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The Riverhead Project WOW!!!

Our experience was not as good. We had spotty service including poor wait service (non-existent wine service). Starters: Lobster perogie was a lobster ravioli and while OK, not spectacular. The tomato salad was not as on the menu; no baby lettuce, no basil and no red onion only fresh and baked tomatoes and arugula; mains: Berkshire pork chop that was heavily "smoked" that ruined the flavor of the dish and the tempura soft shell crabs that were overly tempura-ed particularily the veggies. Beautiful restaurant with many current flaws. Management seems more concerned with investors, family and friends then paying patrons.

Casual Dinning on the East End

One of the pleasures of summer on the East End is having lunch at a casual place, which offers interesting and occasionally outstanding meals. Here are notes from some places where we recently have had lunch and casual dinners:

Jamesport Country Kitchen
1601 Main Road
Jamesport, NY 11947

Located directly on Main Road in Jamesport, this buttercup yellow house/inn offers the informed diner a wonderful meal and an opportunity to sample local North Fork wine.

The simple dining rooms are crisp and clean and reflect the sparse but satisfying food served in a pleasant country environment. Service is not only pleasant, but quite professional.

The menu features American classics and modern American interpretations of international classic, all prepared with the best ingredients and with attention to details. Go simple and you will not be disappointed.

The Country Kitchen features all local wines at reasonable prices, maybe due in part to the fact that the table next to yours may be occupied by a local winemaker or winery owner. Go local, ask for a recommendation and you will be pleased.

Jamesport Country Kitchen – Highly Recommended

Dune Road
Hampton Bays, NY 11946

A large seafood restaurant located on a fishing marina, overlooking the inlet between the Atlantic Ocean and Shinnecock Bay shouts in flashing neon “Tourist Trap.”

But Oakland’s is anything but a tourist place. It is a excellent Seafood/American restaurant professionally managed with a kitchen that prepares first class American food.

In addition to the outstanding location, the New England Lighthouse designed restaurant features a large inviting bar area, a huge dining room, with panoramic windows on three sides, and a large outdoor deck and tiki bar.

The American/Seafood menu features local seafood. Frequent nightly specials include the Lobster Bash, a true New England clam/lobster bake of chowder, shrimp, clams or mussels, cob of corn and 1 ½ lb lobster.

The limited wine list is priced incredibly low. Many local wines are featured.

The wait service is surprisingly good despite many local high school students serving as the waiter/runners.

Oakland’s – Highly Recommended

Dockers Waterside Restaurant & Marina
94 Dune Road
East Quogue, NY 11942

The only East Quogue restaurant on the barrier island, Docker’s is a great place to sit outside, overlook the Shinnecock Bay and enjoy a simple American or Seafood lunch.

The beach shack décor is perfect for the location and the menu is perfect for what one seeks at such a place. Preparation by the kitchen varies between good/very good/excellent. Nonetheless, the food is always decent to very good, served in a polite and friendly manner.

A limited wine list is matched to the food and waterside environment.

Dockers – Recommended

Modern Snack Bar
628 Main Road
Aquebogue, NY 11931

The Modern Snack Bar is the iconic building featured recently in a Toyota television commercial. It is also a relic of a different era, which is played to the nines by the staff dressed in 50’s waitress outfits.

The menu is composed of American classic and a few German influence dishes such as sauerbraten. The food is prepared in a very 50’s style, over cooked and occasionally over sauced. While far from the highest level of quality or preparation, the food is very satisfying.

Wine is served, but this is not a food and wine place. Stick to soft drinks and beer.

Service is friendly and acceptable.

Modern Snack Bar - Acceptable

Cutchogue Diner
Main Road
Cutchogue, NY 11935

A historic landmark 1930's diner is located in the middle of Chutchogue, which is almost a museum in that it has more historical character than functionality.

While the architectural value is high the food value is marginal. The menu is traditional American. The kitchen, frequently one short order cook, prepares marginal food composed of quality local indigents. Prices are surprisingly high.

Local North Fork wine is served, but the selections limited.

Service is adequate.

Cutchogue Diner - Acceptable

23 Main Street
Sag Harbor, NY 11963

For years Sen in Sag Harbor was the place for sushi on the East End. The Japanese minimalist place located near the wharf area in lower Sag Harbor had the design, service and most importantly the fresh sushi that made is a destination location.

Apparently recent ownership and management changes have transformed Sen into at best a mediocre sushi place.

A recent lunch was composed of old and over cooked Endame, and some of the worst sashimi and sushi we have ever been served. The preparation was amateurish, the rice was not sticky rice and the overall composition was awful.

And as bad as the food was, the service was worst.

The limited wine list is grossly over priced.

Sen - Unacceptbale

More East End Long Island Fine Dinning

With the Summer Season here, we would like to provide our dinning notes on our most recent dinning experiences around the East End over the past few weeks.

The 1770 House Restaurant & Inn
143 Main Street
East Hampton, NY 11937

The name "The 1770 House" alone raises concerns this is one of those classical colonial American dinning places that populate New England and the Middle Atlantic states, and the appearance along Main Street in East Hampton re-enforces the stereotype that the dinning will be acceptable but not memorable.

However, once one steps inside the traditional/colonial architecture derived dinning room of The 1770 House, one realizes this is in fact one of the top restaurants one can experience anywhere.

The front staff is 100% professional, the dinning room is well laid out, the chairs and seating at the tables is comfortable. The lighting is perfect and sets a relaxed/romantic mood. The stemware, plate and silverware are first class, which sets a perfect mood for great food, wine and service. And that is exactly what one receives at The 1770 House.

The menu is composed of modern American/International cuisine, featuring local products whenever they are available. Salads use locally grown greens. Oysters on the half shell featured Peconic Pride oysters that can challenge the best world class oysters for flavor, meatiness, and texture. Main courses feature local fish, duck, and meats. The kitchen executes with near perfection. The combination of composition, ingredients, and preparation of the dishes result in a wonderful meal in a beautiful setting.

