Bar Carrera. While the wine roster doesn't change so often, you get an excellent set of choices, the wines are well-maintained, and the vibe is nice. Also, consider In Vino on 4th Street (btw Aves A & B); the staff can be inexperienced (I should know; two friends of mine used to work there!) but the (Southern Italian) selection is nice. 5) The Bar@Etats-Unis is excellent, although absurdly crowded (not surprising given the paucity of choices in the nabe). Another option in the neighborhood is Cafe D'Alsace; although largely known for its beer selection, they have an excellent wine-by-the-glass options (as well as probably the best liquor bar north of 86th St). Also right by Cafe d'Alsace on 2nd ave and 88th st is cavatappo, a nice little surprise of a wine bar! 6) If you're on the Upper West Side, Aix (88th & Broadway) has a great wine selection, with a focus on Southwestern French wines. (The chef used to be a sommelier at some okay restos like Pre Catalan and Jean-Georges.) 7) I Trulli (27th Street) is an old standard as well, although probably skippable. Still, they do have a nice selection. 8) Morrell's (49th St btw 5th & 6th aves) has an amazing selection, but the crowd sucks and the prices are insanely high. [EDIT: added cavatappo.]
  4. I'm not so fond of Centovini, myself. My favorite (in part, however, because it's local) is Il Posto Accanto on 2nd Street between Avenues A & B. The staff is quite knowledgeable about the wine, all sorts of different excellent stuff is available, and the vibe is nice. Varietal and Cru could both be seen to qualify as "wine bars" of a sort, as well. They certainly both have things to recommend them in the food department.
  5. Ah. Here's what happens when one doesn't follow these things...
  6. Hmm, is 205 closed these days? I was there just three weeks ago (friend's after-gig party) and it seemed pretty good. Oh well... Yeah. Go for something low-maintenance. It largely depends on where you'll be hanging. If it were me, I'd make a day of it in Queens; hit a bunch of the Sunnyside pubs, maybe swing over to the Bohemian Hall beer garden in Astoria for some ethnic variation, and then see if you can book ahead for a large group somewhere like Ali's Kabab Cafe (25-19 Steinway St.). If you're planning on being in Manhattan, my advice would be to see if you can grab a table at St. Dymphna's, maybe migrate downtown to Croxley Ales and then over to Loreley, and eventually end up either at one of the izakayas (Japanese snack joints) in the East Village or somewhere like Skyway (Malaysian) on Allen Street. Thursday is an infinitely superior dining-out night in NYC to Friday, although it's really no less crowded. It's also a slightly better night for drinks out; if you're planning on hitting a place like Little Branch, Milk and Honey, or Pegu, it would be better to go on Thursday. Momofuku (or Ssam Bar) are relatively easy to do as a diner alone, since it's counter style for the most part. If you're literally on your own for the evening and would like some local company, feel free to drop me a PM and perhaps my g/f and I can join you. I know most of the staff at Ssam Bar and a few other of the above-listed joints. [EDIT: For Friday lunch, you will definitely want to book well in advance if you decide on Jean-Georges. Perry Street is another option; if you're there are really want to check out the Spotted Pig, you can always head over after lunch for a pint and a look-see.]
