HOME > Chowhound > Manhattan >

Discussion

Best food and drink near the main NY Public Library? -- restos, markets, bakeries, pushcarts -- you name it

Hi,

I need to spend about 10 days in the vicinity of NY Public Library at 5th and 42d, so I'm collecting recommendations for great eats in a 10 block radius excluding Times Square.

I'll have a kitchen, so I would also appreciate tips for any fine places to shop for anything, or if there is any extremely good take out.

For restaurants, any cuisine is fine except Italian and I really prefer quiet and well-spaced tables, as I will seldom be dining alone and enjoy conversation.

Some fave foods are falafel, burritos, bimbap, great chinese and all things fish (raw or cooked).

I'm open to all price ranges.

If there is great espresso or a good classic cocktail bar in the nabe, indoor or out, I'd love to hear about it.

Thanks for your help in advance!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. One of my favorites in the area are the doubles from the TriniPaki Boys cart (43rd & 6th) - take them to Bryant Park and enjoy the outdoors. You can find lots of cart recs on midtownlunch.com.

    6 Replies
    1. re: LNG212

      Seconding this. I used to work in the Hippodrome building and the TriniPak cart was one of my go-to lunches.

      1. re: LNG212

        What are "the doubles" -- ? Thanks -- and thanks for link to midtown lunch!

          1. re: kathryn

            That's a good link, Kathryn. Thanks.

            To the OP: the cart has 2 sauces -- I think one is a milder chutney-ish kind and the other is the VERY VERY spicy kind. I usually get a little of both. They are really good. And you'll need plenty of napkins. :)

            1. re: kathryn

              Thanks, Kathryn! i'll definitely give them a try!

          2. re: LNG212

            I haven't tried TriniPaki, but my favorite food cart in the vicinity is Kwikmeal on 45th and 6th. I always get chicken over rice but have heard rave reviews for the lamb over rice as well.

            Also second Cafe Zaiya, mentioned below, on 41st off 5th

            -----
            Cafe Zaiya
            1073 6th Ave, New York, NY 10018

          3. check out 41st bet. 5th & Madison. there is the Japanese "trifecta." Cafe Zaiya, Yagura, and Chiyoda.

            Cafe Zaiya is great for sandwiches, rice balls, pastries.

            Yagura offers different soba, teriyaki, and other hot items.

            Chiyoda is mainly sushi and more expensive.

            -----
            Cafe Zaiya
            18 E 41st St, New York, NY 10017

            6 Replies
            1. re: travpard

              I'm not against expensive for sushi -- or for anything, really. I'm interested in good eats in all sorts of venues, including good restaurants for dinner.

              1. re: barberinibee

                If you are not against expensive sushi, then you should definitely go to Yasuda, on 43rd, b/t 2nd & 3rd. Although I don't eat sushi, our daughter and son-in-law love it, and Yasuda is their favorite.

                http://www.sushiyasuda.com

                dbBistro Moderne, on 44th, b/t 5th & 6th, is one of Chef Daniel Boulud's restaurants. Its focus is contemporary French bistro cuisine. Prices are high but far less expensive than his eponymous temple of haute cuisine. And there is a 3-course pre-theater prix fixe at $45, well-priced for cuisine of such high caliber.

                Photos of our most recent dinner at dbBistro: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

                La Fonda de Sol, on the street level of the Met Life Bldg., on Vanderbilt & 44th, serves delicious contemporary Spanish cuisine.

                Photos of our meal at La Fonda del Sol: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

                Keens, on 36th, b/t 5th & 6th, is our favorite NYC steakhouse. It's been in that location since 1885. Thus, in additional to delicious steaks, chops (including the legendary signature mutton chop), sides, etc., there is the unmatchable Old NY ambiance -- walls filled with American memorabilia and rows of old clay smoking pipes suspended from all the ceilings, plus pipes belonging to famous people dating back to the 19th century in display cases in the vestibule.

                Photos of our most recent dinner at Keens: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

                1. re: RGR

                  Thanks, RGR! Does La Fonda de Sol do a regional Spanish cuisine, or is it pan-Spanish? Prices? (I drink wine but don't eat dessert.)

                    1. re: RGR

                      Thank you for the website. Do you ever go there strictly for tapas?

