10 Reade Street, Financial District, 267-5900

One block north of City Hall, this new Sicilian restaurant has often been empty since its inception, 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 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 ¢



13 Barrow Street, West Village, 741-6699

As elegantly appointed as the interior of a haute couture handbag, this West Village bijou specializes in delicately innovative turns on Asian cuisine, like lacquered squab accompanied by candied walnuts, and tea smoked foie gras and grilled sea scallops served atop braised daikon. There’s even a fillip for plain ole roast chicken. Here it’s with a stuffed savory mince of pigs feet and served in a sherry reduction perfumed with white truffle. Leave room for quince crumble, which comes with its own soufflé and thimble of sweet Vouvray. Keep the address in your Palm, ’cause you will be back for more. Harris $$$


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 $$$


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 $


113 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 ¢


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 $


357 Sixth Avenue, West Village, 414-8429

Brought to you by the folks responsible for a couple of the city’s best cheap Japanese eateries—Menchanko-Tei and Katsuhama—newcomer Ony modestly bills itself as a noodle bar, specializing in pristine soba, udon, and ramen presentations. As an added bonus, they also offer sushi, focusing mainly on nori rolls and reaching a level above the East Village average. The West Village has long craved a noodle establishment of this caliber, and the comfy seating and diffuse illumination made it a very relaxing spot. No liquor license—bring your own Japanese beer from the deli a few steps south. Sietsema $

14TH TO 42ND


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 pimiento stuffed olives. Harris $$$


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 explain 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


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. The welcome is a true Senegalese “Teranga.” Harris $


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, and 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 $$


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 $$



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. The beauty of it all is that you know they’ll get you out in time for the show. Harris $$


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 $$



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 ¢


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 ¢


142 Montague Street, Brooklyn Heights, 718-246-5577

The Gallic rooster at this upstairs Brooklyn yearling crows about Provençal cuisine. Omelettes, steak frites and the like line the bill of fare. There’s a subtle nod, though, to the former colonies in travel posters of Algeria and Tunisia, art deco advertisements for Pacha products, and menu items from North Africa. Try the shorba and chicken tajine. The former is a peppery slurry of zucchini, carrot, lentil, and more; the latter, a densely flavorful saffron-hued stew punctuated with preserved lemon and piquant olives. Or simply hold out for the couscous royal. It’s a perfect spot to hide from the travails of jury duty. Harris $$


129 Gates Avenue, Clinton Hill, 718-622-9202

Located in a former pharmacy and specializing in the home cooking of the Italian boot, this is a place I’d like to have around the corner—family-run, friendly, and with fine food. Contemplate the menu while nibbling on plump green olives flavored with rosemary and black peppercorns. Begin, perhaps, with a mix of lettuces and celery, topped with avocado and the surprise of apricots, or sardines in a sweet-and-sour marinade. Move on to mains like homemade fazzolettini sauced with seafood and lentils, brick-flattened chicken, and meaty braised spare ribs. The monthly wine dinners have caused more than one set of folks to cross the bridge. Menu changes daily. Harris $$


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 ¢


841 Utica Avenue, East Flatbush, 718-342-2490

That’s Ricky up on the awning, wearing chef’s whites and turning chicken on the oil-drum barbecue with a long fork. Good jerk chicken is the raison d’être for this sterling carryout, with a good smoky flavor and crisp skin. Don’t ask for the jerk sauce, though, because it’s a little too much like bad barbecue sauce. Even better than the chicken is goat curry, a mass of well-seasoned meat in a zingy gravy, served with cole slaw and rice-and-peas. Examine the selection of manhood tonics, and don’t miss the Plexiglas case flaunting risqué island comic books. Cash only. Sietsema ¢



90-59 Corona Avenue, Elmhurst, 718-699-7473

Proving that food doesn’t have to be good to be fascinating, this eatery is an authentic chifa—a South American Chinese restaurant—transplanted from Lima. The playful menu features a chef on the cover with a baby’s head superimposed, and emphasizes seafood, including a good parihuela, a thick soup rife with crab and squid. Stick with lo mein stir-fries of duck or shrimp and you’ll do fine, but avoid kamlu wonton, a smoldering heap of fried wontons smothered with canned peaches and pineapple in thick red syrup that will leave you nearly retching. Dishes are big enough to serve two or three people. Sietsema ¢


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 ¢


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 $


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 $

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