Paul's (Da Burger Joint), Aug. 26, 2005
Paul's131 2nd AveAfter another evening at Lunasa, a group of ten of Danna's coworkers and us headed over to Paul's to fill up the rest of our stomachs that wasn't consumed with beer.I ordered a bacon, cheddar, fried onion burger with onion rings on the side and I proceeded to finish the thing off with nary a problem while others sitting around me, not even opting for the deluxe (fries or o.rings, lettuce and tomato) could barely finish the burger. The burger really is that big. Due to the limited space availability, the guys sat at the counter and the girls sat together after being able to combine some loose, empty chairs/tables.Paul's burger is inexplicably good. I don't understand why. They don't season the meat, at least not that I can see. Big bags of meat, which I have to imagine is seasoned in the back (but there is no back to this hole in a wall), are opened and hand "molded" (I'm being generous) and smashed onto a steamy grill. They are then covered by tin cans that were clearly originally made to hold an ice cream sundae or something similar.And in no other place that I know of do the cooks wear Kurt Rambis style goggles to cook the burgers/shield themselves from jumping grease. Paul himself is behind the counter, mimicking his loyal patrons, making fun of them in other ways and in general acting like a bit of a smug jerk...but never in too malicious a way. I just don't understand why the burgers are so good. Perhaps there's a high fat content in the meat. That would make sense. In any event, this burger definitely ranks in my top 5 in NYC. It's the perfect burger for post-drinking, although Corner Bistro is a close second. The good thing about Paul's is that turnover is quick and he gets his burgers out to you very fast...unlike Corner Bistro which has lines at 11 at night that rival the Shake Shack's at 12pm on a Saturday afternoon.
Craftbar, Aug. 26, 2005
Craftbar900 Broadway (Between 19th and 20th Street)Three of my coworkers and I had the pleasure of being taken to lunch by our friend and contact at PR Newswire, Hoda, today. At Hoda's recommendation, we went to Craftbar, a place that, having been discussed ad nauseum by Andrea Strong, was on my ever-growing list of must-visits. So needless to say, I was excited.
First impression was "My how we've grown up". Though I never had the chance to eat at the previous incarnation of Craftbar, I'd walked by it many times. This new space is huge. Perhaps almost too big? I ordered the roasted and confit Barbarie duck with gooseberries and crepes. The duck breast was a small portion but packed with flavor and perfectly cooked. The confit was fantastic, expertly made and simply delicious, with just the perfect crispiness you expect from the fat. I liked the gooseberries...something I've only had in the jam form before, and the crepes were paper thin and folded into triangles and placed under the confit. Others ordered the pork, bass and skate, which looked especially good. We shared four desserts: a chocolate mint cone, banana tart tatin with hazelnut ice cream and candied macadamian nuts (hello!), carrot cake and a lemon poppy cake with blueberries. The carrot cake was excellent and the banana tart tatin was incredible. The others were pretty good but not too memorable. I thought the food was very solid, though I confess I would be concerned about portion size for dinner. I'm sure they offer larger portions for dinner, and for lunch it was just right (I wasn't so stuffed that I couldn't move - which is certainly never that much fun). Service was fine. The host/waiter guy did impress me with his timing. When one of my coworkers mentioned she was a bit cold, he quickly offered her the tea menu. Nice work. He was a little stiff but he got the job done. The one thing that bothered me the most is a really obvious demerit on an otherwise good restaurant. No less than three times did the N/R Train go rumbling underneath our table so loudly and close that it shook the utensils on our table. I won't go back, but it was worth going once. Just be prepared for a loud meal from underneath.