                      1. re: barberinibee

                        We've only been to La Fonda del Sol once for lunch. You can certainly go there just for tapas. I think the tapas menu in the bar/lounge area may be larger than what is offered in the dining room, which is where we sat.

            2. If you like bimbap, you are ten easily walkable blocks from Korea Town: 32nd between 5th and Broadway.

              3 Replies
              1. re: chow_gal

                Yes, I know about Koreatown. Any up-to-date recommendations for a specific bimbap place?

                1. re: barberinibee

                  I get serious cravings for the seafood dol sot bipimbap at Han Bat @ 53 West 35th.

                  -----
                  Han Bat
                  53 W 35th St, New York, NY 10001

              2. Grand Central Terminal may be of interest to you (market, Oyster Bar, and the Campbell Apartment). For coffee, I like the Macchiato Espresso Bar, on E 44th.

                1. NYC is not really a great burrito town like, say, San Francisco is, so I would manage expectations accordingly.

                  Great Chinese - Do you like Sichuan food? Try Szechuan Gourmet or Lan Sheng, both very close by.

                  Fish - Le Bernardin is a four star NY Times restaurant and its chef, Eric Ripert, has been on TV many many times. It's a temple to seafood. If you have the cash, go for it. Also, a little bit to the east of you there is a cluster of Japanese restaurants, including what many people think is the best sushi in town: Sushi Yasuda. But, again, be prepared to spent a good chunk of change although I do believe he has a much more affordable prix fixe lunch menu.

                  Espresso nearby - Culture Espresso Bar or Joe the Art of Coffee located inside of Grand Central

                  Good classic cocktail bar nearby - Campbell Apartment but it can get crowded after work. Great atmosphere, decent drinks, not the best in town. Note there IS a dress code:

                  http://www.hospitalityholdings.com/

                  They have also recently opened up the Empire Room in the Empire State Building. There are also a fair number of hotel bars nearby.

                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/609073

                  BTW, many restaurants in Manhattan ARE rather cramped, so I would set expectations accordingly. However, it's also right by the Theatre District and a good number of places are slammed between 6-8pm and then the threatre crowd essentially clears out.

                  -----
                  Sushi Yasuda
                  204 E 43rd St, New York, NY 10017

                  Le Bernardin
                  155 W. 51st St., New York, NY 10019

                  Szechuan Gourmet
                  21 W 39th St, New York, NY 10018

                  Campbell Apartment
                  89 E 42nd St, New York, NY 10017

                  Culture Espresso Bar
                  72 W 38th St, New York, NY 10018

                  Lan Sheng
                  60 W 39th St, New York, NY 10018

                  Empire Room
                  350 5th Ave, New York, NY 10118

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: kathryn

                    I do like Sichuan, and had heard 39th St was great for them. Do you think either does take out well?

                    Le Bernadin is on the list.

                    What do you think of the coffee at Cipriani near Grand Central?

                    1. re: barberinibee

                      SG gets really busy for takeout lunch BTW but I've only ever dined in.

                      1. re: kathryn

                        I was more interested in the quality. Some good chinese restaurants don't do take out well (and vice versa).

                        1. re: barberinibee

                          The takeout at SG is great. It just gets very messy because the inch of chili oil on top tends to go everywhere and cover everything.

                          1. re: barberinibee

                            I get Szechuan Gourmet take out often. They do a great job. And have good lunch specials which actually have good sichuan dishes on it.

                            -----
                            Szechuan Gourmet
                            21 W 39th St, New York, NY 10018

                            1. re: ESNY

                              Thanks to both for the take on take-out!

                    2. Some good recs already listed here.

                      A few falafel options in the hood:

                      Olympic Pita -- 38th between 5th and 6th -- make sure you get the falafel in laffa bread
                      Pick-A-Pita -- 8th Ave between 38th and 39th
                      Maoz -- 40th and 7th Ave

                      For bi bim bap, there's a very good one at Gahm Mi Ok. Gahm Mi Ok also has the best kimchi out of all the K-town places. The bi bim bap is not the hot stone version. If you're looking for the hot stone, I'd check out Kum Gang San (but I see that they removed my favorite pork and kimchi one from the menu). A lot of hounds like Han Bat, but I'm not that crazy about it lately as I think they use it as a vehicle to get rid of their old kimchi. And I think one of the reasons why people like it so much is that it's one of the least expensive of the hot stone bi bim baps in K-town.

