Saturday, April 15, 2006

Midtown West

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Abboccato [138 W. 55th St. (bet. 6th and 7th Aves.) 212-265-4000]
Excellent midtown Italian restaurant across from the City Center theater. I went for lunch during restaurant week, but according to the waiter, the same prix-fixe I had is available all the time. I chose a lovely and surprisingly large Fritto Misto (lightly fried mixed seafood) as my appetizer. My main course was the Pollastrello alla Romana, a delectable chicken dish with peppers, tomatoes, and olives. Dessert was the Bonet (chocolate mousse). It was a lot of food for lunch, and it came with a hefty price tag ($24.07). But despite the high prices, I would still recommend Abboccato for its high quality food.

Bella Napoli [150 W. 49th St. (bet. 6th and 7th Aves.) 212-719-2819]
An excellent lunch-time option for those who work in Midtown. Many others know about this place as well however, so expect a long line. It is a little pricey, but get two fresh mozzarella slices and you will feel good about your purchase.

Bon Chon Chicken [314 Fifth Ave., 2nd Floor (at 32nd St.) 212-221-2222]
First, I had to find the place. It's on the second floor of a small office building, a somewhat typical location in Koreatown, but unheard of anywhere else in New York. The space is far larger and more upscale than I expected. This is not a rival to KFC (although it does offer its own twist on that acronym), and this is evident from the moment you read about vitamins on the front door. But while I don't quite believe in the health benefits of Bon Chon's chicken, I do believe in the taste. The stuff is delicious. What's unique to me is the crispiness of the skin, coupled with the tenderness of the chicken inside. It's an excellent combination. Portions come with drumsticks and/or wings, and with a spicy sauce or a soy-garlic sauce. Crucially, neither sauce is slathered on, so the wings are far less messy than most, but they maintain a distinct flavor. For two people, I strongly recommend a large portion of drumsticks and wings, half spicy, half soy-garlic. This will set you back $20, but should fill you up pretty well. For a little palate cleanser, try the radishes that come with the chicken. Other food options on the menu appear to be overpriced, and since they specialize in chicken here, I say stick to the good stuff. Also, the beer is unfortunately overpriced, because it would definitely go well with the chicken. It's $22 for a pitcher ($6 for pints/bottles)!

burger joint [Le Parker Meridien, 119 W. 56th St. (bet. 6th and 7th Aves.) 212-708-7414]
Tucked into a corner of the lobby of this fancy hotel, this place makes one of the best burgers in the city...and at a reasonable price ($5-6). A burger, fries, and a coke should run you $10-11. Expect a long line at lunchtime, but it is worth the wait. You may even spot Bob Costas there.

Cafe Spice [54 W. 55th St. (bet. 5th and 6th Aves.) 212-489-7444]
Do not eat here! Under intense time pressure because we had tickets to an 8:00 PM performance at Carnegie Hall, my friends and I abandoned our plan to eat at the surprisingly crowded Tang Pavilion (one of my favorites as you all know), and walked across the street to Cafe Spice at 7:00 PM. Thinking myself vaguely familiar with the name, I figured it would be a decent choice for a quick dinner. Whoops. The lowlight was certainly the Lamb Seekh Kebab. Avoid it like the plague. It was so rubbery that Dan couldn't even take more than one bite. I unfortunately forced it down. The next afternoon I had some serious stomach problems for about an hour. Coincidence? I think not. For my main dish I ordered the "platter" of Murg Tikka Lababdar (essentially Chicken Tikka Masala). The great deal about the platter is that you get rice, lentils, and naan for "only" $5 extra. Rice is usually included with every dish... Anyway, this dish was thoroughly mediocre. Maybe they excel in more obscure, "authentic" dishes. I did see an Indian family eating there when we were leaving (in time for the show). And I will say that the bathroom sinks were very cool and the service was friendly enough. But don't ever go here. Especially with the incredible Tang Pavilion across the street. I don't care what kind of time pressure you have.

Carnegie Deli [854 Seventh Ave. (at 55th St.) 212-757-2245]
The biggest sandwiches you will ever see at some of the biggest prices. That said, they are extremely tasty and you basically have no choice but to go for the corned beef or the pastrami. Sadly, they charge you extra for sharing a sandwich, but by the time you are done with both the sandwich and the obligatory slice of seven-layer cake afterwards, you just won't care.

Churrascaria Plataforma [316 W. 49th St. (bet. 8th and 9th Aves.) 212-245-0505]
Massive Brazilian smorgasbord. A little pricey ($50 for dinner), but you will definitely leave stuffed. Salad bar is enormous and varied, but don't fill up there. Wait for the meat to come around on skewers. Beef ribs are fantastic, as are the high-end cuts of beef like Top Sirloin. Avoid too much flank steak.