The Red Cat, Aug. 25, 2005
Three years ago, Danna and I got married. Simply stated, an excellent day. Fast forward three years and instead of dancing with relatives and family friends I haven't seen since and getting ready to hop on a plane to Moorea the following morning, we find ourselves at The Red Cat, looking forward to a nice meal to celebrate three successful and often times downright exciting years of marriage and getting ready to use the tickets I got Danna to La Boheme in the Spring. photo credit to CitysearchWe were pleasantly greeted at the host kiosk by three people. A hostess, the Maitre D' and the sommelier. I had mentioned in my Open Table reservation that we were excited to spend our anniversary with them...and were welcomed with a congratulations by the staff. We were also sat in what I think is probably one of the more favorable places in the house, the back right corner that allows you to see the restaurant, with the exception of the front room, in its entirety. A great spot and was thrilled to have it.The room itself is nice, but the pseudo-repurposed barn slats (they weren't, put painted and placed with enough space in between each to make it seem that way), kitschy artwork, beautiful Moroccan-style candle holder chandeliers and the hard, lipstick red vinyl benches didn't gel as much as I'd have expected. The biggest factor in this was the vinyl benches. If they were leather, darker in color...perhaps like wine, and beat up a little bit - I think this would have been a better fit - even if it strayed from the "Red" concept. Fortunately we weren't eating the decor. Instead, we got the following:AppsSauteed Potato Pierogies
w/mushrooms, lobster, wine and butter
Pancetta Wrapped Loin of Rabbit
w/favas, cipollinis, cherries, soft herbs and violet mustard
The pierogies were very nice, with the flavor of lobster and mushroom lasting for several moments after each bite. The pierogies were nicely crusted on one side like they do at Rickshaw Dumpling House and cooked perfectly.
The rabbit dish was fantastic. I've had rabbit only once before and I don't really remember it. This, however, was something I will remember. The pancetta adding the right amount of saltiness, the sweet cippolinis doing their job as well and the cherries, adding a great texture to an already fully developed dish. Highly recommended.
Grilled Brook Trout
w/sauteed spaetzle with mushrooms, peas and soft herbs
Cane Sugar Roasted Pork Tenderloin
w/asparagus, chanterelles, baby corn, and sweet pea puree
The trout, with its skin and tail still intact but resting on the plate, came covered in a mound of spaetzle, mushrooms and peas. Moving some of the covering to expose the flesh of the fish, you could see that it was grilled perfectly, still moist but with a nice crispy coating. The trout by itself would be fine, but each bite loaded with a mix of the covering was outstanding.
The pork tenderloin was much better than the version we had at Lupa, but we were both disappointed with the stir-fried style vegetables that accomaded the dish...especially when compared to the success of the trout dish. The vegetables were bland and actually took away from the dish instead of adding to or having no effect on the dish as a whole.
The pork was cooked well and the cane sugar coating was just right (read: not overpowering) but it just didn't wow us at all. I could have made this at home no problem, whereas I doubted my skills at recreating the trout, rabbit and pierogie dishes...which to me is why I enjoy eating out.
SidesLight Tempura of Green Beansw/sweet hot mustardRecommended by a fellow Chowhounder, I ordered the tempura of green beans which came out in a huge mound surrounding a steel ramekin of the mustard. They were delicious. Both sweet and salty, like a french fry from heaven, these were addictive. I'm not sure Danna was as impressed but I couldn't get enough of these. Without making a fool/glutton of myself I had to resist anymore. The mustard was excellent and a perfect accompaniment to the beans. In my dream village, the local bar serves this instead of peanuts
.DessertWarm Blueberry Clafoutiw/sauteed blueberries and vanilla ice creamBanana Cream Piew/caramel ice cream and banana frittersThe Banana Cream Pie and the description above and on the menu itself doesn't do justice to what you actually get. This is a banana lovers dream. The blueberry clafouti was also very good but I'm not sure if it held a match to the banana cream pie. Filling, fruity and never enough of it all on the plate. To have this as a breakfast item would be remarkable and would certainly keep you going all day long.
Viognier 2004, Kangarilla Road (Mclaren Vale)Lovely wine. I shall seek this one out for bottles at home. My friend James, the wine guy, was right. I had a glass of this with my rabbit. Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2001, Dei (Tuscany)
This was pretty good. A mild wine, no big flavors or anything and definitely better alone or, presumably, with cheese. It didn't go well with our dishes. However, it was a well-picked wine by the sommelier with what we told him we were looking for. We ordered a half bottle of this.
I like the service we received. Jennifer, I it said on the check, was very good at what she did and left out the "acting" you sometimes get from waitstaff. She was there to take your order, serve you food and accomodate you with options (like wine) if you happened to need them. And she did all of that perfectly well. She accomplished what I think is very important in a waitstaff...she was forgettable. Meaning that she did what she had to do so that you could enjoy your dinner without thinking of anything else.
The room was horribly loud. I don't know if it was the acoustics of the room or the people at the tables, but I could barely hear myself think. It really is unfortunate and makes me question Bruni's comment that this is a place for anyone and any occasion. Parents or grandparents who have trouble hearing will likely hate this place. Perhaps the front room is quieter but don't expect to have an intimate evening in the back. And lastly, a minor gripe for certain...the logo on the matches was very pedestrian. It looked like the work of a first year graphic arts student. Such a minor detail, but for a calling card...it should be a little better than that. But of course it won't deter me from going back.
