Saturday, July 24, 2010
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
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
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
Evenings of attempted Rush tickets to Wicked, a popular musical currently on Broadway, are typically followed by lavish dinners in and around midtown.
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.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
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
Sugar Snap Peas & Cucumber
Baby Carrots, Shiitake & Spiced Almonds
Warm Salad of Vegetables & Black Lentils
Green Garlic & Mushrooms
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.
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.
DAMAGE ~ $300+
VERDICT: GO NOW!
Thursday, August 20, 2009
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