Rossini's, Sept. 29, 2005

205 East 38th St. (bet. 3rd Ave. and Lexington)

The only restaurant on this residential block, one block in any direction away from lower mid-town law-firms and the like, looks from the outside like your run of the mill tavern.

The disguise continues as you make your way into the bar and receiving room where a large man in a dark green and remarkably outdated "captain's" suit sits behind a faux wood-finished bar with your typical alcoholic offerings. Not all is outdated however, as a bottle of the 10 Cane rum that is prevalent in liquor stores and bars of choice in the city (as of press time) was sitting casually next to Tanquery and Grey Goose.

I waited around for a few minutes for my father (I'm rarely ever there before him) until he showed up, as usual, one minute before his scheduled appointment with me. He hadn't been here in a long time, I gathered, as he asked me if we'd ever been there. In fact we had, about three years ago, and I swear we got the same table as the last time.

Getting to that table, you walk down a narrow hallway which opens up to a well-lit, empty with the exception of 2 tables, at 12:30pm, room with a about a dozen tables. To the left and down a few stairs, another, larger banquet room is also empty. By 12:45 the entire restaurant is packed with loud, networking executives, lawyers and other suits of various professional backgrounds. It's a boy's club, with only two or three women in attendance.

The menu is northern Italian, the accents on the waitstaff are genuine and understandable, the scene is hustle and bustle (or eat or be eaten), the service is sharp and on point, the decor is dank Elk's Club in the front, 20's Mob hangout in the back and the food is hearty and masculine.

We both started with Caesar salads, which in turn started a conversation by my father about the lack of restaurants (are there any anymore?) that make Caesar salads tableside. He enjoys the service and knowledge that the dressing isn't some jarred goop, no matter whether he tastes the anchovy or not. For $10, the salad was okay at best and I think that for that amount of money, I too would prefer it made tableside as well. If anyone knows of a place where they make Caesar salads tableside, please let me know.

Dad ordered the Osso Buco special that was big and beefy, and reduced to just its bone after dad got through with it. I ordered a special "envelope" pasta with lamb and veal and brown sauce. The envelopes were, as advertised, freshly made and melted in your mouth. Very, very good. I have avoided veal for years based on the ethical treatment of the animals and the taste. I never really liked the taste. I think I still don't like the taste and I do still have ethical issues with the raising of veal, but I needed to expand my horizons a bit. The brown sauce, no doubt made with veal stock, was very good, but the clear winner in all of this was the pasta. Very, very good.

We ordered a few glasses of the house chianti (3 total) and the tab came to just over $100 after tax. Somewhat pricey and certainly not something I would shell out on my own for lunch. But its a classic venue, in the same vein perhaps as Le Petit Auberge, and deserves some respect.

For businessmen (and women) in the area, its worth a business lunch visit, though I'm sure it is already well-known considering the old-fashioned (tired?) decor still brings a solid lunch crowd.


Coffee Shop, Sept. 24, 2005

Coffee Shop
29 Union Square West (16th Street)

Simply put, what everyone says about this place is pretty accurate. The waitresses are really good looking models making some money between photo shoots but the food and service is lacking.

Our service issues were minor and not enough to discuss in this corner of cyberspace and the food wasn't at all awful, but just not good enough to warrant a return visit or even a recommendation.

Danna ordered the Irish Oatmeal (it was a crave thing) and a side of bacon. I ordered blindly, the eggs Ipanema, not having any idea what they were. I figured I'd roll the dice. What I did want was another Brazilian breakfast stew of some kind, but for the price, I wasn't sure it'd be worth the risk. I went on to to see what the name of it was, but to my surprise and frustration it doesn't list any of the breakfast items.

In any event, Eggs Ipanema is not as rare a dish as I was led to believe. A google search lists it on restaurants all over the place. One definition is such:
“Eggs Ipanema” (poached eggs on English muffins with tomato, crab cakes and spicy tomato sauce). Now my dish didn't have any crab cakes near it, but everything else is spot on. It's basically a spicier version of Eggs Benedict.

One thing I will say...their home fries were quite tasty. They were crisp and not chalky, well seasoned and overall a better version of your typical diner variety.

Would I go back...probably not on purpose though I'd still like to try that dish I can't recall the name of. Worth going once, sure, why not.

Anh, Sept. 22, 2005

363 3rd Ave. (bet. 26th and 27th)

Another neighborhood joint, this satisfies our immediate Vietnamese cravings. We don't stray from what we've come accustomed to on the menu for two reason. The first is that the service at this place is pretty much always awful though we don't ever expect much and nor should anyone that goes here. Secondly, we've been happy with what we usually get and often when we stray from what we are used to, the results aren't always for the better. And to add to that...we sometimes get bad versions of the dishes we do know. So as you can tell, consistency is often an issue at Ahn.

What we do order is usually the following:

Cha Glo (Crispy Spring Rolls)
Suon Chien (
Pan Seared Tender Pork Marinated w/ Lemongrass, Scallion, Sesame Seeds, served w/ Vinaigrette Cucumber, Mango & Lime Dipping Sauce minus the peanuts)

Ca Cuon (Soft rice paper roll with ahi tuna with rice vermicelli)
Bo La Me (Grilled beef wrapped in camphor sesame leaves served with lettuce and fresh herbs and muoc cham)
Bo Lui (Grilled beef brochette with peanuts and onions over angel hair rice noodles)
Ga Nuong
(Oven roasted lemongrass chicken with scallion lime dipping sauce)

On this particular evening, we had dinner with Donald, aka Dawg, who also joined us at Deborah. What he had, that we happened to try as well, were all pretty good. He had:

Tom Cuon (Grilled Jumbo Shrimp Wrapped in Soft Rice Paper w/ Vermicelli, Fresh Herbs)
Ca Chien Don (Crispy Red Snapper w/ Spicy Chili Lime Sauce)

Everything was fine with two exceptions. Danna, who always asks to have the peanuts removed from her pork dish (for texture issues, not allergies), never ever gets her request taken seriously. So everytime, I mean EVERY time, they have to make it over. If you have a peanut allergy, well, you shouldn't eat Vietnamese to begin with, but do NOT eat here.

