It was a Saturday afternoon and I was settling into my usual routine of avoiding the masses of people that take over the city every weekend. I could get some work done. Or drink half a bottle of wine and watch Saturday Night Live. One never knows. Then Gabi, Time Out New York‘s Eat Out editor, called. Back when I was working at Travel + Leisure, we had met at Le Cirque during some kind of promotional dinner that you jump at when you’re young and broke, the so-called “perks of the job” that we rationalized as compensation for our meager salaries. We had kept in touch and been playing phone tag during my stay. She wanted to go to Brooklyn. In 20 minutes. I ran a comb through my hair and happily accepted.
This will be short and sweet: Run, don’t walk, to Great Jones Café for their Cajun wings with homemade hot sauce. Every time I introduce a person to these wings, they have to shelve any skepticism and simply admit how surprisingly good they are. First, unlike other wings, they’re not greasy–probably because the skin is so perfectly fried–but you can’t clean that bone fast enough (though I hate to admit my good friend and rib connoisseur, Alejandro, could probably take me).
I was surprised, to say the least. Certainly the location of Seäsonal–a whitewashed pocket on a grimy Midtown side street–betrayed the sophisticated and nuanced food that lay within, and was… Austrian, no less! Apologies to the Austrians, but I’m used to spätzle (egg pasta) that sits like a rock in the gut, and wiener schnitzel (breaded and fried veal) that, sure, gets the job done, but isn’t going to be on anyone’s “last meal” short list. Nonetheless, both were ordered here and both were exceptional. But first, let’s talk appetizers!
Finally, a restaurant in the headlines delivers on its promise. Restaurateur Danny Meyer’s (Gramercy Tavern, Union Square Café, Eleven Madison Park) latest venture is a Roman-style trattoria emphasizing pork (maialino means “little pig”). Off of affluent Gramercy Park, the lunch clientele on the day we visited was dominated
by older guys with corporate cards and substantial waistlines, but a smattering of more subdued types mixed in with them, including John Lithgow trying to look invisible in the corner with his book. Like dutiful New Yorkers, everyone pretended not to see him.
I’m afraid, like Minetta Tavern, Locanda Verde is also guilty of hype over hope. Maybe the marked improvement over Robert DeNiro’s former restaurant in the same space, Ago–an all-around disaster–is putting stars, literally, in people’s eyes. Yet chef Andrew Carmellini, who won a Michelin star in 2009 for his food at A Voce, continues to receive awards and recognition for his latest venture. Or maybe we just ordered the wrong things? A Time Out New York food editor recently told me it’s all about the desserts. Well, I tend to like what precedes them, too, especially if there are awards involved.
After hearing raves about the $42 Bone-In New York Strip and the (sorry, not going to pay it) $104 Dry Aged Côte de Boeuf with roasted marrow bones, and after finally wrangling a reservation at the über-trendy Keith McNally joint (at 5:30pm on a Sunday, mind you), I am left disappointed. I’m starting to think that hype is just hype, and magazine editors simply need something new to talk about on Twitter.
I finally made it to Thomas Keller’s Per Se, the coveted NYC sister restaurant of The French Laundry in Yountville (Napa), California. I had heard from many French Laundry frequenters that it was best to have the 5-course lunch rather than the 9-course dinner, which could take up to 5 hours to finish (one even reported a break midway through to walk around the garden in Yountville). Plus, the pricing (wince) is somewhat more easy to rationalize…