The wine list is comprehensive, featuring excellent examples of local, American, New World and European wines. Wine service is professional.

Overall the wait service is world class, and remarkable for an East End restaurant.

The 1770 House Restaurant & Inn - Highly Recommended

Plaza Cafe
61 Hill Street
Southampton, NY 11968

This hidden away restaurant with an entrance in the back of a nondescript building off a small street, is a truly a hidden gem.

The interior is somewhat neutral and nondescript with limited interior design features other than the height of the room which is impressive. The overall design is not offensive and perhaps even romantic due to a large and functional fireplace that warms the room on a cool or cold night.

The modern American menu feature local products, prepared in most satisfying ways. The menu is dominated by seafood, most of it local. While the prices tend towards the high end, during the week there are fixed priced menus that are great values, and allow a diner to sample some of the kitchen's more interesting dishes.

The wine list features American wines, including a limited number of Long Island wines. Prices are slightly higher than at comparable places, but overall the wine list is acceptable.

Service while earnest, it is not up to the high level of the food, and some management attention to service is warranted.

Plaza Cafe - Recommended

Inn Spot on the Bay
32 Lighthouse Road
Hampton Bays, NY 11946

The location of Inn Spot directly on the Shinnecock Bay just before the Ponoquogue Bridge from the mainland to the barrier island, makes it one of the most perfect places to enjoy the beauty of the East End.

The sparse New England decor matches the panoramic views from both the dinning room and porch areas, and adds to the nautical feel.

Like many East End places the service is marginal at best and sometimes far worse than that, at least based upon a recent dinning experience. While well meaning the service execution at our last meal was amateurish and occasionally down right infuriating.

The menu is modern American, with emphasis on seafood and local products. Unfortunately not all the products seem to be of the highest quality or freshness. And the execution of kitchen under the direction of a co-owner and chef is spotty. Not all preparations are first class. The recent meal had a number of lows; poor selection of oysters on the half -shell, over sauced local duck, and a very over sauced fillet Mignon.

Wine selection is limited, eclectic, fairly priced and quite acceptable.

Inn Spot on the Bay - Acceptable

755 Montauk Highway
Water Mill, NY 11976

Other than its yellow paint, Robert's would be a somewhat undistinguished saltbox located on the Eastside of Water Mill directly on Montauk Highway. The charming decor of this country inn type restaurant and garden makes an inviting environment.

The front desk was professional and willing to accommodate our reservation request.

Unfortunately based upon a very recent meal, the kitchen has lost not one recipe but all recipes. The Italian influenced menu promises far more than we experienced. Salads were sad affairs unceremoniously dropped on bowls. Pasta dishes were composed of ill prepared pasta mismatched with other ingredients and sauces that defy recognition.

Even more unfortunate is the fact that the Hamptons’ crowd that dines at the latest trendy places keeps Robert’s alive, whereas in Manhattan it would not survive a month.

The high priced wine list was acceptable.

Service while friendly, perhaps too friendly, was marginally acceptable.

We rarely have dined at a place we would not return to for at least one more opportunity for it to redeem itself, but Robert’s is not worth a return visit.

Robert's - Unacceptable

More Eastern Pennsylvania Dining and Wine Tasting

About 90 miles and 90-120 minutes by I-80/I-84 West of Manhattan is Milford, PA, located near the New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania meeting point along the Delaware River. Milford has hosted New Yorkers since the mid-1800’s as a summer retreat. While not in the same league as the Hamptons, or even the Hudson River Valley, nonetheless this town and this far Eastern Region of the Poconos has the arts, shops and most importantly the dinning places to merit a visit. While there are many casual places in Milford and in adjacent villages, there is only one top place:

The Delmonico Room
Hotel Fauchere
401 Broad Street
Milford, PA 18337

Since 1852 the Hotel Fauchere has been a remote outpost of Manhattan. Louis Fauchere, the chef at Delmonico’s in New York, opened the hotel as a seasonal get away place for the rich and art savvy. The current hotel was built in 1880 and restored in recent years to exquisite standards when it reopened on 2006. In 2007 it was listed on the Hot List by Conde Nast Traveler.

The casual bar/café Bar Louis is in the basement has a contemporary Manhattan style, serving lighter dishes such a Sushi Pizza which get rave reviews.

On the main level is the beautiful Delmonico Room, the formal dining room is composed of two beautifully appointed main rooms and a light, bright and the equally delightful adjoining porch dinning room. Chef Michael Glatz is a James Beard Foundation honoree, and his menu is composed of contemporary classics featuring primarily local products.

Dinner is a fixed price three course meal, priced based upon the main course selected. We sampled a variety of dishes from contemporary antipasti, local greens salad and lightly breaded sweetbreads as starters. All were composed of the finest ingredients and most were well prepared. Mains included a wonderful Delmonico steak, rack of local lamb (both prepared as ordered) and regional bass. Again great products prepared to high, if perhaps not the highest standards. Desserts were well made and permitted a variety of choices.

The wine list was quite good for a Pennsylvania restaurant, and the prices were moderately high. We selected a wonderful Cambria Katherine’s Vineyard Chardonnay. Wine service was professional.

Overall all front desk and wait service was professional and friendly.

The Delmonico Room - Recommended

Jun 03, 2008
Martin_Chamois in Pennsylvania

East End Long Island Update

The former F.O.O.D. place in Hampton Bays has a fresh coat of paint and a sign announcing Blue Cactus, a Mexican Restaurant – just what Hampton Bays doesn’t need.

And Sen in Sag Harbor is now one of two place; Sen Spices (Indian cuisine) and Sen (still sushi but you could fool me). This doesn't sound or smell good.