                      Lan Sheng and Szechuan Gourmet are restaurants that specialize in Szechuan cuisine. If you're looking for Cantonese fare, Phoenix Garden is probably the closest decent restaurant. It's located on 40th Street between 2nd and 3rd Ave.

                      If you are having difficulty getting reservations for Yasuda or are looking for a more leisurely sushi experience (Yasuda sometimes tells people at time of reservation that you need to vacate the table within 1.5 hours), Sushi Zen on 44th and 5th is also very good.

                      If you're looking for something a bit higher end, Charlie Palmer's Aureole is located on 42nd between 6th and 7th Ave. There's the more casual Bar Room and then the more formal restaurant. I actually prefer the food of the Bar Room but the formal place will be more quiet and easier to converse in.

                      -----
                      Phoenix Garden
                      242 E 40th St, New York, NY 10016

                      Han Bat
                      53 W 35th St, New York, NY 10001

                      Szechuan Gourmet
                      21 W 39th St, New York, NY 10018

                      Kum Gang San
                      49 W 32nd St, New York, NY 10001

                      Olympic Pita
                      58 W 38th St, New York, NY 10018

                      Sushi Zen
                      108 W 44th St, New York, NY 10036

                      Lan Sheng
                      60 W 39th St, New York, NY 10018

                      13 Replies
                      1. re: Miss Needle

                        Miss Needle,

                        What is "laffa bread" and why is it better than pita?

                        Thanks for the low down on bimbaps.

                        What do you think of Shanghai Tea Garrden (if I've got the name right...) ---?

                        What is the cuisine at Aureole Bar Room?

                        Thanks!

                          1. re: RGR

                            Thanks RGR. Aureole bar looks like it might solve a problem I'm going to have one day, when I can't avoid meeting friends for a late lunch but also am taking a friend to the theatre that night with an early curtain, and the friend probably will want to eat a full meal before the show. Maybe I can just much on a bar snack.

                            1. re: barberinibee

                              Another place that might work for your situation -- or at anytime during your stay -- is Oceana, on 49th, just off the northwest corner of 6th Av. (in the McGraw Hill Bldg.). They have a very large bar area in front, which includes a raw bar. There are tables as well as counter seating. Top quality fish and seafood. We've only eaten in the dining room, most recently this past weekend. A seriously delicious meal!

                              Photos of our latest meal at Oceana: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

                              Photos of a previous meal which includes shots of the interior: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

                              1. re: RGR

                                Thanks! That's even closer to the theater. Do you think my friend can get a full meal at the bar?

                            1. re: chow_gal

                              Right, correct spelling too though I'll try the lafah bread!

                            2. re: barberinibee

                              Barberinibee, I've never been to Shanghai Tea Garden. Perhaps this yelp review may help.

                              http://www.yelp.com/biz/our-place-sha...

                              -----
                              Shanghai Tea Garden
                              141 E 55th St Frnt 1, New York, NY 10022

                              1. re: barberinibee

                                re: Shanghai Tea Garden . . . same place?
                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/689188

                                -----
                                Shanghai Tea Garden
                                141 E 55th St Frnt 1, New York, NY 10022

                              2. re: Miss Needle

                                Ha! Never even realized that Han Bat's bipimbap was less expensive than Kum Gang San. I just always liked their seafood version best and Kum Gang San didn't have one. But I only tried Kum Gang San a couple of times and that was a while back. Sounds like it's time for a revisit.

                                -----
                                Han Bat
                                53 W 35th St, New York, NY 10001

                                Kum Gang San
                                49 W 32nd St, New York, NY 10001

                                1. re: JoanN

                                  Yes, Han Bat is definitely one of the least expensive restaurants in K town. Funny about Kum Gang San -- guess they keep altering their menu because I've had seafood bi bim bap from them several times. Oh, but the pork and kimchi bi bim bap was my favorite -- so hearty and savory!

                                  -----
                                  Han Bat
                                  53 W 35th St, New York, NY 10001

                                  Kum Gang San
                                  49 W 32nd St, New York, NY 10001

                                2. re: Miss Needle

                                  re: old kimchi . . . . that's the good stuff! but I agree on Han Bat, everything there is cheaper for a reason.

