Toronto hound experiences in NYC
I love NYC and have had some knock out meals there. Most recent visit was Easter 2008. Here's what I found:
Sip Sak - wonderful hospitality, went at noon, the owner/chef was right there opening the door and overseeing everything. I had an app of leeks cooked in olive oil and lemon & dill which together with the feathery crusty house bread left me swooning - the owner impressed me by actually being interested in my opinions - no question the food so far was amazing. He told me these vegetarian dishes are typically eaten in Turkey at the end of dinner to aid digestion. I didn't care - it was heavenly! Next the lamb on smokey eggplant was a revelation. Ended with the rice pudding - more like a creme brulee, delish! I will def. go there again every chance I have.
Pampano - lovely dining room, great service at dinner (Elanor) & great food. The seviche might be too acidic for some and for me I think there should be more than a teaspoon of fish for $12/$14. I lament the use of small flour tortillas instead of fresh homemade corn ones, but it's because I crave authentic Mexican food. I had great chiken mole with amazing mashed plantain - with mango - wonderful - and the chard and bacon was simple but very satisfying. I would go back for sure, especially in summer to dine on their outdoor decks.
Mint. Lunch was a mistake - it's more of a dinner place - quite dim. Was not informed of the $17 lunch special and so spent much more than I needed to and got much less. My place setting was set up so I was facing the wall.... I had to rearrange it myself so I could face outwards. Tea was a tea bag on the side of a warm (!) cup of water... that was $4. I felt bullied to order up. (The place was empty) Ordered an interesting sounding shrimp main dish that cost $21 but was served a $26 dish instead (saffron shrimp) which was so incredibly boring - it was 5 gigantic prawns - not all de-veined properly - sitting in a pond of butter/heavy cream/tumeric with a thimble of steamed rice in the middle of the plate. This dish had absolutely NO flavour - not even salt!!
So hate me, I left only $5 tip.
Le Colonial - o.k. a tourist trap, but I was following the Time Out Food Guide and I love French style Vietnamese food. Thank God I didn't splurge on the dining room. In the lounge the service was great, but the food (spring rolls and shrimp paste on sugar cane)was unworthy of a food court, and served with herbs so limp and worn out I had to wonder who is checking the pulse of this place. Probably not the snooty French M'Aitre D at the front door.
Dawat for dinner - good food, service a bit "bossy" as I find in NYC Indian restaurants. Do not like trying to be upsold. Their "Lemon Rice" has no connection to any lemon rice I've had in southern Indian places. It is plain Basmati, with a few fried curry leaves. The connection they claim to Madur Jaffrey is overplayed. A diner found a suspicious hair like substance in her food - it took ages for the "manager" to come out and address her concerns. Let's just say it rattled everyone else awaiting their food! - but great theatre!
So on my next trip I'm planning to hit the Caracas Arepa Bar, and definitely another meal at Sip Sak. All other ethnic suggestions welcome!
a quick note, esp. if you might return to Pampano -- they have lovely handmade corn tortillas there -- one of the few places in the city that have them. the homemade flour are fine, but homemade corn is always better. yes, they generally "choose" for you, but you can always request a substitution for the other, and they are always gracious and accommodating.
another point on Pampano that you might not have known -- during the daytime (lunch) they run a taqueria out of a food court around the corner. same kitchen as the restaurant, but a very much slimmed down menu, which is largely tacos, quesadillas, and burritos.
i often get two of the Steak Alambre (spelled wrong i'm sure), grilled steak, cheese, and rajas. they serve it on flour, i always change it to corn -- no problem. the tacos are around $2.50 each, maybe $3 now. they are delicious.
Thanks for the reviews. It's a good way to ask a question, since it gives us a good idea of what you like and don't like. Here are a few to throw out there:
Kefi (Greek tapas & mains, cash only, no reservations, UWS)
Sukhadia's (Gujarati, lunch buffet, chaat and sweets; no decor, 45th st, x 5th/6th ave.)
Chennai Garden (south Indian; dosa and vada; east 20s and Lexington in Kip's Bay; low-key decor, but no one will try to upsell you... in fact, will look approving if you decline to order alcohol with dinner)
Abburiya Kinosuke / Yakitori Toto / Tory's (Japanese izakaya / grill; all midtown e. or w.)
La Palapa Rockola (authentic-ish Mexican; W. Village)
'Ino / 'Inoteca (paninis and other sandwiches/small plates + wine; W. Village / SoHo)
If you want Vietnamese food in a place with a "colonial" vibe, you could try Bao Noodles, 391 2nd Av. between 22nd and 23rd. I haven't been there lately but have had some pleasant meals there.
If I were you, I would have told the folks at Mint to charge me $21 for the dish I ordered, not the one they gave me. And don't let people bully you into an upsell.
When will your next trip be?
And by the way, what was the total cost of your meal at Pampano? I was thinking of taking a friend there recently, but her flight was delayed and she got in too late for dinner.
Sorry for the delay in replying. My dinner at Pampano ran about $120 but that included taxes and a hefty tip for the exceptional service. I had a seviche, an appetizer, a main course and desert and a glass of Rioja. All excellent and all well worth it.
Next trip will hopefully be in late April.
I'm not sure the weather in April will be warm enough for you to sit on the terrace. But I'm a weather weenie, so plenty of people will sit outdoors when I would never consider it.
We've been to Pampano twice, both times during the warm weather months, and the terrace is a charming place to enjoy the excellent food.
I highly recommend starting with the first-rate guacamole. And if you like mojoitos, the passion fruit version is delicious.