Archive for the ‘Yorkville’ Category

York Grill: Lo bueno, lo malo y lo feo

December 20, 2006

Lo bueno:

1) Warmth of service at the door: Maitre d’  projects relaxation and comfort.  He’s happy to see you, but not desperately so, even if, or especially if, you’re  not a regular.

2) Bar space up front: Bar stools and lounge seating are comfortable and sophisticated touches, especially in the gastro-desert around Asphalt Green. 

3) Abbreviated wine list: This is not Veritas, nor does it purport to be.  Ten reds and ten whites allow for a quick and easy selection, just what you want at a neighborhood non-destination dinner.  Of course, one would think the list  would be updated often enough that they wouldn’t be out of the Malbec on the menu. 

4) Easy reservation, full house:  No problem calling for  a table at the last minute, but feels full when you get there.  You’ll sense that you made a good choice.

5) Comforting cuisine: Easy, recognizable dishes generally well prepared. Menu leans towards chops and well sourced poultry.  Good hearty sides are perfect for a restaurant that lives and thrives on regular local business. 

Lo malo y lo feo:

1) Wine service: Bottles opened at room temperature, literally.  Reds are straight off the bar rack and could easily stand to drop 15 degrees.

2) Wine markup: Far better restaurants across Manhattan offer less expensive options and a lower markup.  If you’re going to serve Smoking Loon, Yellowtail with a different bird, then at least don’t mark it up 3 times, and serve it warm.  And if you don’t have my selection, please offer a better wine at the same price.  Better yet, reprint your wine list.  It can’t cost that much to keep it up to date. 

3) Unabbreviated specials list: Offering the same number of specials as regular menu items renders the term “special” meaningless and suggests an inability to make hard choices.  This is not a Tasting Room or Cookshop style market driven menu, so please edit the menu down.    

4) Waiter logorrhea: The servers spend way too much unprompted time explaining dishes.  Elio’s does a similar soliloquy, but at least the heavy accents make for a vague form of cultural tourism.  Here it’s a time warp to mid-50’s Continental restaurants.  And please don’t pronounce four out of five dishes your favorites.  It would be more efficient to tell me what you don’t like, which happened to be what I wanted to order.

5) Skirt steak isn’t your best chop:If it’s your house specialty (not to be confused with the house specials), it should taste special.  Mine was electro-broiled and accompanied by bland potatoes.   With flavorless cauliflower soup, this would have made for a perfect meal to grind up for an infant or infantile picky eater.   I felt like I was eating with a badly congested nose.

Conclusion:  Worth it for the neighborhood diners.  Beats Sharz for quality, but at a price.  Much that’s good, but too-high Zagat ratings reflect typical lowered standards applied to this area.  Restaurants don’t live up to overly glowing reviews.  They live down to them.   

Sip and surf: Top 5 Yorkville Hot-Spots to Get Wired and Go Wireless

December 14, 2006

1) DTUT (84th and 2nd): Darker, cooler and hipper than any other coffee house in Yorkville. Great mix of ratty lounge sofas and chairs, good music (not just the five albums you liked in college) and a relatively low stroller count.

If you want to wax Brooklyn euro-hipster, there’s a strong beer and wine selection for a mid-day glass. Not good for academic research, but great for a first screenplay. Blogger heaven. Top destination for the click and caffeinate set.  Update: RIP (Now Cafe Notte, arguably the worst wine bar/coffee shop I’ve ever visited. Stay away, far away.

2) Choux Factory (87th and 1st Avenue): Great unadorned pastry. No hiding when it’s just custard and crust. Beard Papa’s fine, but I’m a Factory fan. The texture is always dead on. Plain choux is best, but chocolate and strawberry are by no means pedestrian (Next time it’s your turn to do dessert, buy all three and make a tasty tasting plate).

Friendly employees greet you in Japanese, keep the place spotless and have set up enough powerstrips to let a dozen people surf for hours without getting hassled. Stop by Glaser’s aftewards for a mini-jelly doughnut.

