Saturday, July 24, 2010


75 9th Ave (b/w 15th St & 16th St)

Visitors come and go, but memorable brunches last a lifetime, or so the saying goes.

For my most recent visitor’s last meal in New York City, I insisted on brunching it up Manhattan Style at Chelsea Market. His flight was a late afternoon/early evening, but we had just enough time to grab a late brunch following a 10K run (or in my case crawl) through Central Park with the New York Road Runners. Yes, I run, too. 

I surprised him with 202, a restaurant set in the center of a clothing store in gorgeous Chelsea Market. The place was mostly empty as brunch was nearing a close, so we had our choice of seating.

We started with cappuccino and juice. My guest ordered Buttermilk Pancakes with blackberry compote and crème fraiche.

I had the Lentil, Beet & Artichoke Salad and a side of Fried Green Tomatoes.

I wanted something light, which I found in the salad. The tangy vinaigrette dressing perfectly complemented the lentils, beets and artichokes served adjacent a mountain of arugula. It looked and tasted refreshing, like New York City on a cool spring morning.

The fried green tomatoes encompassed in mozzarella cheese were good but not great. They sat heavy on the palate underscoring the lightness of the salad. However, I was warned in the name, FRIED. I barely managed a couple of bites before insisting my guest eat the rest. He passed on the opportunity.

He enjoyed the pancakes topped with a blackberry puree and crème fraiche. It was maybe his second time to have the sweet sour cream and could not get enough. The pancakes were fluffy and filling, like pancakes should be.

The Market is an experience inside itself. Had we more time, I would have given my guest the full tour of the Market and gotten lost inside a sample sale or three.

202 is more about the scene than the food. Yes, the salad and pancakes were good, but at the end of the day, they were salad and pancakes. I could have made either myself, and experimented with various toppings along the way.

Would I go again? Yes, but only for the clothes.

DAMAGE ~ $50

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Shake Shack

366 Columbus Ave (b/w 77th St & 78th St)

With the onslaught of warmer weather, I keep my eyes and ears open for milkshakes and sandwiches around the city. When a co-worker mentioned the vegetarian-friendly mushroom burger at Shake Shack the same day it was featured in the local paper, I took that as my sign to visit immediately.

Not patient nor brave enough to withstand the line at their original Madison Square Park location (which can take upwards of 2 hours), I ventured to the Upper West Side. I ordered the vegetarian mushroom burger, fries topped with cheesy sauce, and the Natural History “Crunch-stellation” shake in honor of the place being literally across from the Natural History Museum.

’Shroom Burger
Crisp-fried portobello filled with melted muenster and cheddar cheese, topped with lettuce, tomato and ShackSauce

Cheese Fries
Topped with Shack cheddar & American cheese sauce

Natural History "Crunch-stellation"
Vanilla custard, malt, Valrhona chocolate crunchies and chocolate toffee

All I can say is thank you Danny! Danny Meyer, the genius behind Shake Shack (plus a number of New York City staples including Gramercy Tavern, Eleven Madison Park, and Tabla) has my complete respect and adoration. The vegetarian ‘Shroom Burger was delicious! At first glimpse, I thought the staff forgot the cheese. Once I bit into the crispy sandwich, I was greeted by gooey warm muenster and cheddar completely encompassing a Portobello mushroom. Yum!

The sandwich itself was small, maybe about half the size of a normal burger. However, upon finishing it, I realized it was Danny who had the size of burgers correct; the rest of the world had them wrong. As for the fries, they too were delicious, but I prefer them without the cheesy sauce topping. They are tasty in and of themselves.

As for the shake, don’t get me started. On second thought, do. Anything that contains Valrhona chocolate has me sold before tasting. Blame that one on InterSportsWriter who exposed me to the finer dark chocolate in life. The frozen custard used in the shake was as dense as it was flavorful. With a number of toppings and mix-ins to choose from, there is something for everyone. They even have a flavor of the day! It was strawberry rhubarb during my visit.