                                  love Olympic Pita as well; the laffa is just a bigger, fluffier more substantial bread and is amazing in their wraps/rolls.

                                  and like the previous recs above; Cafe Zaiya all the way!

                                  -----
                                  Olympic Pita
                                  58 W 38th St, New York, NY 10018

                                  1. re: Miss Needle

                                    I second Gam Mi Oak for bibimbap and kimchi. If their kimchi was a tad more spicier, they'd have the best kimchi in Manhattan. Also Mandoo Bar surprisingly makes a GREAT hot stone bibimbap in several varieties AND it's inexpensive. I like it better than their eponymous dumplings.

                                    Not crazy about either Kum Gang San or Han Bat. I find both to be rather mediocre (but then again, such is the state of Manhattan Koreatown.)

                                    -----
                                    Mandoo Bar
                                    2 W 32nd St, New York, NY 10001

                                  2. For shopping, Grand Central has a nice market with all sorts of great purveyors of fish/meat/vegetables/baked goods, etc. Little on the pricey side, but all worth it.

                                    9 Replies
                                    1. re: owlwoman

                                      Owlwoman,

                                      Is is one market or are you saying that there are lots of good purveyors in the station if you walk all around it?

                                      1. re: barberinibee

                                        There is one market, with quite a few good purveyors - Murray's Cheese, Wild Edibles, a butcher, a German food one, etc.

                                        -----
                                        Wild Edibles
                                        Grand Central Terminal, New York, NY 10017

                                        Murray's Cheese Shop
                                        Grand Central Terminal, New York, NY 10017

                                        1. re: MMRuth

                                          The Germans are gone, but Murray's also has a separate area in the market where they sell a variety of cold cuts, etc. There's also a branch of Financier in GCT near but not in the market; good spot for French-style pastries, croissants, etc.

                                        2. re: barberinibee

                                          There are many good purveyors in one market. I like Pescatore for fresh fish, Cirella's for meat (good LI breast of duck), a few bakeries, a spice shop, produce stand, cooked food (I don't remember the name) and of course, Murray's for both cheese and cured meats/pates (they have two stands). I shop there often before hitting the train for the 'burbs, there's only two of us, so I don't mind the higher prices since the quality of the food is really good.

                                          -----
                                          Pescatore
                                          955 2nd Ave., New York, NY 10022

                                          1. re: owlwoman

                                            All these recs are great for shopping in Grand Central are really good.

                                        3. re: owlwoman

                                          We live in NoCal but always hit that market when we're in NYC. To OP, it's one market with several dozen vendors there. It's hard to think of anything they don't have. Except wine and that's right next door in the wine shop. We were heading to CT a day earlier than originally planned to visit friends. We picked up all sorts of great things to take. IMO, you name it and they have it. And, yes, a tad pricey. Window shop there and get the lay of the land.

                                          1. re: c oliver

                                            Thanks. I find most stores in the heart of midtown pricey. Just the nature of the beast. And i'm not buying for a family, so I usually don't mind the extra pennies, especially since good fresh fruit can be hard to find in midtown.

                                            1. re: barberinibee

                                              It's one big market with different purveyors. I'll stop by on my way home to pick up something to cook for dinner, it's convenient before hitting the train. I like Pescatore for fish rather than Wild Edibles, Cirella's has great meat (I buy LI Breast of Duck there) and for fresh produce, Greenwich Produce is pretty good. There's also a couple of bakeries, spice shop, ready to eat food and, of course, Murray's (king of cheese). Enjoy!

                                              -----
                                              Wild Edibles
                                              Grand Central Terminal, New York, NY 10017

                                              Pescatore
                                              955 2nd Ave., New York, NY 10022

                                              1. re: barberinibee

                                                Yeah, it's just my husband and I so we're not going to break the bank. We've bought sashimi-grade tuna more than once (can't remember the vendor) and thought it was very good.

