prima takes Manhattan- a report from a short visit
Don Antonio on W 50th
quick Napoli-style pizza and espresso at the bar of Don Antonio before a Broadway show.
I tried the Capua- arugula, prosciutto, mozzarella di Bufala, basil, pecorino gran cru. Nice sauce, less char than some places, friendly service. Good espresso. I'll keep Don Antonio on my 'good food before a Broadway show' shortlist. The Pizza Pianeta, fried, and filled with ricotta and escarole, looked interesting. Might try that another time.
Salvation Taco on E 39th
lunch menu: http://www.salvationtaco.com/menu_lunch.html
drinks menu: http://www.salvationtaco.com/menu_drink.html
The lunch menu is more limited than the dinner menu, and only 3 tacos (Moroccan lamb on naan, skirt steak and a roasted cauliflower) were available. Overall, I liked the vibe, and I'm happy there's an option for tacos within a 10 minute walk of Grand Central, but the food tasted like Mexicanish food reinvented by someone who doesn't really get Mexican food. Some things were heavy on the salt, and a few dishes were spicy, but didn't come across as the same spicy I usually associate with Mexican food. I love tacos al pastor, and no al pastor version was available at lunch, so I tried the al pastor quesadilla, as well as the skirt steak/chipotle/pecan taco, and the Moroccan lamb naan 'taco', an order of guacamole, and a special request non-alcoholic version of coconut horchata rum cocktail, the 5 Island Horchata http://www.salvationtaco.com/menu_drink.html . Salvation Taco's guacamole serving was tiny for $9, perhaps there was a half cup of guacamole. Which was ok for me, portion-wise, but $9 is steep for such a dainty amount. Certainly better guacamole for less dinero at Toloache http://toloachenyc.com/index_mn.html
Salvation Taco's quesadilla, at $7, IIRC, was a generous portion (and would have been enough for lunch for me with the guacamole), relative to the other dishes (1 taco per taco order), but the quesadilla was also my least favourite, so I wouldn't order the quesadilla again. I guess I don't like cheese mixed with my pineapple and pork. The lamb on naan was tasty enough, but didn't really taste Moroccan (or Mexican) and it was on the salty side. My special order virgin horchata was an interesting take, with soy milk and coconut milk. The service was very friendly. I appreciated that the bartender would whip up a virgin version of one of the cocktails. I liked the vibe. The crowd was mostly 30 and 40somethings when I was there at lunch. Salvation Taco is located inside a hotel, so breakfast is also served. The menu that sounds more interesting than most hotel breakfasts in the east 30s. http://www.salvationtaco.com/menu_breakfast.html
A cappuccino, a DKA and Cannele at Dominque Ansel in SoHo. Neat little shop. Beautiful desserts, especially the refrigerated, mousse-filled desserts. The DKA didn't have much in common with the Kouign Amann I love in Brittany. It still was tasty, but it seemed light on the sugar and butter, and less flakey than what I've bought in France. I've only had a few canneles, and I enjoyed this version, although I think it might have been baked further than the previous versions I've tried. Nice cappuccino, and surprisingly enjoyable and upbeat classic rock playing in the background while I was there.
Dinner at Louro on West 10th. This was the best meal of my visit. We ordered the piri piri shimp, the seafood fritters, the raved-about gnocchi with added truffle, the brussels sprouts, a lobster tagliatelle (which replaced the risotto the night we were there), the duck confit and breast, the lemon cake with olive oil sorbet, the pb pain perdu with marshmallow ice cream. My friends enjoyed some of the creative cocktails. Prices were very reasonable considering the high quality of the food and service. For anyone who likes lemon desserts, I can't recommend the lemon cake at Louro enough. It's amazing.
Lunch at Amy's Bread on Ninth Ave. Ended up getting a turkey and avocado sandwich at Amy's Bread, before a Broadway show. The bread was fresh, and it was a good ready-made sandwich, but I would have been just as happy with a ready-made sandwich from Bouchon Bakery or Dean & Deluca's Cafe near Rockefeller Center.
Finikia and kourambiedes from Poseidon Bakery on Ninth. Very reasonable, and good quality for commercial Greek-style cookies.
Cocktails in the Algonquin Hotel's lobby on West 44th between 5th and 6th.
We had a round table, and we shared one extremely tiny bowl of snack mix amongst 4 friends. We stuck to the traditional stuff- Old Fashioned, Martini, Irish Whiskey and something the bartender whipped up that was something like a Shirley Temple with some added grapefruit.
