118A Eldridge Street, Lower East Side, 625-8008

Of the four northern Chinese dumpling stalls in Chinatown this is my favorite, offering pork-and-chive pot stickers, boiled beef sandwiches on wedges of homemade sesame bread, vegetable-filled hot and sour soup, and the legendary chive box—ask for “chives and egg pancake”—a half-moon pie filled with scallions, vermicelli, scrambled egg, and, sometimes, baby shrimp. The box is prepared on the spot and cooked to order. Also look for the jar of summer kimchi at the carryout window. Best of all: Most selections are $1, and there are bags of frozen dumplings to take home. Sietsema ¢


432 East 13th Street, East Village, 228-7900

The East Village finally has its answer to Park Slope’s Coco Roco: a slightly upscale café that aims to popularize Peruvian food for the hip masses. Located on a quiet side street, the café spills a few tables onto the sidewalk; inside, pictures feature liquid-eyed peasants that could have been painted by Keane. The appetizers are especially good, including causa—a potato ball festooned with mayo-dipped chicken; a tangy fish ceviche; and, best of all, cold lemony mussels heaped with chopped onion and cilantro. Arriving tardily, the entrées lagged somewhat, with a tart chicken escovitch and aji de pollo—chicken again, this time in a thick yellow gravy—being our favorites. Skip the dry beef stew. Sietsema


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


59 Maiden Lane, Financial District, 483-0117

This gourmet grocer vends the usual juices, sodas, and sandwiches from their front porch, but on an adjacent griddle find sizzling gozleme (“Turkish panini,” $3.99), a Turkish specialty that arose during the Ottoman Empire as the Anatolian answer to the French crepe. The thin dough is stuffed with either potatoes or feta cheese, both laced with fresh dill and parsley, folded into a square, grilled to brownness, then given a final lick with the butter brush. On warm summer days, I prefer the salty cheese version. Sietsema ¢



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 ¢


46 Gansevoort Street, Meatpacking District, 675-5224

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


246 Tenth Avenue, Chelsea, 206-6766

Frustrated in your attempt to get into Red Cat after that Chelsea gallery opening? Right across the street, Bottino is nearly as good. Go for the octopus salad, in which the rubbery fellow is upstaged by his tasty olive-oil dressing, and skip the boring salad of underdressed baby greens. Pastas make the best main courses, especially the giant green ravioli stuffed with cheese and herbs and bathed in sage butter, but also consider the baby chicken, splayed and crusty and served on a bed of sautéed peppers. And while the weather lasts, luxuriate in one of the city’s leafiest restaurant gardens. Sietsema $$


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 $$$


245 Park Avenue South, Gramercy, 475-9377

Dotted with paintings of tropical fruit, the pleasantly garish interior suggests South Americaóbut 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 oilóalthough 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 $$

42ND TO 59TH


136 West 46th Street, 354-5013

The persistence of this ancient and superb Cuban lunch counterÛa stone’s throw from Times SquareÛis 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 entrªes include the chocolate brown oxtails, mellow fricasseed chicken, and fried kingfish. And don’t miss the best octopus salad in town. Sietsema



1048 Fifth Avenue, 288-0665

Ensconced inside the diverting Neue Galerie, CafÈ Sabarsky is a Viennese cafÈ and konditerei, an offspring of the West Village’s WallsÈ 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 crËme fraÓche. The hungrier can move on to sandwiches, to entrÈes 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 $



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 $$



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 ¢


15 West 125th Street, Harlem, 876-6664

A sign warns that the blue-claw crabs are currently burrowing under the sand for the purposes of hibernation or reproduction, and thus you may find sand in their shells. I didn’t, but did uncover copious quantities of orange coral and lump crabmeat once I cracked the shells. Sold by the pound, shrimp done in a spicy red boil are also delicious, offered in their exoskeletons with cocktail and tartar sauces. The menu also lists lobster, king crab, scallops, and clams, in addition to coleslaw and the usual starchy accompaniments. Sietsema $



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 establishmentówhere 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 chipotleóstrips of beef in a brown sauce spiked with incendiary smoked chiles. 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 ¢


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 ¢


300 North 6th Street, Williamsburg, 718-384-5800

Williamsburg’s best bistro offers French-Caribbean cuisine with some exciting and unmodified Haitian elements thrown in. Succulent pork “ribletts”—delicious by themselves—come sided with a blistering Scotch bonnet sauce called ti-malice, and spice-massaged pork loin is regaled with a dark gravy spiked with Guinness. Compulsory at every bistro, steak frites has here been enlivened with an au poivre coating, and there’s also a whole grilled fish of the day for those who like their food more straightforward. Sit in the relaxing front room, or better yet, pick the rear room for its dramatic views of the BQE. Sietsema $$


Southeast corner 46th Street and Fifth Avenue, Sunset Park, no phone

Just south of the park called Sunset Park is a hopping new Mexican neighborhood, and at the corner mentioned above, two opposing sheds selling snacks have recently appeared. Bright red Rico’s is emblazoned with the come-on “Tamales Oaxaqueños,” offering a changing selection. Foremost is the chicken mole tamale, wrapped in a corn husk and rife with poultry and thick inky sauce, while chicken with rajas—roasted green-chile strips—is another triumph. Wash them down with arroz con leche, a sort of liquid rice pudding, or champurrado, a chocolate-flavored corn beverage. 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 $$



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 weathers fine, sit on the deck that overlooks the Jamaica Bay canal known as Shellbank Basin. Sietsema $


64-21 53rd Drive, Maspeth, 718-672-9696

Irish pizza may sound oxymoronic, or just plain moronic, but this Irish steak pub with an implanted OTB inside turns out some of the city’s best pizza. We’re not talking 900-degree, coal-fired pies like Lombardi’s, but pizza turned out in a conventional oven with a roster of exemplary optional ingredients by an artisanal pizza maker who knows how to coax maximum performance out of his equipment. You can watch the nags run and even blow a Hamilton or two as you down perfect slices. Finding this Maspeth institution—which I sought after seeing Mario Batali eating there in an OTB commercial—is half the fun. Sietsema $


22-40 31st Street, Astoria, 718-721-9422

The square Sicilian slice is absolutely scrumptiousóartfully 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 ¢



19 Corson Avenue, St. George, Staten Island, 718-442-8909

In a rundown and topographically spectacular section of St. George, this establishment looks like a grocery store until you penetrate into the interior and find a trim dining room and a large open kitchen, where a talented family of cooks toils ceaselessly over their expansive menu. Blintzes (called “creps”) are fresher than you’ve ever had them, and neither do the chunky soups disappoint, including a thick lima bean tomato with little islands of sausage and ham. Offered with three sides, beef stuffed with bacon and a well-browned chicken roll jammed with cheese and vegetables are two of the more interesting entrées. Sietsema ¢