Il Campanello, Aug. 23, 2005
Il Campanello136 W. 31st StreetAugust has been a month of catching up with old friends. And so the trend continues this week by having dinner with Kathy and Mike. Our first choice and local favorite, Penelope, was closed for vacation (for the week), so we went on one of Kathy's suggestions, Il Campanello, a place she walks by on occasion to the train station after work.So we head over there to see Kathy and Mike with a bit of a concerned look on their face. The place certainly had a uniqueness to it. Canvas-covered/backed seats made the place look a bit formal, and the wooden dance floor that most of the tables surrounded made for many a quizzical look. I'd seen this type of set up before at La Belle Epoch, where my friend Alex was a bartender. A dining hall in a dauntingly large space, this one with a loft area for additional seating, doubled as a tango training grounds. This could get interesting...The menu itself had a split personality, having both Argentinian and Italian offerings like skirt steak and short ribs and Crostino di Muzzarella and Pollo Toscano, respectively.In fact, I ordered both the Crostino di Muzzarella and Pollo Toscano. The fried mozzarella with mushroom sauce was quite good. One of the better versions I've had of this, but the portions were small. Two small triangles, whereas I've had three such triangles served to me in the past. I thought this was a pretty solid appetizer though. The Pollo Toscano, chicken breast tenderized to a remarkably thin piece of meat (could it be pounded any thinner? I think not) was served with sun dried tomatoes, peas and a cherry wine sauce (not sure exactly what that is). It was passable as far as taste is concerned. I guess it was one breast of chicken, but the portion was pounded so thin, that it's hard to tell. The dish was finished off with three chunks of potatoes which were surprisingly tasty for such a bland starch, and oven roasted "baby carrots" probably purchased as was in a bag, were pretty pathetic looking. Hardly an inspired dish, but it certainly was passable and, in a day and age where we tend to eat too much, this automatically limited my overeating.Our friends ordered the Chicken Parm with linguine and the Pasta alla vodka sauce. The pasta alla vodka sauce was, apparently, a hit. Mike's Chicken Parm seemed to lack what I like to call "substance". As a favorite dish of mine to both make at home and order out at traditional/Americanized Italian restaurants - this version didn't impress me.Danna had your basic raviolis with diced tomatoes and a thin sauce. These were pretty good, a bit salty, and certainly not house-made, but were fine. Also passable.This place makes its money off of a lunch crowd and the dance crowd as well as a wedding or corporate party here and there. So the food is probably always going to be okay, never pushing the boundaries of Italian, or I guess Argentian, cuisine.The conversation with old friends and entertainment value of the mixed bag of tango novices was the most satisfying parts of the meal. But for the area, a wasteland for dinner dining, it worked.
Barmarche, Aug. 21, 2005
Barmarche14 Spring StreetWe got to see our good friends Sue Anne and Doug this weekend for the first time in what felt like ages. Brunch seemed to be the natural setting for a catch-up.Doug's first pick, Bistro Margaux (or was it Margot or Margo?) was shuddered to both the dismay of Doug and myself. But with many other places in the nabe including Porcupine, Public and others that don't necessarily start with a P, we moved on. Doug's second choice was Barmarche, a very cute corner spot that looked excellent from the getgo. Danna was immediately drawn to the image in the far end of the room and in her best Veruca Salt impression, asked to have one immediately. I really found this to be a comfortable place - something I would be a proud owner of...at first.We got a table right away. The caution flag was drawn when both of the waitresses came by, one after another, to ask us for our drink orders. We ordered two watermelon lemonades and two ice coffees.The second waitress (who the first one was probably covering for) became our waitress. The caution flag was officially raised when SueAnne's coffee became a bit chunky after adding the cream to it. Yes, it was curdled, and something fierce. The liquified sugar, however, was a nice touch and the waitress, upon hearing of the problem, apologized and quickly made off for a fresh coffee and milk. She handled that part well.Eventually the waitress comes back to take our orders but before we get a chance, she announces that (at 12:30 on a Sunday) they are out of bacon.Um. Come again?Caution level has now risen to heights so high, we are unsure if it will ever recede.How in the hell is it possible to run out of bacon? I just don't understand. Try as I might, I can't. If you are low on bacon after Saturday brunch you probably should be able to tell that you will be running out by that evening and certainly by the following morning. Go to Whole Foods. They close at 10pm - so go late and buy a ton of bacon for the following morning.There is no reason I shouldn't be able to get bacon at ANY restaurant in this entire country on a Sunday morning. It's absurd.So right then and there my ability to add to my on-going search for the perfect Chicken Club sandwich was defeated.Doug ordered an omelet, Sue Anne had the Monterey Eggs, Danna had the French Toast with a provisional side of bacon. I ended up ordering my sandwich on the presumption that they would have gotten bacon by then. If they hadn't, I'd order something else. Sue Anne and I both ordered a side of the garlic herb fries (which are, as it turns out, the only remaing dish from the locale's previous incarnation, Cafe Leibowitz) - I asked for a side of their pesto mayo to go with it.So about 20 minutes later our waitress with the frizzy red hair asks us, "So how was everything?"The table fell silent. This, among other things, must be the reason the place wasn't hopping busy on a Sunday during brunch hours.We just looked at her and kind of said "I guess alright". She then headed to the kitchen to see what was up. Another couple of minutes passed and we were finally brought 4/6 of our food. Danna's French toast and my fries were delayed.
