Food

Listings

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BELOW CANAL


ALBACHIARA

10 Reade Street, Financial District, 267-5900

One block north of City Hall, this new Sicilian restaurant has often been empty since its inception—maybe because the phone still doesn’t work—though the adjacent and affiliated pizza parlor hosts a hopping after-work scene. Drop in and enjoy steak Siciliana, an expertly cooked sirloin heaped with toasted and oiled bread crumbs; or a seafood salad generously furnished with shrimp, squid, and conch; or a selection from the intriguing pasta list, though we were disappointed in pasta con sarde, which had so much fresh fennel it tasted like someone dumped lawn cuttings on it. And please use canned sardines, fellas! Sietsema $$


88 REACH HOUSE

88 Division Street, Financial District, 625-8099

Fuzhou food continues to flourish up and down Eldridge Street, and this restaurant has a menu predictably oriented toward noodle soups and over-rice dishes. From the former category comes a lamb soup with thin wheat noodles in a rich mutton broth, making you glad it’s not made with today’s flavorless lamb; from the latter an astonishing “spare ribs with cooking wine on rice”—little nuggets of taro and boneless meat lightly breaded and inundated with a tart red sauce. The upscale end of the menu includes Fuzhou favorites like tortoise, rabbit, and the quizzical “braised crucian in soy sauce.” Sietsema ¢

CANAL TO 14TH


CAFE ASEAN

117 West 10th Street, West Village, 633-0348

Old-time Villagers who remember the Flavor Cup know exactly where to find this tiny local spot that specializes in Southeast Asian cuisine. Begin with an order of saté, plump and lightly charred with a peanut dipping sauce that combines crunch and zap in equal measures. The cha cua are crab cakes that are a long way from Baltimore—two tasty croquettes of crab, shrimp, and fish that are a bit too hefty to be appetizers. Tempting specials and a range of mains from Vietnam, Thailand, and Malaysia have made it as much an institution as its esteemed predecessor. Harris $$


CAFÉ DES BRUXELLES

118 Greenwich Avenue, West Village, 206-1830

Before there was Markt and before Gotham got a Petite Abeille in its bonnet about Belgian food, the pie-slice triangle between Greenwich Avenue and 13th Street was home to Café des Bruxelles. Trappist brews, garlicky mussels galore, and a superb calf’s liver served fork-tender and perfectly pink are the standbys. And the frites are quite simply to die for. One bite and you’ll understand why the place is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Harris $$$


CAFÉ NOIR VL

32 Grand Street, Soho, 431-7910

The stygian front room feels more like a neighborhood bar than a bistro at this late-night hang on Soho’s southern frontier. Walk pass the chatting folks and into the back dining room, hunker down, and unwind with a caipirinha or a pitcher of the house sangria. Tapas-like skewers of chicken and plates of marinated olives are good nibbles. The classic hanger steak with the trimmings is hearty main, although a bit bland for my taste; I’d stick instead to the appetizer skewers of Moroccan-style merguez that are particularly flavorful and satisfying. To end? A café noir natch, then back to the dawn patrol. Harris $


CRIF DOGS V

V113 St. Marks Place, East Village, 614-2728

You know another Great Depression is in the offing when tube steaks once again masquerade as a main course. This new doggery features smoked weenies deep fried the way they do at Clifton, New Jersey’s sainted Rutt’s Hut. There’s a broad range of toppings, including a great beanless chili (add chopped jalapeños for extra heat), and even a decent vegetarian dog. The waffle fries are only so-so, but who cares when you smother them in cheese. Made from real ice cream instead of skanky soft serve, the thick $3 milk shake is one of the best dairy deals in town (pick coffee). Sietsema ¢


GURU V

338 East 6th Street, East Village, 979-2135

The unbroken queue of Bangladeshi restaurants with nearly identical menus has finally been breached by Guru, with a bill of fare that features South Indian faves mixed with Mughal vegetarian standards and chats (informal snacks). Though the menu lists 16 types of dosa—the potato-stuffed crepe made from a batter of fermented rice and lentils—there’s little difference between them. Breads are a high point, especially the methi paratha, stuffed with fresh fenugreek leaves. Mughal dishes like bhindi masala are a particularly good deal, served thali style with pickles, chutneys, salad, and other small dishes. Sietsema $