Daisy May's BBQ USA [623 Eleventh Ave. (at 46th St.) 212-977-1500]
I will call this review incomplete for now, but I will come out and say that as far as I know, Daisy May's has the best BBQ in the city. I trekked to the far reaches of the West Side and attempted to diversify my portfolio (even though I know that a return visit is in order). I had the Carolina Pulled Pork sandwich and I was especially pleased with the fact that there was not too much sauce, a common problem used to mask inferior meat I suppose. The pork was delicious, but did not spill out all over the place. I also tried the Memphis Dry Rub ribs. Again, I was very impressed with the taste of the meat. There was no sauce (that's the style) and it wasn't necessary. The spices and flavoring were more than enough. As for sides, I tried the Creamy Corn and the Sweet Potatoes. Both were good, albeit a little heavy for my taste. I could probably eat half a small portion of each. I can't wait to try the other ribs, and if I can get a group together, I'd be interested in attempting to eat a half or whole pig (we used to do this back in was amazing). The prices are a little high for the pigs, but I would guess that you can bring more people than they recommend and just have some of them eat a little less. Finally, look out for the street carts around Midtown. I know I will.

Del Frisco's [1221 Sixth Ave. (at 49th St.) 212-575-5129]
Exactly what you expect to see from a classy New York steakhouse, including the incredible steak. With ceilings higher than most buildings in other cities, and crowds of people who earn more money than most small countries, Del Frisco's in full swing is quite a scene. I suggest the Shrimp Cocktail and the Crab Cake as appetizers. Both are a cut above the industry standard. As for steak, I am partial to the 24 ounce Porterhouse, but you can't go wrong with any of the steak options. All cuts come seasoned and taste delicious. So far, I would christen this the best steakhouse in Manhattan. But, of course, it still does not measure up to Luger's.

Del Valle [665 10th Ave. (bet. 46th and 47th Sts.) 212-262-5510]
Very cheap and very authentic Mexican food is on offer at Del Valle (and at a number of other restaurants on 10th avenue apparently). Oh, and if that's not enough for you, the portions are huge! I ordered 3 soft tacos (1 fried pork, 1 grilled beef, 1 grilled chicken) and I could barely finish my meal. Throw in a Jarritos soda and you'll feel like you're in Mexico, although the food is simply good, not spectacular.

Kang Suh [1250 Broadway (at 32nd St.) 212-564-6845]
This 24-hour Korean joint is a good place to go before or after karaoke in Koreatown. The menu is extensive, but you better eat some do-it-yourself BBQ. With numerous side dishes and plenty of meat, you will leave with a full stomach and a not-too-empty wallet.

Kum Gang San [49 W. 32nd St. (bet. 5th Ave. and Broadway) 212-967-0909]
Another very good Korean BBQ restaurant in Koreatown. Almost all of these places are extremely big and this one is no exception, and the front has what I thought was an 80" TV. Oh yeah, the food is good too. Stick to the BBQ, I especially liked the Special Kalbi and the Miso Soup was a good starter.

Kunjip [9 W. 32nd St. (bet. 5th Ave. and Broadway) 212-216-9487]
This place was jam-packed, but once I finally sat down here, I was treated like royalty, Korean royalty. The service was extremely attentive and it seemed as if the staff did not want any of its diners to lift even a finger. I started with the Man Doo Jim (steamed dumplings), before moving onto some delicious BBQ. All the regular side dishes were on display and my favorite BBQ dish was probably the Yetnalsik Bul Go Ki. All in all, an excellent K-Town dining option.

Rockefeller Center Food Court [30 Rockefeller Plaza]
The place to meet if you work on Park Avenue and your friend works on 6th Avenue. I'll always have a soft spot for Manchu WOK, mostly because they will call me "Young Man" until I am 50 (don't worry girls, they will call you "Young Lady" for just as long). And their combination plate is surprisingly a little above mediocre. The ubiquitous Hale and Hearty is predictably solid. I'm not sure what everyone sees in Cucina & Co., but it is there. Mendy's, Tossed, and Two Boots round out some other places that deserve consideration. Only one major problem: getting a table at lunch time can be a battle, but if you are vigilant and aggressive you should be ok.

Rue 57 [60 W. 57th St. (at 6th Ave.) 212-307-5656]
Overpriced and overcrowded, Rue 57 is not the ideal place to go for brunch. BUT the restaurant does offer some delicious banana pancakes and a beautiful brasserie setting. Oddly enough, they also offer a full sushi bar. So if you know what you are getting into, you will probably enjoy yourself, but don't make it a regular thing.

Soba Nippon [19 W. 52nd St. (bet. 5th and 6th Aves.) 212-489-2525]
One of my favorite lunch spots, Soba Nippon grows its own buckwheat for its fantastic soba noodles. My favorite is the Zaru Soba lunch which comes with a salad and tofu sushi. I will often supplement this with a toro scallion roll, showing that this place is not one-dimensional, but the noodles are clearly the best and superior to any others I have had in America.

Tang Pavilion [65 W. 55th St. (bet. 5th and 6th Aves.) 212-956-6888]
For my money, the best deal on Chinese food in the city. Not only is the quality of the food arguably as good as anywhere else, but the prices are not too high. There is something for everyone here, although I usually start with the Egg Drop Soup with Crab Meat, before ordering Lamb with Broccoli in Hot Sauce, Beef with Shredded Peppers, and Shredded Chicken with Snow Pea Leaf. But almost every dish I have tried has been delicious.

Won Jo [23 W. 32nd St. (bet. 5th Ave. and Broadway) 212-695-5815]
An excellent Korean BBQ restaurant. They have all the standards and they taste very good. Also a nice atmosphere and the grill is powered by real coals that they bring to your table. Prices are standard.

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