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Restaurants in New York

Our star ratings:
exceptional, earned by few
excellent, well worth a visit
very good, give it a try
satisfactory dining
NR not rated

Alphabetical order Sorted by ratings
L'Absinthe
Across the Street
Alouette
Amma
L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon
Bottega del Vino
Bouley Bakery
Cafe Centro
Le Cirque
Chola
Destino
Duane Park Restaurant and Lounge
Esca
Fishtail
Gennaro
Giovanni Venticinque
I Trulli
Jean-Georges
Lisca
Marseille
Matsuri
La Mirabelle
Nice Matin
Nobu
Ocean Grill
Osteria del Circo
Peasant
Picholine
Trustees Dining Room
Vico
L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon
Bottega del Vino
Bouley Bakery
Le Cirque
Destino
Esca
Fishtail
Jean-Georges
Nice Matin
Matsuri
Nobu
L'Absinthe
Across the Street
Amma
Cafe Centro
Chola
Duane Park Restaurant and Lounge
Gennaro
I Trulli
Lisca
La Mirabelle
Ocean Grill
Osteria del Circo
Trustees Dining Room
Vico
Alouette
Giovanni Venticinque
Marseille
Peasant
Picholine

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Gennaro, 665 Amsterdam Avenue (92nd Street), 212-665-5348

Gennaro is a  most welcome addition to Manhattan's Upper West Side. It arrived shortly before the release of Stanley Tucci and Campbell Scott's wonderful prizewinning film, The Big Night, and in its own way, it feels as if you've stepped into the restaurant in that movie - only on a smaller scale. They're not waiting for Louis Prima to turn the tide, however. Instead, West-siders, noted for their nose for good food, have found a hard-working, dedicated chef in Gennaro - and a friendly, small staff turning out first-rate Italian/Mediterranean homestyle cooking in a storefront on Amsterdam Avenue. The prices are low, the quality high. The dishes include one of our favorites, a grilled calamari on a bed of cous-cous, salad and avocado, mushrooms in season, five beautifully prepared pastas (we request the orechiette with sausage and broccoli rabe, not on the menu but Gennaro will happily prepare it for you), specials like grilled wild sea bass with artichokes, ossobucco with saffron risotto, grilled quails. It won't make a big dent in your pocketbook, but it will leave you looking forward to your next visit. Would you believe it, delivery is available - and Gennaro will discourage you from ordering dishes which don't travel well.

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Duane Park Restaurant and Lounge, 157 Duane Street (bet. Hudson and West Broadway), 212-732-5555

Duane Park Café is no more after nineteen years. Seiji Imeida, chef-proprietor has retired his baton and returned to Sapporo, Japan. We will miss his cuisine and his unfailing grace. In its place, is Duane Park Restaurant and Lounge. While the venue is the same, the changed décor, chandelier and murals, hint at the French ancestry of New Orleans born Beau Houck, now wielding the chef’s baton We recently dined there with friends who fondly remembered the “olden” days at the Café. We were greeted by the charming Marisa, maitresse d’, and a bridge to Duane Park’s past. The décor is attractive and the lighting warm, as was the service by Luis. The wine list is limited, but the 2007 Sancerre by the glass was tasty, and the 2005 Mo Zin, a Sonoma red, Luis’s favorite, proved delicious, a most interesting combination of zinfandel, mourvedre and sirah. Our appetizers included an outstanding Duck Confit (a portion large enough for a main course), a flavorful Tuna tartar and a first-rate Beet salad. One of our party opted for a main course of Steak, two sampled the mouth-watering seared Day Boat Scallops with Parsnip Puree and greens. The fourth “musketeer” could not resist the Fettucine, beautifully prepared with a variety of Mushrooms. She asked that the homemade Fettucine be prepared al dente, difficult to accomplish with fresh pasta. The chef delivered. “Steak-man,” a Peter Luger devotee and therefore tough to please, found the steak delicious ad would not hesitate to order it again. A side of Yukon roast potatoes was well worth sampling. Sated, we settled for cappuccinos, and one dessert, a flavorful Lemon Meringue Cake. You are welcome to bring your own wine at a reasonable thirty-dollar corkage fee. One further note: a number of the wooden chairs are padded, a few are not, and we’d recommend that you request padded seating. Chef Houck has honed his considerable skills at the Sign of the Dove and Five Points in New York, and at Zuni Café in San Francisco. We look forward to our next meal at the new Duane Park as we wish Seiji a joyful retirement.

