This post is really a sequel to my previous one: Ode to the Cosmo. We had combed Trip Advisor and Open Table, (Zagat, not so much as we have really been disappointed with their reviews when we tried restaurants using their ratings). I had nagged my Resident Wine Maniac (RWM) to go to Torrisi Specialties. We also decided on the Oyster Bar at Grand Central Station (he adores raw oysters) and they have a Guastavino tiled ceiling. On a local note, if you go to the Building Museum in DC, there is a lovely small exhibit about the extraordinary contribution of this Spanish immigrant family to American architecture.
We also planned to revisit Eataly, try the new bar room restaurant at MOMA, and then strike out on some walkable finds in Tribeca. We kept in mind a friend’s remark that when you eat in New York, it is best to pretend that you have Monopoly money in your wallet.
The hands down winner of all the restaurants in Tribeca for a somewhat grand meal was Danny Meyer’s North End Grill. Entrance and bar area is of course noisy, but the large back space is quieter and comfortable. Service was what we long for in an American wait staff. Crisp and casual attire, friendly but not annoying. None of the– Hi-my- name- is -Brad- and- I-will-be- your- server-tonight–patter. There was a male and a female sommelier, both knowledgeable and helpful, (even getting a wine label for the RWM and putting it on a card). All were attentive, but not hovering. According to the RWM, their wine list was excellent and not overpriced. He had some of the best raw oysters he has ever eaten– Beau Soleil. I had the salmon crudo with figs. He tried a Forchu lobster and I had the rice encrusted salmon with a watermelon sauce. The drop- dead dessert was a deconstructed German chocolate cake. Bread was marvelous, as was the butter. My view is that bread can be more than merely an acceptable vehicle for butter.
It was fun to look at what was happening at the open stations and at interesting diners, from sports figures, to a family with grandmother and grand children–all totally immersed in playing with their cell phones during the entire dinner-except when they asked a waiter to take their picture. I felt very old fashioned and tried not to frown!
Second winner was the Bar Room at the Museum of Modern Art, which has had a make- over and may be a better bet than the highly lauded main dining room. An absolutely killer flower display in minimal MOMA style greets you. The room is sparsely designed and decorated in keeping with the Modern’s concept. Chairs are comfortable, though–I was surprised. Menu is designed to be small plates, but really the portions are very generous, so you can easily share. I had the poached egg and foie gras in a glass canning jar, a delicious and clever presentation and then tripe casserole (I love tripe and never get to cook at home). The cookie plate was a complete MOMA presentation. Bread and butter in MOMA baskets (which you can purchase in their very cool gift shop) were again delicious. Then you go off and visit an exhibit or two, and you will leave well fed and cultured to boot.
A close second place winner was Locanda Verde which was dreamed up by Andrew Carmellini. So– big room, noisy, spacious, dark, rustic design with outdoor seating as well. Fried artichokes with yogurt and mint plus a terrific squid ink pasta with mixed seafood and sausage made me a very happy girl. Desserts are simple but delicious. We had a good time exploring the wine list as we we both want to taste more hard- to- find Italian wines. The list here had many we had not heard of. The waiter helped us pick out an unusual white and a great red for summer dining that were totally unknown to us. No complaints at all.
A trip to Torrisi Specialties is a trip to a weird dollhouse fantasy of Italian, sort of, based dishes. It has a tasting menu only and the restaurant is a tiny space, very cleverly decorated in pseudo Italian- American 1940s grocery store style. All food is hand made there including their much lauded made- to- order mozzarella. We admired the very clever American wines only list. You ate on their schedule and not yours, so sometimes you hadn’t quite finished your little tasting course, when the waiter would make it obvious that the next course was coming, ready or not. Some of them were lovely, some of them, including the dessert, were misbegotten in concept, (which was a shame because they had wonderful ingredients). We felt we couldn’t talk without disturbing either staff or other diners. You get a little box of their mignardises as a present as you leave. While I loved the video, and was curious about the experience, I wouldn’t go back.
Tribeca Grill is on the same strip as Locanda Verde, and as a treat for the RWM, we went there for dinner. It is known for its HUGE wine list, He loved combing through the list and did his best to cherry pick a Cotes Du Rhone, which was not easy as it is priced for hedge fund managers. Competent service and food, but it would not be worth a second trip.
Ah yes, the Oyster Bar at Grand Central. Do not go there. We made reservations, were seated at a table next to the service door and in front of a very sadly manned busing station. We asked to be moved to another area (there seemed to be hundreds of empty seats) and we were told by one of the managers that The Unions didn’t allow them to open up other areas until a certain hour. Then they promptly seated other people in said areas. Huge menu-always a bad sign. The waiter, who was sort of worn down, wanted to give us his selection of oysters, and Robert opted to make his own choices (as far north as possible) and try two each of several oysters from very cold waters. He then picked the one he liked and ordered a larger order of those. The bar shucked and served him the wrong ones. We were too tired to argue. I finished a barely passable fish entree and we left.