For those brave enough to withstand long wait times, there is a shack cam on their website where you can check the line beforehand at their Madison Square Park location. Also, there are a couple other shacks opening up this Summer, including one in the Theatre District and one on the Upper East Side.

Later that day, I saw Shake Shack in Time Out New York. Good choice.


Friday, November 27, 2009


210 E 58th Street

Recently, I have taken a love of Indian food. Looking back, it was inevitable. I am vegetarian and love spicy food, although my first few encounters with it did not favor to my fondness. But I kept trying. Or rather, my friends kept trying until they found me the perfect Indian place. I can tell you what that place is not—a Midtown East eatery called Dawat.

A restaurant’s atmosphere can make or break a dining experience. Dawat’s broke mine—twice.

The first time InterSportsWriter and I visited, we were seated next to an overtly loud woman with a noticeable Southern accent and what appeared to be her colleague who listened indifferently as she dominated the conversation. Usually, this is not bothersome except the place was empty.

The second time we visited, we were seated at the exact same table in the nearly empty restaurant, and once again the woman adjacent us dominated the conversation in unusually loud undertones. She did the majority of the talking in between taking numerous phone calls in front of her colleague; the only difference was she lacked the Southern accent of her predecessor. This time we asked to be moved, and fortunately the server granted our request immediately.

Regarding the food, we started with the following:

Onion Fritters (crisp light, chickpea flour batter dipped, onion fritters)

Vegetable Samosa (spicy seasoned potatoes and peas wrapped in light pastry)

We shared the Vegetarian Thali consisting of the following:

Farasvi Bhaji (green beans cooked w/ freshly grated coconut)
Saag Paneer (spinach puree w/ cubes of paneer cheese)
Gobhi Aloo (potatoes, cauliflower & Indian spices)
Sindhi Karhi (vegetarian stew made w/ chickpea flour & vegetables)
Pulao Rice (Indian rice)
Poori Breads (deep-fried puffed bread)
plus a variety of Chutneys & Relishes

I am obsessed with samosas and found theirs amazing. They were just right in terms of crispness on the outside and flavorful on the inside. The fritters, however, were slightly dry and bland in taste.

The entire main dish was wonderful. The Vegetarian Thali appears to be a small meal but is just right for 2 people without leftovers. My favorites included the saag paneer and the gobhi aloo. It’s hard to go wrong with either staple Indian dish, yet I still found myself craving more after they were finished.

The complementary papadum (thin crispy Indian wafers) served with a trio of chutneys at the start of the meal is a great way to wet your taste buds, but beware of where, or rather who, you are seated.

I have yet to visit India, but I imagine Dawat comes pretty close to the real thing. The owner, Madhur Jaffrey, is an Indian actress and food writer. If I worked in the area, perhaps I would order takeaway, but as far as a repeat visit in person, forget it. The outdated décor and older clientele who insist on taking personal calls at the table and practicing public speaking are too stuffy for my liking. The only thing “haute” about Dawat Haute Indian Cuisine was my blood pressure upon leaving.


Monday, October 12, 2009

Schiller’s Liquor Bar

131 Rivington St (b/w Norfolk St & Suffolk St)

Weekend brunch is a highly coveted activity for many New Yorkers. Thus, it is not uncommon to walk down any street in Manhattan on Saturday or Sunday afternoon with every Brunch spot packed to the brim. It is uncommon, however, to wait several hours for a table at the brunch spot of your choice—in my case it was Clinton Street Baking Company. I finally convinced InterSportsWriter to come down to the Lower East Side and meet me for a taste of their infamous pancakes only to learn the wait time was over 2 hours.

With his passport in hand (being from the Upper West Side), we walked 2 blocks south to Schiller’s Liquor Bar, owned by the same people as Pastis and Balthazar. The restaurant was nearing capacity when we arrived, but we had no trouble obtaining a table.