Also, be wary of their tuna. On this recent visit, I had a completely awful version of Ca Cuon. It was unedible and I mean, unedible.

Don't expect to be blown away, but if you live in the area and need a Vietnamese fix for a fair cost, it will suffice.


Penelope, Sept. 20, 2005 (and recap of multiple visits)

159 Lexington Ave. (at 30th Street)

We love this place for what it isn't. It's not "city-like", it's not trendy, it's not pretentious and it's never hard to get a table or a spot at the bar (except during Brunch).

We also love this place for what it is. It's a cozy place, it offers a menu that has both healthful/healthy items and guilty pleasures, it's a pleasant group of coworkers, it attracts a nice group of people and it's close to our home.

We also love the fact that they've added the option of delivery, that their recent, end-of-summer renovation wasn't a radical change from what we've gotten used to, and that both family members and friends are envious that we have a place like Penelope in our neighborhood.

But what I love the most is their Grilled Chicken Club sandwich. I can't recall a better one in my life. Their other stuff is really good too, most notably their Warm Brie and Green Apple sandwich, Grilled Chicken with artichokes sandwich, the Mac and Cheese, the Warm Artichoke and Spinach dip, their omelettes and finally their cupcakes and black and white rice krispy treats.

We've eaten just about everything on the menu and continue to go back on a regular basis.


Blockheads (multiple visits)

multiple locations
we order from the Murray Hill branch
499 3rd Ave (bet. 33rd and 34th)

Finding a truly excellent burrito, and Mexican food in general, in Manhattan is surprisingly difficult. I still can't figure out why that's the case. Sure, Mexican Radio is pretty good and offers a ton of different hot sauces that range from tasty and mild to bitter and mind-numbingly strong. La Esquina is providing the oft-missing fish taco, has, from secondary sources, not surprisingly achieved SoCal fish taco status. So what is one to do when that take-out burrito craving comes-a-calling? Unlike another chain of burrito shops that start with a B, blockheads makes an edible and quite tasty effort with its shredded beef burrito. It comes with black beans and rice in a red tortilla with a mild salsa and sour cream. I substitute the tortilla for a whole wheat one, and add a side of guacamole. Danna replaces the sour cream with tofu sour cream, who's taste, she swears, is great, but the color is reminiscent of sour, sour cream. It's a big burrito in both flavor and size and quells the bi-monthly burrito grumblings of my stomach.

What's better still is their service. My bank, who's debit card I use hadrecently gotten in the habit of adding an assumed gratuity to my order (I give the delivery guys cash) whether I gave one or not. This was displayed for days on my online billing statement. Thinking that I was getting cheated by Blockheads, I called them up, spoke to a manager and let them know that there was $5 (some gratuity for two burritos!) added to my bill. The manager apologized, saying that this has happened before and that to make up for any problems, I would be given not $5, but a $7 credit to be used anytime. WOW! What great service. Something that has encouraged me to not only patronize them (somewhat more regularly) but to spread the word of their good faith, customer service and relatively good burritos.

As it turned out, my bank was in error (a habit I believe they fixed once I spoke to a manager, explained that the conversation was being taped and that I was a reporter).

photo credits to jonahviakeyboard on flickr


Park Bistro, Sept. 15, 2005

Park Bistro

I've neglected to write about this particular night at Park Bistro simply because had I written it with all of the details, I would sound like a shill or an inside person to what Park Bistro has to offer.

Now, a few weeks later, my descriptions will be a bit softer, by design, so as not to make disbelievers of you.

I sat at my usual spot at the bar and Marouf, kind as he is, encourages me to sit at a two-top this evening among the rest of the guests though after having had a large wine and cheese course at the Institute of Culinary Education moment before, I was simply looking for a quick bite before going home to bed.

No such luck this evening. I order the braised rabbit special, per Marouf's encouragement but instead I get a frisee salad, which though standard was still very good - the greens crisp and the dressing nicely acidic. Then comes out the requisite mussels...a smaller portion but delicious. Totally unsolicited and remarkably tasty.

The braised rabbit, resting in a jus of rabbit comes to the table in infinite glory. Truly remarkable. The flavor of the rabbit is brought out well with help from the rabbit jus and in no way does this taste like chicken (a common complaint of rabbit by many people) nor is it too gamey to be enjoyable. Perfectly cooked with buttery flavor. I could eat this dish regularly and actually recommend this over the appetizer version at The Red Cat, of which I enjoyed wholeheartedly. Different preparations, both great, but this one wins out. I'll be trying the rabbit at Wallse soon, so it will be interesting to see how the three compare.

A mango sorbet is given to me soon after, complimentary of dear Marouf and it is fabulous, but too much. I had just eaten so much food (cheese no less) prior to coming and I just couldn't go on. A few bites and that was all I could take. The only time I've left food on a plate/bowl at Park Bistro.

Service is addictive. You want more of it so you keep going back. No one should treat you as well as they do at Park Bistro. Look out Danny Meyer, you've got some competition.