Boston Restaurant Blog -- December, 2011
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
My second trip to the Big Apple in 2011 finally took place this week after a few postponements, but it was worth the wait, as New York is truly wonderful this time of year. And while this wasn't specifically a food trip per se, I did get to a few dining spots, including a very good one in Hell's Kitchen.
Before getting into the two spots I went to for the very first time, I'd like to mention a couple of "repeat" places I stopped at. The first was a low-key spot in a relatively quiet section of the Upper West Side called Pier 72 that impressed once again with its food (decent burger, excellent oat bran pancakes), service, and prices. (See the Manhattan Trip, February 2009 blog for more information on Pier 72.) And in what seems to be my go-to place in Manhattan for breakfast, I went once again to Viand Cafe, which is also on the Upper West Side, enjoying a hearty plate of scrambled eggs, corned beef hash, and rye bread, though the home fries were dry and not all that tasty this time around. (See the Mid-Winter Weekend in Manhattan blog from 2008 for more information on Viand Cafe.) I also trekked over to Eataly a bit further down the island, though mainly to pick up cooking supplies rather than dining there (and yes, Mario Batali's Italian emporium was absolutely jam-packed when I went).
And now to the new--on my first night in the city, we headed over to Hell's Kitchen for dinner, checking out an Italian spot called Puttanesca (located at the corner of 9th Avenue and W 57th Street). Puttanesca is just one of countless Italian eateries along this stretch of 9th Avenue, and it falls into the range somewhere between low-end casual and high-end formal. The space itself is very appealing, with a warm and comfortable main dining area to the right of the central entrance area (there is also a private room with a long table for parties and functions to the left). The main dining room has lots of exposed brick, an attractive tile floor, classy-looking chandeliers, and arched entrances, with about the only downside being the noise level due to the aforementioned tiled floor. Our dinner at Puttanesca included a sweet and savory salad to start (romaine lettuce, sun-dried tomatoes, cubes of mozzarella cheese, baby artichokes, shaved parmesan, and balsamic vinaigrette), with our meals being a tender and creamy veal cannelloni in a mushroom sauce and a chicken rigatoni dish with sun-dried tomatoes and a rich pink vodka sauce. Service was nearly flawless throughout, and prices were actually quite reasonable, especially considering that we had wine with our meal.
As I mentioned earlier, this was not specifically a food trip, and quite often on my "non-food" trips to NYC I like to hit some of the ultra-casual neighborhood joints for cheap eats and drinks. And that is exactly what we did for dinner on the second night, as we checked out Harry's Burritos on Columbus Avenue in the heart of the Upper West Side (by W 71st Street). This place is actually one of three Harry's locations, with the others being in Larchmont and Nyack (another spot in the East Village called Benny's is also under the same ownership). All four spots focus on Cal/Mex fare, with the owner coming from San Francisco years ago (where he was an art student), and the menu does seem to offer more in the way of healthy California-style fare than some of your more typical burrito joints. The Columbus Avenue location has an unusual setup, with a tiny bar below ground level and a similarly small dining area above ground level, almost giving the place a loft-like feel. Unlike many lofts, however, the restaurant is very dark inside, and colorful lights, pastel walls, and exposed brick add a bit of charm to the space, though the low ceiling and wooden floor raise the noise factor just a bit in the dining area. Our meal was a basic one but a good one, with the fried plantains being caramelized nicely, the chicken mole burrito being overstuffed with tasty shredded chicken (though the mole sauce could have used a few more spices), the veggie taco getting an extra boost in flavor from the shredded jack cheese, and both the chicken burrito and the chicken enchilada being satisfactory, if not overly inspiring. The red sangria at Harry's was quite nice, though the flan I had for dessert was not very good, with a rough texture and little taste. Service was friendly and very efficient, and prices were plenty reasonable, especially for New York City.
I will likely be heading back to New York (either Manhattan or Brooklyn--or both) later this winter for a few days, so expect to see more reviews of area eateries coming up. By the way, if you have any favorite spots to go to in either borough, let me know what they are via the comments area here, thanks!
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