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Posts from the ‘Chelsea’ Category

Sunday Best: Sushi by Bae

No one cares about every single thing you eat. Even I’ve lost interest in keeping up with or documenting every meal in NYC. That’s kind of what Instagram is for now. I’m just going to pick the one thing at the end of every week (I refuse to believe Sunday starts the week) and say a few words. 

sushi by bae grid

I counted 18 different pieces of sushi (plus an amuse) served by Oona Tempest (formerly of Tanoshi) at her showcase pop-up, Sushi by Bae, which seems like a lot but photos don’t lie. That would make this a very good value $100 omakase to my mind (though I’m not sure that volume is standard or because I was with a regular). Sometimes boo-hoo-ing on social media works since I was essentially thread-jacking  someone else’s Instagram post to voice that I had been burned by this venue’s rigid seats for 2 or 4 only policy (which apparently has been lifted) and it turned out this person had booked a reservation for 4 and one guest had to bow out, leaving a spot for me, a near-stranger.

I already want to go back. My attempt at quickly typing each description in Evernote before too many seconds pass and it seems rude to not pop the piece in my mouth as you’re supposed to immediately tends to result in garbled notes. This is what I ended up with:

Shima aj (aji)
Golden eyevampper licorice sea salt. (snapper)
Chu tor (chutoro)
Shari (shari is the rice–don’t know what I meant to say)
Miso cured but refuse (no idea what “but refuse” meant)
Nodoguti black throat sea bass (nodoguro)
RBI ebi with koji (RBI?)
Santa Barbara roe
Santa Barbara uni

Eaten, Barely Blogged: French Schmaltz, Thai Soup, Mexican Sandwiches

sauvage quad

Sauvage is one of those curiosities where you remember looks more than taste even if your photos don’t convey it. And by you, it’s quite possible I mean just me. Light and airy. Windows open to the street. (My first thought was just because everyone speaks French and Spanish on Bedford Avenue, doesn’t mean we’re in Europe. Some of us enjoy A/C.) Where high-waisted jeans in pale washes and Keds look pretty. (Or maybe that’s just how everyone under 30 looks now–the young women working at Pye Boat Noodle, below, had a similar aesthetic plus straw hats encircled by a fat black ribbon). Service was gracious (even though I was given a time-limit on my table for arriving early but reservation-less). How could this pretty (and those coasters) crushed ice cocktail topped with purple petals not be delicious? Ok, with Macvin du Jura, Aveze gentian, and pear, it was, and hard spirit-free refreshing. This delicate quality was also present in the food to lesser effect. Sunchokes with green garlic, sunflower sprouts, and ‘nduja vinaigrette managed to make something with an oily, spicy component neither luscious nor hot and more like the crunchy tubers they were. Pike with so-called mountain vegetables (morels, asparagus, mystery green), and sour beer sabayon was chosen because it was described as the heartier of the two seafood dishes (oh, there was also a fish special that our server seemed very disappointed we didn’t go for), a word I would use more for the pot au feu chicken with skin schmaltz toast, despite chicken fat on bread translating as, yes, delicate. Maybe I’m just losing interest in full meals. I would totally return for cocktails and snacks at the bar if anyone suggested it (though I’m not sure they would).

cemitas el tigre tinga

Cemitas el Tigre I’m kind of jealous that Sunnyside and Woodside gets modern restaurants like Dawa’s and this former Smorgasburg sanwichery now with seats, subway tiles, wood arranged into chevron patterns, and a bar with bottles of Negro Modelo and gose on tap. Jackson Heights never changes no matter how much people who don’t live here seem to think it’s gentrifying. Rent and co-op prices continue creeping-up, and it’s still impenetrably pollo a la brasa, momos, and sports bars. What’s the difference between a Mexican cemita and one meant for a broader clientele? About $1, papalo, and a seeded roll. The thing is, I didn’t really miss that traditional herb’s almost menthol obtrusiveness on this chicken tinga sandwich, hollowed-out roll stuffed with avocado, saucey chipotles, and Oaxacan string cheese. I’m half-ashamed to admit that I pulled 60% of the herb off the last cemita I had a few months ago from El Rico Tinto Bakery. (This might all be moot because Cemitas El Tigre’s menu claims to use papalo and sesame seed rolls. Maybe sometimes they do?)

pye boat noodles

Pye Boat Noodle Ok, it might seem lame to bemoan the loss of nam tok soup a.k.a. boat noodles when there’s a restaurant with the dish in its name a few neighborhoods over. I’m not intrepid as I used to be. Luckily, I had an afternoon to take advantage of the quiet backyard and happy hour beer special in that murky zone between lunch and dinner. (I’ll have to double-check and see if I was charged lunch or dinner prices on the soup–there’s a dollar difference.) A condiment caddy is always a good sign, the cracklings were a nice touch, and the soup itself was rich, complex, just a little livery, yet still buoyant enough for the steamy weather. Astoria, which I’m slowly getting to know, is a small town because the same loud millennial who was making fun of his 40something aunt for getting breast implants the first time I went to Mar’s, also showed up here and I recognized his attention-getting voice before even looking up from my bowl of noodles. Eerily, while typing this District Saigon liked a bunch of my Instagram photos (maybe you should follow me–I’m friendly) which reminded me that’s where I had intended to go this particular afternoon, but it’s one of those closed between lunch and dinner places.

olive garden spaghetti pie

Olive Garden You might think you want pasta formed into a pie (and there are plenty of reputable examples online that I’m not going to link to) but you probably don’t need Olive Garden’s new spaghetti novelty, either Alfredo’d-up with chicken or with tomato sauce and meatballs. No one needs that level of pasta density, unless we’re discussing kugel. Then again, the ramen burger was a runaway hit. I wouldn’t eat that either.

