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Need a Great Restaurant Near Madison Square Park - E 26th Street Area

Actually, Resto wouldn't be a bad option. See if you can get the big table at the front of the restaurant. I think it's called the "farmhouse table" or something else equally twee and inaccurate. But it's set very far apart from the rest of the room, and the food is pretty terrific.

Sep 10, 2009
LES_Crawler in Manhattan

Need a Great Restaurant Near Madison Square Park - E 26th Street Area

I second Wolfgang's and Artisanal (although the service at Artisanal can be pretty snotty at times and it's kind of a hectic and crowded room), but there's also Primehouse (a far better choice than either in my opinion) which is on the corner of 27th and Park which would be great. I'd also suggest Les Halles on Park between 28th and 29th. Is it the world's greatest? Probably not, but it's far better than Black Duck. Pamplona on 28th isn't bad, and they almost never have people in the dining room so getting a reservation should be a snap. However, they do fill up with an after work bar crowd and it's a small room so you'll hear the bar crowd all the way in the back. Also, it's not the most celebratory joint - sort of dim and hushed in the dining room. It's a study in contrasts! Also, while it can be pretty raucous, don't forget Dos Caminos on Park and 26th. Big place, lots of tables, not the greatest food but it can be fun if you're in the right mood.

Sep 10, 2009
LES_Crawler in Manhattan

Tides R.I.P.

Just saw that Tides has closed and that's really too bad. It was a sweet little seafood place and while I hadn't gone in about 18 months I used to go there quite a bit and liked it a lot. They had the best ceiling ever - made of thousands of dangling wooden chopsticks. I hate the tone of blog posts about restaurants closing because they all sound so cynical, but you can find the news here:

http://eater.com/archives/2009/08/the...

Just wanted to say that it's sad to see the place go. I really wish they could have made it.

Aug 07, 2009
LES_Crawler in Manhattan

Michael Pollan on Julia Child

Here's the round-up that I could find:

Salon is angry that he mentions feminism:
http://www.salon.com/mwt/broadsheet/feature/2009/08/01/pollan_on_child/

Jezebel is intrigued by these themes and wants to expand on them:
http://jezebel.com/5326596/julia-child-feminist-icon

One of those "women who don't cook" weighs in:
http://www.dirtcandynyc.com/?p=682#more-682

Michael Pollan continues to promote "Julie and Julia" on NPR:
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=111429489

On the Huffington Post they say that Pollan's piece changed their life:
http://www.alternet.org/rss/the_wire_provided_by_huffington_post/79683/waylon_lewis:_michael_pollan,_julie_&_julia,_top_chef--and_your_health./

The Feedbag takes a dig at the piece and then the comments section gets really weird and wants to know about the blog's stance on serving in the military:
http://www.the-feedbag.com/elsewhere/...

Aug 07, 2009
LES_Crawler in Food Media & News

Oh Canada! NYT acknowledges Canada exists with amusing op ed pieces

Canada protects its culinary heritage against appropriating New Yorkers:

http://www.timescolonist.com/life/guard+Nanaimo+bars/1811820/story.html

http://www.timescolonist.com/life/Yor...

Jul 23, 2009
LES_Crawler in Food Media & News

Any Suggestions On a Private Bar/Space For 100 People Party?

Not to be a bummer, but I just booked something exactly like this and you should be aware that you're going to be in the $7,000 - $10,000 range for this kind of event. That said, here's some places I looked at that seemed good:

City Winery - kind of pricey, but they rent out the tank room (not sure of the official name) which is a great space if you can afford it. They'll also do a sit-down dinner here for up to 80 that would be pretty amazing if you could foot the bill. They're willing to carve the space up in all kinds of different configurations.

Pen and Brush Club - on East 10th Street. Old NYC townhouse/gallery space. You have to bring in your own caterer but the space is ultra-inexpensive and very classy looking.

Jane Hotel Bar - again, expensive. But it's a nice looking space. Didn't get much of an idea for how the food would be.

Le Pouisson Rouge - the food is ok and the price is ok and so that makes it ok.

La Lanterna - not sure how they'd handle something this big, never got that far with them. But they do have a garden you can rent that's nice, and they seemed willing to work with me. I just found somewhere bigger before getting into details with them.

Jun 13, 2009
LES_Crawler in Manhattan

Sakaya Sake Store

Sakaya is a great place, and I think it's one of only a handful of sake-only retail stores in the entire country. And for a bit of trivia: co-owner Rick Smith used to be the publisher of Food&Wine magazine.

