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Posts from the ‘tribeca’ Category

Tamarind Tribeca: Ethereal Indian, Moved 30 Blocks Downtown

‘Fancy’ Indian food isn’t for everyone – sometimes, a take-out tub of chicken tikka masala and a thick round of naan to dip messily into everything is just the best way to eat Indian – however, the second location of Flatiron favorite Tamarind does everything in its power to convince its diners that eating Indian in a fine dining environment instead of on your couch is a marvelous idea. And Tamarind-Tribeca resoundingly succeeds in transforming what could be an overly formal interpretation of soulful Indian cuisine into something delicious, elegant, and pleasant.

courtesy of Evan Sung for the New York Times

The new location, on Tribeca’s Hudson Street ‘restaurant row’, is, in one word, colossal. The corner space has soaring ceilings and more than 10,000 square feet of space. The front is glassy and sparkling new; the seamless floor-level ‘retail’ space of an office building. From the outside, it oozes corporate gloss; if you didn’t know a restaurant lay within, it could be a bank. Inside, dining room upon dining room unfolds as you wander further back into the cavern. The design is modern, sleek, and clean – almost impersonal and definitely suited for the slick business clientele that crowds this place after work hours. However, for non-corporate diners, despite the gargantuan size, it’s remarkably easy to fold into one of the comfortable booths and to forget, at least momentarily, the numbers of tables being turned around you. Warm neutral tones envelop the space and a combination of contemporary chandeliers and recessed lighting bathe patrons in an elegant amber glow; surfaces are swathed in smooth teak wood, cool marble, and luxurious fabrics. All in all, dining at Tamarind Tribeca is a well-oiled machine, a peaceful, and pleasant experience.

The food at Tamarind Tribeca is wonderful. Is there anything better than rich, fragrant, and perfectly-executed Indian food? The curries are flavorful, aromatic, textural, and not in the least bit greasy. Particularly marvelous is a ‘fiery’ hot lamb vindaloo that delights, despite inevitably causing sweats and scalding the tongue, and a mellow ‘murgh badami’ or almond-based chicken dish with saffron and sweet golden raisins. The classic chicken tikka masala is one of the best – thick, with a not unsubstantial kick, and fragrant of fenugreek and Indian spices – perfect for sopping up with the ideally crispy and chewy pockets of naan.

Where Tamarind Tribeca really shines though are in the traditional Tandoor dishes. The chicken tikka is moist, tender, and packed with complex flavor; the ‘peshwari boti kabab,’ essentially tandoori marinated lamb is just ridiculously good – spicy, juicy, so tender that you don’t need a knife to cut it apart, and packed with aromatic ginger, chili and garlic – it’s perfect. Other highlights include the special Manchurian cauliflower appetizer in a crusty slick ginger coating, the zesty and texturally-playful Aloo Papri, with crunchy wheat crisps, earthy chickpeas, and zingy tamarind sauce, and the ‘kolambi pola,’ tender cooked shrimp coated in a thick lemongrass and coconut sauce.

In a time when restaurants seem to be getting smaller, noisier, and more casual, Tamarind Tribeca is a wonder – a busy, massive, sophisticated, and expensive temple worshipping classic regional Indian cuisine. It seems to intentionally eschew the trend of kitschy rusticity that’s taking over Manhattan neighborhood-by-neighborhood; instead, it fully embraces the grand moneyed elegance characteristic of the Tribeca area in which it has set up shop. The ideal restaurant to make a splash with clients or to treat out-of-towners to a distinctly New York fine dining experience, Tamarind Tribeca wows with flavorful and not prissy Indian food, gold star service, and a serene sophisticated atmosphere.

Perfect For: taking clients out, fat wallets, Indian food lovers, big groups, showing out-of-towners ‘New York’-y ethnic food, graduation get-togethers

Tamarind Tribeca on Urbanspoon

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Tribeca Grill: A Steakhouse With A Touch of Hollywood Glamour

Tribeca is Robert DeNiro’s real-life playground, and Tribeca Grill was one of his first moves in transforming the industrial neighborhood from a warehouse wasteland to a truly coveted place to live. In the 20 years since it’s opening, the Tribeca Grill has become a downtown institution, a destination for uptown folk as well as a convenient landmark for the finance professionals in Battery Park and on Wall Street.

The restaurant is best described as classically elegant in a New York sort of way. It’s very big and brash, with a cavernous main dining room, at the center of which sits a sleek ovular bar of rich mahogany. High ceilings, original exposed brick and expansive paned windows give the Grill a chic industrial look, almost nostalgic for the neighborhood’s more working class heritage. DeNiro’s personal touches are everywhere, from the permanent display of his late father’s artwork throughout the restaurant to the private dining room that connects to the main screening room of his other labor of love, the Tribeca Film Festival.