Thanks for catching the brain fa__ on David Rockwell

Apr 23, 2008
Martin_Chamois in Manhattan


We were not impressed. See our notes:

Adour - Alain Ducasse
St. Regis Hotel
2 E 55th Street
New York, NY 10022

After less than memorable (actually memorable but not in a positive way) earlier meals at Alain Ducasse restaurants in Europe, Hong Kong and in New York, but after we read the positive critics reviews of Adour we decided to give it a try. Having been the previous week at L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon we had a perfect point of comparison.

The David Rockwell designed room is neither overly attractive nor unattractive. It is just neutral and makes the best of a somewhat awkward space at the St. Regis Hotel. The wine storage cabinets throughout the dining area are impressive, but do they really make this a premier dining space? The close rectangular table arrangements for twos is also more mainstream restaurant rather than the well placed and well suited round tables at fine dining places such as Daniel or Jean-George

The start was shaky as our reservation request was not honored, but after a polite reminder, we were seated at an acceptable table. The wait service was professional, but far short of expectations of a top restaurant.

Wine service was at best odd. First the sommelier seemed confused when we asked for a recommendation of a Pouilly Fuisse and he recommended a Pouilly Fume. Then when we selected a well priced Chassagne-Montrechet after briefly showing the bottle, the sommelier did not open the bottle within visible sight, did not show the cork, and then put the wine in a decanter – the first time in my life a French white was placed in a decanter. It was weird at best. But when the wine was not routinely served during dinner and the sommelier later tipped the decanter to get the last drop of the wine as he cleared the decanter, the wine service went from weird to just plain bad service.

And service did not improve when the wrong first courses were placed in front of us. After we started sliding the plates across the table the head waiter chastised the busser but never apologized for this major fault. Not anything one expects at a top restaurant.

So the setting for the food was strained before we had our first taste (we will discount the bread sticks presented as some weird pseudo amuse-bouche). Our first courses of sweetbreads and gnocchi while acceptable paled in comparison to comparable dishes at L'Atelier. Same for our mains of chicken and pork, both of which lacked any fine cuisine sizzle.

While some may find the food at Adour fine and some may even accept the food as finest French gourmet cuisine, to us it is merely acceptable.

Adour - Alain Ducasse – Acceptable.

Apr 23, 2008
Martin_Chamois in Manhattan

East End Long Island Update

Some late April Updates -

Q East-

Due to ownership changes, Q Restaurant in Quogue has become Q East. Former chef Frank Tramontano is out, but much if the rest of the kitchen and management team remains in place. They are awaiting a new liquor license and currently it is BYOB until Albany issues the new license. Time will tell if Q East can maintain its former Q buzz.


No sign of the former Hampton Bays top eater place. Building remains boarded and for sale.


Sag Harbor sushi place seems to have lost both its former sushi chef and the recipes. A recent visit resulted in truly one of worst sushi and sashimi meal ever. And the prices have gone way UP. Look for more changes or a flame out here.

Joel Robuchon is here this week

L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon

The Four Seasons Hotel
57 E 57th Street
New York , NY

Having dined at various Joel Rubuchon places over the years in Paris, when L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon open nearly two years ago at The Four Seasons Hotel we were first in line to get a reservation. But given the initial hype and way too much attitude it took a long time to really want to dine there for a real meal.

When we learned Joel Rubuchon would be in New York for a week, which he does at least twice a year we booked a reservation at the counter. We were fortunate that not only Robuchon was in the kitchen and the dining area during our latest meal, but his two top Parisian chefs (Philippe Braun and Eric Bouchenoire) were overseeing the kitchen. Braun who oversees L’Atelier in Paris is lively and spontaneous as is his cooking, while Bouchenoire is intense and committed to the finest preparations as he demonstrates at La Table Joel Robuchon. With these three top chefs in the kitchen, the New York kitchen was performing at its absolute best.

And while there are tables, the counter is really the only place to sit to really experience the L'Atelier experience, be it in Manhattan or Paris. The 20 counter seats surround three sides of the open kitchen area, and provide an intimate insight into French haute cuisine preparations. While the remainder of the dining are is pleasant the scale of the I M Pei designed hotel free space is a bit overwhelming, as is the sameness as the area at the entrance to the dining room and the adjacent bar.

While food is the reason to come to L'Atelier, the service makes it all that more enjoyable. General Manager and chief sommelier Stephane Colling runs a tight ship. At the counter the waiter are always within close proximity and they provide outstanding service, as do the bussers who make course presentations a special event, multiple times per meal.

The wine list developed by Colling is first class containing hidden treasures, including wines from small boutique French wineries that are unknown outside France. If you are unsure, check with Colling and he will guide you to a wine. Further his wine pairings are well selected and served.

L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon - Highly Recommended

Apr 15, 2008
Martin_Chamois in Manhattan

Ilili RW Dinner Review

236 Fifth Avenue
New York , NY 10001

After being open almost six months, the modern Lebanese restaurant Ilili is demonstrating it is one of the finer places in all of Manhattan.

Located in a dismal part of Fifth Avenue between 27th and 28th Street north of Madison Park and Flatiron, Ilili is as much an oasis as any place in the Middle East. The large restaurant is on two levels, with the main level being the preferred location, although all dining areas are acceptable. The main dining area is divided by wooden panels between the lower bar area, and high ceiling large table section in the center and a more intimate two top table section. The overall decor is composed of rich wood, candle lighting which in an unexpected way creates a certain Arabian Nights feel.

The menu appears to be traditional Lebanese cuisine, but on close examination the ingredients indicate a modern twist to classical dishes. By encouraging diners to select small dishes (tapas style) two diners can compose a wonderful meal by combining six small dishes. Selections are varied including vegetable dishes, seafood dishes, and meat dishes. Terrific dishes include incredible Brussels sprouts, octopus cru, perfect black cod with incredible seasoning, spicy shrimp, lamb chops, lamb kabobs and duck or lamb shawarma.

