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if you're ever on the upper east side . . .

  • w
  • wonki Mar 26, 1999 10:11 AM

. . . or happen to live there, like i do, then you
must go to la foret on 1st ave. b/w 88 and 89. great
down to earth little french bistro with great food,
reasonable prices, good service, and a quaint
atmosphere.

the place is small, but cozy. i would recommend going
on a weeknight as opposed to the weekend when it gets
packed and they don't take reservations.

the wine list had some really good bottles for very
reasonable prices, all french. we went with the fleur
du casse from st. emilion, which at $34 i believe was
the most expensive on the list. good wine, ready to
drink, wet and fruity with a slightly bitter finish.

la foret has daily specials which they list both
outside and on the menu. the menu itself is rather
small, but with the specials there's plenty to choose
from. i had the haricots verts salad with pistachios
and pistachio dressing. if you love pistachios and
pistachio ice cream like i do, then you'll love this
salad. very fresh and very original. my girlfriend
had the arugala salad with oranges and walnuts. good
enough, though the walnuts were mysteriously absent.

for entrees, my girlfriend had the beef stew, which she
said was very good, and it must have been, since she
finished the whole thing. i had the maine red grouper
on the recommendation of the waiter. excellent
presentation, with three stripes of different sauces,
kind of like neopolitan ice cream, underneath the fish:
tomato, sweet olive, and vegetable, with chopped
vegetable medley underneath. the fish was excellent.
tender on the inside, slightly crispy out. great
color, great flavor. i chose to mix the sauces
together with the vegetables. the resultant creation
was outstanding and certainly added to the fish. even
after i was full, i couldn't stop eating until i had
finished everything, and believe me, the portion was
more than ample. dessert was the only mediocre part of
the meal. i had the pistachio ice cream, which was a
little thick as far as consistency, kind of like the
vanilla bean kulfi at tabla (which by the way is out of
this world), but not nearly as good. my girlfriend got
the blood orange sorbet, which was a little too icy, it
was more like a granita, but a good palate cleanser and
nice finish to the meal. service was great,
unobtrusive but getting the job done.

but i think the part i liked best was at the end of the
night, when the staff came out of the kitchen and ate
their dinner in the dining room.

so if you want a good French meal at an unpretentious
place, check out la foret. it's a great escape.

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  1. We live on the upper east side and have found very few restaurants we like although we have never tried Foret - thanks for the tip - where else do you like in upper 80s or 90s?

    7 Replies
    1. re: judith

      hey judith, how are you?

      glad to know i have a neighborhood chowhound. well, as
      i'm sure you know, there just aren't too many really
      good places to eat around where we are. i think it's a
      great place for cheap takeout but really not much
      beyond that. but i'll run a few places by you, most of
      which i'm sure you've probably tried already.

      of course, for rotisserie chicken, there's el pollo on
      90th and 1st, although i'm still trying to find some
      good sides to go with the chicken. i don't why there's
      so much hype about their curly fries; maybe i just
      haven't had them on a good day. their cucumber salad's
      a good balance with the chicken though, and the
      plantains are a decent starch (i like them with a
      little bit of salt).

      i think the best thai place up by us has to be jasmine
      on 84th and 2nd. altough i must say, there ain't a lot
      of competition. sala thai has a couple decent dishes
      (the pad see ew comes to mind) but is inconsistent and
      the beef in their beef dishes is just way too tough.
      still have to try out siam city. actually, recently
      ordered in from this burmese place called mingala.
      great little change of pace. their salads are
      exciting, try the calamari and i think it's papaya,
      especially if you like cilantro (big fan of cilantro;
      however not to confused with the restaurant cilantro,
      which was a disappointment and a one-timer, (meaning
      i'll probably not go there again)). they'll definitely
      cool you off once summer rolls around.

      for mexican, of the places i've been, maz mezcal was
      easily the best, though i like the flautas from johnny
      tejano's.

      the pastrami sandwiches at pastrami queen: when i
      first went there right after it opened, that stuff blew
      me away; it literally melted in your mouth. since
      then, sometimes it's great, sometimes it's just better
      than average; i'd still choose it any day over carnegie
      deli, though i haven't been to 2nd ave. deli yet and
      can't wait. one thing i love at pq though is the
      garlic fries. yummy. although they too sometimes are
      fabulous and other times are a bit soggy. and of
      course, you have to get the dr. brown's black cherry
      soda.

      a decent place is york grill, but when i say decent, i
      mean for the upper east side. reasonably priced, they
      have a good skirt steak, which i think is their
      specialty. definitely worth a go once or twice.

