Many moons ago, I used to hang out and hook up with girls in Murray Hill. I was young and it was cheap, with some cheap thrills too - all good things. I haven't been there in awhile aside from passing it en route to the Midtown tunnel. That’s why it was such a treat to return to my past and get down and dirty… with Murray Hill.
Burlesque in a dimly-lit white tablecloth restaurant. Tits and ass seductively covered in glamour, pasties and well-placed glitter. Murray Hill hosting, boasting and roasting in a powder blue suit. Pot-yielding pals and a table in the corner. Nope – these are not the new lyrics to the classic song by Julie Andrews – these are just a few favored things that happen in a small yet perfect space on Duane Street in a restaurant I could definitely get into. The crowd is intimate – reservations only and no cancellations, with compliance ensured by your credit card when the reservation is made. Our so-diverse-it’s-obnoxious crowd included a lovely table of lesbian firefighters, a couple of bachelorette parties, a couple who disagreed on which anniversary they were celebrating, a few lucky dates and of course, the incomparable, inimitable, hilarious, mustachioed and polyestered, Murray Hill (the pseudo dude, not the pseudo neighborhood). Murray, I’ll know I made it in life if you deliver my eulogy. Although the menu is a $75 per head pre-fix (not including booze, tax or tip) and well, attached to a burlesque joint, there is a diverse offering of both starters and mains. We decided to start with a four-way of Tuna Tartare with Tahini Sauce, Seared Sea Scallops, Skillet Roasted Shrimp with Georgia Cheese Grits and Grilled Octopus, and a one-way of short, young brunette. Although I only tried the Tuna and the Shrimp, everything looked superb. The Tuna was very good and the surprisingly sweet Tahini sauce was the perfect complement. The Grits in SheView’s Shrimp would have even satisfied my cousin Vinny. Once we were done with appetizers and were each a dirty martini (or blood orange margarita) in, my defenses were down and my Murray (Hill) was up – the perfect host! For mains, we had a tall blond with more back tattoos than Kat Von D, the Organic Chicken with Potato Puree, along with Pork Loin with Grilled Georgia Peaches for our worthy counterparts, with Salmon for SheView and Red Wine Braised Beef Short Ribs and Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes for me. The Short Ribs were slightly on the fatty side, but hey, they are supposed to be fatty, and the potatoes were on the crunchy side, but hey, I was feeling happy. So strong marks on the food, stronger marks on the experience and strongest marks for your host – the King of Downtown with a name from Midtown, Murray Hill. 157 Duane Street | Between West Broadway and Hudson (212) 732-5555
Life Lesson: Never leave your wife stag on Canal Street at night so you don’t have to pay the fee at the ATM. Not even for a New York Minute. She might get jacked and more importantly, you’ll never hear the end of it.
Isola is the newest incarnation of a gorgeous, breathtaking space in the Mondrian Hotel in Soho that for some reason keeps trying to make sub-par restaurants. Ideally, this space would just exist to make people happy – visually indulgent and a great place to meet for cocktails with friends. Unfortunately, we do not live in such a fantasyland and some people have to make a buck. When you do arrive at Isola, you feel like you are in for something special when you walk in and through an ivy-laced corridor with exposed brick. Even with no reservations, we were seated by the lovely hostess within 15 minutes of arrival - after a drink at the bar and Heview being hit on by the maitre he’, there we were at a table for four right in the middle of our dream space. The antithesis of the friendly (and quick) staff to this point was our waiter. He took so bloody long between visits I could feel my food getting cold before it even arrived. By the time we finally got our appetizers, our waiter placed a Burrata Pizza with Pesto and Roasted Tomato, an order of Tuna Crudo with White Balsamic, Jalapeno, Watermelon and Pine Nuts, along with the Beef, Veal and Pork Meatballs in Roasted Tomato Sauce. The Tuna was a nice dish and seemed to be enjoyed by all who ventured into it and the Meatballs looked amazing and tasted something like decent. The Burrata Pizza was a thin crust and also just decent. At this point the meal needed to be saved by our company and the maitre he’, who decided to join us for a bit! If only the food was as good as he was flamboyant and amazing, we would have been in for a treat. For mains, the Branzino was somewhere in the middle of the road and the Parmesan Potatoes were completely dry. The Mushroom Polenta was the one saving grace of the second act, but a side dish does not a meal make. If we were going to get jacked anywhere, I’d prefer it be in here than for real on the street, so the night turned out ok from that perspective, but I do not need to come back here until the next restaurant gets churned out – until then I’ll just admire the space from afar. 9 Crosby Street | Between Grand & Howard Streets (212) 389-0000
I enjoy cocktails. No beating around the bush – a glass of wine, a vodka drink, a dirty martini, a scotch or a special of the house… they all sound delicious. So obviously, when one is in the Hamptons and having fun in the sun (meaning wine and sangria during the day and liquor at night), a partner in crime is good too. Here’s to you pahdna and Happy Birthday!
