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 ¢



103 Third Avenue, East Village, 477-4500

This handsome brasserie outruns most of its East Village bistro brethren by featuring a more expansive menu of French standards, including raw bar stuff, sandwiches, and assiettes of vegetables, meats, and cheeses. About half our selections on a recent visit were memorable, especially a spectacular bowl of mussels in a broth that subtly incorporated curry, fresh herbs, and rich chicken stock. The salmon tartare, too, was top notch, although a fish cevicheƒeffervescing on the tongueƒwas clearly over the edge, and we thought the sirloin in the steak frites too puny. There’s also a diverting by-the-glass wine list. Sietsema $$


328 East 14th Street, East Village, 228-3760

East Villagers will proudly add this new Haitian caf™ to their amazing portfolio of ethnic dining possibilities. Facing down Filipino, Cuban, Ukrainian, and Indian-Nepalese competition around the same corner, L’Incomparable sticks to the Haitian classics, each a full meal including mini-salad, rolls and butter, rice with pureed beans, or rice and peas, and banane p™see (Haitian Creole for tostones). The pricey lambi (conch ragu) is a credible rendition, the goat stew too long on vegetables, while the grillot (fried marinated pork chunks) is simply superb. By all means, ask for the hot sauce: it looks like coleslaw, but eats like Scotch bonnet pepper. 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 eateriesÉMenchanko-Tei and KatsuhamaÉnewcomer 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 licenseÉbring your own Japanese beer from the deli a few steps south. Sietsema $


210 West 10th Street, West Village, 741-7971

Anybody who can cook broccoli rabe this wellóthe semi-bitter Sicilian favorite bathed in olive oil and strewn with sliced caramelized garlicódeserves our admiration. The rest of the menu at this new West Village Italian is a mixed bag, with a few of the dishes delicious, a few just ho-hum. Our favorites include lobster-crammed ravioli in creamy pink sauce, seafood risotto, and faux steak Florentine: a good-sized and shareable sirloin mantled with rosemary and mushrooms, not a bad deal at $16.95. This is the best of several restaurants that have recently occupied this haunted space. Sietsema $


46 Gansevoort Street, Meatpacking District, 675-5224

Central to the menu at this meat-market Moroccan is a series of innovative tajinesÛslow-cooked and subtly flavored stews served in a distinctive ceramic vessel. One mixes cornish hen with preserved lemonÛan improvement on an old favoriteÛwhile 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


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 $


745 Ninth Avenue, 582-2288

Usually, restaurants go downhill as multiple branches are opened. This, the third Grand Sichuan in town (the others are in Chinatown and Chelsea), soars above the rest. The hot-oil-slicked conch, delicate and diaphanous like a mermaid’s ears, has an otherworldly flavor, while the shredded potatoes and vinegar sauce is unlike anything you’ve eaten in a Chinese restaurant before. Look in the Mao’s Home Cooking section to discover home-style dishes like red-cooked pork with chestnuts, andÛthe advice pertains to all three restaurantsÛdon’t miss the bacony-tasting tea-smoked duck. Sietsema $


136 West 46th Street, 354-5013

The persistence of this ancient and superb Cuban lunch counter—a stone’s throw from Times Square—is 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 entrées include the chocolate brown oxtails, mellow fricasseed chicken, and fried kingfish. And don’t miss the best octopus salad in town. Sietsema ¢


255 West 42nd Street, 703-9940

Following in the footsteps of Teriyaki Boy, this Japanese franchise is preparing an all-out assault on Manhattan. The specialty is East-West fusion, par excellence: the splendid beef bowl, meat like you’d expect to find in a Philly cheese steak sautÈed with onions and heaped over rice like sloughed tire treads over a snowcapped mountain, exuding a light soy aroma. There’s also a chicken teriyaki bowl, a vegetarian bowl, a couple of soups, and not much more. If you want to really go Japanese, request a brown egg and crack it over your bowl. Sietsema ¢