  7. I don't think that either of those places take reservs more than two months in advance... Cocktail bars: What Nathan said. Add to that some of the restaurant bars around: Mas and 5 Ninth, for instance, both supply excellent cocktails, often with custom or housemade ingredients. Employees Only on Hudson St. is another fine choice, although I find it best if you go *late*. If you can live without OCD cocktail crafting, APT (W. 13th st.), Beatrice Inn (W. 12th St.), Kush (Bowery) and 205 (Delancey) are also worth checking out for a drink and a hang, as I'd say those all qualify as "fun and hip". Pubs for St. Paddy's? Well, An Beal Bocht (Bronx) or Donovan's (Sunnyside) are great, but you possibly don't want to go that far. I'd recommend St. Dymphna's (St. Mark's btw 1st and A), since it's relatively low-key for the neighborhood and never too crowded; plus, the outside may be open by March, given this wacky weather. Lunch? Jean Georges or Perry Street by a mile. IMHO, you can give the Spotted Pig a miss; it's the most overrated and mobbed place in town, and I can think of literally a hundred better values for my money than sitting on a bar stool eating their burger. Dinner for 10 on Saturday is actually not all that bad, on two months notice as you're giving. What's bad is trying to plan an evening out on a Saturday. My friends' usual practice is to make an evening out of dinner itself on a weekend, rather than hopping over to a bar or club afterward; we usually meet for drinks at the resto itself beforehand, or plan to gather at someone's apartment (or hit a private party) afterward. My recommendations: 1) If you are having drinks BEFORE dinner, can score seats in the back of the room, and are planning on staying most of the evening in one place: Boqueria, 19th St. btw 5th & 6th Aves. You can go to the Flatiron Lounge for an early-evening drink (on a Saturday, it won't have the usual after-work mob), and then stay in (IMHO) a lovely, if crowded, setting having excellent tapas and drinks. 2) If you're willing to spend some money and want something cool, but a tiny bit subdued: Mas, on Downing Street in the West Village. Excellent drinks, lots of shareable small plates, lovely staff. Quite fun. 3) If you want something seriously foodie-ish, are willing to brave the East Village Saturday night mobs, and don't mind sitting on relatively uncomfortable stools that look and feel like packing boxes: Momofuku Ssam Bar. However, I will warn that by the time you get there in March, the place will probably be so crowded that it will be a seriously unpleasant experience. I'd thus advise saving this for a Sunday. 4) If you want something with lots of entertainment possibilities nearby that isn't overrun by out-of-towners: Dumont, Relish, or Sweetwater in Williamsburg, or Ici or Thomas Beisl in Fort Greene. Lots of possibilities for entertainment nearby (Ici and Thomas Beisl have the Brooklyn Academy of Music, complete with theater, music performances, and films, and the Billyburg places have lots of bars and clubs in the vicinity) and a reasonably NY crowd.
  8. Yeah, what he said. But I for one haven't seen any documentation that this really happens, other than from two posters who said that they'd been served alcohol in upscale NYC restaurants when underage, and that's statistically insignificant. Everybody else has just said that 'of course, we all know it happens all the time', but I don't accept that. ← Accept it or not; my NYC underage dining experiences where wine was included are easily over 100, which is a perfectly decent n-value for this sort of thing. (Incidentally, "statistically significant" isn't what you're looking for; you're concerned with sample size, which is a bit different.) Add in the experiences of my friends (most of whom grew up in NYC in the '80s-'90s) and I'd say there's a pretty decent basis for assuming that high-end restaurants in NY really don't card in typical dining circumstances.To be honest, I still cringe when I get asked for my ID when ordering a glass of wine or a beer at a restaurant (something that NEVER happens to me in NYC; here I get carded at the door, at music venues, at bars that have a strong college quotient and have recently been leaned on by the NYPD, and nowhere else, really. Maybe I lack Daniel's baby-face?) That said, and notwithstanding the experience of many, many diners who grew up in NY sampling alcoholic beverages at their parents' behest rather than the strict drinking age, the law does not contain "grey areas." By the wording of the relevant statute, Per Se is just as liable for pouring an underage diner a glass of Sauternes as a dive bar is for handing an underage drinker a beer. The law itself is vastly different both from the way it is enforced and from the desired social norm of people who enjoy beer or wine with food. Our food culture is basically all imported; our haute cuisine culture is primarily imported from France, where the drinking age is certainly *not* 21 and wine is consumed in the home and at restaurants at a much younger age than that. Most other countries, in fact, do not enforce their drinking age laws at all, assuming they have