Beaumarchais. Fancy name. Fancy address. A reservation here means securing a babysitter and having a civilized dinner in a nice restaurant right? If that’s the direction you’re thinking in, try taking a step back and putting on jeans, some carefully placed ink and a crumpled v-neck if you’re a dude and a micro mini that does not cover your caboose if you’re a gal. Yup, welcome to da club. Luckily, our crewsome of four caught ourselves covered both ways by showing up as adults, but adults who’d been drinking for a few solid hours pre-arrival (well, at least the dudes were). Once seated, if you happen to be a married couple who enjoys people watching other married types while enjoying good food at a restaurant, welcome to a complete change-of-pace delight as you gawk at young, too young and early-20’s carefree revelers parade by in a stream of random hookups from your youth, most likely (we think) caused by déjà vu. Lil View is not allowed on the premises until 2042. The menu is pretty simple and straightforward with 3-4 salads, a few appetizers, couple of pastas and a few fish and beef entrees. We decided to start with the Burrata, which has to be good because all cheese is delicious, and the Truffled Ravioli, which has to be good because all pasta is delicious. Well, turns out the cheese guy was downstairs in the kitchen bathroom and the sous chef was staring at the 20-somethings instead of cooking the ravioli, because we were wrong on both counts. Stiff Burrata and cold Ravioli. At this point you should just go with the flow and (a) order more vodka, and (b) order more bad food, because it’s fun! For mains, we ordered one Scallops, one Nicoise with no tuna, one Filet medium rare and one Steak Frites medium. The Nicoise, while obviously not a true Nicoise since it had no tuna, was not remotely enjoyed by its owner (and preggers deserved a good meal!), while the Scallops were rejected by SheView’s distinguished scallop palate. The steaks were good for a bite or two, but that joy quickly dissipated as we got into the meaty part of the meat. Truth be told, the fries were very good – maybe they were flown in? The end result of the evening had two of us with plenty of drinks being drunk and staying for a bit to make sure the kitchen closed down ok, but not until we had the ridiculous and obnoxious dessert served in a giant sundae glass with a sparkler. In a restaurant like this where the kitchen serves less utility than the bar and the crowd, the most you can hope to leave with is a couple of shekels in your pocket and less of a stomachache than the hangover you know you’ll have the next day. 44 Three Mile Harbor Road | East Hampton (212) 675-2400
Shutter Island: A movie that stars Leonardo DiCaprio and takes place on a remote island that houses the criminal insane.
Shelter Island: A remote island that stars HeView on multiple occasions this summer and consists only of beautiful homes, a gorgeous beach, a few good (and one great) restaurants, a school and a small police station.
Shutter Island… mental hospital. Shelter Island… no hospital.