      of the upper end establishments i've been to: i'll do
      them in chronological order. been to kings' carriage
      house. great place decor-wise. you won't feel like
      you're in new york. it really feels like you're
      somewhere else, namely, someone's house. we were in a
      separate little room with about 4 other tables. nice
      and romantic. the food was very good, but definitely
      not top notch. went to la fourchette for valentine's
      day. place was very nice; food, however, definitely
      not worth the price i paid on v-day, which was
      outrageous. but, as it was v-day and a prix-fixe menu,
      the jury's still out on this one. just this past
      weekend, went to paola's, cozy little italian place.
      just moved locations, and friends have mine have told
      me they love the place. unfortunately, like my bias
      against classic french food, i'm also not a big fan of
      upscale italian. (here we go again!) just can't bring
      myself to spend inordinate amounts of money on pasta.
      but anyway, the restaurant is very nice, very new.
      fireplace in the back. wine racks all over. very
      busy. actually, the mussels appetizer i had there was
      extraordinary; probably the best mussels i've ever had,
      no joke. they were incredibly creamy, not a single
      grain of sand either. actually let the mussels linger
      in my mouth for a bit before swallowing and i never do
      that with mussels. but the pasta i had for my entree
      was although obviously homemade, a little too doughy
      and potatoe-y (kinda like gnocchi) and the sauce was
      unremarkable. but hey, if you like italian, my friends
      who are italian think it's great as do a lot of other
      people judging by the crowds and zagat.

      so there you have it. i'm sure i left out some stuff
      but that's what comes to mind for now. let me know
      yourself if there are any places up there you think i
      should try out. we could use a better indian place,
      don't ya think? oh yeah, the spicy tuna rolls at, of
      all places, sushi generation, are really good. used to
      go there to watch football on sundays and got hooked.
      sushi and football was a weird combo but hey, what are
      you gonna do?

      by the way, in case i left out addresses for some of
      the places, i think most are in zagat, and if you don't
      have one (which i doubt since you're a foodlover
      like myself), let me know and i'll give you the
      addresses. happy hunting! and i hope you like
      wherever you're going for your anniversary (really,
      since i was the only one to answer your post i feel as
      if i'm responsible; but i have faith in montrachet).

      take care.

      wonki

      1. re: wonki

        Kim - you are the Ruth Reichl of the UES as far as I'm
        concerned - (hope you like her - I really enjoy her
        reviews - love her writing - even bought her bio).

        Have you tried Elaine's? My husband and I lived on
        the UES for 10 years before we went - we'd always
        avoided it because we heard it was a celebrity hangout
        and also we were told the food wasn't good. We went
        very early - I think they open at 6 - and the place
        was real empty, service was wonderful and food fine -
        we've been back once since - I think I had steak the
        first time and maybe lamb chops the second. Best I
        think to go early - some might feel it is too pricey -
        but we were satisfied.

        Have never found a real great brunch place around here
        - have you? You're right - we definitely also need a
        good Indian restaurant. I agree about Fourchette -
        food was disappointing; went to Kings Carriage House
        when it first opened - also liked the atmosphere but
        felt food didn't live up to it; York Grill was ok;
        will have to try Pastrami Queen - if you love deli you
        should definitely eat at 2nd Ave. - I haven't been in
        a couple of years but assume it is still good; wish El
        Pollo were larger; the 2 or 3 times I've eaten at Sala
        Thai food was consistently good (couldn't tell you
        what I ate though) so my experience there and at
        Cilantro differs from yours--in fact Cilantro is the
        place we go for brunch these days although didn't love
        my frozen Margarita.

        For Chinese we do Chef Ho's on 2nd Ave. - we loved
        Across the Street the first time we went, then we ate
        there again after they lowered their prices (I think
        they also changed chefs) and it just wasn't the same
        place - disappointing. Went to Luca recently - our
        waiter was pretty annoying - suspect Luca has fallen
        victim (i.e, been overwhlemed) by the rave review in
        the Times a while back.

        Have you tried Comfort Diner? One of my friends keeps
        telling me to go.

        We are doing Monrachet for our anniversary (will try
        Caravelle some other time) Don't worry about
        recommending it - we are also going to Gramercy Tavern
        on another night this week and will be at Jean Georges
        the following week.

        Great to have another chowhound sharing the
        neighborhood.