                                          2. Aureole is very close by in their newish space in the Bank of America Building on 42nd between Broadway and 6th. They have their more casual Bar Room if you aren't interested in the full restaurant.
                                            I also like BXL which is kind of hidden away on 43rd also between Broadway and 6th for moules frites and a solid lineup of Belgian beer. A table by the window is nice.
                                            Woorijip is great for quick cheap delicious Korean. Best for take away and is a bit of a walk for you on 32nd and Bway.
                                            Don't expect much of Bryant Park Grill - looks pretty but that's about it.
                                            Also they have some groceries at Zeytinz on the southside of Bryant Park. Just looks like a deli from the outside but they have fresh vegetables and such inside.

                                            -----
                                            BXL Cafe
                                            125 W 43rd St, New York, NY 10036

                                            Woorijip
                                            12 W 32nd St, New York, NY 10001

                                            Bryant Park Grill
                                            25 West 40th Street, New York, NY 10018

                                            Zeytinz
                                            24 W 40th St, New York, NY 10018

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: rdnnyc

                                              rdnnyc, it's funny, but I didn't dare include good Beligan in my wish list. I find it almost impossible to find. I love Belgian beer. Which bottled ones do you like best?

                                              Actually, my hotel is on not all that far from 32d and Bway, so take from Woorjip would work just fine.

                                              Thanks! -- and thanks for the tip in Zeytinz. I hope they carry some breakfast stuff, like muesli.

                                              -----
                                              Zeytinz
                                              24 W 40th St, New York, NY 10018

                                            2. Hey, if you like any of the mobile food vendors (and there's quite a variety) you might want to check out: http://tweat.it

                                              You can located a mobile food vendor that is closest to you on any given day!

                                              1. MID-TRIP UPDATE (before I start forgetting what I ate):

                                                Halfway through my mid-town stay and thanks to Chowhounders, I'm eating well and surprisingly cheaply. Few times I've strayed from Chowhound recs and was mostly sorry.

                                                In brief:

                                                SUSHI ZEN -- charming service, good fresh food, fair prices given the quality. I tried the eel chirashi, and it was excellent. Dining partner went for sushi, and it was high quality. Had hijiki and found it a bit too sweet, but I always prefer less sweet hijiki. Also had the deep-fried tofu in a crab soup as an appetizer, and the soup was wonderfully smokey.

                                                BXL -- Moules and frites and for the price they were well within the acceptable range, if a tad overcooked. I had mine with white wine, shallots -- and thought it was better than my partners with tomato/olives/cilantro. Frites were fried to a nice ruddy surface crisp, but heavy with grease. The house beer (cuvee) was really very good. Chocolate mousse was kind of wet, but made with a good DARK chocolate. Hated the wall-to-wall TVs.

                                                SZECHUAN GOURMET -- I was underwhelmed with everything, but partly blame myself for not going for the core items like Dan-Dan noodles or other incendiary items. Instead, we ordered a daily special of sweet potato cakes, which looked and tasted like an untalented child had cooked them. I ordered a tea-smoked duck (dry, old) and my dinner companion ordered a daily special of beef tenders with no end of complicated veggie in the sauce. Best part of that dish was the amazingly fresh bean sprouts. Friendly service.

                                                ARTIE'S DELI -- not a Chowhound rec, but I was out of the nabe and hungry for pastrami. I was surprised the actual pastrami was so good.

                                                OLYMPIC PITA -- incomprehensible staff behavior, but the falafel was great! Really very good. Tried it on lafa bread, but will go back to pita. The lafa was tasty, but too much bread and it dried out the falafel.

                                                ZEYTINZ -- I needed a quick bite. Went inside, place was jammed. Only short line was for burritos. So I got one. BIG MISTAKE! Everything tasted like preservatives.

                                                VIA BRASIL -- not a Chowhound rec, but a sentimental favorite from times past and still a great midtown bargain. Caipirinha was REALLY good. I ordered a side of fried yucca as an appetizer. Nicely fried but mainly flavorless. I poured a salt shaker on them which helped. I had the shrimp Mocequa and it tasted very nice although shirmp was slightly overdone. Dining partner had the Vatapau and it was tasty and a LOT of food. Best of all was the side of black beans I ordered. They were divine. I couldn't resist sampling the dulce de leche with Brazilian white cheese dessert. Cheese was rubbery and dulce de leche a mound of sticky sweet spackle, only for those who are true kiddies forever.