Vine Street Cafe
The Hamptons are a playground for various demographics… foodies, partiers, families, singles, swingers, celebrities, too young to have obligations and too old to forget responsibilities. The next time you are this far east and still in New York, no matter which bill fits you, I suggest getting on the car ferry and taking the 120-second ride from North Haven (Sag Harbor) to Shelter Island. Not only is the ride fun, but you can also people-watch at Sunset Beach and if you were lucky enough to score the reservation, head over to the Vine Street Café on Route 114. The restaurant is located right off that main road and housed on topographically challenged land, so the parking situation is pretty rough to say the least. Once you manage to sandwich your car between a tree and a giant rock, you are ready to roll into the bustling scene. On a strong recommendation, we pre-gamed a strategy of ordering the Perciatelli Bolognese, which is a thick homemade spaghetti in a ragu of specialty meats, tomatoes and cheeses. To start, we decided to share that Spaghetti dish along with a farm fresh Tomato (red and yellow) and Mozzarella appetizer. I cannot say this strenuously enough: the Bolognese was the BEST I’ve ever had. The pasta itself was screaming homemade to my mouth and the sauce had enough meat to make it thick but not too much to make it chunky. The seasoning was perfect – enough flavor so you know the chef cares but not even close to being overseasoned. I would eat this dish every day if it wouldn’t mean I’d gain a couple hundred pounds. For mains, SheView got the Chicken (for reals?) and I ordered the Grilled Miso Glazed Salmon, served with Bok Choy & Mushrooms and Coconut Rice. Our dining companions also (wisely) ordered the Salmon and the Moules Frites. Although I didn’t try SheView’s chicken, it sure looked good, but I’ll save my detail for the Salmon and the Mussels, which I did try. The Miso Glaze on the Salmon was salted perfectly and the Salmon itself was served medium rare. It was a wonderful piece of fish and ranks near the top of my list the next time a craving for salmon hits. The coconut rice was a bit of a throwaway, but everything here is so good I ate that as well. The Mussels were fine – not outrageous, and the French Fries were hand-cut and excellent. Overall, this was simply an excellent meal and worth the trip – get on the ferry and ride over – just don’t choke (no hospital)! 41 South Ferry Road | Shelter Island (631) 749-3210
“It’s the little things that make a big difference.”
As they say, “expressions become expressions for a reason.”
It’s just not until you’ve been a recipient of an aforementioned little thing that you realize that an expression like the first came about as a result of differences made. Thanks Sheview. Now can you please get us into a restaurant with a high-end pawnshop in its entrance so we can do some proper people watching?
Beauty & Essex
Beauty and Essex sounds like something on the corner of a made-up location straight out of the deep crevices of my NYC-centric mind, right next to carefree Saturday night plans with the guys, “going out” and both hitting and striking out on girls. Luckily, now that I am (definitely) older and (maybe) wiser, I recognize the greatness in this not only being a night sans guys, but it was a night sans anyone else but HeView and SheView – for the first time in a long time! We walked in and gazed at the wares being peddled in the “pawn shop” – a room in the entrance that is 100% meant to be dark but was awkwardly positioned in the flooding sunshine. SheView kept talking about about Alec Baldwin… I’m pretty sure he must have had some memorabilia in one of the cases. When we were led in to our table – in the way back of a huge room and positioned perfectly to uncomfortably stare at all the people (consisting of fathers and daughters, bachelorette parties, dates and tourists in every sense) we could silently judge, we figured this would be an enjoyable couple of hours. While the time we did spend was actually enjoyable, I’ve been writing this review for a longer slice of time than Beauty, Essex or anyone else on the ownership team would have cared for us to spend in their restaurant. Needless to say, we were immediately greeted by our very dirty-hot waitress whose skintight outfit did not leave a lot to my imagination. Dying of thirst and looking at their specialty cocktail list, Earl the Pearl sounded like a no-brainer – an Arnold Palmer with vodka and mint syrup. This drink was outstanding and I stopped at one, more out of fear for not being able to. Three minutes after our drinks were served and exactly eight minutes before our first plate arrived, dirty-hot took our order and helped us along the way. We decided to try a little of everything tonight and started with Whipped Ricotta on Toast with Peaches, Chicken Fried Oysters with Apple and Bacon Braised Spinach and Lobster Tacos with Red Cabbage Slaw and Jalapeno Cream. The toast, referred