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L'Absinthe, 227 East 67th Street, 212-794-4950

L'Absinthe has been given rave reviews by four of our correspondents. And we agree. Jean-Michel Bergougneux, lyonnais by birth, is formerly of Lutece, Le Cygne and Raphael, and is chef-owner. He puts his years of experience to work to correct the impression that french food has to be "rich" or "nouvelle cuisine" and the result is a creation that is delicious and startlingly flavorful. His broths are often based on vegetables and he has a way with herbs and flavors. The restaurant is charming, utterly french and unpretentious.Try such dishes as gnocchi with wild mushrooms, poached oysters and seaweed, cold fennel soup, marinated mackerel with vegetables, soup, marinated mackerel with vegetables, beautiful fish preparations such as red snapper in a sun-dried toato crust, sauteed monkfish with barley and carrot puree, or a poached chicken in a light truffled vegetable broth with superb flavor. The lamb, the wild bass, all were first rate. And if you're going to share a "cheat," his beaujolais saucission with lentils and potatoes is fabulous (we shared ours four ways).  A good wine list and reasonably priced selections contribute to the overall experience. And desserts? The peach and rhubarb is hard to resist.

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Cafe Centro, 200 Park Avenue (45th Street), 212-818-1222

Cafe Centro is one of restaurant associates newer outposts. It is modeled after the famous Paris brasserie, La Coupole, an art-deco rendedvous in the 1920's and 1930's for Hemingway, Picasso, and other Luminaries. It has been rated highly by the New York Times (two stars) and deservedly so. Chef Stephane Becht gives his cuisine a provencal or times, moroccan touch, guaranteeing that there will be dishes for the health-conscious diner, such as sea scallops provencale, oven-skillet steamed mussels, sweet potato gnocchi stuffed with green asparagus, and a balsamic dressing as well as pan-seared calamari stuffed with basil and salmon. A salmon and scallops tartare with asian dressing is particularly delightful with a glass of Muscadet or an alsatian Pinot Blanc. For main courses, consider the monkfish tagine with haricots vert, carrots, potatoes and olives, crisp skillet slamon or the sensational sauteed skate with bulgur wheat salad and tomato-basil dressing. Steaks and poultires are avilable to those who so choose. There is a first-rate wine list at moderate prices, wine by the glass, and for the beer lover, a great selection of draft beers. In fact, Cafe Centro has a beer bar as well.

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Alouette, 2588 Broadway (bet. 97th and 98th St), 212- 222-6808

Alouette is a busy, bustling bistro and a welcome addition to the Upper West Side. Chantal Gin, a charming hostess, supervises an amiable staff while Kenneth Gin turns out dishes with interesting variations on the bistro theme. One evening, for appetizers, we tried their escargots, plump and flavorful, a warm goat cheese with mache salad and duck confit, beautifully served in salad. Main courses included specials of the day like a pan fried salmon (served rare as requested) over a galette of potatoes and chanterelle mushrooms, sirloin and potato and a flounder, imaginatively and tastefully prepared with white truffle oil. There is a good choice of desserts and a wine list that is solid, young and reasonably priced.

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Trustees Dining Room at Metropolitan Museum of Art, 82 Street (5th Avenue), 212-570-3975

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is New York's greatest art treasure. A delightful feature of a visit to the Met on Friday and Saturday, when the museum is open late, is a pause for a drink and live classical music on the balcony. For some of us, it's a Friday tradition.

The Trustees Dining Room serves lunch Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 2:30, brunch on Sunday 11:30AM to 2:30PM and dinner Friday and Saturday, 5:30-8:15. A particular category of membership is required for admission, and members may be accompanied by guests. Reservations are required.

The modern, tastefully furnished room overlooks Central Park and serves excellent cuisine, supervised by Restaurant Associates. The endive salad with cheese and salmon tartar made refreshing appetizers, while a main course of grilled tuna, served rare, was as good as it gets. So were the Maryland crabcakes. Grouper, in a superb treatment with pineapple and mango, was a special for the evening, delicious, but a little overcooked. When we pointed this out, the manager made clear that Chef Albert Lukas would be informed. Valhrona chocolate cake, a platter of tasty berries (out of season) and vanilla sorbet made a first-rate ending to a solid dining experience. Service was top notch professional and unintrusive. The restaurant has an excellent, exceptionally well-priced wine list. The manager informed us that maintaining reasonable prices for wines allows patrons the opportunity to sample fine wines, a policy in keeping with a museum that offers only the best.

