Monday, March 06, 2006

Big tables

In January, my pal Josh celebrated a birthday, and I volunteered some recommendations of places to go with a large group. We were focussing mainly on the East Village for some reason. Oh yeah... we had plans to go to Von for drinks afterwards, so we wanted to be convenient to the bar.

Check these out:
Banjara - excellent Indian spot, nicer than the usual joints on the block and especially good. 1st ave and 6th street
Pylos - greek food in a cool room with clay pots all over the ceiling, 7th st and 1st ave
Cafecito - casual, cuban food, cheap and good. ave c and 11th st
Mancora - surprisingly yummy peruvian food, I get delivery all the time from their BK outpost, inexpensive. 1st ave at 6th st
Euzkadi - spanish, tapas, very european vibe, I had a fun birthday here once, 4th and 1st
Mo Pitkins - new place on Ave. A with a kooky updated jewish/latin retro fusion comfort food menu. Or something.
Hasaki is the good Japanese place that everyone likes a lot, downstairs location, nice but not fancy. On 9th st at 4th ave.

We ended up at Mancora, one of my reliable Smith Street stand-bys now transplanted into the East Village. Two issues though -- the heating was all messed up, blasting burning gusts of recycled air right at our table. Unpleasant. Another strange misstep was that one of the ceviches was served in a bowl that was so unbalanced and precarious that Josh spilled the ceviche in his lap, twice! Why use dishware that literally topples over and dispenses its food in your customers' laps? The food was great, though, and we had a lovely evening, fish juice be damned...

Dinner with someone's mother in Union Square

I love it that people ask me for dinner ideas. My friend Sara's mom was visitng recently, and Sara needed somewhere to go with her mom and her mom's friend. The parameters were: Union Square area, not too crazy expensive, parent-friendly so not too annoyingly hip and sceney, but New Yorkish enough to give the midwestern ladies a thrill. My ideas were the following...

Basta Pasta - really cool spot, an Italian place run by Japanese. It's got this interesting cross-cultural approach, always lots of expat Japanese there, Italian food through an Asian lens. Not too expensive, on 17th at 5th ave.

BLT Fish is great, on 17th street, a casual (no res) fish shack downstairs, a more upscale and expensive dining room upstairs.

Mesa Grill might be good too - very parent-friendly, southwestern/mexican food, upscaled. The celebrity chef factor might have some appeal if she watches the food network. On 5th Ave. at 16th or so.

There's a newish tapas place, big and glam spot called Barca 18, on Park Ave. South at 18th St.

Beppe - I've heard great things about this place, mid-range Italian, 22nd street at Bway. [This is where they ended up going, and they LOVED it. They had to wait for their table for a while, and were comped free champagne and fries while they sat at the bar. I love it when a restaurant realizes they need to placate the paying customers. I mean, my friends won't remember the fact that they had to wait 40 miniutes for their table, but they will remember the free goodies and the fine treatment by way of apology.]

Also on the same block as Beppe is a prix fixe spot called Kitchen 22 - $25/3 courses, supposed to be really good. But I did hear that they recently had a change in chef, so no telling what it has become of late.

In the ABC Carpet & Home store are a couple good restaurants - Pipa, which is tapas (never been), and Lucy which is upscale Mexican (where I had a very good lunch once, though it may have been distorted by the fact that I had just come from the dentist and my entire mouth was numb.)

Some food ideas for my sister

My sister hosted a dinner party the other night, with a green curry as the centerpiece main dish. She was looking for appetizer and dessert ideas that might go well with the coconut curry, so here is what I recommended:

- a kind of salsa/dip with: smoked salmon, chopped, with green onions, crushed garlic, grated ginger, avocado, toasted sesame seeds, in a dressing of soy sauce and lime juice. with rice crackers for dipping.
- store bought peanut sauce in bowl, warmed (or not, maybe doctored with cilantro and whatever you want), with crudites like baby carrots, endive leaves, red pepper strips and green beans lightly steamed.
- really, those bags of frozen dumplings/potstickers are awesome, buy a couple packages and make a homemade dipping sauce.

- green tea ice cream and/or that yummy haagen dazs mango sorbet, with almond cookies crushed on top.
- bananas fried in butter and brown sugar (and cardamom/clove too), on top of vanilla ice cream.
- plate of pineapple and oranges (like in chinese restaurants!) with warm mochi.

In the end she went with the very easy peanut sauce served with lightly steamed green beans. The guests went wild! Well, maybe not wild, but she said it was a hit, and for that I am very pleased.