The food is inspired new American with noticeable influences from the Mediterranean and the coastal regions of New England and the mid-Atlantic. Perhaps the most surprising thing about the menu though is how extensive it is. With almost 30 dishes to choose from, the selection is dizzying to the point of overwhelming and the range of proteins, flavors and inspirations is impressive, or perhaps unfocused. You can expect a vast array of starters that, depending on the season, can range from caviar atop mini potato pancakes to poached Maine lobster, braised short rib pierogis, a charcuterie plate, and red wine braised octopus. Entrees are classic expense account plates, with everything from a 16oz grilled dry-aged New York strip to a grilled Berkshire pork chip, an herb roasted chicken, and a hefty rack of lamb. Prices for a single dish can reach $40.

So, what’s good amongst so many options? The seared sea scallops are buttery and light, so plump that they taste like meat, and complemented with wonderfully crispy and sweet caramelized cauliflower. The grilled filet of beef is about as traditional as you can get – hulking and yet still tender, served with a side of addictive garlic whipped potatoes, and made more decadent by sinful crispy onion rings. The herb-crusted rack of lamb is big enough to feed two and served with savory bits of spring onion spaetzle (yum). If you’re looking for something on the lighter side, the heirloom tomato and goat cheese salad is salty and savory, with just enough creamy goat cheese bits to seem like a treat and not so many as to overwhelm the fresh tomatoes.

Tribeca Grill is an elegant bridge between the old and the new. It’s classic American steakhouse type place in an uber-hip neighborhood and a surprisingly diverse menu. It’s infused with a little Hollywood glamour (and pedigree, for that matter) and swank enough for client events, special occasions, first dates for the more traditional sort, and treating your parents to something oh so very New York.

Perfect For: expense accounts and corporate cards, DeNiro-stalking, your parents’ birthdays, the more traditional types, Tribeca bigwigs, after-work drinks, pre- or post-film festival vittles

Tribeca Grill on Urbanspoon

Locanda Verde: Hype Warranted.

Disclaimer: Please excuse the verbal diarrhea to follow. Locanda Verde has brought out the prose within.
Andrew Carmellini’s wildly popular Tribeca restaurant has had hype since opening two years ago. This is a very dangerous (though profitable) thing to have – it leads to gargantuan expectations, often failed. Yet, magically, the laidback and lively restaurant in the Greenwich Hotel lives up to the hype big time and on all counts. The food is confident, comfortable, and cozy; the service is friendly and professional; the airy and impeccably-designed space somehow manages to mute the cacophony to an acceptably vibrant chatter. Everything just…works.
The cavernous dining room transforms an industrial space into something warm and luxurious. Every last detail works to create an open and rich environment, from the matte terracotta tiled floors to the bright airy windows to the golden backlit bar that wraps around one wall to the heavy grey curtains, glossy dark wood finishes, and industrial lanterns. The large room with ceilings fit for a ballroom is sectioned into smaller areas, ensuring a more personal feel, and no table sits too close to another, mercifully. Towards the front, a small cafe and pasticceria waits for those craving sweet treats; an enormous chalkboard lists out the goodies available that day (zucchini bread, rhubarb and meyer lemon tarts, olive oil cake…). If you’re lucky (or patient) enough to snag an outdoor table, you’ll enjoy not only the peaceful ebb & flow of life in picturesque Tribeca but also some fantastic people-watching. Carmellini got Locanda Verde’s vibe just right: familial and welcoming, elegant, vivacious, youthful, comfortable, a go-to for just about any occasion.
As we all know, the look is only half the battle, and Carmellini’s Italian comfort food completes the picture perfectly. While not complicated or ‘haute’, the contemporary Italian cuisine is flavorful and soul-satisfying, hearty yet not over-done, accessible, and crave-worthy. Start with the Lamb Sliders, a house specialty served as a duo of zesty lamb meatballs in soft slider buns, and the Sheep’s Milk Ricotta crostini, charred Italian bread served plain with a generous bowl of salty, savory and creamy ricotta worth lapping up inelegantly. Move on to the “one of the top three best grilled octopus antipasti” dishes in Manhattan (courtesy of John Fang, octopus extraordinaire) laden with long not-too-chewy grilled tentacles atop an addictive saffron potato puree, punchy olives, and fresh spring vegetables. Looking for something on the lighter side? Stick with the Heirloom Tomatoes, tossed delicately with olive oil and bits of fluffy smoked ricotta.
While Locanda Verde offers some tantalizing secondi courses, including a remarkably pungent Fire-Grilled Garlic Chicken for two, the pastas are the real show here. The rigatoni with lamb bolognese, ricotta and mint is rich and savory, belly-warming, and nostalgic; the orrechiette with duck sausage and broccoli rabe is fresh and light, delicate, perfectly-cooked; the spaghetti with rock shrimp and toasted garlic is a sophisticated and addictive play on shrimp scampi, a must-have for seafood lovers; and the Grandmother’s Ravioli makes you yearn for home-cooking in the Italian countryside, featuring delicate shells stuffed full with pork, beef and lamb and slathered in a magic red sauce (a recipe worth killing over?). The only question worth asking is ‘how do I pick?’
Locanda Verde, much like it’s neighbor The Harrison, is a happy place: atmospheric, comfortable, delicious, warm, and welcoming. It’s the type of restaurant you’d be silly not to like, stupid not to try, especially if you’re a pasta fan. Carmellini brings an instant classic to the neighborhood – march on, Locanda Verde!
Perfect For: family get-togethers, happy hour with colleagues, client lunches, birthdays and special occasions, dessert dates, boisterous groups, ladies who lunch, wine nights