May 30, 2009
LES_Crawler in Manhattan

Gramercy 'inoteca

I guess what bothers me about wine lists is, why not? At the Gramercy 'inoteca I asked for a dry white wine and was recommended something that I found very fruity and floral. This wasn't because the waiter was a dunce but because her idea of dry and my idea of dry might be different. That's why I like a wine list with some descriptions that are written by someone familiar with the wine list and with wine in general who can give some guidance rather than expecting a harried waiter with a bunch of tables waiting on water and bread and what not to steer me to something good.

At a place like Per Se or Del Posto or Gramercy Tavern, or at a wine bar, I don't mind asking for guidance. But at a place designed to move customers through like Gramercy 'inoteca, Stanton Social Club, or somewhere like that I really like to be able to check out the list on my own rather than ask an often-overwhelmed waiter who may or may not know about wine. Just my personal preference, but I'm not sure why places don't make it easier on everyone by jotting down a quick, thoughtful description.

May 28, 2009
LES_Crawler in Manhattan

Gramercy 'inoteca

I think I must be cursed with searches. I always have this problem on board search function. Thanks for checking and determining that it's me....I'm part of the problem! Actually, it seems that I AM the problem.

May 24, 2009
LES_Crawler in Manhattan

Gramercy 'inoteca

Okay, see, this frustrates me. I did a search on 'inoteca, inoteca and then on inotecca in case there was a spelling issue and all it pulled up were two posts about whether or not inoteca would call your cell phone if you were waiting on line and whether stanton social club or inoteca was better for a group. How am I misusing the search function? I even went to Google and did a Chowhound site search for inoteca and came up with the same. Is it me?

May 23, 2009
LES_Crawler in Manhattan

Gramercy 'inoteca

I'm sure this has been discussed to death, but I searched and couldn't find anything about it so here goes. Went by this place on a sleepy Sunday evening and was pretty astonished to see how packed it was. I guess it fills a niche (affordable, upscale, casual fine dining?) in Murray Hill/Gramercy that needs to be filled. So, dazzled by their business acumen, I sat in the bar area and ordered some food and some wine. More fool me.

I guess I'm an idiot but I really dislike two things in a restaurant: a menu in another language for no good reason, and a wine list that doesn't tell you anything about the wine. In some places, no problem. But if you're owned and operated by people who speak English as a first language, what reason other than being completely pretentious is there for having large chunks of your menu in Italian? Seriously, "Liquori" or, even better, "Liquori Bar Favorit?" Hey look, ma! These people speaks Eye-talian! They must be them there fancy pants!

At some places, if the wine list is hardcore, then fine. Don't tell me anything, just list the name of the wine and the vintage and the price and I'm a tacky yahoo if I don't know exactly what that is. But in a place like this, would it kill them to have maybe 4 - 5 words giving you an idea of what you're ordering? Especially when the wait staff is harried and doesn't have the time to play, "Which wine would I like?"

So 'inoteca and I were already starting off on the wrong foot, but that's okay. I've had dates start off way worse and turn out to be near-religious experiences. But to me, what was unforgiveable, was how cheap and sloppy the food was.

Insalata Di Calamari Grigliata - calamari salad. From a bag. I swear I've rarely had a more tasteless salad. It was as if they ordered up a big bag of calamari from Sysco and poured it out on the greens, which weren't much better. And hey! Why not some chickpeas, too? They do it that way in Italia! Except maybe they put a little care into the preparation so it's not just some chickpeas rolling around on the plate like something you made in college. The only flavor on this plate was from the dressing.

Olives - here's a big bowl of olives. Very big. Big enough for 12 people. I hate wasting food so I ate the olives. And I ate the olives. And I ate the olives some more and there were still olives in there laughing at me, daring me to eat more of them. I gave up. They weren't that good in the first place.

Truffle Egg Toast - not sure what the fancy word for this is, but it's something of a signature appetizer here. I can see why. It's plated really nicely and looks dramatic. Unfortunately, the bread it was on was beyond stale, and had been toasted then left out until it was rock hard. Almost too hard to cut. But fine, maybe I just don't appreciate good toast. What was the downfall of this dish was that it was doused in truffle oil. In fact, I felt a bit insulted. Do they really think that diners are such rubes that dropping a tablespoon of truffle oil on a dish is going to blow us away. "Tee-ruffles! That's fancy food! Four stars!" If there was any complexity or other taste to the dish, awesome. But none. So not awesome.

I've been to pretentious restaurants that were good, and I've been to places like Stanton where the food isn't very ambitious but it usually does what it says it's going to do. But places like the Gramercy 'inoteca offend me on a basic level. It's food made to appear good, but in reality it's downright institutional. Minimum care, minimum creativity and minimum execution. When someone puts a plate down in front of me that no one has thought about I just see red. If they can't be bothered to think about it why should I be bothered to pay for it?