them (over 130 countries do not have any regulations or statutes governing the consumption of alcohol by minors). However, just because we may want to go to Ducasse and have the same dining experience that an 18-year-old can have in Paris doesn't mean the law condones it. Personally, in the case of the experience that started it all, I'll bet that it was the result of an inexperienced server and not a manifestation of some sort of extreme consciousness about the drinking age on the part of the EMP management. I doubt the situation will change; restos in NYC, and not just the high level, are very unlikely to ever ask for ID unless they are enforcement targets (unlikely in the case of the haute cuisine establishments). emily: You may be struck by Bryan's attitude, but rest assured the situation was pretty unusual for NY. As I mentioned above, almost NO restaurant in Manhattan asks for ID unless the situation itself is odd. Establishments just don't card here the way they do in the rest of the country. As someone who does most of my eating out either in NY or abroad, I have to say that it's infinitely more civilized not to feel like you're getting pulled over by the highway patrol while sitting at a nice dinner. "Shocked and disturbed" goes a little beyond my reaction; "piqued" would probably be it. Again, I think the issue is cultural. EMP is fundamentally a haute cuisine restaurant; the idea of wine with one's food is therefore sort of integral to the experience. EMP's analogues in the UK, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Belgium, etc. etc. have drinking ages of 18 at the highest, and enforcement is nonexistent, with none of the penalties even on the books that most US restaurants have to deal with (serious fines, suspension of license... although I have a *very* hard time believing the latter ever happens in NY). Not having wine with one's food at a restaurant of that level and type can be a pretty serious letdown, and it certainly is an unfortunate reminder of how our liquor laws and their supporting regulations can be at odds with educating younger people about gastronomy. (Compare, for example, with the French tradition of offering students a week of discount haute cuisine meals complete with excellent wines!)
  9. Well, I had the tasting menu on New Year's Eve (report here), and none of the dishes were the same as the report upthread.I also had the tasting menu about two years ago, and while memories have faded a bit, most of the dishes have seem to have changed. ← Maybe I've just been unlucky. I've been to WD-50 three times in the past eight or so months, and I can say with some certainty that the carrot-coconut dish, the foie gras, the crab roll, the miso, the beef tongue, the squab, and the cream cheese dish all have appeared on the menu at least two out of those three times (the first five have been on all three degustation samplings). Good to know your experience has been different. Maybe I should just call and ask before I show up next time... For the record, WD-50 *is* one of my favorites. I don't drop $105 on a tasting menu three times a year just anywhere. But a wider sampling of dishes would have made me happier.
  10. Except, of course, that then you're making cocktails with a heavy, slippery, iced-up glass shaker, which does *not* seem so fun! Dilemmas, dilemmas... I prefer the "v" glasses myself, only because I like straight lines. (Modernist to the core, I guess.) I like 'em thin, fine, crystalline, and about 5 oz. in size. Coupettes are, however, MUCH more practical in terms of containing drink spillage.
  11. Is it my imagination, or is the tasting menu getting a mite repetitive? Will have to stop by and see if the a la carte menu is changing a bit more rapidly...
  12. Hmm. Not to sideline this into an M&H discussion, but I wonder if the unlisted number thing really works so well any more. I've been both right before and shortly after the number change and it was hardly a soigne crowd either time. I actually find Little Branch more pleasant these days.
  13. The Oriental takes reservs, and I've seen groups of 8-10 there, although 15 may be pushing it for, well, anywhere. Have also seen large groups at Stone Rose; I met a friend of mine and his entire craft services group there after a shoot shortly after it opened. I'd call and check if I were you.
  14. Hmm; I did miss the "boatload" comment. Separate issue: I don't find Milk and Honey nearly as selective any more as your comment suggests (one of the reasons I don't go there often, and never on weekends).
  15. Regarding dancing, you still really might want to consider APT or 205. For martini lounges, a reservation at Milk and Honey or a table at the Flatiron Lounge might not be amiss.
  16. Ah; that provides a great deal of clarification! I'd say that Buddakan is ideal, in that case; the space is gorgeous, the vibe is convivial, and it'll be all fun. To be honest, your employees aren't far off on the vibe; Pegu is centered around cocktails the same way that a fine restaurant is centered around food, and I don't think that most people apply the same ambiance criteria to their enjoyment of those two things.