The service staff is excellent, knowledgeable and efficient. While some early reviews of the service may have been accurate, the current service staff is outstanding.

The wine list while small is perfectly matched to the Lebanese cuisine. In part because the owner/chef is related to the Massoud's of Paumanok Vineyards of Long Island, both Long Island and Californian wines are featured. We had the excellent Paumanok Chardonnay which was perfectly matched to our most recent meal. Wine service was professional.

This is truly an outstanding restaurant, doing for Lebanese food what Anthos is trying to do for Greek cuisine, but doing it far better and much loser prices.

Ilili - Highly Recommended

Apr 05, 2008
Martin_Chamois in Manhattan

Eastern Pennsylvania Dining and Wine Tasting

While we live in Manhattan we travel to eastern Pennsylvania frequently to visit family, go outlet shopping and attend events at the colleges. Until recently, the area was not a fine dining destination by Manhattan standards. But with the recent migration of greater numbers of New York City region people to the area, and at least until recently improving economic growth, the area is developing a few fine places that stand up to highest quality and performance standards. The Bethlehem area seems particularly strong and here are two of our favorites:

Bolete - Resturant and Inn
1740 Seidersville Road
Bethlehem, PA 18015

On the south side of the Lehigh mountain range just outside Bethlehem is one of the most attractive sections of the Lehigh Valley. Seiderville road which runs east to west from Hellertown to Allentown for the most part is a beautiful winding country road. At a rather unfortunate and non-scenic intersection of the road is the charming old country recently renamed Bolete (Latin for wild mushroom). Owned and operated by Lee Chizmar and Erin Shea, this young couple has brought a fine sense of dining and style to what otherwise would be a rather ordinary place.

Erin Shea runs the front of the house and is a friendly and charming hostess. Erin also handles the promotion and maintains a lively restaurant website. The decor is country modern, and it is clear there was more inspiration here than money in the interior design and redecorating budget. Nonetheless, the atmosphere of the dining rooms is simple, clean and perfectly well suited with the building's architectural bones. The dining room is bright for lunch and seductively illuminated for evening dining.

Chizmar is the chef and runs a kitchen that uses local produce when available, changes the menu daily and executes contemporary American meals that are overall outstanding. As is the case in many places, the simpler the dish the better the execution and performance. Chizmar has a weakness to over complicate some dishes and the results are mixed. While the seafood dishes are very good, our experience has indicated the kitchen does meats and fowl better than fish.

The wine list suffers as do all Pennsylvania restaurants from restrictions placed upon them to obtain wine through the state wine distribution system. Nonetheless, the list is acceptable, but surprisingly the wines are priced quite high.

Service is very friendly and mostly very good. Professional and competent waiters make the experience enjoyable and the limited support staff are especially good.

We are pleased to see that a young couple can elevate the dining standards of the area and that the local diners as well as out-of-towners can enjoy a wonderful meal in a pleasant setting.

Bolete - Recommended

Blue Grillhouse - Wine Bar
4431 Easton Avenue
Bethlehem PA 18020

On the eastern side of Bethlehem on one of the nondescript roads leading towards Easton, is a large dining facility with a formal restaurant which for the last five years has been named the Blue Grillhouse - Wine Bar, which it shares with the catering/event facility Candlelight (the original name had been Candleight Inn for both places). While the place has all the warning signals of a very commercial dining business that serves mediocre food, the Blue Grillhouse is in fact a top notch steakhouse/chophouse with one of finer wine collections in Pennsylvania.

The large restaurant is inviting despite the dark wood decor and the various partitioned dining areas. Always illuminated by candles, the place has a much more inviting appeal than most steakhouse and chophouses. Reception and wait service is consistently very good.

This is a place to go for meat - steaks and chops, but it also does a very good job on simply prepared seafood. Dishes are large and while expensive, represent very good value. Any simply prepared steak, chop of fish will be 100% satisfying.

What really separates Blur Grillhouse is the wine list containing over 200 bottles of well selected wines. With severe restrictions in Pennsylvania for restaurants to develop a top caliber wine list and cellar, Blue Grillhouse does an outstanding job. Prices are also good values.

Blue Grillhouse - Wine bar - Recommended

Apr 04, 2008
Martin_Chamois in Pennsylvania

East End Long Island Spring Dining and Wine Tasting

One additional place -

Olde Speonk Inn
190 Montauk Highway
Speonk, NY 11972

Just west of Westhampton is the hamlet of Speonk, one of the last locations that may be considered a part of the Hamptons. A roadside inn was renovated within the last two years and is now the Olde Speonk Inn. While the interior design is not nearly as stylish as either the North Fork Table & Inn or the Stone Creek Inn, nonetheless the interior is comfortable in a non-threatening way. Windows on two sides of the essentially one main dining room make it light and airy during the day and sparkling at night.

While the restaurant promotes itself as featuring classic American cuisine, it is only so if classic American cuisine consists of largely Italian and other European influenced dishes. The bigger problem is the chef/kitchen seem to have no focus on what is either on the menu or how it is prepared. While the food itself is made from high quality, fresh and frequently local ingredients, the execution is muddled. Stick to simple steaks, poultry or seafood, and avoid any special preparations as they are far from special.

The service by both waiters and runner/busboys is real amateurish and not even close to the better dining places on the East End. Further the managers, many from Tiderunners in Hampton Bays, seem to care less about the dining room than the bar, which appears to be the profit center.

The wine list is mostly composed of unknown Italian and other European wines and an odd collection of domestic and local wines. Selections of poor varietals, poor wineries and poor vintages are the hallmark of the wine list.