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Osteria del Circo, 120 West 55th Street (bet. 6th and 7th Avenues), 212-265-3636

Osteria del Circo is a wonderful addition to the New York Italian food festival. The cuisine is Tuscan-based, and in our opinion, outstanding. Pastas, risottos and the veal dishes which we sampled were among the best we've eaten outside of Toscana. Fish preparation was equally delicious. Desserts, not ordinarily something to write home about from Italy, are above-average. The first-rate wine list could use more reasonably priced selections. Service is warm and friendly, and the circus decorations contribute to a delightful ambience. None of this should come as a surprise, because the restaurant is a creation of the family of Sirio Maccione, of Le Cirque fame. Sons and cousins hosting and serving, Mama supervising the kitchen, how could it be other than a splendid dining experience? We'll be back, eager and often.

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Across the Street, 444 East 91st Street, 212-722-4000

Across the Street (across from Eli Zabar's Vinegar Factory, well worth a visit, as it gives Fairway and the original Zabar's a run for their money) is a small, bistro-style restaurant well worth a visit. In style, it could be on the Left Bank of Paris- simple and comfortable. Chef Seen Lippert creates a new, small menu each day, based on the availability of top products, provided by the Vinegar Factory. Her training with Alice Waters at Chez Panisse in Berkely is evident in a confident hand. At a recent dinner, we sampled a fresh sardine and potato terrine and a garden salad, both excellent. For a main course, three of our table-mates had the mouth-watering veal chop, perfectly prepared, and with a sauce that had us all talking. A bucatini bolognese came to th table al dente, and the sauce could have been prepared in Bologna - that good. Dessert of profiterole with toasted almond and chocolate gelato and a complimentary plate of beautiful bing cherries and superb espresso was a happy ending to a first-rate meal. One of our contributing editors, Dr. Lawrence Ossias had dined at the restaurant on several occasions, recommended it highly, and our parties experience certainly confirmed his impression. A small, well-selected wine list has reasonably priced selections from California, more expensive from France. Dinner for two will run over one hundred dollars - worth the price. Stop off at The Vinegar Factory and do some shopping before dinner. You'll enjoy the experience.

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Jean-Georges, 1 Central Park West, Tel: 212-299-3900, Fax: 212-299-3914

Jean-George Vongerichten has done it again! His restaurant and bistro, Jean-Georges is a splendid dining venue. Savio, the savvy maitre d' runs a tight ship with excellent, knowledgable service in the main dining room. The food is masterfully prepared, the equal of a Michelin two-star in Paris. Our group tried such dishes as his Foie Gras, Marinated Tuna, Porcini tart, Arctic Char, Rack of Lamb, Black Sea Bass and Halibut, accompanied with bottles of St.Veran and Marsannay. The resentations were artistic and the sauces light and beautifully flavored. Desserts included Rhubard Tarts, Teppan Pineapple and Apple Confit, equally delicious. Only one caveat about dining at Jean-Georges.. Cigar smoking is permitted in the bistro (which is located in the bar area). If you don't like second-hand smoke, think twice, even though the food is excellent - and considerably less expensive than the restaurant. The bistro runs $120 for dinner for two including wine and tip, while the restaurant will set you back $200. The menus are different in each room.

Addendum:
On a recent visit, we were told that cigar smoking in the bistro was now discouraged, and there was none evident that evening.

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Ocean Grill, 384 Columbus Avenue, 212-579-2300

Ocean Grillis a welcome addition to the Upper West Side. Crowded, lively, noisy with a shellfish bar and outstanding products it deserves better, in our opinion, than the short shrift given to it by the New York Times reviewer. We've been there half a dozen times. The service is excellent, the fish preparations imaginative, fresh and flavorful, a good wine list at reasonable prices and the young staff friendly, attractive and efficient. Steve Hansen, who owns Isabella's has done himself proud in finding Scott Cohen, a capable chef, managing a large, busy dining room with aplomb. On one occasion a grouper came overcooked. It was whisked back to the kitchen and replaced with a delicious lobster salad. Blackened swordfish, shrimp dumplings for a touch of the Asiatic, Cioppino, great steamers like Lundy's used to serve , fabulous crab cakes and excellent desserts. Lunch is served. If you don't like the noisy bustle, come at six or six thirty. Ask for the "photograph" room, its wall covered with photos of sea and seashore scenes.