to by the brilliant business minds behind this machine as “Jewels on Toast” looked good, but was really just a pile of rusted metal in a Tiffany box. The Chicken Fried Oysters were outstanding – flavorful, light and really just perfect in a simple bite. SheView did not enjoy the Lobster Tacos, which was great for me as I enjoyed taking down two out of three. For mains we had the Scallops, which were fantastic, along with Skillet Roasted Corn with Chipotle, Lime and Cotija Cheese and the Onion Ring Tempura with Buttermilk Bleu Cheese Dip (and ketchup). The corn looked way better than it tasted and the Onion Rings were, as they say, a little thing that brightened up a too-rushed experience for a couple of married cats trying to enjoy a Saturday night. This place is past its prime anway. Next time we’re on to bigger things. 146 Essex Street | Between Stanton and Rivington (212) 614-0146
The West Side bike path can be a dangerous place. The combination of cyclists riding kamikaze does not go well with roller bladers taking up two lanes (and appropriately dressed in their shorts from 1998), joggers, gesticulating walkers and most importantly, oblivious tourists who blindly cross the pass without looking up so they can be the 482nd person in line to see the Intrepid. Don’t get me wrong – I am passionate about a good bike ride and traverse this jungle of a path as frequently as I can, but maybe right of way up and down the West side highway should be clearly established on a higher priority than say, how much soda New Yorkers should drink. You listening Mr. Mike?
The Mark Restaurant
The Mark Hotel is a landmark on the Upper East Side. Located right in the thick of the land of bluebloods and blue-haired ladies, the building looks like it could be yet another Museum, school or Martian embassy that used to be owned by a family whose last name started with a V, R or W. The lobby, although designed by a French dude who is famous for designing things and being Parisian, does not do the exterior any justice with its counterintuitive extra-modern… design. We did not have a drink at the bar, although 2/4 (like many other barbaric downtowners, I do not reduce fractions) of our douple (the female half) desperately needed one. We headed straight for the table already mentally mapping out our drink choices while clearly being judged by the room for our jeans and my Hamptons casual attire. What, me worry? Once seated, cocktails in hand, we raised a triumphant toast with our friends on being sans children and the hands down, no-doubt-about-it, coolest people in the joint, even without blue blazers and khakis. The menu is a little all over the place, and you have to map out your meal selecting from the raw bar (including sushi), various standard appetizers, pizza, pasta, New American Entrees or off the grill. After starting on my fit-right-in-with-the-old-ladies dirty martini, I decided to get a little cute (for me) and started with the Frisee and Lardon Salad, served with mustard vinaigrette and a sunny side up egg. Hands down awesome salad, solid even without the egg, which vaulted it completely over the top. SheView and my male counterpart started with the Sushi Appetizer, which I happily scarfed down more because I had a slight buzz going and less because it was delicious. I’m fairly certain it was served on extremely sticky brown rice that was partially related to the Tatertot family. Combined with the Black Truffle Pizza, deliciously served on a semi-crispy and perfectly soft at the same time crust, we had a mixed bag of healthiness but a consistent theme of almost great. For my main, I couldn’t resist… I went with the Mark Cheeseburger, medium rare, served with brie and black truffle dressing. Bottom line, it had decent flavor and was a good burger for a meat lover with a base craving, but its shoddy texture puts it below par for a burger connoisseur or even amateur. Ultimately, the West Side may have been a dangerous place to start the day, but… well, at least it’s got that over the East Side. 25 East 77th Street | at Madison Avenue (212) 606-3030
The number Five. With two siblings, it is the number of people in my very first (original) family unit. Add a Zero to it and you’ll find quite a few ladies who think that is the approximate number of shades of grey. Say it in Spanish with an Ocho first and you’ve got Mr. Chad Johnson. Say it in Spanish again in the month of May and…. You’ve got Cinco de Mayo! For information geeks like me, this is a day much less celebrated in Mexico than the U.S. (in Mexico, it is mostly observed in the Mexican state of Puebla) and is not Mexican independence day (as is commonly mistaken), but as SheView can astutely tell you, is the commemoration of the Mexican army’s victory over the French in 1862. How many years was that before the 2012 French presidential election? Yup, thirty times five. Bottom line, this is a day celebrated by American 20-somethings everywhere and us New York old folk too.
