Monday, May 17, 2010

Restaurant: Azul Bistro

Azul Argentine Bistro
152 Stanton St
Lower East Side
Subway: F to Delancey St; J, M, Z to Delancey–Essex Sts
Mon–Thu, Sun 6pm–midnight; Fri, Sat 6pm–1am.

If you want steak, but don't feel like The Steakhouse Experience, I highly recommend Azul! It gets very, very loud, and it's a tight fit. But if you're in the right mood - or if you go very late - this is not a problem. The ceiling is papered with Argentine pinups, the walls with soccer stars, the vibe is festive and the light is magical. There are all sorts of Argentine things on the menu, but I always get the marinated skirt steak for two (with another person, that is) which comes with mashed potatoes and garlicky chimichurri. And you'll leave happy!

Restaurant: Torrisi Italian Specialties

Torrisi Italian Specialties
250 Mulberry St. nr. Prince St.
Subway: 6 at Spring St.; B, D, F, V at Broadway-Lafayette
Tue-Sun, 11am-4pm and 6pm-11pm; Mon, closed

Torrisi is very good to know about if you're in Soho, but then it's good to know about anyway: it's terrific. The premise is: old-school Italian deli. The twist is: everything is, in fact, locally sourced. The spot is as casual and sepia-toned as one would imagine from that description, and on the friendly side of cool. By day, it's a sandwich shop serving up chicken parm heroes, eggplant parm plates, and a garlicky vegetables. At night, it becomes a proper restaurant and a pricey one to boot. You've got to do prix-fixe (I'm not telling you, they are: it's the only option) so if you're not feeling hungry or spendy, do elsewhere. If you do decide to visit, however, you'll have fresh, luscious, local food well-prepared and a darling plate of house-made "rainbow cookies" and other Italian bakery standards, reinvented. By candlelight, of course. By the by, the tables aren't made for more than four, max, so take this into account. NB: M has accused me of favoring it just because their website is "" Not true!

One Meal in Brooklyn

Recently, there was a query on Chowhound that started a lot of conversation. The poster said he was trying to get his wife to move "to Brooklyn" while she wanted to stay in Manhattan. Each was given one meal to make his case. Cute, I guess, but completely ludicrous given the wide range of neighborhoods and atmospheres in both those enormous boroughs (although, I guess if one is a certain sort of yuppie, and I'm honestly not being snide, there are only about three areas in each that one would consider, and they're not very different at that.)

Anyway, the recs flew thick and fast, and ultimately, the couple had a highly influential meal at Marlowe and Sons. But the whole thing got me thinking: what if you did have to recommend just one place? Of course, luckily, these things are slightly more specific: there's some geographical limitation, or sensibilities to consider, or conservative taste-buds. Certainly, the one place you'd recommend to someone's parents is not necessarily the same one where you'd bring an out-of-town friend.

Were I answering the original poster's question, and wanted something hip-ish, and delicious, with typically Brooklyn insouciance, I'd probably go with one of these:

-Marlowe and Sons (with a drink at Delmano Hotel!)

-Lucali (with a drink at Henry Public!)

-Frankies (with a drink at MiniBar!)

-Roberta's (you'll drink on the deck while you wait and like it)

I'm not saying these are where I'd go, necessarily, for my birthday (in fact, we went to Petite Crevette) but all are festive and wonderful and representative and unlikely to disappoint, whatever someone's expectations.

Manhattan, now, is another ballgame. I asked M, and he said "Supper" (but he always says Supper.) I, on the other hand, might go with Torrisi Italian Specialties. Or Joseph-Leonard. Or maybe Tartine...well, that's for another day.

Restaurant: Joseph Leonard

Joseph Leonard
170 Waverly Place
West Village
Subway: 1 to Christopher St.
Mon, 5:30pm-midnight; Tue-Fri, 8am-2am; Sat, 10:30am-2am; Sun, 10:30am-midnight

Joseph-Leonard is, as of this writing, a hot-spot. Not in the creepy way, but it's no-reservations and small and you'll wait. Is it worth the wait, you ask? I am not the one to ask: I am firmly of the beat-the-rush school and am much more inclined to do a brunch-early-bird, myself. That said, it's indeed something special, and relaxed and fun and delicious and terribly New York. Last time we dined there, we had basil Gibsons, a delicious beet salad and a terrific skirt-steak and David Wain and his parents were at the next table. It was perfect. So, that's up to you.