JOHN’S OF 12TH STREET

302 East 12th Street, East Village, 475-9531

Established in 1908 and boasting nearly a century of purveying Italian eats to an ever changing neighborhood, this is truly a Gotham classic. No credit cards, no cute pasta, and no Tuscan trends. Savor dishes like mega meatballs in a savory red sauce or a rich, beefy meat sauce. The minestrone is thick with veggies, broccoli rabe, mushrooms, carrots, onions, celery and more, and it’s piping hot. The linguine with garlic, olive oil, and anchovies could use a bit more of the garlic, but otherwise, if you’ve been missing the heartiness of ’50s-style Italian dining, this is the place for you. Harris $


PARADOU L

8 Little West 12th Street, West Village, 463-8345

Riffing on the current wine-bar craze, this closet of a space in the meat district offers topped toasts styled “bruschetta française” and pressed sandwiches that run from the expected (ham and Gruyère) to the unexpected (duck rillettes and capers). The menu rounds out with crepes, salads, and combination plates of cheese and charcuterie. Though on the expensive side, everything at a recent lunch was tasty and well prepared, especially a sprightly salad of seared scallops and shaved fennel and a tartine smothered in Parmesan and garlic mayonnaise. Sietsema $

14TH TO 42ND


CAFÉ BEYOND V

620 Avenue of the Americas, Chelsea, 620-9752

You’re cruising the aisles of Bed, Bath & Beyond searching for the perfect $400 duvet cover and perhaps a person to share it with and suddenly you’re starving. Don’t leave the premises. Head instead to Café Beyond, where you’ll find more than simple sustenance. There are soups and specials that change often; don’t miss the savory goat cheese ravioli, if it’s available. Dieters will love the heaping bowl of greens—mesclun or spinach-which you can “tart up” with ingredients ranging from bacon bits to free-range turkey. Add a brownie for dessert and a bottle of lemonade and you’re back on the floor continuing the search. Harris $


DANZÓN

126 East 28th Street, Murray Hill, 252-1345

It’s so alive with color and filled with goodies that walking into Zarela Martinez’s new place is like falling into a piñata. This lively spot celebrates the cuisine of Mexico’s Veracruz province. Downstairs, the bar serves imbibers mega-margaritas and a range of Mexican beer; it also has a few tables for smokers. Upstairs and down, the menu offers such unusual delights as mariquitas, plantain chips served with their own spicy peanut sauce, barbecued chunks of pork known as carne de Chango, and the state’s classic snapper in a savory sauce of tomatoes, chiles, onions, garlic, capers, and pimìento stuffed olives. Harris $$$


SALON T EMPORIUM

11 East 20th Street, Flatiron District, 358-0506

The reclining Buddha, the teapot chandeliers, and the cozy yet quirky atmosphere of this tea salon-cum-shop explains why it remains a favorite of fatigued shoppers along the Flatiron strip. The menu is simple—a few warm items, but mainly sandwiches like smoked salmon on black bread or traditional tea fare like scones, dripping with devon cream. There is also a seemingly endless tea list including 480 interesting house blends. Harris $

42ND TO 59TH


CHEZ GNAGNA KOTY

530 Ninth Avenue, 279-1755

Tucked away on Ninth Avenue near the Port Authority Bus Terminal, this tiny, wood-paneled eatery offers Gotham the food of Senegal. Baba Maal and Youssou N’dour wail on the box while the chef wails in the kitchen, turning out a wonderfully peanut-infused maffe and a vegetable-rich thiebu djen. A lemony chicken yassa, complete with a flavorful slurry of onions, took me back to Dakar, while the sauce feuilles and poisson braise recalled Abidjan days. It’s the kind of haven where you’ll find everyone from nostalgic Peace Corps alumni to homesick students, and the welcome is a true Senegalese “Teranga.” Harris $


GIOVANNI

47 West 55th Street, 262-2828

From the front it seems to be just another midtown Italian, but the welcome is as warm as the sunshine on the Duomo and the service is as burnished as the doors on the Baptistry. Snag a table in the back room, splurge on a wine from the extensive list, and settle in for a toothsome tagliata di manzo, thick slices of perfectly cooked steak atop a bed of arugula, or specials like a creamy asparagus risotto, rich with cheese, that hints that spring may indeed be not too far off. With more places like this, we might just make it. Harris $$