338 Bedford Avenue, Williamsburg, 718-384-9500

Brought to you by the folks at Williamsburg’s beloved Diner, Bonita adapts Mexican cooking for gringo tastes, often dispensing with chiles in the process. That doesn’t mean it’s not good—it’s just not spicy. Any appetizer is a good bet (don’t miss the Mexican-cart-style corn), but among the small list of main courses, pick the rotisserie chicken with soupy beans or the chiles rellenos—a pair of fresh poblanos breaded, fried, cheesed, and well sauced. Don’t miss the chocolate cake for dessert, and don’t drop your fork when you discover it’s laced with red pepper. Sietsema $


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

The Gallic rooster at this upstairs Brooklyn yearling crows about ProvenÁal 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 $$


2001 Avenue U, Homecrest, 718-891-1555

This faded lunch counter was here when John Travolta discoed out of Brooklyn and into Saturday Night Fever, and probably when A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was first published, dispensing the same kosher franks and hot meat sandwiches, the latter well-smeared with grainy mustard and wrapped with a single brine pickle. Though cut on a machine rather than by hand, the pastrami, corned beef, and brisket are particularly flavorful and generously heaped on the sandwich (pick rye rather than the anemic club roll). Stand in the doorway to eat, and watch Russian and Chinese immigrantsóHomecrest’s newest residentsópass by. Sietsema ¢


8518 Fifth Avenue, Bay Ridge, 718-748-2854

It’s something of a minor miracle that this ancient Teutonic ice cream parlor cum candy shop and luncheonette still exists just off the painfully modern 86th Street shopping strip. The sandwiches and breakfasts that were once standard shopper’s fare still compose much of the menu, complemented by good homemade ice cream that can be enjoyed at a real soda fountain replete with spinning green Naugahyde stools. Waffles are a more modern addition, a bit dry on their own, but brought to life with a range of gloppy toppings. My favorite item: a scrambled-egg-and-sausage sandwich on toasted whole wheat washed down with a refillable cup of great retro coffee. Sietsema ¢


218 North 7th Street, Williamsburg, 718-302-3535

This joint recently morphed from a shop into a chowder bar, and the diverting stuff still displayed all over the walls makes the wait for your order a pleasure. Advancing the nautical theme, a maritime weather report whispers in the background, tattered squall jackets hangs on a rack, and surfboards depend from the ceiling-for this is a surf shack as well. The chowder is of the thin variety (wait till it thickens later in the day), and though it won’t give the Oyster Bar a run for its money, it’s pretty good anyhow. Preferred: Sarge’s clam chowder, laced with bacon and fresh herbs. Sietsema ¢


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 ¢


432 Graham Avenue, Williamsburg, 718-349-7800

That a non-hipster restaurant can still open in Williamsburg is a shock. This nonconformist, decorated in Jersey Suburban, was founded by descendants of immigrants from the Italian town of Teggiano. Though the house tomato sauce is somewhat bland, there are many admirable nonna (“grandma-style”) dishes, including an eggplant rollatini oozing good ricotta, deliciously plain escarole and beans, and spectacular linguine with broccoli rabe and garlic, a special some days. After dinner, hop across the street to enjoy the coffee and killer cannoli at CaffÈ Capri. Sietsema $


7524 18th Avenue, Bensonhurst, 718-331-9259

Nobody would expect a world-class Vietnamese restaurant to materialize in the midst of Sicilian Bensonhurst, but there it is. The heart of every Viet menu, the pho broth is rich and odoriferous, and they don’t stint with the quantity and quality of beef, either. The hostess is quick to explicate the cuisine to anyone who wanders in with a bewildered expression, and when she urges you to get the $10 appetizer platter (No. 54), take her advice! It contains generous samples of six dishesóbeef rolls, sugarcane shrimp, barbecued chicken and pork chop, braised beef, and spring rollówith enough greenery to wrap everything. 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’Ítre 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 coleslaw and rice-and-peas. Examine the selection of manhood tonics, and don’t miss the Plexiglas case flaunting risquÈ island comic books. Cash only. Sietsema ¢