May 23, 2009
LES_Crawler in Manhattan

Dinners From Hell

Oddly enough, glancing through most of the stories the biggest complaint seems to be small portion sizes.

May 19, 2009
LES_Crawler in Food Media & News

Vegan, gluten free, and none of the above - UWS?

Your best bet is Blossom on the Upper West Side, 466 Columbus at 82nd Street. It's basic vegan dining that's a cut or two above Angelica's or Counter. It won't get you excited but it's definitely respectable and it's a pretty room.

Blossom:
http://www.chow.com/places/14644

May 18, 2009
LES_Crawler in Manhattan

Replacing Bruni? No one.

Shallots mentioned this before, but I thought it deserved a thread of its own. If I had to put money on who would replace Frank Bruni, I'd put my money on "No one." The game of "Spot the Masked Critic as He Flits from Restaurant to Restaurant Sprinkling Stars" is a fun one, but it's an expensive game that's not worth the effort anymore and I think the New York Times is going to throw in the towel and give their featured review slot (with stars) to a rotating cast of their regular staff members and/or perma-lancers.

Bruni presided over a time when the food reviewing business changed and suddenly everyone can blog about a restaurant, or take their gripes and glee over to Yelp! These days the idea of a single lead restaurant critic weighing in as the official opinion of the New York Times regarding restaurants seems hopelessly retrograde. Add to that the fact that none of the rest of the Times works this way. There is no more lead film reviewer, or lead theater critic, or lead book reviewer. There are a handful of staff writers who handle the reviewing for film, books and the occasional contributing editor. Some of them are bigger names than others, but none of them is the head or lead critic whose opinion out-weighs the others.

Also, can the New York Times, hopelessly mired in debt and gushing red ink, actually afford to pay someone new a high 5 or low 6 digit salary to turn in one review and the odd article and blog posting every week? And think of the expensed meals on top of that? Reviewing restaurants is expensive. And at the end of the day who gets more out of the equation, the reviewer or the paper? Frank Bruni and Ruth Reichl worked long and hard for the NY Times as food critics and they left with massive profiles that have resulted (or will result) in books and speaking gigs forever. The Times is left looking to find someone else to pay who can become a food world celebrity on their dime and can then leave for a lucrative career. It's just not worth it.

I think the Times is going to find a way to get more out of their staffers and perma-lancers, and who wouldn't want to get to write a starred, main review each month or every other month? The review will still have the Times stamp of approval, it will still award stars, it just won't have one individual linked to it.

May 15, 2009
LES_Crawler in Food Media & News

Per Se or Jean-Georges

I would go with Jean Georges. I think Per Se is a terrific experience, but whether it's because it's been over-hyped or because I'm just finding myself less and less interested in the Manhattan fancy restaurant experience these days, I came away somewhat underwhelmed. I think Jean Georges doesn't have the same weight of expectations and while I think Per Se has a much more beautiful dining room, I just think the value you get and the cooking you get is a notch better at JG.

May 13, 2009
LES_Crawler in Manhattan

25th and Park - Lunch Recs?

Already mentioned, I believe, but Tiffin Wallah on 28th between Park and Lex is great for lunch and really cheap. Their dinner is usually better than the lunch buffet, but the lunch is not bad. And cheap!

May 11, 2009
LES_Crawler in Manhattan

Food Blogs: What's good?

I looked at it before and noticed the post was from 2006 and food blogs are incredibly short-lived. But scrolling down more I see replies from 2009, which I hadn't noticed before. Thanks!

May 09, 2009
LES_Crawler in Food Media & News

Food Blogs: What's good?

I used to read Eater and Grub Street quite a bit, but after going away for a while I've come back looking for daily food updates and...well, what are these sites about anymore? Eater seems to consist entirely of food gossip that no one cares about (a particular low: their outrage over the New York Times posting the James Beard Award winners at 9pm - who cares?) or they take their news from other sites. The one feature I like is "Who Eats There?" about old school restaurants in the city that are inexplicably still serving customers, but most of the site is a self-referential death spiral of food bloggers writing about other food bloggers.

Grub Street at least covers food a bit more but, far more than Eater, they mostly seem to be a link aggregator, collecting and posting links from other sites. Today alone they link to The Villager (via Eater), amNY and Copyranter and it's not even 2pm.

So what are people reading these days on a daily basis? I like Serious Eats a fair amount (just started reading it) and David Lebovitz's blog, and there's one or two restaurant blogs I read, but they don't have much staying power.