Olde Speonk Inn - Acceptable

East End Long Island Spring Dining and Wine Tasting

Spring arrives late in the East End of Long Island. To stimulate dining interest, the Hamptons Restaurant Week that starts 30 March allows diners to select tasting menus at reduced prices. We reported on a number our East End favorites in January, and below we provide a few more excellent choices:

North Fork Table & Inn
57225 Main Road
Southold, NY 11971

Executive Chef Gerry Hayden, formerly of Aureole, and his wife, Claudia Fleming, formerly of Gramercy Tavern and their partners, Mike and Mary Mraz (also of Gramercy Tavern) have turned this Southold country inn into a fine dining destination.

The contemporary update of the inn provides an open dining area, which has traditional links in wood details and lighting, but provides a comfortable contemporary dining experience.

The menu is also contemporary American, composed of many local ingredients and all of the highest quality. Chef Hayden has taken lessons learned in earlier kitchens and transformed them into his own style which earns rave reviews from both diners and critics.

The relatively modest wine list is composed of interesting domestic and international choices at all price points. Many local Long Island wines are featured and complement the local food products. We selected the Clovis Point Merlot, an excellent example of what can be accomplished in making a high quality wine from the local merlot varietal.

Overall the North Fork Table & Inn is a great choice and worth the drive to Southold regardless of the time of year.

North Fork Table & Inn - Highly Recommended

Stone Creek Inn
405 Montauk Highway
East Quogue, NY 11942

Located on a large lot on a relatively nondescript section of the Montauk Highway between East Quogue and Hampton Bays, this country inn provides exactly the right balance of comfort and style. The entertaining bar area greets diners before being seated in either the smaller front room/porch area or in the larger main dining room which is further along the entrance hallway. While quite different, both rooms have advantages, and both are perfect places to enjoy a wonderful meal.

Chef/Owner Christian Mir's menu is composed of both American and Mediterranean influenced cuisines, executed to nearly perfection by a talented kitchen. Choices include local seafood and Long Island duck, quality meats, as well as local produce when in season.

The wine list is comprehensive with excellent domestic choices and many Long Island winery top tier wines. We tend to go with the Wolffer Chardonnay or Merlot, both of which are quality wines made in the Long Island style (less oak) and both being very good values.

Service tends to change with the season, due to the changes in staff as well as the number of diners. Nonetheless, service is always professional and never really bad as some places unfortunately are on the East End.

We have never had a bad meal and/or bad service after many visits. Rather, we have many memorable meals and some outstanding service. We look forward to each return visit.

Stone Creek Inn - Highly Recommended

Le Madeleine is being Evicted

We are sad to read in both the New York Times and other places that after nearly 30 years, Le Madeleine is being evicted from it's 43rd Street location (directly across the street from the more famous ESCA).

We were introduced to the Le Madeleine by someone in the wine industry who remarked how dedicated the place has been to wine, so much so it has been awarded the Wine Spectator Magazine Award of Excellence multiple times. And the wine list has indeed been strong with outstanding fairly priced wines. Most are French, but the other wines are outstanding examples of New World wines. An outstanding local selection is Grapes of Roth Merlot from Long Island winemaker Roman Roth priced at only two times the retail price.

The décor is classic French bistro with a wonderful year-round garden area. The place is bright during the day and nicely lighted in the evening.

With recent chefs including Bruce Beaty and now executive chef Fabian Pauta, the restaurant has tended to be more modern in its cuisine than the classic bistro/café one would expect from its décor. The menu is a balance of classic French bistro choices and many American favorites. By using local products the kitchen prepares interesting dishes that are full of flavor.

They may be open through this weekend, so you may want to stop by and say goodbye. Hopefully they will relocate and be even better.

Mar 06, 2008
Martin_Chamois in Manhattan


Two people: two appetizers, two appetizer sized pastas, two mains, one bottle of merlot - discount + tip = $210

Feb 26, 2008
Martin_Chamois in Manhattan


You may still want to make a reservation as many of the opening day/week issues will be fixed over next two weeks. As we wrote, Chef Di Meglio's menu and preparation may strike a favorable note with your tastes, despite the fact it just didn't work for us.

Feb 25, 2008
Martin_Chamois in Manhattan


We went to Olana on Saturday night, the first night that it was opened for the general public. The place is huge, with a large and very popular circular bar area in the front of the house. The large main dinning room was less popular, probably in part due to some weird lighting resulting from a back lighted winter scene which casts a weird florescent lighting pall to the room. The smaller back room was packed, as it is much more intimate, comfortable and far more appropriate for a nice dinner. The banquettes and chairs are bordello red, and much of the décor has a combination of red tones and wood. In additional to the seasonal scenes in the main dining room, there is a large mural of the Hudson River that you will either love or really hate.

The front of the house staff, managers and waiters were very professional, and seemingly well versed. However, the servers and busboys were totally confused and were dressed in mismatched white tops and black pants that seemed more appropriate at an inexpensive Latin American than at a more upscale restaurant.

Hopefully they will quickly fix the main room lighting, and get some training and uniforms for the servers and runners.

What may take longer to fix is a menu and kitchen that seems to have no direction. Part of the menu is Hudson Valley local regional cuisine, and the other part is an interpretation of Italian cuisine. Clearly Chef Al Di Meglio is searching for his own style and while some may like this fusion of two styles, it just didn’t wow us. We sampled both types of dishes and found the duck, rabbit and pork loin dishes not nearly as good as at other top regional places. And the Italian dishes; including burnt orange and duck ravioli, cavatelli with mushrooms, and a Brodetto seafood stew with bulgur (not couscous as listed on the menu), missed the mark and were not up to par with other top Italians. It clear Di Meglio has talent and hopefully he will evolve into a menu that can be executed to perfection by the kitchen staff.

The wine list is being developed according to the sommelier and at the moment is both eclectic and a little weird. It is also very high priced, starting at around $60 a bottle and climbing rapidly into the hundreds of dollars.