For our meals, we ordered the gorgonzola omelet w/ home potatoes and a sour cream & hazelnut waffle topped w/mixed berries.

The omelet was amazing (as many things with blue cheese usually are); the waffle, however, left me confused. There was no sour cream to speak of, and it was not until InterSportsWriter dissected it that the hazelnuts clumped together in the middle made themselves known. The maple syrup is made with bourbon, adding a nice change of pace to an otherwise standard waffle.

Overall, I was pleased. It’s hard to go wrong with an omelet featuring gorgonzola cheese as the main attraction or a waffle with alcoholic syrup for that matter.

One last thing worth nothing about Schiller’s Liquor Bar is the bathroom. It features a large communal wash basin reminiscent of a 50’s diner, which is probably what the owners intended.

Of the three, I still prefer Meatpacking’s Pastis, but Schiller’s is not a bad second.

DAMAGE ~ $30

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Trattoria Dell'Arte

900 7th Ave (b/w 56th St & 57th St)

Evenings of attempted Rush tickets to Wicked, a popular musical currently on Broadway, are typically followed by lavish dinners in and around midtown.

The formula for Rush tickets is simple: arrive at a certain time (usually 2 hours before the show), put your name in a basket, and hope you are 1 of 13 individuals called to purchase 2 tickets at a fraction of the cost for the same evening’s performance. Otherwise tickets start at $117 per person.

Last Thursday, chances of scoring discounted tickets were even slimmer as I was late getting off work, and InterSportsWriter was left to fend for the both of us. I arrived just in time to watch the lucky 13 collect their tickets, my evening companion not amongst them. I knew dinner reservations had been arranged should something like this happen (we are going on 0:6). 1 hour later, we were seated at Trattoria Dell'Arte, an Italian eatery located in Midtown West, 2 blocks from Central Park.

We started off with the 3 Vegetable Sampler: Brown Lentil & Corn Salad (plum tomato, thyme & balsamic vinegar); Sautéed Swiss Chard w/ roasted garlic; and Sicilian Eggplant Caponata (sweet & sour eggplant, plum tomato & olives). The appetizer was great (minus the eggplant which I was unable to digest due to a preexisting allergy). Still I sampled it and secretly cursed my stomach because I knew more than 2 bites would leave me curled up in a ball for the rest of the evening.

Next came the vegetarian pizza divided into 4 with each section featuring a different topping: artichoke, wild mushrooms, eggplant and peppers. I left the eggplant to my dining companion, saved the artichokes for later, and inhaled the mushroom and pepper squares. They were amazing.

The crust was thin and crunchy like a pita chip; the oblong-shaped pizza had just the right amount of sauce, cheese, and vegetables. Even for 2 people, it was enormous! It’s no surprise that it boxed up awkwardly and was not quite as amazing the following day. The crust was soggy, and my impatience got in the way of preparing it properly to obtain that unique crispness I experienced during the initial meal.

Dessert topped everything off with myself having the lemonata cheese cake and InterSportsWriter having chocolate ice cream. My selection was fantastic: creamy, dense, and lemony. My companion, however, was dissatisfied with his choice and left over half of it behind.

Besides their signature pizza and one expansive antipasto bar, the most obvious thing worth nothing about the midtown eatery is the décor. The walls are painted in soft pastels and covered in enormous sculptures of the—umm—body. From noses to breasts to butts, Trattoria Dell’Arte has it all. The unique decorations provide a nice topic of discussion should conversation lag.

The bottom line: go for the pizza, gawk at the décor, and avoid the chocolate.

DAMAGE ~$100+

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Gramercy Tavern

2 E 20th Street (b/w Broadway & Park Ave S)

Birthdays come but once a year (still far too frequent in my opinion). This year, as I prepared to enter my quarter life crisis, InterSportsWriter did his best to help me forget my woes of growing older with a surprise dinner at Gramercy Tavern. What a dinner it was!