Eventually Danna's delicious looking french toast arrived with my fries sometime after that. The fries were very good, dipped in the pesto mayo made them even better. But my grilled chicken sandwich with avocado, lettuce, tomato and cheap ass bacon from the bodega around the corner was pretty bad. The sandwich was made, sans bacon, well before the bacon arrived. I could tell because the bread was hard as a rock (post-toasting), the lettuce was wilted and the avocado was losing firmness by the second. Doesn't even rank in my ongoing list of favorite chicken sandwiches. The fries, however, may make an appearance on a future list.
I only sampled a bit of Sue Anne's eggs, which were pretty good. Doug's omelet looked average, and as I mentioned before, Danna's french toast looked good, covered with strawberries.
I can forgive some of the mistakes, like the milk (it was hot out) and the way that situation was handled was relatively professionally. But the bacon...the bacon...is inexcusable. I've nearly written off the restaurant for that remarkably poor kitchen management. The day with great friends, thankfully, was not ruined. It was a pleasure to see these guys again and glad to see them doing well. Barmarche should be half as lucky. Its too bad too, because the place is really, really comfortable. Some new staff and perhaps better management will see me return to a restaurant that deserves it.
Living and Eating in Curry Hill
Kalustyan's123 Lexington Ave.The famous Kalustyan's is known for its never ending walls of spices, beans, imported items and the like. I love living a stone's throw from it and always take friends visiting from other countries as well as other sections of Manhattan to see it for themselves. It's also a place of many firsts. My first Kaffir Lime Leaves, my first golden almonds, my first red colour for tandoori chicken, my first garam masala and the list goes on.My home cooking has been completely altered by the offerings and inspirations that come out of that store.And on the second floor is a small sandwich shop. After hearing about it from a few 'hounds, I made my way up there to try the famed mujadarra sandwich, a blend of lentils, soft bits of onion and rice in a pita-like bread. Remarkably filling and satisfying, I highly recommend giving it a shot.
Curry Leaf99 Lexington AvenueMy family never went out for Chinese food when I was growing up. They would only order take out from Cathay (the name of the local place) and it would be the same thing every time: Spareribs, fried rice, wonton soup, chicken with snowpeas or chicken and cashews.I'm not sure if the dizzying gold-leaf images in the red wallpaper was to blame or if it was the possibility of a lack of communication between father/mother and waitress-with-accent that steered my parents away from dining out or if it was simply that Chinese food = watch TV while you eat food, but I did get to go once with our neighbors. And the feeling of eating in a place that is actually quite family-oriented and easy-going was new and wonderful but I confess it felt wierd without a TV on. Dining out used to mean we were going to the country club or a place in the city where you dressed up or to the Turnpike Tavern, a delightful divey pub in Waldwick down the street from our house that served the quintessential Amercanized chicken parmigian that I can still taste in my mind to this day. The tavern, sadly, has finally shut its doors for good but Cathay is still alive and kicking.What I'm getting at is that Curry Leaf is the Chinese Restaurant that I never go to sit down at but always order take out from. Just like Cathay was for my dad. And I always get the same thing. Chicken Makhani or Chicken Tikka Masala, Naan for me (there's a joke in there somewhere I'm sure) and Poori for Danna.It's not that the place isn't warm and inviting, but I think, like my dad, that this quality of food - the homestyle version of Indian (or Chinese), means eating it at home.Roomali97 Lexington Ave. (27th St.)A newcomer to the neighborhood, this place serves rolls of Indian cuisine. Similar to uncut rolls of sushi, these flat-grilled bread rolls are filled with a protein, lettuce, onions, egg, spices, lemon and tomatoes are a wonderful, modern and mobile way of eating Indian cuisine. Several of these types of places have popped up in the city, and a competitor has recently opened up shop on Lexington Ave. I've eaten pretty much everything on the limited menu: Chicken Tikka Roll, Bihari Kabob Roll (spicy chicken, not to be confused with...), Reshmi Kabob roll (spiced chicken), Seekh Kabob Roll (spiced lamb), Aloo Roll (grilled potato balls with mild sauce), Paneer Tikka Roll (homemade cheese) and Chana Pakora Roll (chickpea flour fritters) and have enjoyed pretty much all of them.The staff are dressed in whites and are an interesting group (usually 4 or 5 guys) to watch as they work in the tiny open kitchen with little room between them.