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Le Cirque, 455 Madison (bet. 50th and 51st St.), 212-794-9292

Le Cirque, in its new incarnation in the Palace Hotel, is a sight to behold. The magnificient (indeed palatial) main dining room has been designed with a touch of frivolity in the lighting and furniture. While arguments about the decor will continue, there is no argument about the cuisine and service. Both are impeccable, as Sirio Maccioni has moved a short distance downtown, increased his capacity, but if anything, improved his cuisine. His family is in evidence, managing the dining room with graciousness. We had a splendid dinner recently - ravioli with porcinis in a heavenly sauce, potato gnocchi with crab and broccoli rabe, rack of lamb beautifully crusted, a sensational tuna steak with chanterelle, fingerling potatoes and onion rings, perfectly prepared. The desserts were as good as they get in New York, the famous creme brulee, banana cream pastry and a chocolate dessert in which an accompanying white and black chocolate "oven", provided the sauce in dark chocolate saucepans. A 1989 Chianti Classico Riserva from Castello di Rampallo was well-priced and delicious. You'll have difficulty getting a reservation but its worth it. Expect to spend over $200 for dinner for two with wine and tip, probably closer to $250. We went for an anniversary - and it was memorable.

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Bouley Bakery, Duane Street at West Broadway, 212-964-2525.

Yes, David Bouley is back, and stronger than ever in his commitment to a purity of cuisine which astounds the palate. Based on the freshest products available seasonally in the market, brilliant use of herbs and spices to bring out the inherent flavor of fish, fowl or meat, and accompanied by a panoply of homebacked breads, your meal is a small marvel. And for dessert, the warm chocolate brioche was the equal to the finest chocolate desserts we've eaten, at home or abroad. What more is there to say, except to encourage a visit for a special occasion, or if the purse is willing, more often. Dinner for two with wine and tip runs above $200.

Addendum:
A recent visit underscores the fact that raves are well-deserved. This restaurant is a New York treasure.

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I Trulli, 122 East 27th Street, 212-481-7372

This Italian restaurant serves seriously good cuisine in a charming indoor or outdoor setting. In summer, the garden is a terrific place to enjoy your meal, and in other seasons, you can't go wrong asking for a table in the tasteful main dining room with a view of the ovens. The staff is friendly and knowledgable and Nicola, the proprietor is available to answer your questions about food or wine. The wine list is extensive, with a good balance between the greats (at substantial prices) and good, reasonable selections. We had a 1990 Notarpanaro at $18 which was a delightful accompaniment to a meal. The meal included superb dishes such as a platter of grilled octopus, calamari and cuttlefish, Sardinian dumplings (flour and saffron) with a delicious meat sauce and a sauteed sea bass (or snapper) with sun dried tomatoes and arugula. The quality is high. Expect to spend over $100 for dinner for two with wine and tip.

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Picholine, 35 West 64th Street, 212-724-8585

Picholine is one of Manhattan's Upper West Side culinary prizes. Chef Terrance Brennan's Mediterranean based cuisine makes us of organic products wherever possible and a variety of dishes meet health-conscious dining standards. Among his appetizers, try the Picholine salad, fresh Marinated Sardines, Carpaccio of Tuna with vegetables escabeche and tapenade aoili, or, in season, organic heirloom tomates, the preparation for which changes daily. There are pasta entrees, entrees such as Crisp Sauteed Skate Eing with eggplant pancakes, tomato confit and aged balsamic or Tournedos of Salmon with horseradish crust, cucumber and Salmon Caviar. We particularly enjoyed the Wild Mushroom and Duck Risotto with a corn and white truffle essence. Organix Chicken is cooked "under Brick" and served  with Garlic Mashed Potato Puree, Artichokes, Lemon and Spinach. Among the Salad entrees is a Seared Rare Sashimi Grade Tuna with White Bean Salad, Fennel, tomato and Basil Vinaigrette. Desserts are excellent and there is a good selection of Wines in all price ranges. Expensive, but worth it.

Addendum:
On a recent visit to Picholine, we found the restaurant extremely crowded with a back-up for tables. We waited for half an hour, observing people who came after us, known to the host, seated ahead of their turn. We pointed it out to the host who shrugged it off with, "I'm sorry." We left and went around the corner for a fine Chinese meal at Shun Lee Palace. There was no effort made on the part of the host or his assistants to make those waiting comfortable or to feel welcomed. We told the story the following night to friends who described the same experience. They walked out, too. Picholine management, take note. Bad practice which will ultimately hurt, not matter how good the food.

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Vico, 1302 Madison Avenue (bet. 92nd and 93rd Streets), 212-876-2222

From the friendly welcome to the excellent professional service and first-rate Italian cuisine, Vico deserves its loyal following. Our contributors and friends have enjoyed consistently fine meals here. The wine list provides excellent selections at all price levels. Recently, we sampled a 1995 Chianti (La Massa) at $31.50. It was scrumptious, beautifully complementing a simple, delicious pasta with a pomodoro (tomato) sauce, a fresh octopus salad with green beans, followed by our favorite, their superb pounded veal chop, breaded and covered with a salad of rucola and chopped tomato. There are always fresh fish selections. Try the Orata, simply grilled, when it is available. This wonderfully flavorful fish is imported from Italy.