                                                PATIO BAR BRYANT PARK -- Day was too nice not to elbow in with the tourists and overpay for a badly mixed gin and tonic. When I asked for peanuts, I was handed a bar menu and ended up ordering watermelon and mango bits in a chili sauce just because only in America do you find such things. Everything about it was wrong, but the day was too nice and the sunset ambience too pleasant to complain. Next time: bottled water and a park bench.

                                                ANTICA BOTTEGA DEL VINO -- I was out of the nabe, on my way to a long movie, decided wine and a panini would be just the thing. The prices are a bit galling, but wine and many of the panini really are quite tasty, if not quite Italian. I had a Genovese salami and brie, and the salami was GREAT. I ended up wishing I'd ordered a red wine to go with it rather than a Ribolla Gialla (but the white was excellent).

                                                LE PAIN QUOTIDIEN -- The spontaneous choice of a hungry friend. I went for a side of salmon and two shoe-sole sized slices of excellent rye bread. Can't remember what he ate. Coffee was surprisingly thin. Ambience miid-afternoon very pleasant.

                                                -----
                                                BXL Cafe
                                                125 W 43rd St, New York, NY 10036

                                                7 Replies
                                                1. re: barberinibee

                                                  On the agenda for coming days: Oceana, Molyvos, La Fonda del Sol, probably more Szechuan, Trini-Pak and maybe Bond 45...

                                                  -----
                                                  Molyvos
                                                  871 7th Avenue, New York, NY 10019

                                                  Bond 45
                                                  154 West 45th Street, New York, NY 10036

                                                  Oceana
                                                  120 W 49th St, New York, NY 10020

                                                  La Fonda del Sol
                                                  200 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10020

                                                  1. re: barberinibee

                                                    Thanks for reporting back! If you are heading for more Szechuan, I wouldn't order the dan dan noodles at Szechuan Gourmet. They're pretty weak as they're kind of soupy and watery. Lan Sheng across the street does a much better version -- though, overall, I prefer the food at SG.

                                                    -----
                                                    Szechuan Gourmet
                                                    21 W 39th St, New York, NY 10018

                                                    Lan Sheng
                                                    60 W 39th St, New York, NY 10018

                                                    1. re: Miss Needle

                                                      Okay! Thanks for the heads up. I was thinking trying Lan Sheng just for variety, but what do you like at SG? Or Lan Sheng?

                                                      -----
                                                      Lan Sheng
                                                      60 W 39th St, New York, NY 10018

                                                      1. re: barberinibee

                                                        I've only eaten at Lan Sheng twice while I've had many more meals at SG -- though I order take-out dan dan noodles from Lan Sheng quite often. The girl already knows who I am as soon as I call in for my one order for the noodles. At SG, some things that I've liked are:

                                                        mabo tofu
                                                        cumin lamb -- really good
                                                        fish with chili miso
                                                        szechuan dumplings
                                                        ox tongue and tripe
                                                        conch with chili vinaigrette
                                                        sea scallops with chili peanut sauce

                                                        There are more but can't think of them off the top of my head.

                                                        If you want to try something different, Lan Sheng may be fine for your needs. I like it fine. But I just like SG better. However, as I've only been to Lan Sheng twice, I haven't had as many meals there as I've had at SG.

                                                        But one thing is for certain -- the dan dan noodles at Lan Sheng are head and shoulders better than SG.

                                                        -----
                                                        Lan Sheng
                                                        60 W 39th St, New York, NY 10018

                                                        1. re: barberinibee

                                                          My SG favorites:

                                                          Ox tongue and tripe: cold dish, refreshing and spicy, but maybe not for the less adventurous

                                                          Hand shredded chicken with chili sesame: another cold dish, nutty and thick black sauce, with a kick that only appears 5 seconds afterwards....oh, slow burn! Note that this is different from the poached chicken & cucumbers with chili sesame soy.

                                                          Spicy cucumber salad: love that they use Japanese cucumbers! spicy, crunchy, sweet, refreshing.

                                                          Szechuan pork dumpling with roasted chili soy: one of my favorites, we usually order this every single time and skip the dan dan noodles.

                                                          Braised cellophane noodles with chili minced pork: good but very very carb-y, tough to finish unless you've got multiple people with you.