Adrienne's, Aug. 16, 2005
I'll just say this...it is as good as the people on Chowhound have been saying.
Ok, I'll say a little more about it.
I ordered a traditional slice, a sausage slice and a pepperoni slice...all in the name of research. All were excellent, my favorite being the sausage.
What's so great about these slices is that you can hold the slice at an 80 degree angle (I didn't attempt 90 degrees) and the topping will adhere to the cheese and the slice will still adhere to the crust even at a scorching temperature.
The cheese isn't stringy at all and easy to eat through despite having the ability to cling to the bread so well. I asked for middle/side slices so as not to get the two sided crust pieces (I hate them) and the guy slinging the pizzas gave me attitude.
After the third time he tried reheating two-side-crusted slices I told him I didn't want that. He looks at the older guy and says "This guy wants everything different". And then he put down his cutting tool and walked away.
Photo credit goes to Adam from Slice at www.sliceny.com - THE word on Pizza
The older guy with the salt and pepper goatee said to me "Forget about him. Most people have patience here. We'll take care of whatever you want". And he did. What a great businessman.
3 rectangular slices of varying toppings and a can of Coke for $7.33 or something like that. A great deal and very good quality.
BTW, this is the future of pizzerias. God willing. The place was beautiful...especially for a pizzeria. Hopefully we can say that long gone are the days of the red and white checkered plastic tablecloths and Italian Ice postered pizza joints with greasy sneeze guards.
Banc Cafe, Aug. 14, 2005
Banc Cafe431 3rd Ave.
I'd just gotten back from the shore and was starving. So before doing our Sunday errands, Danna decided to check out the banc cafe for a second visit.
Photo credit goes to Jimmy'sBest.com
The first time we went there we had the Chicken and mushroom Quesadilla and I think the Roast Turkey Club. Bothe were okay. Danna liked hers plenty and I found the dishes to be passable at best.
This time around I ordered the Classic Caesar with grilled chicken and Danna ordered the Grilled Chicken Breast (w/roasted pear, french beans, artichokes, dried cranberries and walnut cranberry vinaigrette.
Both were a reasonable $12, but Danna's dish was clearly bigger and better, especially for the price. She loved it. It was, by all accounts, the perfect dish for her. She loves every ingrediant (minus anything having to do with walnuts) in this dish and found her soulmate of a dish. I liked my Caesar salad - it had the much needed anchovy flavoring that one might think would be missing from a Caesar at this place. Otherwise, I found everything to be simply average. Absolutely no risks will be taken by the chefs at this restaurant, which can be a good thing...especially when you are looking for "simple".
I really don't like the decor. It actually bothers me. Is it cheap? Not really but kind of. Is it cheesey? Kind of but not really. I can't put my finger on it, but its just not a place I would want to spend time in for long periods of time (or regularly).
But for guys on the prowl, this place is FILLED with 20-30 something professional women. Filled. All of the time. Every time I walk by there its is just overflowing with the ladies. I think women of this age bracket find themselves quite comfortable at this place and others in the area like Dip, Penelope, bagelry and the like and probably for good reason. The food is reliable, not fussy, wine lists are simple and drinkable. Guys take note. If you plan on dating a girl in this neighborhood, be ready to go to these places...or better yet, suggesting them.
