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Posts from the ‘themed spot’ Category

Manzo at Eataly: Batali’s Italian Temple for Meat

In Italian, manzo means beef, so it’s no great surprise that Manzo is the ‘meats’ restaurant at Batali and Bastianich’s Flatiron Italian emporium Eataly. A part of the now-famous and unique Eataly set-up, where 12 petite restaurants each focus on a specific type of food, such as meat at Manzo, vegetables at Le Verdure, seafood at Il Pesce, and pastries at the Pasticceria, Manzo is the only of the individual eateries that a) has a more typical dining environment and b) takes reservations in advance (on OpenTable!).
Tucked into a corner and protected from milling crowds and photo-snapping tourists by actual walls, Manzo is more like a typical restaurant than the other Eataly ‘restaurants’ that are generally open to the massive marketplace. Here, with a hostess manning the entrance, tourists rarely wander past your table, staring voyeur-esque into your plate of food (a strangely common experience at the other eateries), and there are tablecloths, suited waiters, leather-bound menus, all the trappings of a proper dining establishment. Despite the bright and new market environment outside the half-high walls cordoning off Manzo, the look manages to maintain a sense of civility, lush and old-school with crimson leather, deep red walls, dark wood tables, and a suited-up staff. With so few tables, the bar is the best place to sit – no reservations necessary, comfortable, relatively spacious, and serviced by a competent and friendly staff. If you’re with a group though, be sure to make a reservation in advance, wait times stack up quickly, especially at peak hours.

The food at Manzo is beautiful – a blend of modern and traditional Italian cooking. It’s a refreshing departure from the ‘rustic’ Italian food that, while delicious and perfect for quick neighborhood meals, is colonizing Manhattan. The focus is, unsurprisingly, on meat, and while there are of course pasta dishes, appetizers, desserts and so forth, the kitchen really shines when its preparing meat. The antipasti options are spruced-up renditions of familiar favorites: asparagus and parmesan with earthy chanterelle mushrooms, light and crispy sweetbreads with mushrooms, shrimp with a chunky walnut pesto and broccoli rabe, and of course pillowy mozzarela di bufala, paired with savory strands of prosciutto. The warm calf’s tongue, one of the many offal dishes offered, is meaty in the best of ways, firm, salty, unbelievably rich, and complemented with mellow potatoes and leeks in a deep red Barbaresco sauce. Aside from the ‘traditional’ antipasti, there are a few selections that ‘celebrate’ Piemontese beef, the crowning joy of Manzo. These preparations are generally simple, meant to let the famously high-quality beef shine on it’s own. The carne sala is a particularly artful dish – a carpaccio-style cut of cured beef that’s both sweet and savory, a truly complex flavor unlike anything I’ve had before, served with fiddlehead ferns, which are unusual and herbacious, and tart shavings of apple.

As any good Italian restaurant does, of course Manzo offers ‘primi’ or pasta options – none of which include their beloved beef. The offerings are tantalizing to say the least – spaghetti with lobster, tomato and basil, agnolotti in a brown butter sauce, pappardelle with sausage, and an beautifully-made gnocchi in a spicy tomato sauce that on it’s own is pretty average yet is given a major lift by a generous dollop of fresh ricotta cheese. The ‘secondi’ dishes are where the kitchen really seems to get excited. For carnivores, the options read like poetry: a classic ribeye with potatoes, grilled calf’s liver with sweet onions, roasted pork with rhubarb, sugar snap peas, cabbage and honey vinegar, veal chop that’s been smoked in hay and has a sweet aroma. The list goes on and on, each dish just as succulent as the next. My recommendation? The simple and utterly wonderful tagliata – grilled sliced beef – that’s served a deep pink with fava beans, mushrooms, and a complex bone marrow sauce; it’s well-balanced and tastes like a million bucks.

If you haven’t guessed yet, none of this stuff comes cheap. Manzo is expensive, very expensive – antipasti range from $13-18 each, pastas top out at $29 a plate, and the ‘secondi’ can reach the staggering heights of $45 for a veal chop or a ribeye. Do the math – it adds up quick, especially if you’re in the mood for one of the bar’s killer Negronis. Regardless, if you’re willing to spend the dough freely, Manzo is an experience, blending the magic of meticulously created and prepared Italian cuisine with the unique opportunity of leaving the restaurant, only to shop for the ingredients you just ate. For some people, it’s an unnecessary extravagance, but for those passionate about eating, cooking or both, there’s a certain wonder to it.

