Monday, August 13, 2007

Steph's restaurant reviews - part 2

I’ve decided to continue with my restaurant reviews, this time focusing on the East village, Tribecca and the Lower East Side.

Café Cito – 185 Avenue C, East Village
One of my favourite place in the city, Cafecito is a tiny, authentic Cuban restaurant, complete with white formica tables. I usually start by drinking mojitos while sitting on the high stools set on the sidewalk at the bar protruding from the front windows, watching the world go by, being amazed that almost everyone walking past seem to know each other and loving the real neighbourhood feel of the area. The actual restaurant is very small but the food is delicious and good value.

Churrascaria Riodizio – 221 West Broadway, Tribecca
I still can’t pronounce the name but it’s definitely one for the boys (or certainly the boys I was with that night). Churrascaria is a Brazilian steak house and the concept is that the waiters will keep on piling your plate high with 15 different cuts of meat off a huge skewer until you tell them to stop (or turn your coaster from green to red). I may have managed only about 4 types of meat, but they were all delicious. The décor is resolutely unlike a steak house though – think leather chairs and brick walls.

Nobu – 105 Hudson Street, Tribecca
As a huge sushi fan (or even addict), I was very much looking forward to dining at Nobu and I was not disappointed. While I didn’t like the signature miso cod that much (it was surprisingly sweet), I loved the sashimi and the sushi, which were some of the freshest I’ve ever had. The atmosphere was quite cold though, the dining room being overly modern for my liking. We did come across our CEO there though, who was having dinner with one of his key advisor – might not sound like much, but in a company with 90,000 employees around the world, we never see our CEO on a face-to-face basis and it was a little like meeting a movie star, complete with the “he’s shorter than I thought he would be”feeling.

PJ Clarke – World Financial Centre
OK, so it’s not located in Tribecca, the East Village or the Lower East Side and moreover, it’s a chain restaurant. But I spend so much time there that I feel I should write about it. It is located in the World Financial Centre, where I work, and is therefore so convenient that I usually end up there if I fancy a quick drink (or 5) with some work colleagues. A bit like the American equivalent of a local pub.
They have oysters happy hour (50c a piece and a selection of at least 5 varieties), which made me try oysters again for the first time in many years (still can’t eat more than 3 though). They do fantastic crab cakes with more crab than potatoes and their portions are huge, leading me to order everything in appetizer size. But the setting is glorious – sitting outside, watching the sunset over the Statue of Liberty and the numerous yatchs in the harbour. I wouldn’t go to any other PJ Clarkes in the city, but this one is worth it.

Stanton Social – 99 Stanton Street, Lower East side
Such a beautiful place and I love the concept of small plates where you order a number of dishes that you can share with your dining partner – allowing for unlimited greediness. There’s a bar upstairs which we unfortunately didn’t get to experience after dinner as it was so busy. The Lower East Side is the new trendy part of town, still very rough around the edges but being “gentrified” a little more every day. I haven’t spent that much time there but intend to do so in the future. It was the area where most of the early immigrants settled and has a lot of history.

Fat Baby – 112 Rivington Street, Lower East Side
This is the bar we went to after giving up on the bar at the Stanton Social. I was not convinced at first, as the place was industrial in design and completely empty but my companion knew what he was doing. As I was ordering drinks at the bar, my date disappeared, only to come back a few minutes later to lead me down to the basement where he had paid the entrance fee and somebody proceeded to draw an intricate design on our hands (to prove we had paid, I assume, rather than show off remarkable artistic skills).
What followed was probably one of my most memorable night in the city. The basement was hosting live music or “battling” to be precise. I love Eminem and the movie “8 Miles” and I felt I had stumbled onto the set of that film. These young, very talented, kids were rapping and improvising, the crowd rhythmically moving to their beat and anger. I watched in awe, my mouth literally open, unable to process how different downstairs was from upstairs and how lucky I was to be witnessing this. I fell in love even more that night, if it was even possible.

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