Chez le Chef, Aug. 12, 2005
I'd been here once before, I guess pre-Big Apple Dining Guide, with my father. Mom was at NYU Medical on 1st Ave after a successful liver transplant, so Dad and I, during the waiting process the following morning had breakfast, or brunch or whatever, at Chez Le Chef. I ordered his "world famous" French Toast and Dad ordered the Farmer's Omelette. The French Toast resembled nothing that we here in the states know to be French Toast. No maple syrup and powdered sugar, this was a much more dry version of the dish. Although, in some weird way it wasn't terrible. Just odd. Dad didn't like his omelete, probably because you could barely see it. It was chock full of sausage, herbs, potatoes and the like, to the point at which it was bursting out at the seams. I loved this dish and would definitely order it again...especially during a snowy winter morning. Oh yes, I think, as I sit here in the heat of the summer, I shall certainly do that this winter.Most recently, I went back for a quick bite before heading on down to the Shore for the weekend to visit friends and get some surfing in (which, because of a nasty south wind, never happened). This time I ordered a turkey and brie sandwich and an iced tea. Simple enough.What arrived was much more than I had anticipated. The homemade (and I think I can say "home" cause I think he lives in the building) baguette was incredible - just like you'd get from someone's home, not a patisserie, but a home in France. The turkey was above average, the brie was brie, but the excessive-but-not-really use of herbs and cucumbers and tomatoes that could very well have been grown out back were really terrific. It was also drizzled with a little oil that kind of brought all of the flavors together.Even the iced tea was very flavorful...but it should at the cost, $3.50, which was more than half of the cost of my sandwich.In any event, if you are in Curry Hill and just want a sandwich and not Indian, give the curly mustached, mousey-like chef a shot. He is quite creepy, no doubt, the place looks like Liberace's Evil Twin's Bed and Breakfast and the busboys look remarkably nervous, but the food is pretty good, if not unique.Apparently his cakes and other assorted desserts are excellent and have been written up quite a bit, but I can't attest to it.
Photo credit to www.newyork-cafe.com/
English is Italian, Aug. 11, 2005
I haven't been to 622 Third Avenue since the occupant was Tuscan Steak but I can safely say that this meal was slightly more memorable than the last time simply because of the concept behind it.
For those unitiated, the deal is this. You get all of the appetizers they have for the day, in this case 5 offerings. They are served "family style", or rather on individual dishes but enough servings for the number of people in your party.
My "great" father (he asked me to note in my review that he is great, which is a step below his usual request of "great and wonderful") and I started with their Pinot Grigio by the glass, which was fine but pretty lackluster.
Today's appetizers included:
* Rice ball with a bechemel sauce
This was very good. Maybe my favorite of the apps.
* Bruschettas: Fava bean with Parmesan; Eggplant caponita; white bean paste.
You get one of each/per person. The eggplant was dull and boring. The fava bean with parmesan was pretty good but chintzy and the white bean paste was salty but quite good.
* Grilled "baby" asparagusThis also had walnuts, egg and I think Pecorino on it. I thought the asparagus were cooked very well but the egg/walnut combo was a bit dry, as you can imagine. The dish was passable but nothing extraordinary.
* Seasonal grilled vegetable dome???
I have no idea what this was really but it was basically like a caponita that you get at I Trulli or Otto, shaped like (a tall version of) carpacio but consisting of squash, zucchini, tomato, eggplant and other vegetables. This was okay.
* And for some reason, I simply can't remember what the last one was..but I don't recall it being a salumi as I was led to believe it would be (see Frank Bruni review).
Our entrees were Clams and Tagliatelle (dad) and Roast Chicken with walnut pesto and beet salad (me).
Dad said the clams and pasta were good and later noted that he was happy with his decision for picking the restaurant.
The Chicken was very moist and had a strangely crispy skin but lacked the true golden color you'd associate with the texture, the walnut pesto only showing its true colors (flavor) toward the end and the (gold and red) beet salad was very good and surprsingly (maybe refreshingly) sans goat cheese as one is accustomed to seeing lately.
Overall the meal was pretty good and of good value. Would I return there? Not unless I was invited or in the area. Would I recommend it to someone? Sure, why not. That's a pretty dead area and this is a decent offering, especially with price in mind.
Bruni was correct in mentioning the oddball music playing in the backround wasn't a match with the rest of the place and that the experience was simply satisfactory (nothing exceptional) but we differ with service. Our waiter, though a bit less polished than he could be, was polite, relatively helpful with menu questions and paced us appropriately through our meal. The rest of the staff also seemed pretty nice and unobtrusive but hardly Danny Meyerish.
Total for two, before tip and including tax and three glasses of wine came to $92.