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Esca, 402 West 43rd Street, 212-564-7272

The Babbo team of Batali and Bastianich have done it again. With a great find in a chef, David Pasternack (David goes deep-sea fishing on his off-days, bringing his catch in for the Esca kitchen) and a very convenient location on the edge of the theatre district, Esca has become, like Babbo, one of the toughest tickets in town. Make your reservation well in advance. The restaurant is comfortable, unpretentious and serves a simple, elegantly prepared Italian seafood, which will blow you away. Pasternack knows how to extract the flavor from the fish, never overwhelming it with sauce. Esca’s menu includes “crudo”, simply garnished, like sashimi, but unique, and changing daily. Then, there are pastas like the maccheroni a la chitarra (sea urchin and crabmeat), so good that we order it every time we’re at Esca, to revisit that mouth-watering combination of flavors. Desserts do not disappoint. The wine list offers selections from various regions of Italy. Try the Bastianich white from the Veneto. It’s forty-eight dollars a bottle, but of exceptional quality. We also drank a 1997 Barbera d’Asti which was a treat.

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Marseille, 44th and 9th Avenue, New York NY 10036

This bustling, attractive restaurant serving first-rate bistro cuisine has only one serious flaw (which we are well aware other find an advantage): a high noise level. The food was well-prepared-chopped salad, a fish meze, bouillabaisse, halibut, seafood burger, grilled swordfish and a chocolate steamed cake-all delicious. A selection of reasonably priced wines and good service round out the picture.

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Nobu, 105 Hudson Street, NY 10013, Tel: 212-219-0500

Nobu needs no introduction. It is no longer just a restaurant. Nobu is an institution, located not only in Los Angeles and New York, but in Las Vegas, Paris, London and a number of other cities (coming soon to your town? You can hope so). Lunch affords an excellent opportunity to obtain a reservation less than weeks in advance. Recently, we found ourselves there with a near-last minute reservation and pleased with our good fortune. We shared wonderfully fresh sashimi (toro, yellowtail and sea urchin), a delicious soft shell crab roll, some sea urchin tempura, a sashimi salad (tuna) and one of Nobu’s signature dishes, of which we never tire, black cod miso. Kirin light was our beverage. We floated out with a manageable bill, looking forward to our next visit. Be aware that Nobu Next Door offers the same brilliant food without reservations-and for an early dinner, no waiting, it’s a great bet. Of course, you’ll miss the celebs next door, but if it’s the Japanese-Peruvian cuisine that you’re looking for, you can’t go wrong. As of this writing, if you’re a downtowner, you probably know that Next Door offers take-out. How about that?

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Amma, 246 East 51st Street New York, NY 10022, Tel: 212-644-8330; Fax: 212-644-8250;

Amma means mother. In this family-run business, Mr. & Mrs. Sharma make you feel as if you’re in their South India home. We’ve been to this charming small restaurant with many colorful banquettes and a very good noise level.

For starters, you are presented with a dosa made of rice and lentil in place of the usual papridam. A kebab platter has chicken and lamb cooked several ways. South India is famous for its unique vegetarian style. The okra with spices and potatoes can be a separate dish or as a side order with the main course. The whole cauliflower baked in spices was another we ate. Both vegetarian dishes were beautifully presented, perfectly seasoned and delicious, a pleasant change from Tandoori dishes.

The chicken cooked in spinach was outstanding, succulent and perfectly seasoned. The lamb shank in onions, spices and tomatoes provided more than an adequate amount of lamb, very tasty and mild. We’ve eaten several shrimp dishes - one jumbo shrimps with curry leaves and, from the Tandoor, jumbo shrimp marinated in rare spices.

Vegetable dishes are 17 dollars and main courses always served with naan, salad and a vegetable. Homemade Indian ice cream is a specialty dessert for $4.95.

This new restaurant offers one a different palate that we are not used to. I’m all for the South.

(reviewed by Dr. L.A.)

