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Posts from the ‘late-night’ Category

Lure Fishbar: A Seafood Lover’s Heaven, But Boy What a Scene

Lure Fishbar is an anomaly of sorts. It has been impossibly trendy for years, with a never-ending stream of supremely fashionable young ladies, tanned and slick older men, and cougars draped in fur; and yet, despite the at times overwhelming scene, it still turns out top-notch cocktails, flavorful food, and beautifully-executed sushi, all with warm and competent service.

Designed by the eponymous Serge Becker, the basement-level Lure Fishbar is gorgeous. The theme is nautical, but not in the cutesy New England marina with a lobster shack vein; instead, Lure Fishbar is designed like a mega-yacht with sparkling portholes for windows, gleaming wooden walls with circular golden lights, white lacquer accents, polished boat-deck flooring, and just a hint of the requisite blue and white. Circular booths coated in white leather face inward, allowing diners to gaze upon the bustling and glittering dining room. Up a half-level from the dining room is the darker bar area, with navy-and-white striped upholstered booths and a long bar, inevitably packed with groups of over-dressed women in their mid-30s and banker types.

Fittingly, seafood is the specialty at Lure Fishbar. The menu offers almost every imaginable type of mainstream seafood, from oysters on ice to raw bar specialties like littleneck clams and caviar to a full sushi menu with high-end products to tartares, ceviches and carpaccio, clam chowder, grilled octopus, salmon, and whole daurade, and a lovely lobster role. It is indisputable that the kitchen at Lure Fishbar is very good at preparing seafood. The sushi is marvelous – subtly flavored, perfectly wrapped and made with the freshest product, it is worth every penny. For tuna lovers, the spicy big eye tuna roll is luscious. With six or seven varieties of oysters on the menu any given night, there is a type of anyone – briny, sweet, bitter. With any choice, the sweet taste of the ocean floods in, cool and refreshing. From the appetizers, the crab cakes are delicious – lightly breaded, stuffed with sweet crab meat, and not too bulky. Other options are the famous fried blue point oysters with a classic caper tarter sauce, a twist on bagels & lox with a crispy grilled flatbread topped with smoked salmon, cream cheese, red onion and dill, and beer-battered soft shell crab with creamy avocado.

From the entrees, stick with seafood – why eat meat when the seafood options are so good? The lobster roll is amazingly tasty with a hot buttery brioche roll, heaps of sweet tender lobster meat, lightly tossed in mayo, and served with a side of crispy salt and vinegar potato chips. Also wonderful is the Asian-inspired seared tuna, cooked to a beautiful medium rare, on a bed of soba noodles coated in a slightly spicy and rich peanut sauce. The menu has enticing diversity with everything from steamed snapper in red curry to juicy roasted scallops with chorizo and thick bucatini pasta to roasted shrimp with spicy short ribs, radish and mint. For the more adventurous eaters, an impressive grilled whole daurade comes plated with dill gnocchi and tomatoes. In the seafood entree section alone, there is something for every palate.

If you’re not prepared for the scene, Lure Fishbar can be immediately overwhelming. The music is loud, the chatter of tipsy fashionistas reverberates through the long space, the scent of men’s cologne wavers near the bar, and everyone is just so damn good-looking. But, if you know what you’re getting yourself into, Lure Fishbar is just plain fun. It’s a chic party where both the food and the drinks live up to the hype. And the best part? The table service is immensely friendly and efficient – not an ounce of pretension from anyone except the frazzled hostesses. All in all, Lure Fishbar is a great place to celebrate, to give visitors a taste of what’s it’s like to ‘go out on the town’ in New York City, and to enjoy the wonders of well-executed seafood.

Perfect For: stylish young things, seafood lovers, big blowout dinners, late night bar snacks, cocktails and oysters

Lure Fishbar on Urbanspoon

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Bento Burger: Where Anime, Americana, and Frat Bar Meet

There’s no way around it – Bento Burger, a new Japanese-American ‘pub’ in the Southern East Village, is a weird place. Part American fratty dive bar and part Japanese-inspired pub, this ‘restaurant’ suffers from multiple personality disorder, is punishingly loud, and appeals to the post-fraternity youth that troll the Lower East Side and East Village. That being said, Bento Burger has a quirky party-hard vibe ideal for setting the mood on a big night out and some seriously great food.

