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BELOW CANAL


CITY HALL

131 Duane Street, 227-7777

Anything that swims is recommended at this Wall Streeter’s hangout that seeks to re-create the (mainly imaginary) two-fisted eating halls of yesteryear. The trio of barrel herringócreamed, onioned, and carawayedóis so striking you can ignore the dull potato salad in the middle. Pan roasts, raw oysters, shrimp cocktails, and, especially, she-crab soup were all flawless, as was the touted burger, much too good for its garnish of iceberg and wooden supermarket tomato. Skip the low-on-flavor lamb saddle and signature Delmonico steakóunimproved by its mantle of blue cheeseóin favor of any of the daily grilled fish. Sietsema


DIWAN-E-KHAAS

53 Nassau Street, Financial District, 571-6369

Ever wonder what fenugreek tastes like? Chicken methióa frequent special at this Wall Street Indianófeatures poultry morsels hosed with fenugreek leaves, imparting a mellow, toasty flavor. You’ll probably never again find the spice used with such directness. (Lamb vindaloo is long on spice and short on potatoes, palak paneer a spinach puree with less homemade cheese than you might like.) As the number of Indian steam tables south of Canal Street has skyrocketed, it is now possible to be rather picky about your Mughal (or is that Muggle?) food, and this spare dining room is one of the best purveyors. Sietsema


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 sautÈed in butter and garlic; and a sliced porterhouse for two. Only the home-fried potatoes underachieved. Sietsema $$$

CANAL TO 14TH


CAFÉ DEVILLE VL

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 ceviche…effervescing on the tongue…was 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 $$


L’INCOMPARABLE

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

East Villagers will proudly add this new Haitian cafÙ 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 pÙsee (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 $


ONY V

357 Sixth Avenue, West Village, 414-8429

Brought to you by the folks responsible for a couple of the city’s best cheap Japanese eateriesÖMenchanko-Tei and KatsuhamaÖnewcomer 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 licenseÖbring your own Japanese beer from the deli a few steps south. Sietsema $


PIO’S V

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

Anybody who can cook broccoli rabe this well€the semi-bitter Sicilian favorite bathed in olive oil and strewn with sliced caramelized garlic€deserves 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 $


* 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 shish kebabs 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 tajinesÄslow-cooked and subtly flavored stews served in a distinctive ceramic vessel. One mixes cornish hen with preserved lemonÄan improvement on an old favoriteÄwhile 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 $$































¢ 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.

14TH TO 42ND


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 pi“ata. 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 $$$


* LA PIZZA FRESCA V

31 East 20th Street, Flatiron District, 598-0141

When this restaurant opened a few years ago, I admired their ur-Neapolitan brick-oven pizza, but found the attitude pretentious and the prices outlandish. But La Pizza Fresca has matured into one of my favorite restaurants, filled with happy ex-pats waving ciao to their pals every evening. The pizzas are even better than before, with a slightly thicker and more yielding crust and a lusher distribution of ingredients. We devoured a wonderful pie dotted with rich pancetta, purple onions, and buffalo mozzarella, proceeded to rigatoni with a novel cream-and-pesto sauce, then concluded with a squid salad cradled in arugula and flavored with matchsticks of lemon zest. Sietsema $$


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 explain why it remains a favorite of fatigued shoppers along the Flatiron strip. The menu is simpleÛa 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


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 entrÈes include the chocolate brown oxtails, mellow fricasseed chicken, and fried kingfish. And don’t miss the best octopus salad in town. Sietsema


YOSHINOYA V

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 sautªed 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 ¢

BROOKLYN


BONITA

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 goodÛit’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 rellenosÛa 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 $


HINSCH

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 ¢


HURRICANE HOPEFUL

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 ¢


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 ¢


PHO NAM BO V

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 dishes€beef rolls, sugarcane shrimp, barbecued chicken and pork chop, braised beef, and spring roll€with enough greenery to wrap everything. Sietsema ¢


TAMARI

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 $$

QUEENS


BUDDHA BODAI V

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 crust…it almost works). Top of the line, and most recommended, is the “whole lobster”…spinach torso, asparagus legs, and a tail composed of shredded tofu textured like lobster meat, though falling short of it in flavor. Sietsema $


CARMICHAEL’S DINER V

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 ¢


* LENNY’S CLAM BAR VL

161-03 Cross Bay Boulevard, Howard Beach, 718-845-5100

Founded in 1974, this venerable Howard Beach seafood parlor looks like a radioactive jewel box on the horizon—just down the street from New York’s most bizarre Starbucks—and features excellent stuffed clams, heaped with crumbs and well browned. The shrimp, mussels, calamari, and scungilli (conch) combinations are also worth contemplating, as are the pastas, especially Sicilian baked ziti, which should be sided with an order of the potent garlic bread. A hallway lined with celebrity photos leads to a painfully bright dining room, but if the weather’s fine, sit on the deck that overlooks the Jamaica Bay canal known as Shellbank Basin. Sietsema $


SAJNA

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 ghobiƒa môlange of cauliflower, potatoes, and tomatoesƒnuanced 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 $


SOL BAWOO

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 $$

ELSEWHERE


CARIBBEAN TASTE INC.

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 entr»e, 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 ¢


FORTUNE GARDEN

1771 Hylan Boulevard, Dongan Hills, Staten Island, 718-979-6100

Dressed in dark suits, the waiters stand stiffly at attention, then deferentially show you to a table. The somber decor is reminiscent of a funeral parlor viewing room, and your fellow diners converse in hushed tones. Shaped like a seashell, the menu unfolds to reveal the older sort of Chinese American fare, heavy on Cantonese and seafood. But don’t be scared awayóthe General Tso’s chicken is the best you’ve ever had, while the Fu-chou fried rice reflects a very refined version of that standard: rice topped with delicately gravied ham, chicken, and shrimp. Sietsema $