December 16, 2013 | Ask Gael

Feeding the Folks:  Where to Go


 Crispy, sweet and peppery Manchurian cauliflower at Tulsi.
Crispy, sweet and peppery Manchurian cauliflower at Tulsi


He’s kosher. She’s vegetarian.


          Ask for a table veiled with white curtains at Tulsi and explore the vegetarian menu of Hemant Mathur who made his name with Suvir Saran at Devi. Chickpea cake with tart tomato chutney and tangy pineapple relish. Sweet, torrid, garlicky Manchurian cauliflower. Crispy okra salad with onion and pepper heat and fresh eggplant chutney. The dal is just an inexpensive side, but a wreathe of flavors. Its cosmic stew is intoxicating. 211 East 46th Street between Second and Third Avenues. 212 888 0820




She only has time for a late drink after her business meeting. Suggest a hot place.


Even when the bar at NoMad is throbbing, the library can be a serene escape for a drink.


          Grab a couple of seats in the exquisitely-lit library at NoMad, designed by the biblio-curator Thatcher Wine, an oasis just off the noisy bar scene. Order a cocktail, linger over a sandwich from the snack menu, stay for dessert. 1170 Broadway between 27th and 28th Streets. 212 796 1500




I haven’t seen my old boyfriend in 40 years. Where should we have lunch?


I succumb to the magic of Jean Georges especially when he does eggs on egg.


          Since 70 is the new 50, you’re looking pretty good, savvy New York woman that you are -- that forehead, those cheekbones, the teeth.  Still, it doesn’t hurt to take advantage of the cosmetic light in a side-by-side booth at Jean Georges in the back room.


It’s just salmon but the perfection of cooking and the tapestry of flavors evokes a swoon.


          The kitchen almost guarantees you one or two out-of-body moments when dazzling juxtapositions of flavors and textures curl your toes. Pea soup as a revelation. Scallops quivering. Caviar on molten egg yolk. Sharing such sensory highs could leave the two of you hopelessly in love all over again. You just happen to be steps from the hotel’s front desk. 1 Central Park West between  60th and 61st Streets. 212 299 3900




My cousins from Michigan meet every year for ten days of theater. They can only give me an hour or so for dinner before the curtain.


Blue Fin’s stairway sweep leads to spicy tuna rolls and warm chocolate chip cookies.


          I like Blue Fin upstairs for a light supper before theater. I never tire of that sweeping stairway with birds flying overhead. The floor crew there tend to exhibit a patient friendliness I think of as  textbook BRGuest. (They’re our advertiser). If I want to feel light and merely stem the hunger rumbles, I might just have a spicy tuna roll and an eel roll, maybe followed by crab cake. I sometimes order Scottish salmon with asparagus risotto if it’s a musical and I’m not worried about dozing off. If your cousins are feeling pressed, order chocolate chip cookies, just out of the oven in a bag-to-go. With extra napkins. To be eaten while queued outside the theater. 1567 Broadway at 47th Street. 212 918 1400.




My nephew and his wife are treating their three kids to Christmas in New York.


What shall we have for dessert? This is Brooklyn Diner’s iconic blackout cake.



          Shrill little voices and fussy-eater demands are a cinch to handle at Brooklyn Diner. Also a favorite of grownup-children (and an advertiser). There’s a small kid’s menu if young Huck and Tom won’t eat any macaroni but Mom’s.


          I notice juniors can go gaga if you order the 15-inch super hot dog, but they’ll happily share. I almost always order the Chinese chicken salad, which isn’t very Chinese. It’s Brooklyn. And easily enough to feed two, or perfect the next day at home for breakfast. Children can be dispatched to the front of the place to check out giant desserts on display. Or share the hot fudge sundae.  212 West 57th Street between Broadway and Seventh Avenue 212 977 1957


Brooklyn Diner’s 15-inch spicy special hot dog is perfect for sharing.




I want to treat my secret lover to a holiday lunch somewhere that feels innocent.


          Illicit lovers in our intense multitasking lifestyle rarely have time for anything more than sex. In the 70’s before computers, we could always sneak away for a few hours.  So be grateful if he can find an hour for a late lunch at the counter of the Oyster Bar in Grand Central. It will be doubly erotic. Oysters allegedly being aphrodisiacal – plus the steamy fork play possible at a stolen lunch. You might feel a little guilty stealing him from his wife, but you’ve got to feel triumphant to steal him from work.


          Have one of each oyster for each of you…slurp in unison so you can compare preferences. Then share a clam pan roast. Watch as the chef throws it together in the grand old soup pots. It is quite unlikely you will run into anyone you know, but if you do, introduce him as your tech guy, or turn and chat up the woman on your other side, or just look prim and solo. 87 East 42nd Street in the concourse at Grand Central Station. 212 490 6650




We hung out in the Village in our early newspaper days. But he married an heiress from Toledo and moved there to work for her father.


Keith McNally seats the back room at Minetta tavern. You want to be on that list.


