Bon Appétit in New York!

Lest our readers believe that we are simply Cheapos, I would like to mention that the Snob side of our personalities is firmly in place…especially when it comes to dining out. We typically search Chowhound boards whether in Europe or North America for suggestions on the best places to eat in a given area. Now, don’t get me wrong; we often attempt to find a prix fixe menu, go at lunchtime, or get whatever good deal is possible whenever we can. Mainly, however, it’s the quality of the food we’re searching for when it comes to restaurants.

A sandwich place in Manhattan we are particularly fond of is Baoguette. It has three locations, but we’ve always gone to the one in Murray Hill on Lexington at 25th Street. There are several options available, but for five dollars you can sample their take on the classic Vietnamese bahn mi sandwich on French bread, the baoguette. Just writing its name makes my mouth water! If you get there right at noon, you may have to wait in quite a long line. Also, the place is tiny, with only a few stools at the lunch counter, and may be stiflingly hot for eating inside. All in all, I’d say, it’s not too big a price to pay for such a tasty midday meal.

We had several very good dinners when we were in New York this summer. The first was at Casa Mono—owned by Iron Chef Mario Batali—which offers about forty different tapas and has garnered a Michelin rating. In this lovely small restaurant on Irving Place at 17th we enjoyed several wonderful dishes as well as conversations with our neighbors on both sides of our table. While the lamb chops were very good, the outstanding dish of the evening was pulpo with shaved fennel and pink grapefruit slices; the octopus was tender and delicious and seemed to marry perfectly with its accompaniments. A word to the wise here is, that unless you are schooled in Spanish wines, you might want to take up the maître d’s offer to help you choose something suitable.

One of our fellow diners at Casa Mono had suggested Jojo’s on the Upper East Side as another restaurant we might like. We checked out the menu and found that they serve a prix fixe for $38 all evening on Sunday. We’d have to say that our evaluation of their cuisine is mixed at best. As often happens in restaurants, at least in our minds, the appetizers—in this case the tuna roll with soy bean emulsion and a warm asparagus salad with avocado and mesclun—were great, yet the rest of the meal (the chicken and the salmon) proved disappointing. Bottom line: over-priced and inconsistent.

Hands down, the best meal we had in Manhattan was at a small place called Tree in the East Village: 1st Avenue near 12th Street. [By the way, our method of locating this restaurant was to search recent reviews and the “critics’ picks” listed by New York Magazine, a good way to find what suits your tastes.] Adding to the pleasure of our meal was the fact that it was a beautiful summer night, allowing us to sit at one of the tables in the courtyard out back. Because we arrived before seven p.m., we were also able to take advantage of their three course prix fixe dinner for $28 per person. Our server let us taste a New Zealand Fernridge pinot noir to see if we liked it; as a result, we are now into New Zealand wines! Husband started out with a very tasty tomato soupe du jour, while I had the roasted peach and arugula salad. Our entrées were just as good as the appetizers that night: roasted vegetables for him and steak frites with blue cheese butter for me. We finished the meal with two delightful desserts: chocolate mousse and crème brûlée. We couldn’t have been happier and will definitely go back to Tree! …I don’t know about you, but now I’m starving!

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