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La Mirabelle, 102 West 86th St (off Columbus Ave.), Tel: 212-496-0458

A neighborhood jewel, this small bistro draws a regular clientele, steadily complemented by those fortunate enough to make its acquaintance and discover its virtues. From proprietor to staff, the welcome is warm, the service friendly and professional, and occasionally, the charming and multi-talented, Danielle (her skillful oil paintings are among those that adorn the walls) breaks into song. The food is first-rate. Enjoy a delicious endive salad, Portobello mushrooms or well-prepared sautéed chicken livers among the starters. In addition to a menu of entrees steeped in French tradition, each night offers a different special. Our favorite is the Friday night Bouillabaise, about as good as that dish gets, here or in France. The wine list is small, with reasonably priced selections. Available by the glass as well the bottle. Be sure to make a reservation as it does get busy, particularly on the weekend.

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Nice Matin, 201 West 79th Street (corner of Amsterdam Avenue), Tel: 212-873-6423

Mediterranean France cuisine is creatively represented in this attractive, bustling addition to the Upper West Side’s steadily improving food scene. Chef Andy D’Amico and sous-chef Tim Reardon are delivering big-time. You’ll find delicious appetizers such as leeks vinaigrette, roasted beets with goat cheese, sardine farci and most recently a superb tuna tartare on a bed of greens with a quail egg atop. Merguez sausage, poached mussels or an endive salad are also great starters. Move on to such entrees as braised rabbit ravioli, grilled leg of lamb, or specials each night (on Friday, try the rouget in a bouillabaisse broth)--or, any night, the 5-napkin burger with sautéed onions and cheese and fabulous frites. About as good as it gets. Desserts prepared by pastry chef Mick Morgenstern are top of the line as well. One cold winter night, we found comfort in a tarte tatin with raisin armagnac ice cream. It ranked with our favorite in Paris. The sommelier, Guy Goldstein is charming, highly knowledgeable and has put together a first-rate international wine list. There is an excellent selection of wines by the glass, with specials nightly. Guy will be happy to discuss your selection. Waiters and waitresses (like Julia) are friendly, enthusiastic and know their “stuff”. Be advised, there is a busy bar scene and it can get noisy at times. For us, the food, ambience and service is ample compensation. If you are very sensitive to noise, ask for a table toward the rear when making your reservation. And be sure to make that reservation, as demand is high and growing! Open for brunch, lunch and dinner.

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Matsuri, in the Maritime Hotel, 363 West 16th Street, Tel: 212-243-6400.

This new restaurant (late 2003) is one of New York’s most beautiful rooms. On two levels, it will take your breath away. Fortunately, the Japanese cuisine of chef Tadashi Ono lives up to the exquisite premises. Sample a variety of his small dishes, from the cold Kobe beef (4 yums) to two kinds of delicious eel (we had an eel tempura), shrimp squid, yellowtail yuzu, vegetable tempura, silver sardines braised with plums, salmon and lotus root or terrific chicken yakitori. Move on to the Black Cod, marinated in sake and reminiscent in quality and flavor to that of Nobu. Sample a side of the 18 grain rice with your Cod. You can get delicious sushis, standard or “special” served with unusual toppings. Desserts are more interesting than those you would ordinarily find in Japanese restaurants. A fine selection of sakes are available as well.

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Giovanni Venticinque, 25 East 83rd Street (bt. 5th and Madison Avenues), New York, NY 10028, Tel: 212-988-7300.

A small, intimate restaurant with good acoustics down the block from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, it offers a fine post-museum lunch or dinner. The ambience is warm, and best of all, not noisy. One can actually talk with friends and guests. The maitre d’ and waiters are friendly as well.

Toasted bread with oil and spices (assuming you are not doing rigorous low-carb) is a very good accompaniment to a well-made ample cocktail. Salad is nicely presented. Try the excellent house vinaigrette. Pastas are particularly good. A pappardelle with mushrooms had a wonderful aroma, a variety of mushrooms and unlike many others, a light (non-cream) sauce. I tried linguini in squid ink topped with seafood (mussels, clams if you choose, abundant lobster, shrimp and calamri). Well-prepared and very tasty.

There is a varied selection of desserts with excellent sorbets. It is medium priced for New York these days.

(LA)

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Peasant, 194 Elizabeth Street, New York, NY 10012, Tel: 212-965-9511

A recently opened friendly warm Italian restaurant is located in NOLITA. This restaurant has a wonderful oven in which al forno dishes, including boutique pizzas, are prepared.

An anchovy salad was fresh and properly spiced. The sardines from the oven were fresh and perfectly cooked. A rarely available pasta in New York is thin spaghetti a la bottarga – a specialty of Sicily, was as good as it gets. Quail was cooked to medium rare, served with spinach and was excellent. Grilled orata was an ample serving and well cooked.