The narrow space on 2nd Street off First Avenue is not easily missed; its presence is announced by neon graffiti and tall brightly-colored banners covered in Japanese characters and anime cartoons. It’s a slice of technicolor Tokyo on an otherwise dark and moody block. Inside, Bento Burger is a futuristic and industrial space, a bit grimy, and unfortunately affected by the frat bar smell of spilled beer. At the front, along one wall, is a scarlet-hued bar with crimson sheets hanging over the bar stools. Along the opposite wall are red leather booths, each with it’s own tray of sauces, chopsticks, and menus (a la Friendly’s, for those who remember) and each surrounded by ‘artful’ graffiti murals. A jukebox is parked in the back, manipulated more often than not by perhaps too-inebriated chicks who just cannot live without Katy Perry for one more minute.

Despite the more bar than restaurant atmosphere, the ‘Japanese roadhouse’ fare is delicious. The menu features classic American bar-fare, dressed up with some fancy ingredients and inspired by Japanese flavors. Think: chicken wings, fried calamari, spring rolls, and an array of scrumptious burgers. The ‘Hambuguu’ burger, a sumptuous blend of beef and sirloin, is rich and flavorful, especially when topped with the spicy wasabi aioli. The Thai Chicken burger is remarkable; the patty is actually ground chicken, not a piece of grilled marinated chicken breast, and is incredibly juicy; the spicy papaya relish piled on top is sweet, spicy, and savory all at once. Perhaps the best food delivered by the kitchen though came in the form of side dishes. The wasabi mashed potatoes are creamy and fluffy with a strong but not overpowering hot wasabi flavor; the sweet potato fries are some of the best I’ve ever had – cut thick, the perfect blend of crispy and soft, and doused in salt, pepper and what had to have been truffle oil. Less successful yet still tasty were the tempura onion rings. While they lacked in that crisp crunch I long for in fried food, the thick onions were soft and sweet and the accompanying wasabi aioli made up for the lack of flavor in the tempura batter.

All in all, Bento Burger is ideal for a raging good time (for example: a big group celebrating the end of final exams) – the food is delicious, just greasy enough, and packed with intense flavors, there is a pretty impressive cocktail selection, and after knocking a few back, I could imagine how difficult it would be to ignore the jukebox’s siren song. If you know what you’re getting yourself into, the low prices and good food ensure that you’ll get a great bang for your buck. Keep in mind though, no matter how you spin it, the slightly grimy/party-hard atmosphere and friendly yet frankly incompetent table service is terrible for intimate gatherings or, god forbid, dates.

Bento Burger on Urbanspoon

Jane’s Sweet Buns: Buns All Liquored Up

Jane’s Sweet Buns is a new bakery on the Eastern reaches of St. Marks Place. In a city replete with ‘cupcakeries,’ cookie shops and, of course, cheesecake purveyors, it has a unique perspective on baked goods – infusing a Southerner’s love of bourbon and cocktails with classic sweets like sticky buns, cinnamon rolls, and tarts. Jane’s Sweet Buns’ unusual boozy spin on baking certainly has something to do with the influence of owner Ravi DeRossi and his partner Jane Danger, the mixologist at nearby cocktail den Cienfuegos. And the bakery’s distinct quirkiness extends not only to its alcoholic confections but also to its bubblegum pink-mixed-with-gothic-decor interior.

The bakery is reminiscent of an old school sweets shop. Cake stands displaying treats and tarts perch atop glass cases lined with trays of sticky buns; gingham curtains hang in the windows and the walls are painted in bright cotton candy colors of pink, lime green, turquoise and sherbert orange; outside, a hot pink painted metal bench, of the sort found in English country gardens, beckons patrons to sit in clement weather. However, despite all this girly sweet decor, a twisted edge punks up this Southern-inspired spot; moaning and screeching alternative rock blares in the background and the tattooed ‘gal’ that served me was a refreshing mix of sugar and spice; gothic renditions of retro posters, paintings, and portraits hang on the walls; and of course, hidden beneath the sugary glaze of the delicately-displayed bun is the boozy bite of bourbon.

The goods at Jane’s are pretty tasty. They’re not orgasmic or the type of baked good I’d dream of for weeks on end, but they’re perfect for a late-night treat or to tote along to a house-party. My personal favorite is the Strawberry Fix, a sweet bun stuffed with strawberries, lemon and sugar, soaked with Aperol liqueur, and glazed with berry cream cheese frosting – it has got some serious zing and tastes genuinely fruity. Also great is the Rum Runner, a sticky bun with cinnamon, brown sugar, nutmeg and raisins that is positively doused in aged rum – it tastes like Rum Raisin ice cream transformed into a baked good. Unfortunately, the Old-Fashioned, the bourbon-based bun for which I had the highest expectations, was not so successful. Despite the generous topping of candied pecans and hints of vanilla, neither the advertised bourbon nor the angostura bitters came through enough to save this bun from blandness. On the non-alcoholic side of things (and yes, non-alcoholic goodies do exist at Jane’s Sweet Buns for those wishing to abstain), the savory tartlettes are delicious. It’s hard not to love thick slices of bacon and melted cheddar cheese stuffed inside a flaky buttery pastry crust – its the holy trinity of decadence (pork, cheese, bread) altogether. It get’s even better when you add apple butter,  blue cheese and pecans to the bacon.