                                                          Crispy lamb with chili cumin: doesn't really taste lamby but very, very good, we ALWAYS get this. It's one of my husband's favorite dishes.

                                                          Chef's "ma paul" tofu: hands down the *best* thing on the menu IMO, so so good, I LOVE this dish and we ALWAYS order it. Post-NYT review they did tone it down a bit and reduce the portion size, though. :( We often ask them to make it extra spicy. Causes such delight but also such pain. Brace yourself.

                                                          Stir Fried Chicken with roasted chili. They usually ask if you want boneless or bone-in. I find bone-in to be more satisfying but not everybody is OK with eating around bones. :)

                                                          BTW I have never really super impressed with the braised meat with chili/napa dishes. The fish has sometimes tasted kind of muddy/murky to me. I used to like it a lot more. Goat casserole (a board special) was meh, served a bit lukewarm, not really special in terms of flavor.

                                                          Double cooked sliced pork belly with chili and leeks is good but I prefer my pork belly to be less chewy but other 'hounds think it's the BEST thing there so give it a shot. Something about the way it's cut just isn't my thing. Prawns with asparagus and pork are also OK but I often find the asparagus to be a bit stringy.

                                                          1. re: kathryn

                                                            Add me to the list of people who isn't crazy about the pork belly with chili and leeks. While I adore chewiness as a food texture, it just doesn't work for me in that context. I'm kind of yearning for some pork butt instead of the belly.

                                                      2. re: barberinibee

                                                        keep up the "work"! and, be sure to pick up some goodies at Cafe Zaiya before your trip is over.

                                                        and of course, check MidtownLunch for extensive coverage of your area.

                                                        -----
                                                        Cafe Zaiya
                                                        1073 6th Ave, New York, NY 10018

                                                    2. MID TRIP UPDATE AGAIN (heading down the last days of midtown eating!)

                                                      I've had to make a couple of dates outside the target zone of Bryant Park, and returned to a few places for convenience or at request of friends, so here we go anyway:

                                                      LA FONDA DEL SOL (TAPAS BAR) -- Without a doubt, hands down, the best food I've eaten in New York on this trip. Went there after 9pm, sat in the somewhat uncomfortable lounge/bar area, thought the service was poor (the staff seemed to be arguing among themselves while I sat there waiting for my drink) HOWEVER, the food was good all the way around. We ate sea scallops, octopus, crispy eggplant, marcona almonds and olives, and bunyols. We drank a bottle of red from Rioja alta that was excellent. I am planning to go back before I leave.

                                                      CAFE ZAIYA -- Not really my kind of place. I appreciate the fun of all the wacky incredibly cheap offerings, and if I was in the neighborhood all the time, I'd try EVERYTHING once -- but eat it elsewhere for sure! I had a hot dish of mackerel in miso over a flavorful rice. Very good for the price. I couldn't resist grabbing a spicy tuna embedded in a baked bun. It was rewardingly spicy, but just missed being actually good. I took a bite out of my spicy cod roe rice ball and decided not to eat the rest. My lunch companion had some kind of bento box. He said he'd never go back.

                                                      TRINI-PAK PUSHCART DOUBLES -- I can now say I did it and was glad I did -- it is just what fun cheap street food should be in NYC -- but I don't imagine I'd develop a craving for them. What I WOULD develop a craving for is the sorrel flower juice drink they sell which is just terrific. It is like drinking flowers. Delicious!

                                                      MOLYVOS -- I decided to take friends here for dinner because one is solely a white wine drinker, and most of us like to eat fish and veg -- and I was all around DISAPPOINTED in everything, although my friends tried to console me and say they had a nice time. I hated my shrimp Bourekia, and my grilled sardines were slightly overcooked. I never met the plate of skordalia I didn't like, and I liked Molyvos's version with beets but it was not the greatest I've tasted. (Even Symposium uptown does a lustier version.) A pasta dish was left uneaten by a companion. Others liked their grilled whole fish, but no "ooos" or "aahs" from anybody. I am going to Oceana tonight, and dearly hope everything is better!