The wine list includes a good selection of whites from Sardinia, Friuli, Veneto and Alto Adige. The red wine list is more extensive and includes those from Abruzzo, Emilia Romagna, Piemonte, Toscany, and Umbria. Affordable to expensive.

Appetizers $8-12; pizzas $10-12; and entrees $20-24.

The service is good and courteous, but slow. The decor is inviting and the noise level quite good, if you want conversation. This is a nice addition to downtown Italian dining.

(LA)

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Destino, 891 First Avenue (51st Street), New York, NY 10021, Tel: 212-751-0700

It’s not a big surprise that Destino appears destined to hit a home run in the New York restaurant league, right off the bat. The provenance is clear: Mario Curko, who was the chef at Rao’s, is in front of the ovens. His son, Anthony, whom we knew for many moons as a waiter at Rao’s, learned his lessons well re playing host from Frank Pellegrino and Joe Chichone. The décor is very tasteful, the seating comfortable and the ceiling mural unexpected and beautifully rendered. The menu was reminiscent of Rao’s, with old reliables such as the baked clams, seafood salad, pasta with broccoli rabe and sausage (cabbage is coming soon) and veal parmigiana. The meatballs were winners. When we get past those staples on future visits, we expect to find some new treats. Full bar service, a nice selection of well-priced wines, and to our delight, martini’s that would make Nick the Vest proud. Credit cards accepted. Make your reservation soon. They’ll be busting down the doors for reservations.

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Bottega del Vino, 7 East 59th Street, Tel: 212-223-3028

How lucky can we get on the border of Manhattan’s Upper East Side and Midtown? This offspring of Verona’s famed trattoria is building a solid following with casual dining up front and solid Northern Italian cuisine in the warm and attractive interior. We’ve dined there often and never been disappointed. The special risottos are invariably excellent, with the rich risotto prepared with Amarone extraordinary; the fegato (liver) is as good as it gets, a variety of pastas are perfectly prepared and the veal Milanese, when available is exceptional. A recent dinner special was cingalie (wild boar chops)—and it was merely sensational. Desserts include house gelatos and cheesecake which get three yums. The wine list goes on and on, with great selections in all price ranges. Check out the wide selection of wines by the glass posted above the bar. We recently sampled a 1995 Ponimo (Sangiovese-Pinot Noir-Merlot combo by Frescobaldi) a buy at $12 per glass. Try a pairing menu, specialty dishes and wines to complement each course.

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Chola, 232 East 58th Street, New York, NY 10022, Tel: 212-688-4619

We returned from a trip to India with a taste for mildly spiced Indian food and Chola was our first try. The restaurant is attractive, the service friendly and efficient and prices are reasonable. Lunch is a particular bargain. Food can be ordered to taste: from mild to spicy. The use of spices is creative and reflects the Southern Indian origins of the cuisine. We found Kingfisher beer, an import from India and an excellent choice with the cuisine. Particularly tasty dishes were the Chicken Chutney Wala, Saag Paneer (cheese made of soy with spinach sauce), Lemon rice, Paneer Naan (bread) and the Dal (yellow or black lentils). Ginger madness for dessert and an excellent cappuccino capped off the meal.

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Lisca, 660 Amsterdam Avenue (92nd-93rd Str.), New York, NY 10025, Tel: 212-799-3987; Fax: 212-799-3988

One year ago, an Italian restaurant run by Hadi Alavian opened on the Upper west side. The noise level is excellent for conversation, the ambience low key, the personnel accommodating, and the food excellent.

We enjoyed the Polpetti, baby octopus grilled with black chick peas, the chef’s special. The breaded and roasted calamari are plentiful and served with arugula and roasted tomatoes. The prices for the antipasti ranged from 9 to 14 dollars.

The pastas are all home-made. Specials for $18 included a first-ratelobster ravioli topped with a broccoli puree. The shrimp pesto and white truffle butter Garganelli was excellent. Rigatoni with hot and sweet sausage, green peas and pink sauce was yet another toothy and tasty dish. Pappardelle with mushroom, caramelized onions, goat cheese and herbs met the taste challenge as well. These pastas ranged in price from 12 to 15 dollars.

Main courses are well-prepared and attractively presented: fish, chicken, veal, seafood, and an ossobuco. Prices range from 16 to 28 dollars.

Salads are available from 8 to 11 dollars.

Desserts include an excellent cheesecake or tarts.

Wines by the glass are 8 to 12 dollars. White wines include the typical Pinot Grigio, Gavi di Gavi, and Greco di Tufo, with prices from 32 to 45 dollars. Reds go for as little as $32 to Brunello di Montalcino for $79. The proprietor also has a selection of Tuscan wines which range from 42 to 65 dollars.

