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BELOW CANAL


MARK JOSEPH
261 Water Street, Financial District, 277-0020

Manhattan has spawned quite a few new steak houses in the last decade. As far as I can tell, most have been mediocre. Some feature gimmicks, like thick toppings or menus listing more seafood than beef. This newish meat palace, located in an area that retains the feel of the old seaport prior to terminal touristification, harkens backward to Peter Luger's for its model. A recent meal included an order of cool and bracing bluepoints dabbed with cocktail sauce and heaped with extra horseradish; a perfect, cheesy Caesar salad with plenty of croutons; thick asparagus spears saut»ed in butter and garlic; and a sliced porterhouse for two. Only the home-fried potatoes underachieved. Sietsema $$$


WIN49
205 Allen Street, Lower East Side, 353-9494

Just when you thought Manhattan already harbored every kind of Japanese specialty restaurant that you could find in Tokyo, another unique one pops up. Win49 specializes in kushikatsu, a coinage that designates anything breaded, fried, and skewered, in the combined spirit of the fried pork katsu (simply, "cutlet"), and the tiny shishkebabs called yakitori. Fish, pork, shrimp, potatoes, and even asparagus are all fair game, and you can combine these brochettes with side dishes to form bento-box lunches. Also on the menu is an appealing array of sushi rolls, the best of which is made with salmon skin gobbed with sweet sauce. Sietsema ¢


ZITOUNE (V)
46 Gansevoort Street, Meatpacking District, 675-5224

Central to the menu at this meat-market Moroccan is a series of innovative tajinesƒslow-cooked and subtly flavored stews served in a distinctive ceramic vessel. One mixes cornish hen with preserved lemonƒan improvement on an old favoriteƒwhile others are more off-the-wall: one matches salmon forcemeat with tomatoes and olives, while another deposits a tajine of lamb and quince over bulky Israeli couscous. Best of all is a beef rib tangia, a bachelor's supper of rich meat cooked with lemon in a Roman-style amphora. Chill in the sedate dining room and watch the hordes descend on Pastis, just across cobbled Gansevoort Square. Sietsema $$

14TH TO 42ND


(new) CHICAMA
35 East 18th Street, Gramercy, 505-2233

First it was Colina, a wood-oven Italian in ABC Carpet murdered by mixed reviews, now it's Chicama, with the same interior swiped from a 19th-century Brazilian plantation. Serving the so-called peasant cuisine of South America, this sprawling restaurant excels at ceviches; in fact, your best bet is to have, say, an outsize sea urchin and a fantasy cocktail at the ceviche bar. The new menu features a chicken empanada of smoky panca pepper chicken over a sliced tomato and red onion, as well as a salad of crispy escovitched duck in a baby spinach and topped with Hudson foie gras. Sietsema $$$


(new) SUSHI SAMBA
245 Park Avenue South, Gramercy, 475-9377

Dotted with paintings of tropical fruit, the pleasantly garish interior suggests South America—but Sushi Samba is mainly a sushi bar with a wildly experimental approach. While the conventional sushi and sashimi are adequate, the ceviches really shine: one a massive salad of cooked octopus with a ginger-and-mustard dressing, another an assemblage of thick slabs of raw yellowtail moistened with garlic-soy oil—although neither is really "cooked" in acid. Call them sashimi salads. Another pleasant surprise is a Bahian-style fish chowder loaded with lobster and sporting a flavorful slick of dende oil on the surface. Sietsema $$

¢ Cheap eat
($10 meal available)
$ $10-$20
$$ $20-$35
$$$ $35+
Price guide per person
V Vegetarian friendly
L Open late (past midnight)

For hundreds of more restaurants check out the eats page.

42ND TO 59TH


MARGON
136 West 46th Street, 354-5013

The persistence of this ancient and superb Cuban lunch counteróa stone's throw from Times Squareóis a testament to the excellence of the food and the fierce loyalty of its regulars. Made right in the front window, the Cuban sandwich is as streamlined as the '50s finned Caddies that ply the streets of Havana, and Margon gets all the basics right, from the pungent red and black beans to the crisply fried tostones. The menu rotates by weekday, and my favorite entr»es include the chocolate brown oxtails, mellow fricasseed chicken, and fried kingfish. And don't miss the best octopus salad in town. Sietsema

 