Sevilla is an old-guard, been-there-forever restaurant in the perfect location, smack in the middle of Greenwich Village. In fact, they opened their doors on the corner of Charles Street all the way back in 1941. History aside, being that they don’t take reservations, it’s probably a good idea to plan on waiting at the very cramped and in-need-of-a-major-makeover bar for a cocktail or two. Once ushered to your table, it’s a fifty/fifty crapshoot on being escorted by the sweet, older manager who is all class, or his younger sidekick who is all crass. We were already a pitcher of sangria in by the time we sat down, but our joyousness was unfortunately not shared by Senor crass. We were able to move past it and once we did, five plus one of us settled into our groove and before even looking at the menu, ordered another pitcher of sangria and a couple of orders of the soft on the inside, crispy on the outside homemade chips. This was a great start to what was sure to be an order of abundance. For starters, we ordered the Croquetas, Chorizo, and two orders of the Mushrooms stuffed with crabmeat. The Stuffed Mushrooms, as usual and to always be expected at Sevilla, were delicious, balanced with delicious stuffing and big (but not grossly) – they were el Corazon of the first act. The Chorizo was dirty good. For mains, SheView ordered the Chicken Villaroy, which if Sevilla is not famous for, they should be. The other orders on the table included the Veal Sevilla (with sautéed mushrooms), Arroz con Pollo and for me, the Paella a la Valenciana (with lobster, chicken and sausage). The Paella was good as always, but there was way too much rice and I enjoyed it slightly less than my just about completely wiped clean plate indicated. Bottom line – come for the sangria, bustling classic village vibe and most of the menu… stay away for the service! 62 Charles Street | Corner of West 4th (212) 929-3189
The ultimate game changer. This is a term that can mean different things to different people at different times. It is an observation or innermost thought that can take many different forms and is in fact, completely subjective and contextual. For the past 14 months my daughter’s mere presence on this planet has been my ultimate game changer. Now combine her presence with work, two crazy schedules, a bit of exhaustion and a funny feeling from all those honey barbecue chicken wings my softball cronies made me eat last night. All of a sudden, just making it to what’s supposed to be a great new restaurant in one piece tonight is yup, you guessed it, my ultimate game changer du jour.
You know that Perla is going to be a special place before you even arrive based on a couple of things… it has the required pedigree, being the most recent addition to the portfolio of a proven Greenwich Village restaurateur, and it also has the location. Unbelievable location. Tucked away on Minetta Lane, you just about feel like you could, just maybe, be in a small town in a land far away from NYC (just don’t spoil it by looking in the general direction of 6th Avenue). Walk in and take in the scene at the bar and be even more confident in your restaurant selection tonight – seems like this is a place to be on a Saturday night. The décor is rustic, the feeling is warm and speaking for our group at least, the company was great. We were seated in a booth for 6, which was comfortable, slick and perfectly placed to position us well for good times and big ordering. And order we did! To start, the group ordered a couple of orders of the Prawns, the star of the first act, perfectly cooked and served in a delicately-applied, sweet, delicious sauce, along with the Soft Shell Crab and Wild Baby Arugula with fennel, pine nuts, currants and gaeta olives. For Primi, we all shared orders of Gnocchi with spicy tomato sauce and ricotta, Spaghetti with rock shrimp, prosciutto and budding chives and Fazzoletti Bolognese. The pastas were all homemade, tender and flavorful. The Spaghetti was really just an excellent dish, but I could have just kept eating the Gnocchi all night! By the time our mains came, enough wine was flowing and delicious dishes come and gone that it almost became superfluous, but my Skate settled in front of me, along with Branzino, Guinea Hen with black trumpet mushrooms, brussels sprouts and foie gras and Strip Steak for the table. The Skate was a perfect texture and although not my usual order, is one I’m glad I tried. I'm even happier though, to have tried one of my new favorite Village restaurants. We’ll be back for sure! 24 Minetta Lane | (212) 933-1824
As usual at this time of year, my bracket is busted. Coming into Saturday’s games (regional finals) my 11th place standing out of about 25 entries had me looking very, very mediocre. Obviously I’m still voyeuristically watching games and I’ll tell you - what’s not mediocre is this Ohio State/Syracuse game. Let’s go Big East!