Locanda Verde on Urbanspoon

The Harrison: Where Duck Lovers Die and go to Heaven

Last night, I had one of the best meals I’ve had yet in New York and many thanks to Amanda Freitag and her kitchen at The Harrison for providing it.

The Harrison is one of those rare establishments that strikes the balance between haute cuisine and a relaxed accessible atmosphere. Many restaurants claim to do this and the recent trend towards casual dining has spurred the growth of gastropubs, bistros, trattorias, and tapas joints. However, The Harrison stands out from the crowd – it is both refined and inviting, incredibly chic and warm. Not an ounce of elegance is sacrified in its quest for haute farm-fresh cuisine.

The restaurant itself is set on a charming corner in Western Tribeca, just a short block from the West Side Highway. Cobblestone streets and beautiful old rowhouses are the backdrop for this beautiful American brasserie. As soon as you enter, you are awash in soft golden light and hit with the sound of people laughing, talking, and generally enjoying their meal. The Harrison was immediately a happy place – bright, cheery, with small remembrances of home. The dining room is neither too big nor too small and adorned with festive touches such as squash gourds, pumpkins, and corn ears as well as well-appointed 18th century antiques. Wrought iron lanterns, pendant lamps and chandeliers hang from the ceiling, dousing the entire 85-seat dining room in a flattering amber light. An elegant black walnut bar with twinkling bottles of both brand-name and artisan spirits stands robustly along the side of the space. Although the restaurant was packed to the gills with young and chic diners, yet never once did it feel too crowded or did the volume seem too high. Bustling and vibrant, The Harrison was abuzz with life and energy.

The food was what really won me over though. It was inventive, fresh, hearty, and most important of all, delicious. Amanda Freitag serves what I consider to be genuinely American cuisine. She draws on familiar seasonal meats, fruits, and vegetables to create spirited and soulful renditions of traditional meals. Me and my 3 dining companions strove to sample what looked like the best the menu had to offer. To start, we split the duck-fat fries, the autumn squash salad, and the pasta chitarra. The duck-fat fries, a house speciality, teach a lesson in decadence – they are crispy, salty, savory, and served with a wholloping duck fat mayo. The autumn squash salad tasted like fall, if you could savor the seasons. Big cuts of juicy roasted squash were served on top of arugula, parmesan cheese, and pumpkin seeds – sweet, savory, and salty, with a dash of umami. The pasta chitarra was the gold star appetizer though, served perfectly cooked in a playful spin on the English classic with lamb ragu, mint, and housemade ricotta cheese.

Now, allow me to wax poetic for a moment. The long island duck breast special that I had was easily one of the best duck dishes I have ever had. Cooked perfectly, the generous helping of tender duck breast was served over a remarkable savory squash puree. All of this was in a magical dark sauce, presumably made from the jus of the duck. This duck breast was a revelation for me; it’s left me craving savory squash flavors and has certainly set the bar for duck preparation moving forward.

The rest of my party opted for the English-cut lamb chop, the crusted salmon, and the pork chop. The only failure of the night, in relative terms, was the pork chop. It was cooked well, yet the accroutrements were not complimentary – the sauce was too delicate for the hefty chop and the cannellini beans were just meh. The lamb chop was also generously portioned and cooked at just the right temperature. Served with rosemary, the chop had a beautiful aroma to it. Lastly, we had the horseradish crusted salmon. Robust and hearty, the beautifully served filet came with a dark yubi mushroom broth that my friend could not stop raving about. No ordinary salmon dish, Freitag’s offering was decadent and rich, using bold flavors to compliment the fish’s natural essence.