Perfect For: wow-ing out-of-towners, Batali groupies, Italian food aficionados, those who like to cook as much as they like to eat, special occasions, the ultimate meat experience, cocktails and dolce, being luxurious

Manzo on Urbanspoon

A Very New York St. Patty’s Day

Hoping for the luck o’ the Irish? Perhaps an Irishman yourself? or maybe you just really love the color GREEN?

Regardless of your reasons, today is the day to celebrate St. Patrick in your finest shades of evergreen, mint, jungle green, Kelly green, perhaps even seafoam. As any proper North Eastern city should, New York offers diverse options for celebrating, ranging from good clean fun to, well, not good clean fun.

Please see highlights below:

St. Patrick’s Day Parade: 11am, starting at 44th and 5th Avenue, featuring the who’s who of the Catholic Church, bagpipers, and step dancers.

St. Patrick’s Day Pub Crawl, courtesy of nymag: http://nymag.com/personals/articles/02/03/stpatricksdaybars.htm

Music and Theater: the Irish Arts Center comes out of hiding on this glorious Irish day with events throughout March and April, see here: http://www.irishartscenter.org/

Hot Toddies: because sometimes Guiness can get old – check favorites out at Shoolbred’s, the Brandy Library, Brass Monkey, Puck Fair, Char No. 4, and Alice’s Tea Cup.

Bagpiping: We all love ourselves a little bit of bagpipin’ to brighten a day, check out the FDNY’s Emerald Society, http://www.fdnypipesanddrums.net/

Park Avenue Winter: What’s Cooler Than Being Cool?

No restaurant has quite encapsulated the general Upper East Side vibe for me like Park Avenue Winter, executive chef Craig Koketsu’s swan song to seasonal American on 63rd and Park. The renovated Park Avenue Cafe multi-level multi-room space undergoes a 48-hour metamorphosis each season that completely changes the decor and the menu to reflect the approaching season.

Park Avenue Winter is warm and inviting, despite the wintry decor (think: ice baubles, crystal chandeliers, white leather, sprigs of evergreen and twiggy plants). Every element of the inspired space exudes restraint and refinement, a hallmark of UES dining (not to stereotype too severely or anything…). To be honest, it was a refreshing break from the oftentimes pretentiously ‘hipster’ downtown dining scene that refuses to use tableclothes, finds dishcloths suitable substitutes for napkins, and seems to fetishize over chalkboards and exposed brick. While not all these things are bad, they can get monotonous.

The food is meant to bring out the hearty and robust flavors of winter meats and fruits, focusing on venison, lamb, meatballs, creamy cheeses and chocolates, Scottish salmon, and root vegetables. I searched for unique flavors – focusing on the much-talked-about Carmellini Challenger (a toasted meatball slider), the crispy calamari and carrot salad, and the winter spice cake. The slider stole the show with a fat juicy and incredibly well-seasoned meatball perched on top of crispy crunchy toast, covered in cheese shreds, and paired with some sort of vegetable puree that added even more savory punch to the dish. I’d take this meatball over an ordinary burger slider any day. The crispy calamari salad married fresh and crisp vegetables with lightly breaded massive rounds of calamari, whole roasted peanuts, and a thai peanut dressing. It was refreshing and satisfying – a perfect light dining option or starter. The winter spice cake defined wintry desserts for me: creamy addictive brown butter ice cream dolloped over moist spice cake (that tasted like pumpkin bread plus every aromatic Christmas-time spice you could imagine) finished with homemade whipped cream in papery cannoli-like wrappings. Yes, it is as good as it sounds.

My oldest friend Diana, a willing and game dining companion, started with the citrusy cured lemon caesar salad, a dish that injected zing and zest into the popular classic. Her piece de resistance was the stout braised lamb shank with aged cheddar polenta and green apples. The lamb was so soft and so tender than no knife was needed to cut through the generous portion; the apples and cheddar polenta added savory and surprising notes to the lamb, spicing up an otherwise heavy and deeply flavorful dish. She finished off with the coconut caramel pannacotta, an almost tropical (and yes, slightly out of season) rendition of the traditional Italian dessert; it was good and correctly prepared, yet not particularly memorable.