                                                      SZECHUAN GOURMET -- a return visit, this time armed with a list from Chowhounders about what to eat. Best dish was for me the Szechuan dumplings, managing to be both silky smooth and fiery. The spicey cukes were abrasively hot, the cold sliced conch dish with chili just didn't come together. My dining partner liked the cumin lamb more than I did (it's just a lot of cumin in my opinion without anything else going for it, meat tough and dry), and the oil-soaked batter slipped around the fried scallops (with peanuts) dish took me back to days of yore in Szechuan restos, when I think my stomach was stronger. It's possible I've lost my appetite for NY restaurant Szechuan food.

                                                      LE PAIN QUOTIDIEN -- a return visit with a friend for whom I'd done the favor of escorting him home following a colonoscopy! Belgian waffles are just what the doctor ordered (I ate all the fruit). We got a side of gruyere which looked like it was straight from Boar's head but it was actually very nutty and didn't taste refrigerated. We got Belgian brownies to go and they were tasty later on.

                                                      OSTERIA AL DOGE -- a request from the post-colonoscopy friend, who wanted liver for dinner. I had a bite and it was extremely well prepared, as was an antipasto of grilled octopus. I sprung for chilled spring pea soup and a glass of prosecco. The soup was vibrantly green and smooth and fresh, but I could have lived without the hint of garlic. I had the lamb shank and it was fine, as was the glass of pinot nero I had with it.

                                                      VIA BRASIL -- request of a friend who loves their tutu a miniera. He was happy. I was less so with my Frango Bossa Nova. The underlying chicken had very little flavor and the black beans were a dud -- a real contrast from a few nights befre. For an appetizer we split an order fried linguica which were supposed to come with manioc fries but came with yucca fries instead. The Caipirinha was great as always, and we split a bottle of Portugese wine that was fun and lively.

                                                      OKAY! So i'm nearing the end of my 10 day stay, hoping to squeeze in a Korean bimbap before I go, and a return visit to La Fonda del Sol -- and maybe a drink at the St Regis!!!

                                                      -----
                                                      Molyvos
                                                      871 7th Avenue, New York, NY 10019

                                                      Oceana
                                                      120 W 49th St, New York, NY 10020

                                                      La Fonda del Sol
                                                      200 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10020

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: barberinibee

                                                        THE FINALE -- NO MORE EATS

                                                        I've eaten my last midtown meal for the foreseeable future, and here is the final take, with a few outliers tossed in.

                                                        OCEANA -- I picked this restaurant for its proximity to the Cort Theatre as much as for its rave reviews.. Some excellent items came to our table -- in particular raw oysters, a tamarind-glazed mahi mahi and the assorted cheese plate. Chilled lobster, a wild striped sea bass and a gnocchi with crabmeat were generous, professionally done, but lack luster. A custard brownie dessert was enjoyed by the person who ate it. The milk chocolate-cashew sundae didn't seem worth the calories to me. The sommelier was consulted about a wine choice, and when we balked at his first suggestion of a Chablis, he raved about it so much we changed our minds and went with the Chablis. We were sorry we did. It was rough and rather sour. I disliked the decor and ambience intensely. The service was very good.

                                                        TIA POL -- Was out of the target zone, spotted it and since it was more or less empty, popped in for a quick early lunch. Had a terrific po'boy of fried caimari and a homemade aioli and a very nice Spanish rose, rioja alta. Coffee wasn't so great.

                                                        LA FONDA DEL SOL LOUNGE -- a repeat visit because it made me so happy the first time, and? -- You can never go home again! Despite my first visit being on a Friday night, Wednesday night was a cacaphony of ear-splitting rock and screaming patrons. It's a testament to the food that it still tasted delicious despite my headache. Scallops were just as good as before, a plate of crispy eggplant was outstanding. Meatballs were perfectly done although the sauce was prosaic. A soft pate of duck and pork with sherry might not please everybody (very goopy and liver-y) and shrimp with garlic was ordinary. Two very nice glasses of sherry went well with everything. I left the selection of helados I ordered for dessert mostly uneaten. it wasn't good and it took forever to arrive.

                                                        JOE ALLEN -- the choice of friends. It never changes.

                                                        PAX WHOLESOME FOODS -- it was raining, it was right there, i needed something to eat -- but that's still no excuse, I know.

                                                        MANY THANKS TO CHOWHOUNDERS FOR ALL THEIR RECS!