  17. Belly and the Slipper Room aren't really places that I *especially* care for, either (I more care for one of the bartenders at Belly ); that's sorta the point to me, actually! They're quite mellow places for a medium to large group to assemble for drinks pre-party action. Also worth mentioning are: -Bowery Ballroom (if there's a decent act playing that night) -Subtonic (the lounge below Tonic, a jazz club on Norfolk Street; often interesting DJs) -That place that used to be Idlewild on East Houston Street (you'll have to forgive me; I can't think of the name)
  18. Ah, too true. The staff is also, IMX, incredibly nice, which is always a plus with a large group.
  19. Unfortunately, it doesn't really work that way. Even one of the "off-the-radar" restos in Manhattan is still reasonably full on both weeknights and weekends. In smaller cities, OTOH, for whatever reasons (and I'm not an industry expert, so I can't offer any), even excellent restaurants can be barely full (or fully reserved, but without the crush of people they have jamming the doorway in NYC), and less well-known restaurants can be nearly empty even if the quality of the food is high. I've been to places that top the Zagat ratings in cities like Austin, Baltimore, Dallas-FW, Philadelphia, Portland, Minneapolis, Miami, or Houston on less than a day's notice and had no trouble scoring a table; a slightly more restrictive calculus applies to DC, Boston, Seattle, or LA, but not much. By contrast, I have at least *twenty* pretty well-known/well-trafficked restaurants within two or three blocks of me, all of which are jammed on weekends and fully booked most weekdays. You just don't get that volume, at those prices, anywhere else with the possible exception of San Francisco or Chicago (and probably not even there). New York is *the* place to operate. IMHO, this topic is a bit of a red herring in general. Restaurants anywhere have a poor survival rate; the criteria for haute cuisine are even more grueling than those for neighborhood eats. The restaurants of this era are not for the most part the personal labor or love or family enterprise of France's Michelin-starred establishments, and chefs are quick to move on, and owners to close up shop, when profits go down. I don't think this is an unusual phenomenon or an indication that NYC has too many high-end restaurants. (May I also note that "critical mass" is a bit of a malapropism in this context?) I think that tastes change *very* fast, that an increasing proportion of the populace defines itself as "foodie" and is therefore quick to seek out new techniques and dining trends, and that the economy is not nearly so solid as some people would like to think. In NYC at least, a large number of high-end restaurants are driven by Wall Street bonuses; the newer crop of restaurants get the bigger share of those proceeds. Bonuses have tended to concentrate among a very small population of financial professionals in the last couple of years; those same people aren't going to keep going to Daniel every month. Incidentally, this isn't really unusual or new; Mimi Sheraton and Bryan Miller's reviews of the Palm and the Four Seasons, respectively, note the unusual nature of their longevity in their reviews. Things probably *do* move faster nowadays, if simply because people track new trends in dining more quickly and with greater assiduousness.
  20. It sounds like Pegu is maybe just not exciting-sounding enough to your employees; understandable since it's a pretty sedate place. Maybe the Flatiron Lounge (19th Street btw 5th and 6th Avenues?). It has a high quality of cocktail-making, but with a more bustling vibe than Pegu. Another option might be Chumley's on Bedford St. in the West Village; its hideaway-speakeasy nature is kinda cool for some. If they're looking for somewhere high-design-ish, then Buddakan, Hiro or Spice Market might be better for them (although you have to deal with the Meatpacking crowd). What do you think your employees didn't like about the look of Pegu? Too sedate? Too recipe-obsessed? Not enough sexy-people quotient? Not enough of a landmark or design statement? More input would help. [EDIT: Incidentally, if drinks at Pegu are the sort of employee side benefit you offer, any interest in hiring? ]
  21. Another vote for Jean-Georges. Perry Street is good, but IMHO lunch there is just a notch lower in true fabulosity than the lunch experience at JG. If you drop $50 or so on lunch there, you will have enjoyed a meal that has few equals, anywhere. I really don't understand the fuss about L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon, but hey, such an overwhelming majority makes me wonder. If you want something a bit more casual and less of a big deal for dinner, the bar room at the Modern might be a nice idea; wd-50 is reasonably casual as well if you only go 3-4 courses and skip the tasting menu blowout. (Unlike xyz123, I've been uniformly satisfied there.)