We will give Olana a few weeks to iron out the kinks and hopefully allow Di Meglio and the kitchen to find their direction.

Feb 24, 2008
Martin_Chamois in Manhattan

Great Little French Bistro - UES

Having had a less than memorable dinner at Bar Boulud, we thought we would sample a traditional French Bistro right in Daniel Boulud’s neighborhood. Bistro Chat Noir is owner Suzanne Latapie’s homage to all the little bistros we all love in France. And she has done a great job as we love Chat Noir.

The step down restaurant just off Madison Avenue immediately feels like you have been teleported to Paris. The small bar reception area is like hundreds of places. And with Suzanne holding down the reception desk, you not only have your reservation honored, you become a Guest at her place.

The room is a long alley with tables on the sides, and in a clever move a train of two tops are located down the center of the alley, giving dinning couples an unexpected sense of privacy in the middle of a bustling bistro.

The service staff, always being watched over by Suzanne, is professional and as good as at far more pricey places. We were served promptly, accurately and with a wonderful playful French attitude.

The menu is classic American interpretations of French Bistro fare. And while not as authentic as we may have desired, nonetheless a wonderful collection of classics. Our soups, salads, hot and cold appetizers were just that – appetizing. Classic main courses such as steak frites, made with Angus beef were outstanding.

The wine list is relatively short and composed of primarily French wines. The selections were fine, but unfortunately they were out of a number of our choices, which is a major demerit for any place. We reluctantly chose a Washington State Colombia Valley merlot, which was surprising good after it had a chance to breath.

Since we had plenty to eat we skipped dessert, but will save room the next time we are there.

Bistro Chat Noir
22 East 66th Street
New York, NY 10021

Feb 22, 2008
Martin_Chamois in Manhattan

Mermaid Inn UWS

Thanks. We'll consider it tonight as we have an early reservation.

Feb 16, 2008
Martin_Chamois in Manhattan

Mermaid Inn UWS

Considering Mermaid Inn UWS.

Has anyone been there in January/February?

Has it improved or is it still as mediocre as earlier reviews?


Feb 15, 2008
Martin_Chamois in Manhattan

BLT Market birthday dinner - review

We also had a great meal again last weekend.

See our updated notes:

"The corner of Central Park South (59th Street) and Sixth Avenue (Avenue of the Americas) that has been the home of many top International dining places is now home to a top Regional American run by top French owner/chef, Laurent Tourondel, his kitchen staff and restaurant management team. While we have not been fans of other BLT restaurants around Manhattan, we love BLT Market.

BLT Market is the latest and perhaps the best of the Manhattan artisanal and the locally grown farm produce restaurants featuring the best of the Hudson River Valley and Long Island agricultural purveyors. In fact we were seated next to a large table hosted by BLT Market’s meat purveyor who enjoyed celebrity status with the restaurant management and the executive chef. Yes, this is truly a restaurant that benefits from and takes advantage of the best of local food products, including mounting photos of the purveyors on the walls of the restaurant.

The restaurant’s style is definitely the best of the turn of the century; that is 1900. Plenty of natural wood, zinc buckets, canned vegetables, bottles of honey, fresh cut flowers and wired wound incandescent lamps. The house tap water is served in real milk bottles.

There are three dining areas, the prime room facing Central Park, the entrance room which has a bit of coffee shop feel and a more quiet room off to the right of the entrance. And being directly across the street from the Central Park horse carriages taxi stand, there can occasionally be a faint smell of the horses throughout the rooms.

We had excellent service throughout our dining. The front desk honored our reservation and reservation request for a special table. Our waiter, Sergio, was excellent. Wine service was very professional.

We received wonderful updated versions of pigs in a blanket as our chef’s tasting along with a wonderful fresh, hot garlic and pesto infused baguette. The menu is seasonal featuring produce and other ingredients available at the time. During a recent winter dining, salads were accompanied with winter seasonal produce and winter seafood. Both were outstanding. Our main courses of Amish chicken and Berkshire pork chop were very good, both a reflection of a slow cooking approach. And while slow cooking has advocates, it our personal opinion that we prefer our pork chops and chickens roasted in a hot oven which produces crisper and more seared results.

We are not dessert fans so we passed, but the desserts at adjoining tables looked old fashion and wonderful.

The wine list was comprehensive with an excellent collection of New York, American and European wines. The prices were on the high side, when compared to other comparable restaurants. We selected the excellent Wolffer Estate Chardonnay, which was well balance with rich fruits and citrus, which complemented our seasonal dishes."

Feb 13, 2008
Martin_Chamois in Manhattan

Anyone been to BLT Market lately?

We had an outstanding meal. See our notes:

"The corner of Central Park South (59th Street) and Sixth Avenue (Avenue of the Americas) that has been the home of many top International dining places is now home to a top Regional American run by top French owner/chef, Laurent Tourondel and his kitchen staff and restaurant management team. While we have not been fans of other BLT restaurants around Manhattan, we love BLT Market.

BLT Market is the latest and perhaps the best of the Manhattan artisanal, and the locally grown farm produce restaurants featuring the best of the Hudson River Valley and Long Island purveyors. In fact we were seated next to a large table hosted by BLT Market’s meat purveyor who enjoyed celebrity status with the restaurant management and the executive chef. Yes, this is truly a restaurant that benefits from and takes advantage of the best of local food products.

The restaurant’s style is definitely the best of the turn of the century; that is 1800 to 1900. Plenty of wood, zinc buckets, canned vegetables, bottles of honey, fresh cut flowers and wired wound incandescent lamps, as well as the photos of the little know but very important purveyors. The house tap water is served in real milk bottles. There are three dining areas, the prime room facing Central Park, the entrance room which has a bit of coffee shop feel and a more quiet room off to the right of the entrance. And being directly across the street from the Central Park horse carriages taxi stand, there is the faint smell of the horses throughout the rooms.