The Harrison was an impressive meal. Upon leaving, I felt that at long last I had found a restaurant that fits all of my natural predilections. It was bright and lively, yet still charming and intimate. The service was warm; the food of the highest quality yet unpretentious and accessible. I could take my parents here, my coworkers, my nearest and dearest friends. It is a place fitted for vibrant and energetic conversation, for true enjoyment of food and drink, and for happy memories.

Harrison on Urbanspoon

Bubby’s: Doesn’t it just SOUND good?!

The name Bubby’s evokes a grandmother’s kitchen, pies fresh from the oven, grits steaming on the table, and fresh cut bacon sizzling on the stovetop. The name alone is comfortable and warm. The Tribeca neighborhood comfort food joint is exactly like its name sounds: down-right friendly, fresh, earthy, comfortable, and simple.

On the corner of N. Moore and Hudson, Bubby’s isn’t exactly in the heart of the downtown dining district; however, it entices diners with its 24hr breakfast/brunch and its charmingly unpretentious decor. Bubby’s is like the town center pie shop you grew up begging your mom to take you to; it smells great, it’s bustling with people, and you know you’re going to get a heck of a meal.
Surprisingly spacious, Bubby’s has two rooms – one in the back that is great for big groups and the front room that is awash with light from the large paned windows. The decor is simple and not distracting. The rough hewn wood tables and white-washed walls lend to the country kitchen vibe.
The food is hearty, simple, and just plain tasty American. Expect a laundry list of traditional American recipes collected through the ages from friends, family, neighbors, and guests. The menu features everything from fish tacos to farmer’s omelettes, big juicy burgers to fresh H&H bagels, center-cut pork chops and applewood smoked pulled pork butt to eggs benedict and tall stacks of buttermilk pancakes. If you’re looking for good ole home-cookin’ without any strange frills or innovations, Bubby’s is your place.
When my friend Ashley and I showed up at Bubby’s at 11 on a Sunday morning, the place was swamped. People were stuffed inside at the bar, holding warm mugs of coffee, and milling around outside on the sidewalk. A bachelorette brunch was waiting for their table for 15, and families clustered around baby strollers, waiting patiently for their turn. Surprisingly, despite the intimidating crowd, we were sat in about 15 minutes. The service was quick, friendly and efficient. The food came out of the kitchen quickly and our waitress was pleasantly attentive.
All in all, Bubby’s is that warm and welcoming neighborhood brunch place you’re always looking for in New York. No prix-fixes, no reservations, no dress code, no fancy shmancy breakfast dishes that look too complicated to eat. Founded in 1990, Bubby’s is an institution that knows how to cook food, serve food, and make diners happy. The kitchen serves up well-made grub that fills you up just right and lets you get on with your day. Perfect for a brunch with friends or family, Bubby’s can accommodate small groups or large and offers a lovely spot to enjoy your morning coffee.

Bubby's on Urbanspoon

The Many Faces of Nobu

I don’t know about you, but when people starting throwing the name Nobu around, I automatically get to wondering which one they’re talking about. Maybe it shouldn’t matter, for the Nobu brand is supposed to embody quality, innovation, elegance, and ‘hot spot.’ The very name conjures up exclusivity.

However, I have been to two of the three outposts in New York, and they couldn’t be more different in decor, vibe, and the general experience.

Nobu Fifty-Seven is, in short, very Midtown. It is big and in-your-face. It is glitzy, noisy, and packed with suits. The hostess shouts boorishly ‘welcome’ in Japanese every time a new patron walks in – and in a restaurant so large, that is very frequently. Big round tables dot the expansive dining room, indicating that this is a place popular with the business lunch crowd, while the sushi bar sits diminuitively on the side of the room. The focus here is on big BIG BIG.

Nobu Next Door, in Tribeca, is very much not Midtown. Far sleeker and sexier than its uptown sister, Nobu Next Door is soft and luxurious with beautiful decorative accents. The narrow David Rockwell-designed space almost glows, due to the low hanging lanterns, and is dotted with charming homespun details.

They represent opposite ends of the ;atmosphere spectrum’; Matsuhisa is essentially asking you to take your pick.