All in all, the food at Park Avenue Winter was delicious (in a “wow, that really hit the spot” sort of way), sophisticated, and yet playful with flavor combinations. While it clearly strives mightily to reach the upper echelons of gastronomy, it falls just short in that the creative and tasty food impresses and inspires conversation yet doesn’t wow the way Brasserie, Perry St, and Del Posto do. Either way, Park Avenue Winter is classy and elegant, perfect for a business event, parents and grandparents visiting, or a pull-out-all-the-stops romantic date.

Park Avenue... (Winter, Spring, Summer, Autumn) on Urbanspoon

Tea & Sympathy: Jolly Good

I made the most remarkable discovery today: Tea & Sympathy. Now, I realize that this marvelous English joint is neither new nor newly-discovered, but I had never taken the time to scope out the scene before today. Let me tell you, as a lover of all things British and a possessor of a UK passport myself, I was overjoyed to find a food & goods spot entirely devoted to the often over-looked and easily criticized cuisine of England.

The menu reads like a verifiable laundry list of English classics: bangers & mash, baked beans on toast, afternoon tea with scones and clotted cream, cucumber & cream cheese finger sandwiches, shepherd’s pie, scotch egg, steak & guinness pie, and, for Sunday dinner, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. The line outside on weekends and the quality of the food itself speaks volumes to the sheer variety of scrumptious dishes ‘fresh off the boat.’ Loaded with butter and cream, each dish defines delicious decadence and evokes extreme nostalgia for tea on the Thames and potted pies at supper time.
The restaurant mimics a frilly English marm’s kitchen with delicate floral details and just as delicate tea sets. Hot and cramped, call ahead to scope out the scene or show up early to nab a window-front table. The staff is entirely chipper Brits with charming accents and equally charming attitudes.
The adjoining store (where you also pick up take-out orders) was the most magical part of it all. Modeled after an old country store, the heavy wooden shelves are fully stocked with imported English goodies: Jelly Babies, Heinz beans, mushy peas, Walker’s shortbreads, Sarson’s malt vinegar, Branston pickle, and other hard-to-find-States side victuals. They also sell charming tea sets, English knick knacks, and Union Jack-themed items.
Tea & Sympathy offers something different from anything else in the Village – it steers clear of popular French bistro fare, of New York deli/diner offerings, of sushi. It is as authentic as you can get on this side of the Atlantic, and it’s mightily refreshing. Check out the restaurant for a tea excursion or the shop for unique holiday gifts!

Tea & Sympathy on Urbanspoon

Bone Lick Park: I Only Know This Place as Bar-B-Que

One evening after a long day at work, my coworker and friday Sarah and I ventured into a place just around the corner from me, Bar-B-Que. I call it Bar-B-Que because that’s what the evergreen awning says and there is really no other indication that this place is in fact Bone Lick Park. Either way, this place is an anomaly for me: recommendable despite mediocre cuisine.

The food is pretty average; however, the laidback ‘I don’t give a rat’s ass’ vibe and bone-crushing $3.50 margheritas earn this place a gold star in my book. The scene is like a cheesy Texas rodeo with a huge neon Coca-Cola sign, tin ceilings, white tiled walls, and loads of kitschy Americana periphrenalia. Everyone from the Village gay crowd to hipsters to suits seeking alcohol to elderly couples pack into the spacious room for some good ole ‘cue. Let me tell you, the patchwork quilt of diners provides for some laugh-worthy entertainment.

The menu has everything you would expect: creamy mac & cheese, hefty burgers, cornbread, ribs, pulled pork, Texas sausages, and BBQ chicken plates. The food is consistently average yet tastes better with each sip of margherita you have. In short, Bone Lick Park is drunk food heaven. Everything is thick, rich, and flavorful. There are no ‘subtle flavors’ or made-for-an-elf portions here. What should you eat? The turkey burger is divine, but if you feel like truly embracing the barbecue spirit, go for the Texas link sausage with mashed potatoes and cornbread. It will not disappoint.