What’s that SheView? Yes, it’s a tie game. But it’s only a few minutes to go in the first half, so don’t worry at all, we’ve really just got plenty of game to enjoy. I’m excited too!
What’s that you say? Ohhhhhh – we have dinner plans. With a couple that we know and dig and a couple we don’t know (well) yet. Must. Pull. My. Self. A. Way. This better be worth it.
I have to hand it to SheView. When she’s right, she’s right. I’m not just saying that to win back any points after my story/intro. She was right about at least three things this evening. They include: (1) her outfit; (2) our dates (both, or all four of them) and (3) especially, Marble Lane.
First off – Marble Lane knows how to pick its real estate – great area. 16th between 8th and 9th, right next to the Maritime Hotel, which was cool when I was young, so probably isn’t anymore, or potentially, has gone from peak to trough to peak since “young” is not an adjective you can currently use to describe me unless I am in a client meeting with 60+ year olds. Walking in and taking in the scene at Marble Lane brings back memories of drunken nights with real and random pals and gals. In fact, these memories bring to mind at least 8 friends of the real variety I haven’t spoken to in too long! Speaking of friends, we waited at the bar for about 45 minutes as the 6-top earmarked for our group was occupied by a group of 60-year olds (not clients) soaking in every ounce of youngness our future waiter would allow them. This was no worry to us because our group of 6 was in one word, spectacular. We were a group borne of different cultures, religions, heights and dress, but we definitely had in common a likeness for each other and a readiness to have fun in a great setting.
For our starters, once they were delivered, we discovered that 5 of us ordered the Roasted Beet Salad, with pear, goat gouda and banyuls (aspertif) vinaigrette. The beets were thinly sliced, but meaty enough to get the full flavor of the delicious vinaigrette. The pears, also thinly sliced, along with the cheese, complemented perfectly. I wouldn’t describe many salads as great, but this one is. The 6th appetizer was the Yellowfin Tuna Tartare and looked like an excellent dish. For mains, I was extremely close to ordering the Olive Crusted Salmon, and probably got upsold by the waiter when I reconsidered and went with the Grilled Short Ribs with baby carrots, a country popover and guiness jus (you read that right – guiness. jus. amazing.). I’m so glad I was upsold, because this was one of the best dishes I’ve had in a long time. The short ribs were tender, cooked perfectly and each morsel on my fork was covered in just the right amount of the most amazing sauce I could even imagine. The fact that I had a country popover to make sure no sauce was left over was just a ridiculous touch. Guiness, you can cover my short ribs any time. SheView got the Seared Diver Scallops and that and the Crackling Bobo Chicken looked great, which was confirmed by each plate’s owner. SheView was so pleased with her scallops, she even had to do a little dance to celebrate. Damn SheView, I may have to bring you here more often. For dinner sides, we got French Fries, which were delicious and just an enormous, heaping, portion. Like it was too big of a plate even for my taste. The Sauteed Wild Mushrooms were extremely salty and the only disappointment in what was a great meal. For more reasons than one, Marble Lane earned a well-deserved pass on that one. 355 West 16th Street | Between 8th and 9th Avenues (212) 229-2336.