Both restaurants serve up the South-American inspired Japanese cuisine that has made Nobu Matsuhisa a very famous and very rich man, and both restaurants serve it up well. The menus are extensive, offering an array of hot and cold dishes as well as sushi, sashimi and tempura. To give you an idea of the options, included are: Bigeye Tuna Tataki with Ponzu, Kumamoto Oysters with Maui Onion Salsa, Nobu Sashimi Tacos, Rock Shrimp Tempura, Squid Pasta with Garlic Sauce, Halibut Cheeks with Wasabi Pepper Sauce, Fish & Chips Nobu Style, Creamy Spicy Crab, and Japanese Cod with Black Bean Sauce. The food is fresh, and while it may not seem inventive now, as hordes of ‘asian fusion’ restaurants have cannibalized on Matsuhisa’s concept, innovative for its time.

Nobu did it first and they do it right, still, to this day. If you’re looking for the original, the pioneer, and for the lasting best, then look no further than Nobu. While there are many faces to Matsuhisa’s fusion empire, the quality of the food remains consistently high.

Next Door Nobu on Urbanspoon Nobu 57 on Urbanspoon

Megu v. Matsugen: Battle of "Modern Japanese"

Last week, I doubled on altogether too expensive ‘modern’ Japanese restaurants. On Wednesday, I tried on Megu and on Friday, Matsugen.

The two restaurants were sat at about the same price point and are highly regarded for their Japanese cuisine; however, they were exceedingly different in atmosphere, vibe, clientele, and menu choice.
Megu is at its most fundamental over-the-top. The restaurant itself is a verifiable maze, with seemingly hidden rooms, discreet bathrooms (i.e. difficult to find), and stairways between various parts of the space. At the front is a beautiful bar/lounge area with sexy cherry red underlighting and plenty of dark corners. Beyond, one must walk through a corridor and down a narrow stairwell to access the cavernous main dining room. A massive seated Buddha sits in the middle of the room with concentric booths and tables radiating outwards. My guest Daryl and I were relegated to small table near the sushi bar (I guess we weren’t dressed swank enough).
Upon being seated, things got a bit ‘hairy.’ To begin with, our server was extremely irritating. Not dour or morose, but rather just a bit too perky. She not only attempted to rush us through our meal, but checked every 5 minutes on our progress. She kept trying to take our dishes out from under us, even when we were clearly still eating.
Furthermore, the food was not nearly as good as I expected it to be. Granted, I ordered the restaurant week menu and thus expected a hit in quality. Yet, not only was the quality subpar but I was served portions meant for a small child or even further, a rabbit. The asparagus tempura was tasty yet average and only one stick of asparagus was given! The kobe beef was perfectly cooked yet, once again, tiny. These two dishes were followed by an anemic offering of green tea cake that not only looked terrible but tasted like sawdust.

My experience at Matsugen was altogether radically different. To begin with, the Tribeca warehouse space is elegant and cavernous without being in the least bit tacky or over-the-top. My date and I were seated in a small dining annex at a quiet table for 2. Even though a pair of diners were seated right next to us, it still felt private. Our server was diminuitive and helpful; he never hovered or interrupted conversation.
John and I opted for the $60 Omakase 7-course tasting menu, ambitious but well worth it. It started with a salmon custard with bright orange salmon roe and wasabi wine. Perhaps it sounds strange, but it ended up being creamy and delicious – a dressed up version of salmon cream cheese. The second course was a succulent lobster miso soup. Large chunks of fresh steamed lobster made this dish luxurious. I personally found the miso soup underseasoned. Next came the famous black cod with miso glaze. This was a slam-dunk, so fatty and well-prepared that it didn’t taste at all like fish. It absolutely melted in your mouth like butter. Following was the sashimi,the low point of the meal for me. I am personally revolted by raw slabs of fish, so this platter of raw scallops, raw yellowtail, raw salmon and various other options served only on a bed of ice grossed me out. My fish-loving boyfriend though lapped it all up happily. A sampling of lightly breaded tempura came next; I could identify crab, chicken, asparagus, and what I believed was mushroom. However, my hesitation only highlights the mediocrity of this dish. All flavor was lost in the tempura breading. The last main course was what Matsugen is known for, soba. Even for the tasting menu, you are allowed to select which hot or cold soba you would like. The options are extensive – I opted for cold sesame noodles while John went for the hot duck noodles. Both were extremely tasty and well-worth the praise. Lastly, a dessert of pear sorbet. My boyfriend was so enamored with this delicious and refreshing course that he offered to purchase a carton of it to take home (unfortunately, the kitchen was unable to accommodate his request at that moment).
All in all, Matsugen was astonishingly good and well-priced for what it offered; whereas Megu was far inferior in terms of food quality, snootiness, and elegant decor. Jean-Georges should be proud of his foray into upscale Japanese cuisine, for, in my personal experience, it has set the standard for elegance and pure gastronomic pleasure. Megu, Nobu, beware!

Megu on Urbanspoon

Matsugen on Urbanspoon