Saturday, April 15, 2006

Upper West Side

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Arte Cafe [106 W. 73rd St. (bet. Columbus and Amsterdam Aves.) 212-501-7014]
A pretty setting, friendly service, and good prices combine to make Arte Cafe a good date spot, especially on Monday nights. That's when you can get two pizzas and a bottle of wine for just $30 total! But if you want to go on another night, there are plenty of other solid options on the menu. For pasta, I recommend the Pappardelle with veal ossobuco or the Cavatelli Bolognese.

Cafe Mozart [154 W. 70th St. (at Broadway) 212-595-9797]
After taking in a movie at Lincoln Square cinemas and peeking at David Blaine at Lincoln Center, I needed a late dinner, so I walked uptown with Dan to a place that he recommended. That place was Cafe Mozart. The live piano made up for the otherwise mediocre decor and the food was very good. The menu is extremely eclectic, but Dan and I both chose pastas. I had the creative Midnight Summer Shrimp Pasta featuring black linguine and yellow tomato marinara sauce. Dan went for the Chicken Pesto Pappardelle Pasta and both were delicious. The dessert, however, a Viennese Chocolate Cake, was the best part of all. My one issue was that the pastas were a little overpriced. You can eat a good meal here, but I would recommend it most as a dessert place.

Caffe Swish [2953 Broadway (bet. 115th and 116th Sts.) 212-222-3568]
A different kind of Japanese is served at this Shabu Shabu specialist. Popular among Columbia students, Swish also offers all the standard Japanese fare, along with select Thai dishes. I had the Shabu Shabu, however, and I was intrigued, but ultimately a little disappointed. The dish comes with more food (mostly vegetables) than you could ever possibly eat, which is good. But the process is a little overly involved for my taste (Korean BBQ is better in my opinion). The food quality was solid and the house special sauce was pretty good, however. Make sure to try the Gyoza appetizer and be hungry when you get there.

Columbia Cottage [1034 Amsterdam Ave. (at 111th St.) 212-662-1800]
The food is solid, but nothing to write home about. The real reason to visit this place is the free wine. Yes, that's right. You can get as much free wine as you like with your meal. I recommend a trip to nearby O'Connell's pub (formerly Cannon's at 108th and Broadway) after dinner for some darts and cheap Rolling Rock pitchers.

Crepes on Columbus [990 Columbus Ave. (bet. 108th and 109th Sts.) 212-222-0259]
Delicious food, although the decor is simple and lower-end. I enjoyed a splendid meal here, chowing down on one savory crepe (with grilled chicken, avocado, and swiss cheese) and one sweet crepe (with Nutella, bananas, and strawberries). I was very full for not that much money. My friend had an excellent roast beef sandwich and it appears as if they cook everything well here. And while it is a decent sit-down dinner option, I would say that the restaurant is best suited for brunch, lunch, or delivery. If I lived in the neighborhood I would probably order from here at least twice a week, maybe more.

Flor de Mayo [484 Amsterdam Ave. (bet. 83rd and 84th Sts.) 212-787-3388 and 2651 Broadway (bet. 100th and 101st Sts.) 212-663-5520]
A unique dining experience (at least for me), this restaurant offers both Peruvian and Chinese fare (yes I am being a little lazy putting it in the Chinese category). Anyway, the food is very good, the prices are very low, and the portions are very big. This place is a great deal. I got a huge bowl of Egg Drop Soup for $1.50, half a chicken with yellow rice and a small salad for $7.50, and a side order of yuca for $3.50. Let's just say that was a huge meal. You could easily stuff yourself with just the chicken dish.

Gennaro [665 Amsterdam Ave. (bet. 92nd and 93rd Sts.) 212-665-5348]
A nice, affordable restaurant, Gennaro won't blow you away, but it should leave you satisfied and with most of your money still in your wallet. A nice wine selection is an added bonus.

Indus Valley [2636 Broadway (at 100th St.) 212-222-9222]
Delicious Upper West Side Indian food (plus they have cool cups for your water). I especially liked the lentils and the Chicken Zafrani. Apparently it is one of the only good Indian restaurants on the Upper West Side.

Jacques-Imo's [366 Columbus Avenue (at 77th St.) 212-799-0150]
This is THE place to go for authentic Nawlins food. Prices are a little high, but the food is very high quality. I especially like the Crawfish Etoufee and the cornbread. During the summer, Sunday nights are all-you-can-eat crawfish.

La Cocina [217 W. 85th St. (bet. Broadway and Amsterdam Aves.) 212-874-0770]
You will not walk away from here hungry. The burritos are even bigger than those at Chipotle. And they are available at a reasonable price. But on the whole, the food here is pretty standard Mexican fare. The big deal here is the 2 for 1 margarita special every night from Monday to Thursday. Good for large groups.

Monsoon [435 Amsterdam Ave. (at 81st St.) 212-580-8686]
Solid, but not spectacular Vietnamese fare. I went for the Dim Sum, which was pretty tasty. I also liked the decor of the restaurant, particularly the fans, which made you feel like you were in another country, Vietnam.

Nonna [520 Columbus Ave. (at 85th St.) 212-579-3194]
An Italian brunch? Yes, that's right, I had bacon and eggs here and they were very good. With a nice corner location, this is a good place to eat outside on a summer or spring afternoon. Also, the more traditional Italian food is supposedly pretty solid, so I plan on coming back at some point.

Prohibition [503 Columbus Ave. (bet. 84th and 85th Sts.) 212-579-3100]
Try the mini-burgers...they are delicious. Portions are large, two appetizers could even be enough for a meal. Can also go here as a bar, live (mostly jazz) music every night.

Raku [57 W. 76th St. (bet. Columbus Ave. and Central Park West) 212-873-1220]
Top-notch sushi on the Upper West Side at typical sushi prices. I highly recommend that you visit Raku for a meal. Start off with some excellent Edamame with just the right amount of of salt on it. Then, order the Raku Sushi. This dish offers two large pieces each of 4 of the most popular cuts of sushi (salmon, tuna, eel, and yellowtail), along with a roll of your choice (get the Spicy Tuna roll). The fish is extremely tasty and I loved the sliver of avocado on top of each piece of salmon. This will now be my go-to Japanese restaurant on the Upper West Side.

Saigon Grill [620 Amsterdam Ave. (at 90th St.) 212-875-9072 and 1700 Second Ave. (at 88th St.) 212-996-4600]
Similar to Asia Grill, these two sister restaurants offer typical and tasty Vietnamese dishes at low prices, especially for lunch. Sushi is also offered, but I would recommend sticking mostly to the Vietnamese.

Sezz Medi' [1260 Amsterdam Ave. (at 122nd St.) 212-932-2901]
A taste of Italy on the Upper West Side. Pizza is the way to go here. If you're hungry, order a full pie for yourself. If you're not that hungry, order a full pie and take the leftovers home (or I guess you could share it with someone else...). My Margherita with Prosciutto was fantastic. If you really don't want pizza, you could try a Panuzzo. This is something like a calzone, but with less cheese. It is very filling as well, however.

Silk Road Palace [447 Amsterdam Ave. (bet. 81st and 82nd Sts.) 212-580-3465]
The food here is mediocre to bad. But the wine is boxed, jugged, and free. Unfortunately, too many people know about this place and it is often crowded with a B and T crowd. I recommend Columbia Cottage instead, but Silk Road is more convenient for most people. The Road brunch will always be a dream of mine.

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