CHEAP drinks, pretty good food, an entertaining hodgepodge of patrons, and charmingly kitschy decor make Bone Lick Park an unexpected pick for me for group events, after-work drinks, and comfort (re: good when drunk) food.

Bone Lick Park on Urbanspoon

Aspen: The Plane Fare Was Too Much Anyway…

I’ve had dinner in an Aspen ski lodge, or rather, I’m convinced I have. Maybe this ski lodge wasn’t actually in Aspen, but an Aspen ski lodge it was. You must wonder what I’m babbling about. Well, there is a restaurant in Manhattan that works to deliver the posh coziness of the ritzy ski village Aspen directly to New Yorkers.

Because I’m terrible at skiing and the plane fare didn’t seem worth it, Aspen in flatiron seemed like a good enough way to get acquainted with the ski bunny vibe. And it did not disappoint. Supremely atmospheric, this ski lodge-themed spot on 22nd St scores highly on scene. The front lounge exudes warmth with wood-paneled walls from a barn in Pennsylvania, real Aspen birch trees, a lucite deer head, a copper-topped bar, and hand-blown light fixtures. The back dining room is dominated by a large roaring fire in the winter and babbling brook in the summer. Diners can eat around this centerpice or in the large white leather banquettes that look like fluffy mounds of snow.

While the emphasis is definitely on the decor, the food is actually surprisingly good. Offering innovative riffs on traditional American dishes, the menu ranges from crab cakes, bison sliders, and flatiron steak to spinach salad, tuna tartare, wild salmon with lentils and beets, and seared yellowfin tuna. A side of three cheese mac & cheese sounds remarkably decadent.

But let’s be serious: the food doesn’t really matter here. Come to imbibe the modern heart-warming cocktails (the bartender will mix up something surprising to keep you warm in the cold winter months) and to slip away to your own urban ski chalet. Don’t wear a hat and mittens, you’ll look silly with all fashionable New Yorkers slinking around.

Aspen on Urbanspoon

Macao Trading Co – Colonialism Made Good

This. place. is. awesome.

It is a trendy, totally scene-y, overwhelmingly gorgeous, New York hotspot that actually has delicious eats. Macao Trading Company opened with a splash, enjoying good press in all magazines and newspapers with word of its awesome-ness passing quicky through the grapevine.

I will spend an inordinate amount of time on the scene because that is really the reason to go here. To begin with, there is no sign. A single red lantern hangs outside its big black door on a quiet street off of Canal in Tribeca. A doorman begrudgingly lets you in. As soon as you’re inside, you’re hit with noise, a buzz. The bar area upfront is always packed as the bartenders take their time preparing the noxiously delicious drinks. Couples and small groups crowd around small menus, discussing enthousiastically which concoction to sample next. My personal recommendation? The Dragon’s Milk.

It is just dark enough with a flickering red sheen that everyone looks slinky and seductive, even the most dowdy patron (though, in truth, those are rarely seen in such a place…) shimmers. I could only complain that the bartenders were too friendly and the lighting too low and the drinks too tasty – if you call that complaining…

The back room is magical, in short. It’s as though you’ve stepped onto a nineteenth-century pirate ship patroling the inlets of Macao. A wraparound deck that serves as a second story to the restaurant has old chests, swinging vintage lanterns, fishing netting, and hordes of small trinkets from the colonial past of Macao. The upscale Pirates-of-the-Caribbean theme is charming without being kitschy.

The food is unique and exquisite. The menu is divided in two – Portuguese cuisine and Chinese cuisine, to reflect the dual culture of Macao. My boyfriend, John, and I went for a mix of the two cuisines, haphazardly choosing everything that sounded delicious. We had the shrimp, in both Portuguese and Chinese style, the fried goat cheese, the chicken dumplings, Ants Climbing the Tree, and prawns sauteed with chili peppers. All dishes were well-seasoned, with little and intense bursts of flavor, and very tasty. I just wish they doled out more food! The portions were unfortunately small.

Since I went, they have opened a bar downstairs in the basement to allow for more revelers to enjoy their cocktails – I have yet to scope out this scene!

If you’re looking for something with a little mystery and pizazz, check out Macao – it is sure to wow!

Macao Trading Co. on Urbanspoon