          Make him feel young and free again. If you don’t know anyone at Minetta Tavern, ask for Mr. Rossman and explain why you must have a table. Obviously Keith McNally cleaned up this old bar, but he did it with a passion for Village history. It looks untouched. His chefs from Balthazar trade off in the kitchen. It doesn’t matter what your old pal chooses. Oysters with truffled pork sausage. Roasted bone marrow.  I trade off between the chicken and the excellent everyday Minetta burger with cheddar (rather than the $26 Black label patty). You can come home again. 113 MacDougal Street between Bleecker and West 3rd Streets. 212 475 3850




They’re so uptown but they've asked for a downtown vibe.


Calliope’s chef Eric Korsh turns out a very elegant tete de porc.


          The couple who run Calliope in the East Village have serious European country food aspirations. But there it is, behind a wall of glass, shadowy with lots of candles, close enough to The Bowery for a casual downtown feel.  You might want to try the elegant cured pig’s head – and they can feel safe enough with the chicken and a vegetable gratin. 84 East 4th Street on the SW corner of Second Avenue. 212 260 8484




My parents live in Hong Kong and are terribly fussy. Where dare I take them?


Love the funky look. Love the ribs with fixings at Dinosaur Bar-B-Q.


          They’ll love Robataya in the Village because it’s cheaper than the Robataya back home. If they need to meet Chinese friends in the city, The Oriental Garden in Chinatown is very Chinese, very familiar. 231 East 9th Street. 212 979 9674;14 Elizabeth Street between Bayard and Canal Streets. 212 619 0085


          As for non-Asian food, how about American barbeque? The ribs at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que in Harlem were marvelous last time I went. They might enjoy the classic sides and the honky tonk too. Or try Fette Sau in Brooklyn. Afterward stop by for a fresh donut at Dough. Persuade your folks it’s not just another greasy doughnut. It has to be eaten at once. So no point taking extras home. 700 West 125th Street, near Twelfth Avenue. 212 694 1777; 354 Metropolitan Avenue between Havemeyer and Roebling Streets in Williamsburg; Dough is at 305 Franklin Avenue between Bedford and Nostrand Avenues, Brooklyn.




I need to escape that horrible restaurant noise when I gather with colleagues for lunch meetings.


Ai Fiori is that rare Manhattan restaurant that offers the quiet with first-rate cooking too.


          Some kingpins determined to do business at lunch, without really seeming to, might find chef Michael White’s Ai Fiori too sedate with its widely spaced tables and sound-baffling herringbone tablecloths. It’s a hotel dining room after all, and it’s perfect for you. No need ever to raise your voice.


          The food has White’s usual exuberance: I loved his “mare e monte,” sea and mountain, slices of raw sea scallop alternating with celery root in a marrow bone. If fluke crudo or homemade trofie pasta with cuttlefish and scallops are too avant-garde for your associates, there are always recognizable parts of lamb or veal. And a fancy burger layered with bacon and tomato. 400 Fifth Avenue between 36th and 37th Street. 212 613 8660 




Where shall we take our gay friends from Texas who think New York is a Disneyland of fabulous hangouts for flirting with arm candy?


KTCHN’s ambitious seafood tasting with two small lobster rolls pleased the three of us.


          Friends tell me Elmo with its dated swank, noisy downstairs lounge and American comfort food gets a cool and friendly crowd. Or try the bar at KTCHN in the Out Hotel which bills itself as the “first straight friendly gay urban resort.” The food is mostly good enough, though a little too expensive for the bare table cafeteria look up front.


          The chilled seafood tasting for two with two small lobster rolls was perfect for our three.  My friend Diane liked her peppery, paprika-rimmed cocktail and dubbed it “Hot Lips.” The fries came with paprika too, alongside a very good burger. “We give sexy fries,” our waiter agreed. Actually he was a hoot, sweet, chatty, almost a caricature of a boy pretending to be Marilyn, although I didn’t think it was an act. The chocolate passion fruit bombe came with pretzel crisp. 156 7th Avenue between 19th and 20th Streets. 212 337 800.




Where would you take an ethnic food junkie?


The malls of Flushing hold many adventures for the ethnic food junkie.


          Ever-adventurous Zarela Martinez and her friend Rich Sander -- he bills himself online as the EthnicFoodJunkie – took us for fabulous hand-pulled noodles with lamb and cumin at Xi’an Famous Foods in the Golden Mall at 41-28 Main Street in Flushing. Zarela bought the lamb burger so we could taste it too. We lingered at a table there sampling Bubble Tea from Ten Ren (13518 Roosevelt Avenue, Flushing, Queens) and pastries he picked up at Iris Tea & Bakery (3907 Prince Street, Flushing, Queens).  Afterward we strolled along to the Flushing Mall (133-31 39th Avenue) to taste “minced beef sandwich cake” from a stall called Diverse Dim Sum and then speed walked inside to see what we’d have to taste next time.


          Sander takes ethnic food fan pals to Zabb Elee  (75 Second Avenue between 4th and 5th Streets 212 505 9533) for Northern Thai cooking, “different from the usual.”  And to Sigiri (91 First Avenue near East Sixth Street 212 614 9333) for “very good, very spicy” Sri Lankan cooking. If you ask, they’ll tone it down.




Photographs may not be used without permission from Gael Greene. Copyright 2012. All  rights reserved

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