201 Fifth Avenue, Park Slope, 718-230-5636

Responding to the spate of wildly successful Italian wine and snack bars in Manhattan and Brooklyn, Tamari bills itself as a “Japanese tapas and sake bar.” The menu features an East Village-quality selection of sushi, outdone by a wonderful appetizer of oshi-zushi, the pressed variant of sushi. The tapas range from tuna tartare on a bed of Asian pear and avocado fashionably formed into a puck to a rather woody Korean squid pancake overshadowed by its zingy dipping sauce to a salad of rare duck breast in a sweet and chive-dotted miso dressing. Sietsema $$



42-96 Main Street, Flushing, 718-939-1188

In Main Street’s smorgasbord of Chinese restaurants, this joint is unique, offering an entirely vegetarian menu, with credible meatless renditions of congee, steamed dumplings, and bean curd Szechuan-style. Perhaps more interesting are the dishes that mimic flesh, ranging from barbecued ribs to duck to snails, with varying results (marvel at the roast pork made with rye-bread crustƒit almost works). Top of the line, and most recommended, is the “whole lobster”ƒspinach torso, asparagus legs, and a tail composed of shredded tofu textured like lobster meat, though falling short of it in flavor. Sietsema $


117-08 Guy R. Brewer Boulevard, Jamaica, Queens, 718-723-6908

After a pilgrimage to drummer Milford Graves’s amazing decorated house at 106th Street and 110th Avenue, we dropped by this establishment, pride of the Baisley Park neighborhood just north of Kennedy Airport. A museum of Naugahyde and linoleum, Carmichael’s doesn’t aspire to be anything more than a diner, although its menu combining diner standards and soul food is fairly unique. The salmon croquettes-patties, really-are top notch, and you can side them with other Southern faves like succotash, black-eyed peas, and Harvard beets. Breakfast is available all day, served with grits, of course. Sietsema ¢


72-08 Broadway, Jackson Heights, 718-476-1902

This ocean liner of a new Indian restaurant has stunned the neighborhood, with its polished woods and broad upstairs dining room offering panoramic views of Broadway. Whether it becomes the culinary successor to the old Jackson Diner remains to be seen, but a first look reveals a certain delicacy in the cooking and an elegance in the plating heretofore unknown in Jackson Heights. The lamb vindaloo is appropriately hot and greasy, the aloo ghobi€a mªlange of cauliflower, potatoes, and tomatoes€nuanced and heaped with ginger shards, while the tender tandoori chicken is a shade better than the area standard. Expect to pay 50 percent more than usual. Sietsema $


41-10 149th Place, Flushing, 718-445-2542

You won’t find better Korean barbecue anywhere in town. This one features the usual list of beef and pork cuts, in addition to lesser-knowns such as a pair of live eels and a foursome of quail, the latter quite a bargain at $15.95. Beef and birds are grilled over irregular hardwood charcoal of the type obsessive barbecuers use, though pork and seafood are fried. The menu also offers noodle dishes and rustic stews, and to get you in the mood, the room is festooned with vines and lined with bark like a mountain cabin. Sietsema $$



3925 Baychester Avenue, Edenwald, Bronx, 718-994-9820

The area north of Gun Hill Road is swarming with Jamaican restaurants, and the Bronx clearly aims to give Brooklyn a run for its money as far as jerk chicken goes. Unappealingly surrounded by gas stations, Caribbean Taste offers a version smoked over charcoal and doused with a jerk sauce a little on the sweet side and less fiery than most. The escovitch fish is another spectacular entrée, a whole fried mackerel bedded in a julienne of pickled vegetables in a clear vinegar sauce with plenty of heat. Best liquid accompaniment: the lovable grapefruit soda called Ting. Sietsema ¢