This quite friendly restaurant offers the West Side a not-too-costly venuee for lunch or dinner.

(Reviewed by Dr. L.A.)

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L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, New York, Four Seasons Hotel, 57 East 57th Street, Tel: 212-758-5700;

www.fourseasons.com

Robuchon has done it again! We described the first L’Atelier in Paris as “the world’s first three-star diner”. The concept has taken hold with openings in Tokyo, Las Vegas and most recently in London and New York (September ’06). The restaurant in New York has the usual counter service, where the diner can observe the goings-on in the kitchen, converse with companions and, if so inclined, make new friends of “counter-mates.” There are ten or so tables as well. The high-ceiling setting of the room is beautiful and the design by Pierre-Yves Rochon fits the setting attractively and unobtrusively. Then, of course, there is the cuisine. Yosuke Suga, who worked with “le maitre” in Paris, is Executive Chef—and he executes superbly. There are the tried and true plates that we know and love so well from Paris (a gazpacho like no other, bass sautéed with citronelle stuffed with leeks, caramelized quail with foie gras, steak tartare, sweetbreads, frogs legs, tuna tartare, to name a few). Many dishes are available in tasting portions, or full orders. Then there are new creations, such as game, in season, and a recent succulent lobster dish. The desserts prepared by Chef Narita are a visual feast and outstanding. At a recent dinner, we sampled the “chocolat noir”, a play on dark chocolate, and “le Sucre” a “golden globe,” filled with sweet treasure. The wine list is extensive and expensive, with a good selection by the glass. Our favorite, introduced to us by Antoine Hernandez at the Paris counter, is the Gigondas from Domaine Raspail d’Ay, available by the glass or the bottle. The service is outstanding, under Michael Bonsor’s steady baton. Expect to spend $250 or more per couple with modest wines, or more should you go for high-end selections. Reservations are available only at the 6PM sitting. Thereafter, await your turn (but the bar of the Four Season is only a few steps away and a pleasant place to do the waiting).

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Fishtail, 135 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065, Tel: 212754-1300;

In a lovely townhouse which had seen several ventures in restaurant dining come and go in recent years, David Burke has followed up on previous successes with Fishtail, and it is a winner. The attractive downstairs is fine for cocktails, seeing and being scene, and sampling the classic raw bar or signature small plates. We head for the second floor dining rooms which is attractive, spaciously open and with a comfortable audible level. Front room or back room, service is capable, welcoming and knowledgeable. There are no “good tables,” only good table, anywhere you’re seated. If you’re up for the classic raw bar, you’ll find a variety of delicious shellfish (for the Francophiles, these include Bulots (French seas snails) as we’ll as Santa Barbara Sea Urchin. Or how about a Shellfish Tower, three yums. Let’s go on to the “Small Plates” (not so small). You’ll find three kinds of Sashimi, or all three; Hamachi, Tuna Tartare or Crab Tacos. Those we’ve sampled are imaginative and delectable. Our favorite is a mouth-wataering Tempura Calamari and Tempura Oysters with a sweet chili dipping sauce. Then on to Soups, Salads and Appetizers. How about a Lobster B.L.T Salad, a Corn and Scallop “Chowder,”Lobset Dumpling or a Shrimp-Sea Urchin Risotto? Are you finished, or have you just begun. (Sharing and tasting is advised). Main Courses include Whole Fish and Simple Fish as well as Fussy Fish. We tried the Fussy Fish: a ravishing Monkfish “Paella” prepared with couscous pearls, chorizo, clams, mussels and shrimp. Another night, we tried the “simple fish”, a Swordfish “Steak Frites”. All winners. Need I go on? There’s something at Fishtail for everyone, even our son and grandson who flinch at fish but would quickly go for the 55 day Dry Aged Ribeye (Chicago’s best steak for 2008).

The side dishes are a treat as well: From French Fries to Zucchini-Potato Latkes, to Mushrooms, Crispy Artichokes, Shrimp Hash Browns. Who can ask for more? The desserts are equally ravishing, but we’ll leave that for your discovery. Chef Eric Hara and Pastry chef Romina Peixoto earn their toques!

And for the “Greens” among us, Fishtail makes an effort to serve “sustainable fish” through alliances with appropriate communities in the Atlantic and their company fishing boat. They report that 80% of the seafood on their menu is caught through sustainable measures.

Run, do not walk, to your reservation at Fishtail and bravo to David Burke, not only for your spectacular cuisine, but for your global citizenship!

(Reviewed by David Burke)

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