        1. re: Judith

          judith-

          hey, how are you? to even mention me in the same
          sentence as ruth reichl is just too much, but thanks
          anyway, i'll take it. :-) i really want her job,
          don't you? i love her reviews as well, and i find
          she's right on the mark with my tastes for the most
          part. by the way, how's her book? i was thinking
          about checking it out as well.

          wow, you must live like next door to me. we obviously
          eat at practically all the same places. thanks for the
          tip at elaine's. me and my girlfriend are the same way
          about the place, we've always wanted to try it, but
          just are a little hesitant. we'll definitely try it
          out one day. definitely have not found a really great
          brunch place. above average though, are yura & co. on
          3rd in the low 90's and sarabeths on madison in the low
          90s. yura has some great baked goods as well. i
          definitely think vinegar factory is overrated and
          overpriced for brunch and definitely not worth the
          wait. i love the store though, although i wish it were
          a little cheaper. have been meaning to go to across
          the street, i'll have to try it at least once and let
          you know what i think.

          chef ho's is great, but only i think if you eat there.
          it's different when you get it delivered. for
          example, the pan fried noodles at the restaurant are
          the true chinese ones, thick and crunchy (they're also
          very good at shun lee). i like ho's beef a lot too.
          if you like sala thai, you'll love jasmine. much
          better.

          luca i went to once and thought it was good for what it
          was, but like i said, not a big fan of italiano.
          comfort diner, been there once so can't say too much
          about. nothing too memorable. i guess it's better
          than you're average diner, but in the end it's just a
          diner.

          gramercy tavern is very good. never been to jean
          georges, but my girlfriend thinks it's way overrated
          and not all that great. she went to mercer kitchen
          last week though and absolutely loved it. some other
          places you should try are union pacific, which is
          probably my all time favorite new york restaurant of
          last year. i must have been there about 15 times. the
          tuna tartare is awesome, as is the skate entree. the
          absolute best dessert is the hazelnut success.
          heavenly, with little sugar coated pink grapefruit
          pieces. irresistible. hands down the best dessert
          i've ever had in my life. passion fruit creme
          brulee is great too, but if you read my review of
          ruby foo's you'll know that i love passion fruit
          anything. the only thing is, haven't been there for
          like 6 months so those things may not be on the menu
          anymore. i'm sure whatever's there is good though.
          also, loved tabla, although only went there once. it's
          different, and original and delicious. take care
          judith, maybe i'll bump into you on the street, or more
          likely, in a restaurant. :-)

          wonki

          1. re: Judith

            Hi Judith, Wonki:

            Judith was asking about places for brunch on the Upper
            East Side, and I wanted to throw in the Vinegar Factory
            as a possible option. The restaurant is located on the
            second floor of the store (Vinegar Factory is at the
            corner of 90th? 91st? and York)and the French toast is
            wonderful there, as are the many breads, the
            cheese blinis (ordinarily I'm not a fan but these were
            delicious, the granola and yogurt, the juices and the
            salads and so on and so forth. The back room is also a
            really nice place to go and spend some time on a sunny
            Sunday morning -- I like to go earlier when it isn't as
            crowded.

            Take care,
            Katherine

            1. re: Katherine
              d
              DAVID BRANDES

              TRIED CELADON THE OTHER DAY. MADISON BETWEEN 85 & 86
              IT'S AN UPPER EAST SIDE VERSION OF UNION PACIFIC BUT A
              LITTLE CHEAPER WHICH STILL MEANS IT'S EXPENSIVE. FOOD
              SUPERB- SERVICE A LITTLE SLOPPY . BUT GIVE IT A TRY

              1. re: DAVID BRANDES

                Sorry, I think Celadon is NOWHERE near Union Pacific's
                league.

                Eating the food at Celadon reminds me of the article
                in last Wednesday's NY Times Dining section about the
                efforts of some French chefs trying to do fusion
                food. It's a real timid and wimpy try at it. The
                food at Celadon was totally lackluster and forgettable.

          2. re: wonki

            Some additional good UES places:

            Pyramida, E.78 near 1st - great couscous, eggplant,
            chickpeas with spinach, all homemade on a little stove
            in the back;
            Something Fishy on I think 2nd in the 90's - tiny place
            with excellent, fresh, innovative fish and sushi;
            A Tavola, just a diner but run by an Italian family who
            takes pride in everything. They have my favorite diner
            omelette in the city - made with ricotta cheese,
            sundried tomatoes, and fresh tomatoes;
            Divino, 2nd Ave near 80th - small neighborhood Italian,
            very good pesto and a creditable cannoli.

        2. Wonki-- You're a great poster, and your description almost makes me want to visit the UES, which I normally avoid like the plague. And you're absolutely right about the vanilla-bean kulfi at Tabla. (You sure do like pistachios, by the way!)

          1 Reply
          1. re: steve d.

            thanks, steve, i'm flattered, really. glad you like my
            posts. wish there was more on the upper east side
            foodwise, but you can check out my soon to be made post
            to judith below with some more tips. loved tabla. and
            yes, i like pistachios, and most other nuts for that
            matter. guess it takes one to know one. . . :-)

          2. Oops! I forgot . . . VERY IMPORTANT! la foret does
            not take credit cards, so don't forget to bring your
            cold hard cash. otherwise you're going to be like me
            leaving after i order to hit the atm. luckily it
            wasn't a first date. can you say disaster? by the
            way, if you do forget DESPITE this message (something
            i would probably do), there's a citibank on 86th and
            york.