UPPER EAST SIDE


(new) CAFÉ SABARSKY
1048 Fifth Avenue, 288-0665

Ensconced inside the diverting Neue Galerie, Café Sabarsky is a Viennese café and konditerei, an offspring of the West Village's Wallsé that outshines its parent. The short dishes make for perfect museum-hopping snacks, including a charcuterie platter (the most challenging feature: double-smoked raw bacon), a generous salad of jumbo asparagus in a slightly sweet lemon-dill sauce, and savory smoked-trout crepes with horseradish crème fraîche. The hungrier can move on to sandwiches, to entrées like boiled-beef tafelspitz, or to pastries, of which plum crumble sided with a cloud of whipped cream was a favorite on a recent visit. Sietsema $

UPPER WEST SIDE


(new) EPICES DU TRAITEUR
103 West 70th Street, 579-5904

This French bistro has an intriguing sideline: Tunisian food, including a few specialties you won't find elsewhere. Foremost is brik, a curious fan-shaped pastry featuring canned tuna and a runny egg that remains hemmed in until you bite down and the yolk squirts all over everything. Hey, it's good! There's also a spicy onion, tomato, and red pepper relish called mischouia, and an abundant mixed grill matching four merguez sausages with four fork-tender baby lamb chops. Be warned: The Moroccan specialties, like the lamb-and-lemon tagine, bomb. Sietsema $$

ABOVE 110TH


(new) SOKOBOLIE
2529 Eighth Avenue, Harlem, 491-3969

While most West African restaurants offer only three or four set meals at a time, this convivial Harlem establishment mounts a daily menu that features a dozen or so Guinean and Senegalese specialties. There's always one leaf-based sauce ("sauce de feuilles," the national dish of Guinea), made with either spinach or sweet-potato leaf, and often there's a fricassee of chicken in palm sauce, and a peanut-laced stew of smoked fish that has the intriguing texture of driftwood. Less challenging Senegalese staples like grilled lamb chops ("diby") and steak with onions are also available. Open 24 hours! Sietsema ¢

BROOKLYN


(new) CAROLINA CREEK
87 Utica Avenue, Bedford-Stuyvesant, 718-493-5907

After touring the Weeksville Houses, a miraculously preserved African American village founded after the abolition of slavery in New York in 1827, we dropped in at Carolina Creek for refreshment. This fish-and-chips shop specializes in fried whiting, by filet or whole fish, matched with some of the best french fries in Brooklyn, made from fresh potatoes with little bits of skin adhering. As an additional fillip, the pork ribs are also excellent, mantled with a thick sauce that's not too sweet. The extensive menu is delivered with real Southern hospitality at this mainly carryout establishment—where you can also dine in at the lone table. Sietsema ¢


(new) CASTRO'S V
511 Myrtle Avenue, Clinton Hill, 718-398-1459

Serving the dining needs of Pratt students for the last decade, Castro's conveys cheap Mexican meals of a rib-sticking sort. The tacos are oversize and dividable, made with two soft corn tortillas, and the vegetarian cheese enchiladas are not only stuffed with cured cheese, but have planks of fresh cheese on top as a bonus. Skip the appetizers, because all platos come with guacamole, salad (bring your own dressing) and a pile of warm tortillas. For some real heat, select puntas de res en chile chipotle—strips of beef in a brown sauce spiked with incendiary smoked chiles. Sietsema ¢


KARAM (VL)
8519 Fourth Avenue, Bay Ridge, 718-745-5227

For a small joint, Karam has a marvelously ambitious Lebanese menu, central to which is a series of sandwiches made by rolling a pita around the ingredients rather than trying to wedge them into a pocket. Two excellent shawarma cylinders are always spinning. You might also select grilled mekanek (a cinnamony cousin of merguez), or one of the variety meats, including a well-stewed and vinegary veal tongue that may be the best thing on the menu. The pistachio-strewn rice pudding is a superb end to a meal that might also include green bean lubyi biz-zayt or sesame-studded falafel, always made to order. Only the baba ghanoush proved disappointing. Sietsema ¢

QUEENS


(new) ROSE & JOE'S ITALIAN BAKERY V
22-40 31st Street, Astoria, 718-721-9422

The square Sicilian slice is absolutely scrumptious—artfully smeared with a semi-chunky red sauce that's on the sweet side, clumped with good mozzarella, scattered with oregano. But good as the toppings are, the dough's the thing at Rose & Joe's, baking up light and airy, crisp on the bottom and sides, with virtually no wasted "bone" (the humpy part). The slice brought back fond memories of Boston's North End, where pizza is sold out of bakeries and folks line up to wait for the next pie. Grab a warm slice to eat on the train. Sietsema ¢


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