Jane’s has 3 barstools in the window and a hot pink bench outside – it’s more for take-out or quick bursts of enjoyment than for sitting and leisurely noshing. But that arrangement seems just fine for the neighborhood, where inebriated youths regularly like to congregate after dinner hours. Though empty on a Friday afternoon, I can easily imagine a scenario where Jane’s becomes a late-night mecca for the quirky NYU students sure to stroll St. Marks after too many beers in the East Village.

Perfect For: NYU students, the drunk munchies, a different breakfast treat for the office, being indulgent

Jane's Sweet Buns on Urbanspoon

David Burke Kitchen: Every Neighborhood Could Use a Little Burke-ian Whimsy

I haven’t been to a David Burke restaurant in a long time, and before last year, he seemed to have fallen off the ‘famous chef’ radar. Yet, with an appearance on Top Chef All-Stars recently and the opening of his new restaurant, David Burke Kitchen, it appears as though Burke has decided to re-enter the spotlight. And what a delight this is, for Burke’s whimsical and passionate approach to food, regardless of how successful his creations are, is truly a thrill for diners.

David Burke Kitchen is in the basement of the new James Hotel on Grand Street in Soho. Yes, it’s in the basement, of a hotel. To many, this would be a recipe for disaster. Hotel restaurants get a bad rep for uninspired cuisine and cookie-cutter atmospheres, yet David Burke is joining the ranks of famous chefs looking to change this image by opening their new culinary hotspots in hotels all over Manhattan (others: Michael White’s Ai Fiori in The Setai Fifth Avenue, Geoffrey Zakarian’s The Lambs Club in The Chatwal, Sam Talbot’s Imperial No. 9 in the Mondrian Soho, and April Bloomfield’s The Breslin in The Ace Hotel, and so forth). David Burke Kitchen is, well, nice. It’s certainly got a fabricated feel, with modern wooden furniture and a funky undulating wooden ceiling, all tried to be made up as ‘rustic’ with blue-and-white checkered napkins. Yet, all the same, despite a certain “been there, done that” decor, David Burke Kitchen is warm and welcoming, friendly to all, and, most importantly, comfortable.

David Burke’s quirky and whimsical interpretations of traditional American dishes are the real reason to visit David Burke Kitchen. And, in general, the kitchen executes Burke’s visions very well. A pork chop entree is hefty, enough to feed two, yet wonderfully complicated with a large bone-in chop cooked to the perfect temperature and marinated in something wasabi-like, tasty nuggets of tender braised cheek, and an addictive salty-sweet marmalade made from bacon and apple. It is completely in-your-face flavor. The appetizers are a treasure trove of inventive bites: ‘ants on a log’ are reinterpreted from a popular childhood snack to include sophisticated bits of bone marrow and snails soaked in garlic, crab cakes bound with pretzel and filled with green peppercorns and white beer, a succulent duo of juicy seared scallops perched on a tangled mess of ultra rich braised oxtail, all topped with a dainty quail’s egg. The menu virtually overflows with Burke’s imagination – nothing is left alone. Fries are not just fries, they’re ‘fancy fries’ cooked in smoked beef fat and topped with sliced jalapeno; a baked potato comes topped with classic English rarebit; jars of chicken liver with prunes and pistachios are offered for adventurous eaters as a tempting (and heart attack-inducing) bar snack. The options are endless and diverse, often thrilling, and always complicated.
For some, David Burke’s ebullient enthusiasm may be overwhelming or, even worse, tiresome. However, if you’re prepared for the sometimes unusual outpouring of creative flavor combinations, your meal at David Burke Kitchen can be exciting and adventurous, a break from ‘the norm.’ Burke sets customers at ease with a refreshingly friendly and competent staff; our waiter was exuberant and respectful, informative and clearly inspired by David Burke. All in all, though not perfect and with a few kitchen kinks to work out, David Burke Kitchen is a fun new addition to an otherwise barren corner in Soho.
Perfect For: fashionable foodies, first dates, adventurous eaters, non-hipster carnivores, giving visitors a thoroughly ‘New York’ dining experience, drinks and dessert

David Burke Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Rye House: A Medieval Beer Hall All Dressed Up

As a newly-minted law student, there have been times when all I’ve wanted is a great beer, an even better burger, and enough of a scene to satisfy my need to interact with society outside of the law library. Rye House was a slam-dunk, on all counts. In essence, Rye House is really a dude’s place; it’s dark and simple with an extensive list of artisan beers, the “largest whiskey selection in NYC”, and satisfying American-style comfort food – not to mention it’s packed with a whole lot of Manhattan brosephs.

