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New Ciao Bella on Sullivan Street; Dinner at Danube

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  • Fay Feb 7, 2000 09:23 PM
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I was walking down Sullivan below 3rd street this afternoon and noticed that one of the old comic book/baseball card stores had closed. I was a little sad at first (mostly for my 7 year old son, who loved the place), but then the guys who were unloading stuff told me it would soon be a Ciao Bella outpost. Hurray! This will be the perfect place for a quick dessert after downing some Jamaican patties across the street.

Also, I haven't noticed many comments on Danube. We ate there on Saturday night, so I thought I'd share my impressions. First, the room is jaw-droppingly gorgeous. Easily the most beautiful restaurant I've seen in NYC. The service was excellent. We had a late reservation (post-theater) and got there a little early, but we had no wait at all, and the staff couldn't have been nicer throughout the meal.

The food was quite good overall, though a few dishes were sort of ho-hum. The ameuse geule was a thimble of extremely delicious squash soup with pumpkin seed oil, a little sashimi of mahi-mahi (not terribly Austrian, but delicious nonetheless) and a very strange potato chip skewered with a grilled sardine. As an appetizer, I ordered something called a "Grostl" (pronounced gristle - maybe a new name for the dish is in order??), which was a yummy combination of lobster and foie gras in a pea emulsion sauce. I could have sworn that the menu said it came with potatoes, but none were on the plate. Just as well. I tasted some of my friend's ravioli, which were very good but a little too reminiscent of $4 pierogi to warrant the hefty price tag.
I decided to be a little more traditional with the main course, so I ordered the Wienerschnitzel. I suppose I was expecting that it would be some miraculous reinvention of this old Austrian standby, but instead it was just your basic schnitzel, served with a very good german potato salad. As my friend commented, it looked like a big chicken nugget on a fancy plate. Oh well. I did taste some of the other dishes, including the venison (excellent) and sea bass (ditto).
My favorite course was dessert. I ordered the waltz of quark cheeses (or something like that), which I can only describe as a variation on the theme of cheesecake filling. If you like cheesecake, don't miss this dessert. It also came with a scrumptiously tangy frozen yogurt with some berry sauce mixed in.

A word on the wines. I'm into wine and know my way around most wine lists, but this one was pretty impenetrable. It's overwhelmingly devoted to Austrian whites, mostly Rieslings, and there's little to no guidance or explanation on the list itself. I took it as an opportunity to learn about Austrian wines (which I haven't tasted since having some pretty foul stuff at a bar outside Vienna many years ago), so I was happy to spend some time talking to the sommelier. We ended up taking his recommendation and ordering an Austrian Riesling for over $60, which is quite steep for a Riesling, but it was an excellent bottle of wine.

Don't ask about the cost. Our friends picked up the tab so I don't know and don't really want to know. I'm sure it was a small fortune.

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