  22. Regarding the Voice article: I certainly can chime in a note of endorsement for Home Sweet Home or 205; the not-so-new digs of Kush (Chrystie btw Rivington and Stanton) are also good for this sort of thing. In general, you'll do not so badly on the Lower East Side, although the roster of good places tends to change very frequently. Lolita is pretty good; Home Sweet Home and 205 are also quite good. Belly tends to be decent for a pre-dancing drink, as does the Slipper Room. I will reaffirm, though (and I say this as someone who lives in this neighborhood), that the best weekend action is across the river in Brooklyn. [EDIT: Another not-necessarily-so-bad option in the Meatpacking District is APT on West 13th Street, which, while PACKED, is reasonably cozy, dancing-friendly, and often features excellent DJs.]
  23. Mayur


    Dammit, I was hoping no one would write this place up here. Well, at least there's no NYT review yet... That about sums up my feelings about this place. While it's only a small advance in closing the gap that our fair city has in the Mexican cuisine department, it is (other than the *INSANE!* noise level), quite fantastic. The hostess, bartender, and servers are friendly; the menu is intelligent and reasonably focused while covering a nice sprinkling of regional grounds; and the food is consistently (based on three visits) high-quality. The tequila is a bit on the pricey side, but the selection is good and the margaritas, sangrita, beer, and wine are top notch.
  24. Yeah, but they have no dancing. As for the B&T issue: Well, this is why lots of us don't go to clubs, fancy bars, OR high-profile restaurants on Fridays or Saturdays. I also despise bottle service, *but* I'm not really into this type of thing to begin with anyway, so YMMV. It *is* true that bottle service is an easy way to avoid the usual door attitude, and really, $300-500 is a small price to pay for avoiding a wintertime wait in line, especially if you're a sizable group. Besides, you can always go for champagne and feel festive; just don't get more than one bottle! I would seriously contemplate not being in Manhattan at all. There may be some excellent parties in Brooklyn or LIC that would provide a far more satisfying experience. One option would be to subscribe to the e-mail list at Nonsense NYC, which has reasonably high quality control. Another would be to see if there's a decent band playing anywhere. Famous concerts are an obvious option: If you're going to see P-Funk or Blackalicious, you know what you'll get, of course. Joe's Pub, Pianos, Northsix (williamsburg), and Galapagos (williamsburg) also tend to host pretty good shows, and there's usually a good crowd and dancing any night of the week, provided the music is an appropriate match. For something located right in that hellhole... er, nightlife center known as the Meatpacking District, I think you really will be best off with either Cielo or Son Cubano; as Nathan mentioned, Cielo can be a bit tricky to get into. The Park (10th Ave. btw 16th & 17th sts.) is also possibly worthwhile, depending on what exactly is going on there. Good luck!
  25. I'm glad you found a good use for the Red Hook! I still haven't been able to drink it in any form (my first thought was a hack at a, well, Red Hook using it, but it was waayyy too oomphy for my tastes). Whence cometh the Nouvelle-Orleans absinthe? Is that something the fine folks at LeNell's are stocking these days? Personally, having traditionally used the Henri Bardouin to make sazeracs (cdh has a case at home that I got him one summer), I actually find the herbsaint a superior option... at least with the ryes I use. It's a bit lighter and fruitier than the HB, so it's a nice complement to the Sazerac baby or the Rittenhouse I usually have lying around. Pernod I'm not so fond of, mainly because I find it somewhat aggressively lemony, and I like being able to drink a cocktail with minimal citrus overtones given how many of them depend on that flavor element.
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