So what do you think is an essential food blog? I'm looking for daily updates and news or writing about food with a bit of gossip thrown in, not gossip with a bit of food sprinkled over the top.

Thanks in advance.

May 08, 2009
LES_Crawler in Food Media & News

Which of these four downtown restaurants should I go to for my anniversary dinner?

I've only been to THOR and while I liked the strange location of the restaurant (and actually didn't find it all that strange - just kind of different) I thought the food was good but it didn't set me on fire.

May 05, 2009
LES_Crawler in Manhattan

DIVE BARS AND CHEAP GREAT FOOD-THE REPORT

Glad you had fun! And glad you liked Grassroots! It should be a landmark...but then the frat boys would come.

And thanks for loving the tap water - there have been some weird days recently when it's been brown, but overall it's the best.

May 02, 2009
LES_Crawler in Manhattan

Murray Hill eats

I thought La Giara was decent and if I needed a reliable place in Murray Hill for a dinner with folks I'd go there again. Maybe I'm overestimating (over-remembering?).

And thank you! Marchi's is it! I've been dying to try it for the sheer retro value if nothing else.

I mean "trashy" with affection. I don't eat tons of meat so usually I wind up at the bar of Blue Smoke having snacks and cocktails and they serve the trashiest but most addictive cheese fries. It's cheese sauce rather than actual cheese and to me that's low budget cooking. But I keep eating them. I know it's wrong to like them, but I do like them.

May 01, 2009
LES_Crawler in Manhattan

Murray Hill eats

You're making me super-sad. That neighborhood is great for food! There's a Grand Sichuan (my fave of the bunch, but it might just be because it's the first one I ate in), Tiffin Wallah is the most interesting cheap Indian food in Manhattan, Chinese Mirch is a really interesting mix of Indian and Chinese food that has some misses on the menu but a lot of hits, Blue Smoke is trashy but if you're ever in the mood for fake cheese and giant portions it's great, Resto is really good, one of the best beer selections on the East Side is at the Waterfront Ale House, Les Halles does a great breakfast, if you want steak there's Primehouse or Wolfgang's, people are mixed on La Giara but I think it's a good Italian place if not incredibly inventive, Artisanal has the worst service in the city but the best cheese and Kalustyan's on its own redeems the neighborhood.

Then there's that old school, family run Italian place with the set menu and the back garden whose name I always forget that's not supposed to be great food but it's supposed to be a really fun experience. Ack, I am wracking my brains and can't think of the name.

Apr 30, 2009
LES_Crawler in Manhattan

DIVE BARS AND CHEAP GREAT FOOD

Some places you have to hit:

KENKA (St. Mark's between 2nd and Third Avenues) - the only fifth dimensional Japanese izakaya in NYC. Sure there are other izakayas but none of them instantly beams you into an alternate universe where Japan won the war and schoolgirl ero guro artwork decorates menus. $1.50 beers, and while the food isn't "good" per se, it's a lot of fun. Bull penis anyone? How about the mysterious Special Employee Dinner? Stingray fin jerky? You can take four people here, get drunk as lords, order a ton of food, and walk out with an $80 bill.

GRASSROOTS (St. Mark's, between Second and Third Avenues) - it's dirty and wooden and the bartender hates you a lot. In fact, if you ask him too many questions you get the feeling he'll strike a match and the whole place will go up in flames. But it's the perfect bar for that 4pm beer and popcorn, and now that the economy has nuked itself it's often somewhat deserted until later in the evening too. My favorite dive bar, hands down. Plus, it's almost directly across the street from Kenka. (Also on St. Mark's, the Holiday Cocktail Lounge between 1st and 2nd Aves, but it's not as comfy as Grassroots).

SLY FOX - (140 Second Ave, at 8th Street) the bar in the Ukranian National Home. I have been here at 8pm on a Friday, 10pm on a Saturday and every time in between and never have there been more than 3 other people in here with me. They also appear to have only one bartender, a very nice Ukranian student who will talk to you until your ears explode if you so desire. She's a trip. It's attached to a semi-secret (but not really) Ukranian restaurant that even CH-ers like:
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/609885

TIFFIN WALLAH (28th Street between Park and Lexington) - the best Indian food in Murray Hill. Sure there are probably better places but this remains my favorite simply because the food comes with a certain degree of invention. You get the feeling that they thought about it before they slung it out of the kitchen, and it's the kind of Indian food that manages to seem authentic and inauthentic simultaneously. Also, it's as cheap as sitting in your hotel room getting drunk on screwtop wine and Cheeto's.