Dinner at Macao. My friends and I went a little order-crazy due to hunger, and shared maybe a few too many dishes, but that enabled us to try most of the menu. We ordered oysters, Momofuku-esque grilled bacon buns, surprisingly large steamed chicken/pork belly dumplings, octopus escabeche with cannellini beans, mushroom and truffle croquettes, African chicken, chili prawns, hakka noodles, potato wedges, bacon and shrimp fried rice, brussels sprouts, and 3 scoops of gelato. We had plenty to take home. I wouldn't reorder the potato wedges or brussels sprouts. Most of the food was fairly tasty, but my friends who dined with me, who are familiar with Macanese food, mentioned this was nothing like the real deal. Innovative cocktails, brought to Macao by some of the minds at Employees Only. I had some sort of coconut/basil concoction called the Drunken Dragon's Milk:
Charbay Green Tea Vodka shaken with Young Coconut Puree,
Thai Basil & Macao Five-Spice Bitters, served tall.
Very loud, perhaps more popular for the cocktails than the food. The kitchen is open until 3:30 am for anyone looking for late night eats.
For those of you who are much more familiar with the Chinese food scene in New York than I am, are there any restaurants in Manhattan or beyond, serving any Macanese food?
Cappuccino at Fika Espresso Bar on W 58th. Neat little shop, milkier cappuccino than I expected, but certainly nice quality coffee.
Tea in the Lobby Bar at the Bowery Hotel on the Bowery. Nice quiet place to meet up on a Sunday afternoon. http://www.theboweryhotel.com/amenities.php
Dinner at Forcella on the Bowery. Surprisingly generous arugula and radicchio salad, and a decent Margherita pizza, with more cheese and more char than the pizza I ordered at Don Antonio. I prefer the sauce and dough at Don Antonio. If I return to Forcella, I'll get the Montenara next time. The Montenara is what I should've ordered. Friendly service.
Baba al Limoncello at Eataly, filled with a little pastry cream. Lighter and less boozy than most French babas I've tried, and the first limoncello-based baba I've tried.
Bouchon Bakery at Rockefeller Center
Smoked salmon on brioche with pickled onions, a cappuccino and a Nutter Butter to-go at Bouchon. Enjoyed the brioche sandwich, but I still prefer nova and a shmear on a poppyseed bagel. Down-to-earth staff, who were happy to replace my cappuccino, when some drops of an unidentifiable, non-rain liquid fell from above, outside, a little too close to my cappuccino. I used to think a Levain chocolate chip cookie would be the most caloric cookie in NYC, but I think the Nutter Butter might take the prize. I ate about 1/4 of the cookie, and the rest is in my freezer for later. Would be nice to see Bouchon Bakery sell some bite-sized versions
of their American-style baked goods. I hoped to see a sticky bun at Bouchon, but I stopped by several times, and no sticky buns were available. I did notice Dominique Ansel also serves a pistachio sticky bun.
Thank you to all the Chowhounds who helped me with their suggestions and comments.
Thanks for the reviews. Im not real familiar with all of the places. But on Salvation, I agree with you on the small size and high prices of guacamole and tacos. I personally didn't like the lamb on naan taco. The 2 best things I've had there and like very much is the lamb tongue sandwich ( only available at lunch) which should be available at dinner, and the fried pig ears are great and very filling. They should serve the fish taco at lunchtime. The crowd at night seemed like 20's and 30's when i was there and lunch 30's and 40's. The back long tables reminded me of a Starbucks , since so many people were on their iPads and laptops. But the restaurant is in the Pod hotel , so it's understandable.
Louro rules and I liked your review.
Fika usually doesn't over milk their cappuccino, I'm surprised. I like their latte also, and their little cookies.
Macao I agree is far from the real Macanese food. The creators of the menu are long gone. The food was horrible there about a year ago. So I guess even though it wasn't what you expected, it was good enough for you to eat a bunch of dishes . So , I guess the food improved, whatever kind of food it actually is.
i have only been to Forcella in Brooklyn and the pizza i liked best there was the fried pizza, but I like Motorino a lot better. I have not tried Don Antonio.
Again, thanks for the reviews.
re: the lamb on naan at Salvation- I think what l liked about the lamb was its crispy crust, which reminded me of the crispy bits in some shawarma. I wouldn't go out of my way to order it, and I'm not sure it fits with the rest of the menu. I'll keep the pigs' ears in mind. I do want to try the Salvation Taco fish taco, at some point. The tortas did look pretty good, at a neighbouring table.
The baked goods did look nice at Fika. If it had been available this past Sun, I would have ordered their gravlax. Unfortunately, the only non-pastries were the tuna sandwich, this past Sunday morning, when I stopped in.
If I could only order one, I'd order the gnocchi. I find gnocchi to be a dish that a lot of restaurants don't get quite right, so I'm always on the lookout for a good gnocchi.
The gnocchi was a richer dish than the tagliatelle was, so if you like lighter things, the tagliatelle might be a better option. I'm not sure how often or regularly Louro offers the lobster tagliatelle instead of the lobster risotto.
Thanks to Dave Feldman's reply http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/883322#7895277 , here's a link to a blog with photos of some dishes at Louro, including the gnocchi:
Which reminds me- the sea scallops with tangerine and pumpkin seeds were also delicious, and distinct from most sea scallop preparations I've ordered. I forgot to mention them in my report.