We had excellent service throughout our dining. The front desk honored our reservation and reservation request for a special table. Our waiter, Sergio, was excellent. Wine service was very professional.

We received wonderful updated versions of pigs in a blanket as our chef’s taste along with wonderful fresh, hot garlic and pesto infused baguettes. The menu is seasonal featuring produce and other ingredients available at the time. During a recent winter dining, salads were accompanied with winter seasonal produce and winter seafood. Both were outstanding. Our main courses of Amish chicken and Berkshire pork chop were very good, a reflection of a slow cooking approach. And while slow cooking has advocates, it our personal opinion that we prefer out pork chops and chickens roasted in a hot oven which produces crisper and more seared results.

We are not dessert fans so we passed, but the desserts at adjoining tables looked old fashion and wonderful.

The wine list was comprehensive with an excellent collection of New York, American and European wines. The prices were on the high side, when compared to other comparable restaurants. We selected the excellent Wolffer Estate Chardonnay, which was well balance with rich fruits and citrus, which complemented our seasonal dishes."

Feb 10, 2008
Martin_Chamois in Manhattan

Bistro Milano is Open

Bistro Milano (from the people behind Remi and Bice) opened Friday 8 February on West 55th Street near 6th Avenue. This block will soon have three new places including Alan Ducasse’s new bistro and the relocated Il Corso.

The large modern room is very bright and inviting. The entire management and service team are true Northern Italians; a rarity at far too many Manhattan Italians, very professional and eager to provide a top notched dining experience. We only sampled a few items but they are very authentic preparations of minestrone, pizza and pasta. A great addition to mid-town west.

Feb 10, 2008
Martin_Chamois in Manhattan

Gordon Ramsays Restaurant

We have had very good to great meals at both Maze and the main restaurant.

See our notes at

"With major hotel renovations that resulted in the London NYC, there also emerged the restaurants of Gordon Ramsay. With his first restaurant project in the United States being in Manhattan, Ramsay took on a formidable task - convincing skeptical New Yorkers to partake in his contemporary versions of classic French cuisine.

The decor of the bar/cafe area is very contemporary with a bit of Austin Powers set design. The formal dining room is just that with Continental Classic decor.

Prior to booking at the formal dining room - Gordon Ramsay at the London, we tried Maze by Gordon Ramsay (previously called the Bar) at the London, after we read about the common kitchens and prep-chefs (see the New Yorker magazine article).

We were pleasantly surprised with the excellent tapas style menu with its excellent execution. We ordered 10 small plates that we shared, and each one was outstanding. It is clear Ramsay and company are using the Maze menu to test compositions, (very much like Nougatine does a Jean Georges) as well as provide lower priced teasers for customers. Our only problem was the waiter. The headwaiter, sommelier and the bus boys were great, but our waiter and the nearby waiter were both poor.

We then celebrated a special occasion at the formal Gordon Ramsay at the London restaurant. The menu was exceptional. Ingredients and sauces were outstanding. Everything was wonderful other than slightly over cooked fish main courses, which we find is typical of European preparation but is not what we expect at a top Manhattan restaurant.

Service was very professional as expected.

The restaurant's wine list, as at Maze, is excellent but very high priced.

Overall both venues were just short of exceptional. The more casual Maze offers good value and the formal restaurant offers a perfect place to celebrate a special occasion."

Feb 03, 2008
Martin_Chamois in Manhattan

Park Avenue Winter is suffering from Poor Managment

We read about the GM being let go this week. After our meal this week many more managers should be let go.


Here are our notes:

Park Avenue (Summer/Autumn/Winter
)100 E. 63rd Street
New York, NY, 10021

Overall Park Avenue (Summer/Autumn/Winter) has been a pleasant surprise, since the Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group in the summer of 2007 replaced the long in the tooth Park Avenue Café, which had been running on fumes for years, with this sleek seasonal dining place.

The new decor is inviting, changing four times during the year with the seasons. We appreciated the minimalist Summer décor, viewed the warmth of the Autumn décor and saw positives during a recent evening in the Winter décor.

Chef Craig Koketsu’s menu is intriguing. The execution in the kitchen has been uneven, resulting in an American menu with an Asian/Middle Eastern exotic approach to classics that in our opinion is all over the map. Some dishes are great, some far from it. A king prawns appetizer in Summer was great, and mediocre in Winter. John Dory and Halibut main courses were very good to outstanding. The lack of consistency is troubling.

The overall acceptable food is diminished by a staff that is can be so bad that they are almost humorous. The highly publicized South Asian servers and busboys that were so bad that they were humorous this summer are far better six months later. Unfortunately over the same six months the front desk hosts and mangers have developed an attitude. Despite the recent departure of the GM, the overall restaurant management is very uneven. When a specific type of seating was not available when we arrived we were seated at another table. Fair. But when our requested table freed prior to our appetizers arriving and we requested a floor manager to move us, we were first given the slow roll and then denied the move due to “confusing the waiters according to the chef. “ Give me a break. For the next forty minutes the table was unoccupied. Remember when the customer was always right.

The wine list is long and featured many interesting off-beat wines. Great. But pricing them like they were well known premium wines is a weird and unacceptable pricing approach. The wine service was a joke. After getting the wine list, within five minutes I was accosted by not one, not two, not three but four servers that “offered their assistance to make a selection.” Were they trying to get the wine list back? Were they trying to push certain wines? What gives?

We want to like Park Avenue (Summer/Autumn/Winter) but the restaurant does so many little things to irritate us that we are unlikely to return in the near future.

Park Avenue (Summer/Autumn/Winter) - Acceptable

Feb 01, 2008
Martin_Chamois in Manhattan


We went with the prix fixed menu; wonderful savory Spanish "soup" with complex spicy flavors, chicken kabob with excellent couscous, matched with wonderful Spanish Chardonnay.

