Boston Restaurant Blog -- June, 2012
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
I returned to Manhattan last week for another quick trip that included a few restaurants, with two first-time visits to dining spots being part of the trip. I also went to what is becoming a quasi-regular breakfast/lunch hangout of sorts while in the city. And included among the meals out was what may have been the best dining experience I've had anywhere in 2012 so far.
So what was the "repeat" spot on my trip to New York City? A place called Viand Cafe, which is located in a very busy part of the Upper West Side (Broadway and W 75th Street). I had lunch there on the first day, with the open-faced reuben featuring lean corned beef and a lot of cheese on top--definitely not a low-calorie meal, but very tasty. The following day, I returned to the Viand for breakfast ordering pancakes with strawberries and real maple syrup. It was quite filling (as pancakes tend to be), but delicious, and it kept me full until later in the day when we had a late lunch/early dinner nearby (more on that later). Our servers at Viand Cafe were friendly and efficient on both visits, and prices, while high by Boston standards, were about average for New York.
My first day in New York City brought us into Greenwich Village, where we made some of the usual stops (including McNulty's for tea and coffee) before heading to dinner in a particularly charming area of Manhattan near where the West Village, Meatpacking District, and Chelsea meet (a bit beyond the end of Bleecker Street). Our destination was Mole, a little Mexican restaurant at the corner of Jane Street and Hudson Street that has a cozy interior with lots of exposed brick and dark woods, and an attractive patio out front. We chose to eat indoors because the patio was packed, taking a window seat that was a little tight (the bar was within reach of the table and the adjacent tables were nearly on top of us). The restaurant had a half-price margarita special--which I took advantage of--and we also ordered a guacamole plate for an appetizer. Their menu said that the guacamole would be made tableside, but the dish was brought to us fully made instead (in a traditional stone bowl). No matter, though, as it was absolutely wonderful, with a nice chunky texture, plenty of fresh avocado pieces, and not too much in the way of onions. Our main dishes came out just as we were finishing our appetizer, and, well, they were mind-blowingly good--no other way to say it. The tacos chuleta featured smokey chunks of pork loin, bacon, and queso fresco, along with a side of more guacamole and frijoles charros (cowboy beans), and could possibly be considered the best dish I've tried in many months. The chicken tacos were nearly as good, with grilled smokey morsels of chicken mixed with minced veggies, and rice and beans on the side. Both dishes had roasted peppers that seemed to have a delayed heat reaction, though they weren't blindingly hot by any means. Service was decent overall, and prices were slightly high, especially for Mexican food, but worth the extra money considering how good our dishes were.
The following day we headed up to the Upper West Side for a very late lunch (or a very early dinner, depending on how you look at it), stopping at the Amsterdam Ale House at the corner of Amsterdam Avenue and W 76th Street. This is a real local hangout, and a charming one at that, with a dark and slightly moody interior (tin ceiling, old-style hanging lights, dark wood everywhere) that has the feel of a classic Irish pub. The restaurant also has a sprawling outdoor dining area along the sidewalk of W 76th Street, which is fairly quiet with little traffic. We opted to sit outside this time around, though we were in the "back" part of the outdoor area, cut off from the main outdoor section in an area seemingly devoid of any service, at least for the first several minutes, anyway. Our drink order was eventually taken, with the Duvel and Anchor Steam beers really hitting the spot on this relatively warm day. We didn't bother with an appetizer, instead going right to the main course, ordering a bison burger and a pasta dish. The burger was just a tad dry--as bison burgers often can be due to their low fat content--but it was seasoned nicely and it was placed on an English muffin, which was a nice touch. (The onion rings that came with it were greasy but quite tasty.) The "alehouse pasta" was excellent, with nicely marinated chicken, capers, and artichokes mixed in with the pasta, all in a white wine sauce that didn't overwhelm the dish. Dessert was decent, though the tiramisu wasn't exactly the type that you would find at a quality Italian restaurant. Our servers--when they were actually around--were generally friendly and low-key, and prices were fine.
The Viand, Mole, and Amsterdam Ale House turned out to be good choices on my most recent visit to New York, with Mole being the obvious standout here. But I'll certainly be returning to Viand Cafe on future trips as well, along with the Amsterdam Ale House, which is a fun neighborhood spot that wouldn't be out of place in Boston. I will likely be heading back to the city sometime this year, so expect some more reviews of dining spots there over the coming months.
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