HEARTBEAT V

149 East 49th Street, 407-2900

The bean dip that arrives instead of butter with the bread and the edamame all round are some of the hints that this eatery in the W Hotel cares about more than the weight of your wallet. Marginal notes remind that red wine raises good cholesterol and beans contain chemicals that inhibit cancer, and the menu, with an accent on fish and delights like a rich unctuous squash soup, meaty crab cakes, a toothsome roast chicken, is not only good, but also good for you. Enjoy, ’cause it’s not often you get the chance to indulge and feel virtuous at the same time. Harris $$


MARSEILLE

630 Ninth Avenue, 333-2323

This new bistro has a dangerous name, evoking a romantic and tumultuous port associated with splendid seafood and international drug dealing. The pan-Mediterranean menu includes North African, Turkish, and Middle Eastern elements, in addition to the predictable Provençale ones. Mezze are reinterpreted as little tasting platters, one including hanger steak merguez planted in vegetable puree, a puck of foie gras torchon, and miniature fingers of Fatima. At $8, it’s a steal. Inevitably, there’s a bouillabaisse, and this formidable version, despite being too salty on a recent occasion, is pleasingly rife with baby vegetables and diverse tidbits of seafood. Sietsema $$


WOLF’S

41 West 57th Street, 888-4100

The outside may look like that of a new midtown trattoria, but once inside you’ll realize that the classic New York deli has simply moved into luxe quarters. Fear not, it still purveys the “eat my child” fare that has become emblematic of Gotham. The pickles on the table are properly sour, and there are celery tonic and egg creams for those who wish, as well as a wine list for those who have moved on to grape with their chicken soup. Don’t miss the dauntingly overstuffed pastrami and corned beef sandwiches or the massive, perfectly cooked cheeseburger which is quite simply sublime. Harris $

UPPER EAST SIDE


EMO’S

1564 Second Avenue, 628-8699

Unexpectedly, this Upper East Side Korean hasn’t been wimpified for Western tastes. Many of the pan chan are fiery hot, others are just slippery and strange, as they should be. There’s a dense flan rimmed with chopped egg white, making it a dead ringer for a wedge of Brie. There’s also a bi bim bop that arrives sizzling in a stone crock with plenty of twig-like mountain vegetables, and a stew of soft bean curd that features a dozen sea creatures in an incendiary red tide. Best of all, the portions are generous and the prices below what you’d expect to pay on 32nd Street. Sietsema $

UPPER WEST SIDE


O’NEALS’

49 West 64th Street, 787-4663

It’s been there forever, first as the Ginger Man, then as the anchor to the O’Neals’ culinary empire, and it still goes on. Drop by and sample the wholesome sautéed calves’ liver in its sauce of diced bacon and onion or the slurpable linguine with lobster and crabmeat to make the evening special. There’s even a prix fixe that won’t break the bank, and the beauty of it all is that you know they’ll get you out in time for the show (they say they specialize in getting to customers to curtain). Harris $$


TURKUAZ V

2637 Broadway, 665-9541

The narrow entranceway doesn’t hint at the humongous dining room, wrapped in fabrics like a sultan’s tent and dimly lit for the benefit of dating couples who hold hands in the flickering candlelight. Perhaps for them also, the food is blander than it usually is in a Turkish restaurant, and the signature grilled green chile is missing from the ensembles. Nevertheless, the shepherd’s salad is abundant and well oiled, and the fingers of Fatima (sigara borega) are well fried, with good feta oozing out either end. Contrary to form, the chicken breast kebab is superb, arriving moist in the interior and slicked with orangeish oil. Sietsema $$

BROOKLYN


BA XUYEN

6011 Seventh Avenue, Sunset Park, 718-765-0037

This very modest sandwich shop-located at the center of what is fast becoming Sunset Park’s Little Saigon-is the most exciting thing to happen in Vietnamese food in the last five years. The very friendly staff dispenses banh mi, sandwiches made on fresh, hot baguettes loaded with a choice of seven fillings and garnished with pickled vegetables, cilantro, and Chinese sausage, a steal at $2.75. Wash it down with a litchi shake or a cup of bittersweet coffee, and check the countertop and glass case for other snacks like spring rolls and pastries. Sietsema ¢