Feb 01, 2008
Martin_Chamois in Manhattan


We love it. We there on MLK Day and had a great lunch.

Here's our report:

"Visit after visit one of our favorite dining places in midtown is Amalia, located adjacent to the Dream Hotel.

The overall decor is hip but at the same time emphasizing natural materials of brick and barn siding aged wood, combined with glass, a touch of Chinois wall paper and a pseudo-classic art gallery located on a ceiling.

The entrance bar area is large and inviting. Seating in the front of the house has a casual and contemporary feel. The first room in the back is small and slightly Oriental. Further back is the raised gallery that has views of the overall restaurant. A final room that is the least interesting is used for private parties and overflow diners.

The menu is primarily Mediterranean, with focus on foods of Spain and Middle Eastern cuisines. This combination is rare in Manhattan, actually in the United States, but common in Spain and parts of Mediterranean France. The menu while small has fantastic gems waiting to provide excellent savory and spicy flavors to the fortunate dinners. The lunch menu is short; however it provides a wonderful sampling of the cuisine.

The wine list is an excellent compilation of moderately priced wines reflecting both the region and the cuisine. A moderately price Chardonnay from Spain is a knockout value displaying abundant fruit and finish.

Service is both casual and professional at both lunch and dinner. Wine service is above average."

Feb 01, 2008
Martin_Chamois in Manhattan

Bar Boulud - should it even be open yet?

We would not go back until they get thing right.

Here is what we experienced two weeks ago:

"This cafe/bistro is in fact not a bar. When we were there the front desk will not permit guests to congregate around the so called bar - a strange edict if there ever was one. With the place overflowing with people wanting to taste Daniel's Lyon-style menu, the entrance area including the front seating area has become as crowded as a subway platform at 5:30 pm. And without a drink in hand the waiting crowd became unruly rather rapidly. Clearly the front desk (while quite professional) is currently overwhelmed and quite frazzled. They need to find a quick fix, or it will fix itself as people tire of this inadequate arrangement.

Part of the current problem appears to be overbooking, waiters struggling with getting checks to customers and credit card receipts back to customers, and the slow clearing and re-setting of tables. Undoubtedly an opening week problem that is hopefully to improve.

The menu does not disappoint in providing a rather long list of traditional French cafe/bistro fare with a heavy Lyon regional focus. Prices are rather high for what is generally considered simple food and even with the Euro at 1.50 to the US Dollar, one could probably eat the same meal for less in France.

The food itself is fine - nothing spectacular as one has come to expect at Daniel's dining places. Nothing is really off, but then again nothing seemed to blow us away. The list of pates is interesting and the pates are quite well made. The classic escargots are fine, but nothing out of the ordinary. The "coq a vin" was also acceptable, but we have had better. The "boudin blanc" - a real test of the French Bistro- was moist and tasty, but the singular sausage on a large plate with minimal accompaniments looked lonesome and quite inadequate as a $27 main course.

The wine list is focused on French moderately priced and middle of the road wines. Like the food, nothing unpleasing but nothing spectacular in selection or pricing.

We passed on desert as the waiting customers began overwhelming the seating area in front assigned to "twos", and it became uncomfortable to remain seated while hungry people stood hovering over our table waiting to be seated.

Reviewing any dining place during the first few weeks is always tricky. Even the best places struggle getting out of the starting blocks. However, a place with Boulud in its name that struggles as badly as Bar Boulud did on our first visit is unexpected."

Jan 29, 2008
Martin_Chamois in Manhattan

Something like an 'In-and-Out' burger

Five Guys is a decent alternative, but as we wrote a while back it is not IN-N-Out

"Five Guys Famous Burgers and Fries
43 W 55th Street
New York, NY 10019

There have been many studies done showing that people crave foods that are connected with childhood memories or other positive experiences. To this day I crave for a Philly cheese steak of my childhood. I also have developed a craving for the soft tacos I loved when I lived in Southern California, particularly the fish tacos popular in San Diego.

But for most people who grew up in America, their primal craving is for the hamburger and fries of their youth. Manhattan is fortunate for the many places to get a good burger. But there is also the need to have the iconic place that serves up the burger and fries that reminds us of our memories. It needs to have the same look, feel and smell of the joints where we had our favorite burgers. The closest places I have experienced in my adult life are the IN-N-OUT Burger chain of Southern California. Unfortunately IN-N-OUT has yet to travel beyond California, Arizona and Nevada let alone to Manhattan. A reasonable alternative is Five Guys. Originally started in Alexandria Virginia, just South of Washington DC, Five Guys has expanded not only throughout the Mid-Atlantic States but also throughout the Eastern half of the US including Manhattan.

The Five Guys on West 55th Street is located in a mini-restaurant row. When one enters the brightly lighted white tile with red tile joint, one encounter tall stacks of Idaho potato bags stored and displayed to announce that there are no frozen reheated fries coming out of this place. There are also stacks of malt vinegar and pickle jars, announcing the basic ingredients.

In the rear of the space is the short order grill, the order and pick-up spots and smell of burgers and fries. The menu is short and to the point; burgers and accompaniments, fries, dogs and soft drinks.

The burgers are great and the fries are better than average. Are they the best burgers in Manhattan? No, but they are darn good, and a great value.

Does the place remind one of the burger joints of your youth (assuming you are 30+ years old)? Yes, undoubtedly.

Does it satisfy one’s craving for a burger and fries? Yes (at least until IN-N-OUT ever comes to Manhattan)."

Jan 29, 2008
Martin_Chamois in Manhattan

East End Long Island January Dining and Wine Tasting

Please go and enjoy. And pass the word, as many places are really hurting this winter and they may not survive until next summer.