We both ordered the Vegetarian Tasting Menu consisting of the following:

Radish & Kohlrabi Salad
Country Egg

Sugar Snap Peas & Cucumber

Barley Risotto
Baby Carrots, Shiitake & Spiced Almonds

Warm Salad of Vegetables & Black Lentils

Spinach Fettuccine
Green Garlic & Mushrooms

Petit Fours

It took us a while to settle on a wine. The waiter suggested a Riesling Austrian called Stift Göttweig, a compromise to my dry, crisp preference and InterSportsWriter’s sweet tooth. One sip and I could not have been more pleased with the outcome.

As for the dishes (starting with my least favorite), the amuse bouche served at the start was odd in flavor and unimpressive. Everything else, however, was spectacular. From the initial radish salad to the barley risotto, the food was a feast for my eyes and mouth. The final entree of spinach fettuccine served with whole garlic cloves tasted especially unique yet not overpowering as one might expect with garlic.

We also ordered a plate of five cheeses. Despite the fact I no longer recall our various selections months later as I write this, I do recall the taste—perfection. Murray Greenberg, former owner of the infamous Murray’s Cheese in West Village, would be hard pressed to find a more delicious serving of coagulated milk (besides his own of course).

The plates were perfectly proportioned allowing for fullness without the feeling of being stuffed. The waiter was very accompanying and patient, especially as we discussed the pros and cons of the meal using him as a mediator.

For dessert, InterSportsWriter had the peanut butter-wafer-chocolate-toffee selection; I had the rhubarb shortcake. Both were amazing, but not near as good as the main courses.

Friends and colleagues have always raved about the upscale eatery located off E 20th between Broadway and Park. Following my quarter life crisis birthday dinner, I understand why. I now join the countless patrons who place Gramercy Tavern amongst their favorite eateries in New York City.

With its innovative menu, impressive interior, superb service, and amazing food, Gramercy Tavern is a place I plan to frequent (and recommend) often. It’s perfect for special occasions, get-togethers, Monday nights, Tuesday evenings, Wednesday aftern—well, you get the idea.

P.S. Did I mention there are complimentary chocolates at the end of the meal? See Petit Fours.

DAMAGE ~ $300+

Thursday, August 20, 2009


233 Bleecker St (@ Carmine)

A recent excursion to Italy has left me with a poor beginner’s version to Italian, a couple pounds heavier, and a nasty addiction to gelato.

As such, when NYLawStudent suggested a trip to Grom, what kind of friend would I be to deny such a request? More importantly, immediate action was necessary to fend off cravings until I make my way back across the Atlantic.

The line that never ends, also known as the line at West Village’s Grom, gave us a chance to review the menu and discuss our preferences. I chose 1 scoop of Bacio (traditional Gianduja chocolate w/ hazelnut chips) and 1 scoop of Crema di Grom (w/ Battifolo biscuits & Columbian chocolate chips).

My partner in crime had 1 scoop of Stacciatella (w/ Columbian chocolate chips) & 1 scoop of Caffe espresso (w/ Guatemalan Genuina Antigua coffee).

Despite the snobbishness that results from having the real thing in Italy, I enjoyed my selections. The Bacio was amazing, but to a hazelnut freak such as myself, I expected it to be. Crema di Grom had a slightly odd dark chocolate taste but was good as well. NYLawStudent enjoyed his choices, but made the mistake of comparing Gelato to Blue Bell. At the sight of my oncoming breakdown, he took it back and apologized.

Overall, the gelato was smooth in texture and creamy in taste. Italians might scoff, until I remind them that Grom itself comes from Italy. Indeed, I spotted Grom while roaming the streets of Venice. It hails from the Province of Torino in Northern Italy.

When every other stand is a geletaria; when you wake up and shake because it is almost noon and you have not had your first scoop of gelato yet, relax—you're in Italy. To go from having gelato 4 times a day to once a week (if that) will be tough, but when the cravings get out of control, I take comfort knowing Grom is a short distance away.

DAMAGE ~$5/ small cup—2 scoops