Rye House has a whole lot of swagger. It’s dark and sultry without being feminine; it’s sleek without being irritatingly trendy; it’s balanced a nostalgic vintage feel with the typical swank feel of a Flatiron joint. The front bar room is dominated by a curved dark wood bar with a granite tabletop. Long pale wood tables line one wall for either large groups or communal seating. Modern teardrop lamps shed a dim glow over the strange blend of sharply-dressed bankers from Midtown East and pseudo beer hippies from the Lower East Side. The back room is simultaneously irritatingly small and strangely cavernous. High ceilings, rough plank tables, wooden chandeliers and gangs of well-dressed men evoke a Medieval mess hall, sans the grime and court jesters of course. The overall look is self-consciously relaxed-chic, a vibe appealing to men of all stripes.

Rye House serves well-dressed American comfort food. The menu is short and simple, stocked with all sorts of nostalgic favorites. The classic grilled cheese is given an haute twist with an onslaught of truffle flakes and truffle oil; mac & cheese is fried and crisped, decadently served gooey and piping hot in a little bowl; sloppy joe sliders, the favorite of summer camps all over New England, get a face-lift with rich kobe beef and pickled jalapenos; the Rye House burger rides the gourmet burger wave with specialty beef and a selection of cheeses to choose from; even the plebeian onion tart gets all tarted-up with luscious goat cheese and flavorful pickled shallots. The classic American cuisine is surprisingly good and well-prepared. You can taste the quality of the ingredients used in every bite.

Rye House is a welcome addition to the flourishing gastropub scene in Manhattan. Following the path blazed by Spitzer’s and the Spotted Pig, a fantastic beer and cocktail selection comes paired with top-notch classic American cuisine in a relaxed yet classy-enough-for-fun-parents scene.

Perfect For: beerfests, happy hour on the expense account, dinner with colleagues, fun foodies that don’t take themselves too seriously, adults who want kid-food dressed up like adult-food

Rye House on Urbanspoon

Bill’s Bar & Burger: Bill Just Said No to Meatpacking Glitz

The Meatpacking District isn’t exactly known for its food – models and bottles tend to reign supreme at this small crossroads in downtown Manhattan. Yet, with the opening of Bill’s Bar & Burger just across from The Gansevoort, new light for casual, unpretentious and damn good dining shines through brightly.

The burger joint is diminuitive in a neighborhood where bigger and bolder is better. Set up to evoke your classic neighborhood sports bar with checkered tablecloths, bar-height tables, many a flat-screen TV showing New York sports, and both beers on tap and beer by the pitcher, Bills Bar & Burger seems a little out of place when kitty-corner to Gaslight, Tanuki Tavern, and Pastis. Yet, the relaxed vibe is a welcome antidote to the Meatpacking District’s glitzy, clubby and overpriced alternate reality.

The food is dressed-up ballpark fare: hamburgers and hot-dogs. Riding the popularity wave of haute burgers, the kitchen at Bill’s Bar & Burger offers a variety of specialty burgers that range from the Fat Cat, a delicious and savory mess of beef burger, caramelized onions and American cheese in a crispy and slightly sweet English muffin, to the Bobcat, a mildly spicy bunch of Mexican green chiles and Jack cheese on a classic sesame bun. The Classic is there for those who just love their basic beef hamburger with lettuce and tomato on a toasted and not-too-bready sesame bun. If you’re health-conscious (ask yourself, why are you in a burger joint?), there is either the Tuscan Turkey Burger with aged provolone, lettuce and tomato on a whole wheat bun or the Market Veggie Burger with sharp Swiss cheese and a savory roasted red pepper sauce. No matter how you like your burger, Bill’s does a great job. The beef is flavorful and the patty not too thick; the bun is slim and soft, not too bready; the burger altogether is just greasy enough to give the illusion of indulging wickedly but not so hefty as to induce a slothful food coma.

