UES-- Spigolo, Mainland?
I went to Spigolo last night and I'm obsessed! I sat at the bar and although it was a tight squeeze, I got the benefit of enjoying the fabous breadsticks. Every detail is accounted for down to the fabulous olive oil. I got a pasta dish which is considered an appetizer which was good if you like small plate Italian style dishes. However, the best part of the meal was the Warm chocolate souffle dripping with hot fuge and large chunks of pistachio. Definitely a diamond in the rough!
I have a somewhat different take on Spiglio. I've been there twice and found the food quite good. On the other hand, it's a very crowded, uncomfortable room and I would not return. I do not know Mainland. However, a terrific Peking Duck in the neighborhood is at Chef Ho's on Second at around 89th St.
Spigolo is good, not great, though the difficulty in securing a reservation at this extremely small establishment would lead you to beleive otherwise. I'm suspicious as to why Spigolo gets so much good press, particularly in New York Magazine. The salads are quite good, while the secondi (entrees) are nothing to write home about in any respect. Personally, I don't even find many of the entrees to be Italian in character.
The pastas are done nicely, but they are served in what Spigolo calls "Italian" portions. There is of course nothing inherently wrong with such a small portion size, which is indeed typical of a pasta course portion in Italy. The problem, however, is that Spigolo sees fit to charge New York large (entree) portion prices (i.e. upwards of $ 15) for a rather small portion of pasta. In other words, the pasta portions at Spigolo are half the size of the pasta portions at Babbo, though they are not half the price. The pasta portion size at Spigolo could also be likened to the size of the pasta course at L'Impero, though again the value is not there becuase unlike at L'Impero there is no prix-fixe at Spigolo.
This leads me to my ultimate point: if you're looking for a "reasonable" place to eat, look elsewhere. If you are in the mood for "reasonable" Italian, try Mangiarini, one block north of Spigolo (between 82nd. and 83rd.) on the same side of Second Avenue.
Though I have not eaten at Mainland, I have looked at their menu, and while it looks qute tasty the "reasonable" moniker does not apply here any more than it does at Spigolo.
Sorry for the rant. Hope I am of some help.
I live in close proximity to both restaurants in question and frequent both once to twice a month. Spigolo is a warm cozy space with a staff to match; service is knowledgable and friendly. The owners are husband and wife, a very young couple who seem to be constantly smiling and circulating. She does the pastries and the door and he does the kitchen. The menu is wonderful with daily specials that reflect the season and the prices are not at all exorbitant considering the quality. I have never left unhappy. In fact, I always seem to feel like I've been on a little vacation from the city after eating there.
Mainland is located a little further downtown and is, sorry to disappoint all you shaddenfreudists, also quite good. The space is larger than Spigolo, with a bar and lounge area first and then three dining rooms as you walk further back into the restaurant. (They also have a private dining room I think.) The main spectacle at Mainland, I would say, is the duck oven. It is encased in glass and has piles of wood in front of it which they use to roast the hanging ducks. The menu is great; it's all Chinese (no fusion here) but it's not your run of the mill stuff. They have an ahi tuna served raw with a truffle vinigrette, seaweed and lotus root that's amazing! Wine and cocktails should also be noted at this place too. It's a little pricey, but certainly nothing more than you would expect for the location (63rd and 64th Streets).
Overall, Spigolo and Mainland are my go-to places if I'm dining in the neighborhood. The service is always great and the food never disappoints. Phew...I should have Bruni's job.