3) Starbucks (Various) : Dull, obvious and adequate. Do put your bag down first, as competition for outlets is fierce. Wireless isn’t free either, so consider going off the grid.

4) Carl Schurz Park (East End): You can always grab a signal from one of the apartment buildings. Views are unbeatable, especially if you like barges and bridges. Remember, cyber-squatting is risky surfing, so don’t play Charlie Sheen with stock tips.

5) M. Rohr’s (85th between 1st and 2nd): Haphazard decor, lusophone and Spanish-speaking staff. Friendly ramshackle feel and outdoor smokers salon on the benches. Perfect for a leisurely sip and surf.

Expensive Attitude: 5 Worst in Yorkville and Environs:

December 7, 2006

The motto of Yorkville, we’re boring, but we’re nice, not we’re boring, boorish and snotty.

1) Elaine’s: Maybe once a haven for starving artists. Now a crusty club for B-listers with Disco attitude. It’s Le Cirque-lite. Mediocre food, brushoff at the door and elastic pricing are holy trinity of kissoffs. Rarely felt worse walking in or out of a restaurant.

2) Elio’s: A WASPy Elaine’s with better food and almost as much attitude. Greenwich on 2nd Avenue. Dismay at the door if you’re unknown. Prices too high, service from another century, but there’s some pleasure on the plate.

3) Café Boulud: Tweedy, but really nice tweed. Experiences vary; mine was horrendous. Had absolute worst high-end meal of my life here. Not rich nor masochistic enough to put up with long wait in lobby, cramped table next to host station and incredibly erratic pacing provided by impossibly arrogant servers. Only time I’ve ever written a restaurant without receiving a response, twice. Manager wouldn’t even give mailing address over the phone: Now that’s attitude.

4) Sfoglia: Spigolo’s without the love. Why go when consistent food and kinder cooks are so close by? Try Uva if Spigolo and Etats-Unis are too crowded.

5) La Tour: Wine poured to the rim with speed and dedication of a fraternity hell week challenge. Reds served inexcusably warm (all wine is virtually mulled). Occasional success on the plate (tarte tatin was good every fourth visit) marred by upselling, beverage service lapses and stew-meat steaks.

Top 5 Foodie Destinations of Yorkville (Sadly, there are only 3)

December 3, 2006

1) Glaser’s: Butter and sugar generously but judiciously applied as God, if he were a German hausfrau, would intend it. Black and White cookies of exceptional quality. Fun to watch the white part change colors with the seasons (Halloween orange, St. Patrick’s Day green, etc.) Best item is the lace cookie (dark chocolate or white plus an assortment of heart cloggers to make up the crunch skeleton). This seasonal item travels well in the winter months and works great for a last minute gift to bring to a dinner party.

Poppy seed horseshoes are another favorite.

N.B. This is not a Viennese pastry shop. Aesthetics are definitely secondary to rich, homey taste. The proprietors own the building and do things their way in their own time, with great results. Best place to buy a pie if you want to pretend you made it at home. People will believe you until the third bite when genius settles in on the tongue.

2) Schaller&Weber: Masters of pork fat well before the Food Network Fueled Golden Age of the Pig. Butchers give a generous weight on the scale and know enough to steer neophyte chefs, house-spouses, etc. towards the right methods and most forgiving cuts.

3) Orwasher’s: Unbelievable rye bread. Best in the city. Long list of savory and sweet breads, including a dense, deep pumpernickel. Counter-women on weekdays are unbelievably charming: one has dreds, endless smiles, and unplaceable accent; another is a benevolent East European grandmother type. Samples of new breads (whole wheat cranberry recently) are always available.  Also great for raspberry jelly chanukah doughnuts.  Black and white  cookies aren’t in Glaser’s league, but they’ll do in a pinch.

And then there were three. Not making the cut…

Heidelberg: Ancient restaurant with great tradition behind it still manages to blow it with pricey sloppy food. Subpar mustard, in a place where fat and mustard should be coupling in full fervor, is unforgivable.