Not in the mood for a burger? Bill’s also offers a few specialty items, such as Texas Brisket Chili and a Blackened Fish Sandwich, as well as hot dogs, which rival the best baseball franks out there. A series of fries and shakes options are available as well, for those looking to inflict maximum damage on your waistline. Fries range from classic potato fries (crispy, salty and just about perfect) to essentially flavorless sweet potato fries and unapologetically decadent disco fries, classic potato strips doused in thick gravy and melted cheese. Shakes range from your basic vanilla, chocolate and strawberry to more unusual offerings like the peach cobbler (vanilla ice cream, summer peaches, and streusel crunch), peanut butter banana, or Framboise flout (rich chocolate ice cream with Lindeman’s lambic framboise). Looking to start off or top off your night out? Every specialty shake can be make boozy with a shot of liquor.

Bill’s is chill and cheap, by New York standards. Naturally, it’s not quite as greasy and grimy as your classic burger joint in middle of anywhere America, yet Bill’s Bar & Burger evokes the comfort of a neighborhood favorite while still keeping in mind the discerning tastes of New York diners. Not to mention, it’s a totally acceptable sports bar with pitchers of beer for those looking to reincarnate their Greek life days.

Perfect For: burger fanatics, sports freak foodies, tight wallets, post-club milkshakes, a mellow Meatpacking experience, New York sports fans

Bill's Bar & Burger on Urbanspoon

The Spotted Pig: New York’s Original Trendy Gastropub?

Few restaurants in Manhattan have sustained hype for as long as Ken Friedman’s The Spotted Pig, a verifiable West Village hotspot since it opened in 2004. The brainchild of Mario Batali, A&R music exec Ken Friedman, and pork-obsessed chef April Bloomfield, The Spotted Pig is a simultaneously quaint and hip British ‘gastro-pub’ with a vaguely Italian menu and an in-your-face scene.
Stuffed into the quirky 100-seat space on W. 11th Street and Greenwich formerly inhabited by Le Zoo, ‘the Pig’ is as dark and twisty as an old townhouse with plenty of dusty corners and necking nooks. The two levels each have a bar guaranteed to be swamped with hipsters and yuppies-in-the-know alike, while mismatching tables are strewn about wherever they can fit. With antique photos, hanging porcelain plates, green knotty plants, textural wallpaper, slightly crumbling exposed brick, and bar stools upholstered in various faded fabrics, the look is lush and nostalgic, inarguably atmospheric, and just shabby enough to qualify as chic.
The Spotted Pig has simple and delicious bar food made from quality ingredients and with a fair bit of inspiration from chef April Bloomfield. The menu blends British classics with American standbys and Italian favorites, and there’s a little something for everyone. For those seeking a little nibble with their brew, flavor-packed snacks like deviled eggs, chicken liver toast, and “devils on horseback” (bacon-wrapped stuffed prunes) are sure to satisfy; while, inexpensive small plates such as a refreshing and verdant squash salad or a light sheep’s milk ricotta gnudi offer something on the lighter side of dinner. In the mood for something substantial to sop up that compulsory pint of stout? Opt for the hulking char-grilled burger, served thick and juicy with Roquefort cheese and a mass of tangled shoestring fries. Chef Bloomfield’s food is hearty and satisfying. Made with skill and focused on quality, the eclectic menu is a welcome break from the typical pigs-in-a-blanket and fried calamari pub grub that permeates New York’s bar scene.
Despite receiving a Michelin Star and raves from scores of critics, The Spotted Pig is, at it’s core, a bar. The cocktails are strong and creative, made of fresh ingredients and a cocktail craftsman’s magic. My personal favorite? The wonderfully tart Market Lemonade, made slightly sweet with cut strawberries. The beers are diverse, with everything from classic British ‘cask beer’ to an unusual array of international beers on tap and in bottles (expect varieties from Asia, Mexico, Europe, and across the United States). Over 100 bottles of wine are offered, to appease those oenophiles seeking a bit of vino with their vittles.
Now, The Spotted Pig isn’t for everyone. It’s sceney and noisy, consistently packed, and incredibly difficult to nab a table at dinner without an hour or two wait. However, if you don’t mind talking over the buzz and killing some time at a neighborhood wine bar, The Spotted Pig is a wonderful place to experience a chi-chi slice of New York life, where everything’s trendy, casual and oh so haute, all at the same time.
Perfect For: ladies night out, a foodie’s pregame, celebrity spotting, Anglophiles, yupsters and huppies, boozy lunch

Spotted Pig on Urbanspoon