November 5, 2007 | Favorites

What’s new that I really love?

 Mellisa Dennis books Sfoglia weeks ahead and explains the changing menu. Photo: Steven Richter
 Mellisa Dennis books Sfoglia weeks ahead and explains the changing menu.
Photo: Steven Richter

What’s new and good, all my friends ask? Of all the restaurants I’ve written about on since shortly before we launched, where do I want to eat again? Going backwards chronologically from November 5, 2007...

Bun.  In the exposed kitchen of this narrow bargain Vietnamese noodle shop, Chef and mini-mogul Michael “Bao” Huynh whirls and dashes…filling orders a la minute for sensational pho with beef and sweetbreads, and the duck confit with duck egg and dikon pancake that I can’t stop eating.  A few steps away his wife Thap Nguyen’s serenely fashions classic rolls, two by two, for a demanding crowd. 143 Grand Street between.Crosby and Lafayette. 212-431-7999.

Irving Mill. Unabashedly flaunting the genes of Gramercy Tavern, what’s new and exciting is chef/partner John Schaefer’s delicious food on a trim but tempting market menu.  Try grilled baby octopus, savory cockle-and-chorizo stew and arctic char on lentils with Savoy cabbage, speck and cippolini. 116 E. 16th Street between Union Square East and Irving Place 212 254 1600

Shorty’s .32.  After twelve years in Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s kitchens, chef/partner Josh Eden concealed in his own downtown, turns out wonderful cavatelli with arugula and wild mushroom ragout, fine braised short ribs served alongside macaroni and cheese of my childhood dreams, splendid roast cod in a gruyere broth, and a burger with crunch-perfect fries. He’s wooing the neighborhood, so no reservations for us. 199 Prince Street between Sullivan and MacDougal 212 375 8275.

TBar Steak & Lounge. Tony Fortuna’s recasting of the Lenox Room means a noisy scene at the bar and impressive steaks, a juicy pork chop and no more tasting tiers. He’s got it in his head that desserts should come in large crystal bowls and be big enough for eight to share. Go for chocolate sundae with molten brownie, and the layered banana parfait mille feuilles. 1278 Third Avenue between 73rd and 74th. 212 772 0404

Shelly’s La Tradizionale.  Nudged by the mercurial Shelly Fireman, this is now a Ristorante di Pesci with wonderful and original pastas, sparkling shellfish, the gorgeous lobster Catalana, and – you shouldn’t starve from lack of beef – first-rate steaks. 41 West 57th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. 212 245 2422

Primehouse NY. Steve Hanson’s sprawling and elegant new steakhouse sticks mostly to the classics, splendidly turned out, with tableside theatrics, a crowd that loves itself because it’s hot, and an aging room for all the cow sired by Hanson’s own pedigreed bull. 381 Park Avenue South at 27th Street. 212 824 2600

Park Avenue Autumn.  Fall may not be as exciting as summer in the Stillman clan’s seasonal evolution but Chef Craig Koketsu’s has found himself, and  Richard Leach  manages to show his dessert mastery without resorting to weirdness.  Try the wild quail and the venison, now before winter arrives and turns the place ice white. 100 E.63rd Street. (between Lex & Park Ave.) 212-644-1900

Toloache Bistro
. An earnest Mexican bistro yearns for the big time with Chef/partner Julian Medina’s menu skipping around Mexico and beyond. Savor huevo ranchero, brisket with tomatillo salsa stuffed into corn tortillas or baja style hamachi tacos. 251 W. 50th Street near Broadway 212 581 1818

Fiamma.  Chef/partner Fabio Trabocchi’s complex dishes and star chef confidence in the freshly gussied up space are impressive in a very early tasting.  I plan to go back.  206 Spring Street near Sixth Avenue. 212 853 0100. *Fiamma closed in January 2009.

Accademia di Vino.  I never got to taste entrées in two evenings here because I loved the grilled pizza, salads and pasta so much. Wish it had opened in my neighborhood. 1081 Third Av. at 64th St. 212 888-6333

BLT Market. I’ve been back twice on my own credit card for Laurent Tourondel’s lush and delicious play on seasonal food (though I wished autumn leaves had chased away the sunflowers earlier). I’m even getting used to the idea of the Ritz Carlton dining room looking like a suburban luncheonette. 1430 Sixth Avenue or 50 Central Park South 212 521 6125

Kefi. I will suffer the annoyance of no reservations, no plastic, crowded tables, and lines out the door for the rustic country classics of Greece from the town’s reigning Greek Hero, chef Michael Psilakis.  Here is the food that inspired his gentrified odes in midtown at Anthos (below): cuttlefish stuffed with spinach and beans, mussels with gigante beans, radicchio and feta, a mellow moussaka. 222 West 79th Street near Broadway  212 873 0200

 Yes, Yes Yes. That's a burger to savor at Old Homestead's sidewalk cafe. Photo: Steven Richter

Prime Burger Café.  I can
get a comforting hamburger fix steps from my home at Fairway Café and a really exceptional burger is as close at Brooklyn Diner.  But I confess, I’ve been obsessing about the giant peppered prime beef burger at Old Homestead’s outdoor café since I first tasted it. 56 Ninth Avenue at 14th Street 212 242 9040

Insieme. Craft veteran Chef Marco Canova reaches beyond the rustic boundaries of Hearth and doesn’t rely on bizarre juxtapositions to catch our attention with his Italian dishes, traditional and modern. Don’t miss sensuous baby beef tartare and the sea urchin risotto. 777 Seventh Avenue at 51st Street.  212 582 1310

Tree. A real find in the East Village for its gently priced comfort food classics by Gramercy Tavern veteran Andrew Robinson.  But once the chill closes the garden, it will be teeny again. 190 First Avenue near 12th Street. 212 358 7171

Daisy May’s BBQ.  The ready-to-go ribs are fine but Adam Perry Lang’s luscious couturier barbecued rack of lamb and the addictive fat-riddled short ribs smoked on the bone bring us to his ambiance-challenged back room as often as our arteries can stand it.  623 Eleventh Avenue, corner of 46th Street. 212 977 1500.

Wild Salmon.  I haven’t been back to this celebration of the Northern Pacific since a friends-and-family tasting with the boss man himself, Jeffrey Chodorow.  I might have been snowed by too much attention, but Chef Charles Ramseyer is a serious pro and I was impressed by his variations of salmon.  622 Third Avenue at 40h Street. 212 404 1700.

 Anthos blossoms under Chef Michael Psilakis's ardor.  Photo: Steven Richter

Anthos. This is the stage for Chef/partner Michael Psilakis’s obsessive dream - an homage to his mom’s rustic home cooking, everything Greek respun - lighter, more refined, sophisticated, and tantalizing.
I am especially grateful for the $25 lunch. 36 West 52nd Street near Fifth Avenue. 212 582 6900.

Sfoglia. Again and again I go back to Sfoglia.  Linguine with monkfish balls was a summer discovery.  Both the Road Food Warrior and I invariably have the exceptionally fat mussels with sausage in a fragrant broth. At dessert, we debate:  Shall we have the nightly fruit crostata or the chocolate bread pudding, warm from the oven? 1402 Lexington Avenue at 92nd Street. 212 831 1402

This summer I rediscovered Oceana with its new chef Ben Pollinger. I found Stanton Social noisier than ever but great fun -- and most everything so delicious -- for a birthday party.  Perry Street with its talented new chef de cuisine would be a serene place to hide out if they didn’t keep you waiting an hour.  What a shock it was to find marvelous raisin crumb coffee cake at Eli’s E.A.T. for just $5 a slice.


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