BLUE RIBBON L

280 Fifth Avenue, Park Slope, 718-840-0404

The fourth installment of the Blue Ribbon chain is a sprawling L-shaped dining room on Park Slope’s burgeoning Fifth Avenue strip, and the menu is a bewildering combo of comfort food, ambitious fusion cuisine, and short dishes made popular at the Village’s Blue Ribbon bakery. Though the service was uniformly good on a first visit, the food varied in quality, from too sweet barbecued ribs served with a flaming brazier that didn’t improve the flavor to a wonderful roast pigeon, done medium rare and perfectly complemented by roasted barley and pureed orange squash. Sietsema ¢


CHIPSHOP

383 Fifth Avenue, Park Slope, 718-832-7701

Chipshop joins the West Village’s Assault and Battery as an establishment that slavishly attempts to re-create the English fish-and-chips shop, with awesome success. While Chipshop doesn’t have quite the range of fish offered by its Village precursor, it does provide the full complement of deep-fried sausages, mushy peas, battered candy bars, bangers and mash, and other culinary arcana. The cod and chips, a generously sized filet with good fries for $9, is particularly recommended. Sietsema ¢


INDIA HOUSE

139 Court Street, Cobble Hill, 718-852-3486

Everyone knows of an old chop suey parlor that has pointedly ignored successive newfangled ideas about Chinese food. Well, this is the Indian equivalent. Much of the food at this antique establishment just off Atlantic Avenue is dark, mellow, and well-spiced, and even vegetarian dishes have a meaty aura. The green chutney is spicier than most, and the samosa and bhujia are generous, economical, and well fried. Reflecting a stint making Indian food in Flatbush, the proprietor serves up his variation on the Trinidadian roti, a thick flatbread filled with potatoes and goat. It’s gr-r-r-reat! Sietsema ¢


MINNOW

442 9th Street, Park Slope, 718-832-5500

What a relief! An ambitious Slope restaurant not located on Fifth Avenue, and featuring good value for your hard-earned cash. The menu is mainly scintillatingly fresh seafood planted on large plates with decent-sized sides, including things like seared and crusted yellowfin tuna with olive mashed potatoes, and nicely browned sea scallops ringing a mound of pureed pumpkin. Entrée price tags average $15, and appetizers are unnecessary. If you skip them, though, you’ll miss the tart octopus salad and an odd but likable tomato/clam/carrot potage with lemon linguine called Vicki’s Soup. A bonus: plenty of good wines under $20. This place rocks. Sietsema $$


PIROSMANI

2222 Avenue U, Homecrest, 718-368-3237

One of three Georgian restaurants I know of in the city, Pirosmani is named after a celebrated 19th-century muralist whose work is replicated on every wall. The chicken tabaka is predictably superior than the Russian version—supremely salty and garlicky, flattened but still tender, and there are plenty of uniquely Caucasus dishes like pkhali, a hockey puck of herbed spinach strewn with pomegranate seeds, and khachapuri, a deliriously good flatbread oozing gooey cheese. Unfortunately, the menu is only in Russian, and little English is spoken. But if you memorize the names of the dishes mentioned above, you’ll do just fine. Sietsema ¢

QUEENS


AFGHAN KABAB PALACE

75-07 Parsons Boulevard, Kew Gardens Hills, 718-591-8700

While I wouldn’t exactly describe it as a palace, the decor is admittedly handsome, with rustic log wainscoting, broad tables flanked by comfortable chairs with high backs, plenty of woven decorations in rich colors, and wooden niches near the ceiling displaying samovars, porcelain kerosene lamps, and other reminders of a desert and mountain culture. The complete range of Persian-influenced polows are offered, as well as the usual Central Asian kebabs, stuffed dumplings, yogurt drinks, and vinegary pickles. A pair of vinegar-driven hot sauces, green and red, won’t tempt you to think about Christmas. Sietsema $