There's also a good Grand Sichuan kind of in the Murray Hill area (Lexington between 33rd and 34th) and it's totally different from what you're used to and although opinions differ, I think it's pretty great the first time you have it. If you want a fancy beer bar in that 'hood (with food) then there's the Waterfront Ale House (2nd Avenue and 30th Street - also has popcorn but with weird flakes of carbonized popcorn machine in it, or maybe that's pepper?) and by all means avoid Desmond's Tavern on Park Avenue between 29th and 30th. It looks like a dive, and it is a dive, but it's an unpleasant, moldy, expensive dive.

Apr 17, 2009
LES_Crawler in Manhattan

Best All You Can Eat Pasta

I love mentioning Carmine's here because every time it comes up it gets the same responses (see all previous Carmine's threads since the dawn of CH). Look, some people love it, some people hate it. The food's okay, but if someone's looking for all-you-can-eat-pasta I imagine quantity is more important to them than quality and I certainly think Carmine's is better than Olive Garden or heating up Chef Boyardee. The portions (even for family style dining) are huge. I've never had the ravioli, so that may be different.

So if Carmine's is horrible enough to inspire so much angst, tearing of hair and rending of garments why not make alternate suggestions for the person who started this thread who's looking for all-you-can-eat- pasta? Cause Carmine's is the closest thing I know in the city. Which may just mean I don't hang around the right places.

Apr 17, 2009
LES_Crawler in Manhattan

Best All You Can Eat Pasta

If you're looking for massive quantities of Italian food that may not be all that over-the-moon amazing but also not all that bad either, then try Carmine's on the Upper West Side. The portions are HUGE and it's fun to read Chowhounders go for the throat as they argue over whether it's just for tourists or actually good:

http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/361201

That's about as close as I can think of to what could even possibly be considered something like an all-you-can-eat pasta place in NYC. I'm not sure a human being can actually finish the portions at Carmine's!

Apr 16, 2009
LES_Crawler in Manhattan

Momofuku Bakery - Milk Bar - what to eat

I have only tried the sweet, not the savory, but I was really bummed out by this place. Every single dessert I had was one-note: SUGAR! SUGAR! SUGAR! I had Dulche de Leche cake and the first bite was good, second bite was overwhelming, and I started to feel ill after the third bite. The compost cookie is pretty good, but one of them should be more than enough unless you are a complete sugar junkie. The banana cake was also very one-note to me, just overwhemingly sickly sweet.

It's worth trying one time, because the woman who does the desserts is very creative and seems to have a lot of exciting ideas. But the actual execution didn't work for me at all.

Apr 06, 2009
LES_Crawler in Manhattan

Babbo or USC or ??? for 10 year anniversary

I'd go with Babbo over Del Posto in a heartbeat, and Babbo over Eleven Madison Park which I really didn't enjoy - I felt like I was eating in an ultra-luxe, 80's tomb and any minute I expected the Cryptkeeper to make an appearance (although I did love the duck with a bunch of thyme jammed up its ass that they present to you at the table - I guess to make sure it's been properly buggered - before whisking it away for carving). Maybe I'm a rube, but I've eaten at Babbo twice and I found the food good and the atmosphere pretty fun both times.

Apr 03, 2009
LES_Crawler in Manhattan

David Chang vs. Foie Gras Protestors..

I can see why the animal rights folks pick on foie gras. There are certainly more pressing issues that affect far more animals, but like veal in the 80's it's hard to find a more galvanizing, media-friendly food item to attack. Both the anti-veal campaign and the anti-foie gras campaigns try to use the image of animals being tortured (tiny pens! can't turn around! force fed with a tube!) to provide a luxury foodstuff for rich, selfish diners. It's not an accurate image, but it's an emotionally resonant one and they'd be dumb to pass it by, especially in these days of populist rage at the moneyed classes.

Apr 03, 2009
LES_Crawler in Food Media & News

Special little place downtown?

Kajitsu, the new Japanese place on East Ninth, is open this week I think and it shouldn't be hard to get in to since no one is talking about it much. It may still be in the soft opening phase, but I bet they'll take you if you call.

414 E. 9th St., nr. First Ave. 212-228-4873

Also, Joe Doe is supposed to be decent, and when I walked by it last weekend it wasn't very crowded. I bet they'd take a walk-in.
45 E 1st St - (212) 780-0262

Apr 03, 2009
LES_Crawler in Manhattan

Help! Need one last restaurant recommendation for family weekend trip.

I second the recommendation for Blue Ribbon. Also, I didn't love it but lots of people have super-nice things to say about 10 Downing and it's in the right location for you guys.

Apr 03, 2009
LES_Crawler in Manhattan