NATURAL TOFU V

40-06 Queens Boulevard, Sunnyside, 718-706-0899

Soft bean curd, known as soondubu, has become all the rage in Queens, and this café offers it in six variations, partnered with things like kimchi, beef intestine, and mixed vegetables. With a limited menu, this fast-food chain hawks Korean standards at half the cost and in half the time of traditional restaurants. Though you don’t get to barbecue the boolkoki yourself (actually, it isn’t barbecued at all, but skillet-fried), the sweet and oniony pile is enough for two, especially considering the generous assortment of pan chan that accompanies each entrée. Sietsema $


S & V SOUL FOOD CASTLE

106-50 Sutphin Avenue, Jamaica, 718-206-1484

Offering inspiring views of a Tudor funeral-home complex, this brand-new carryout specializes in Carolina-style soul food, and most of the pristine selections are visible on the long steam table: barbecued ribs, pulled pork, chitlins, candied yams, pigs’ feet, and macaroni salad. Stumbling on the Castle as we drove north toward downtown Jamaica through a pleasant, tree-shaded neighborhood, we inhaled mac and cheese with a thick cheddar crust, a huge portion of fatty oxtails in a mellow brown gravy, and mayonnaise potato salad in which the potatoes retained their character. The collards, though, were way too sweet. Sietsema ¢


STAMATIS

29-12 23rd Avenue, Astoria, 718-932-8596

Cop a seat in the dining area under the blue-painted skylight with the seagull mobile. Confer about the freshest offerings, but don’t miss the sea bass if it’s available. Order a bottle of retsina, then settle in for appetizers while you wait. Try the pleasantly pungent tzatziki, or the unctuous taramasalata, and don’t miss the piping hot, super-stringy saganaki. Then it’s on to the tender fish, sweet with a hint of char and a spritz from the lemon provided. A tiny cup of Greek coffee rounds out the menu, and you’ll feel as though you’ve dined with Greek relatives. Harris $


STUDENT BIRYANI

72-32 Broadway, Jackson Heights, 718-335-5544

We expectantly waited nine months after the awning went up for this Pakistani café to actually open, and upon matriculation, were rewarded with A+ goat biryani, loaded with chunky, nearly boneless meat which owed its fresh, strong taste to a halal distribution system based on small local producers and nearly instant delivery. The chicken and spinach, midnight-brown lamb curry, and mixed vegetables were almost as good, but our hearts were won by a tubular poultry pastry displayed with other fried items on top of the glass counter. “What is this called in Pakistan?” I inquired. “Chicken roll” was the reply. Sietsema ¢


SUSHI-OH!

72-42 Austin Street, Forest Hills, 718-793-0525, 718-793-0526

It’s only the size of a formal dinner napkin with a few stools pulled up at the sushi bar of polished wood, yet this welcome addition to Forest Hills’ shopping strip offers an informal spot for a quick snack seven days a week. Gain sustenance from the tasty spider roll of deep-fried soft-shell crab or a fish lover’s rainbow roll of yellowtail, snapper, salmon, and tuna. Fend off the chill with a selection of savory gyoza or udon, then head back into the fray and do your patriotic duty by shopping some more. Harris $

ELSEWHERE


JERK CENTER

1296 East Gunhill Road, Williamsbridge, Bronx, 718-547-1970

This converted gas station serves some of the best jerk chicken in the city. Slathered with a paste of allspice, garlic, green onions, and chili pepper, it’s slowly barbecued over charcoal. The fragrant odor can be detected blocks away. They also serve other Jamaican specialties such as oxtail, curry goat, brown stew chicken, saltfish and ackee, and the incredibly funky cow cod soup (made with a bull’s penis). Beverages include ginger beer, mauby, sorrel, and Aunt Linda’s Colonic Bitters. Sietsema $


KILLMEYER’S OLD BAVARIA INN

4254 Arthur Kill Road, Charleston, Staten Island, 718-984-1202

At this kitsch-encrusted 19th-century German restaurant, with its intricate carvings, the bar alone is worth a look, and the list of nearly 100 beers will make any swiller happy. The food, alas, does not place Killmeyer’s among the foremost German restaurants in town, so stick with sausages and pork roast (called “fresh ham”) and skip the rubbery Wiener schnitzel. The setting—in a decaying industrial slough only a stone’s throw from Perth Amboy, New Jersey—merits repeat visits. Sietsema $