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Pine Nut Ricotta, Paneer, Cream Cheese

PicMonkey Collage

Avant Garden. I didn’t think I’d be eating vegan food on a Friday night (you know, totally Tuesday fare) and yet there I was with a friend sharing plates, drinking wine (from a more conventional list than expected) like I was on a pretend date. It’s all very now (non-basil-based pestos, toasts, grains, pickled produce) and very tasty (the absence of dairy doesn’t register at all). Strangely, the standout was a toast. Strange because the descriptions don’t always sell the dish. Fennel hummus, Castelvetrano olive, orange, walnut was a delicious autumnal combination, rich and almost buttery, while I was resistant to the beets, mango, avocado, black sesame, tamari, tobanjan, lime not because of the long ingredient list but because the mango and avocado read too nuevo Latino, which clearly this round stack of food wasn’t considering the double dose of fermented bean products. Stick with the more outre combos i.e. smoked macadamia, maitake, and crispy leeks rather than seemingly familiar blends like tomato, basil, and almond ricotta.

artichoke slice

In a delayed Big Mac Attack-esque move, after too many drinks at my late ’90s staple Boxcar Lounge, I found myself at 2:30am crouched in a doorway with an enormous, molten artichoke slice dripping with dairy. It wasn’t until I woke up the following afternoon with a charred, ripped-up roof of my mouth (that still hurts three days later) that I even remembered taking a photo. Good going, drunk self.

lupulo duo

Lupulo. Despite the prominent bar, I find NYC places like this tricky to dine in alone because you can eat a cobbled together light meal by spending $24 on two small plates (shrimp turnovers, creamy and fried like haute junk food and duck hearts skewered with pickled mango and shishito peppers) or outlaying the same amount on a more substantial dish to receive less variety. And then despite reasonably spaced stools and well-defined place settings, after the loud male half of a big-spending older couple has had numerous samples of beer followed by multiple full glasses on one side and a single Manhattan has been consumed by a young lady on the other, limbs start splaying, elbows thrust, and personal boundaries become encroached upon until you quietly leave still vaguely hungry. 

samudra duo

SamudraBoth a vegan and vegetarian meal within 48 hours is highly unusual. Samudra is great, though, for chaat and South Indian carbs like the super light dosas filled with spinach to be healthy and hefty uthappam I always get stuffed with paneer. The best, though, might be the vada, perfectly deep-fried chickpea flour doughnuts, crackly on the outside and fluffy in the middle, served here with mild coconut chutney and sambar.

kitchen 79 geoy hor cheese

Kitchen 79. Not enough cheese yet? Let me introduce you to geoy hor cheese a.k.a. Thai crab rangoon. With sweet chile sauce? Amazing. And that doily only helps matters.

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Spicy, Meatless, Horseless

Brooklyn taco duo

Brooklyn Taco The Saturday afternoon pop-up housed
inside Williamsburg's Donna was a pleasant surprise. Happy hour drinks
practically call for a little stomach padding. Guacamole (for god’s sake, never
say "guac"–do I even have to tell you not say "marg?")
always bores me to death and is overpriced to boot (I’m fine enjoying the
two-dollar's worth of raw materials in my own home) but for reasons I don’t
understand everyone always wants to order a shitload for the table, so I was a
mildly amused that the usual crowd-pleaser was fiery enough to elicit dismay. I'm
not even sure where they heat was lurking in the green mash. Same with the
tacos; those who went for the vegetarian version got dosed with a blast of
chile heat. Maybe the meat-avoiders were being punked? The cabeza was spicy,
not brutally so, and I was happy to have a chewy, substantial choice instead of
some stewed San Loco/Calexico blahness.

Blossom I probably wouldn’t have chosen a vegan
restaurant out of my own volition (though animal-free dishes are a step above
raw foods) but others’ birthdays are like that. And the
pistachio-and-pepper-dusted tofu was better than the sum of its parts. Probably
because of the foundational crepe stuffed with a root vegetable puree and the thick
lemon truffle sauce. It was more rich than austere. My camera photo was hideous enough that it decided to leave it out–I hate to give vegan cooking an even worse image.

Qi Bangkok Eatery I’m really not obsessed with Qi
even though I do get a kick out of the Williamsburg location (I'm pretty sure
I've mentioned it at least twice). It turns out that I now work a block from
the one on Eighth Avenue so I had to take a peek. I was surprised that they
also have a menu by Pichet Ong a.k.a. the “Bangkok Selection” (and that there
are still peep shows in Times Square) but it’s not the same as in Williamsburg,
no Ovaltine ribs, etc. and only available after 5pm. I just had the lunch
combo, steamed chicken dumplings that were kind of boring but not bad and
chicken basil chile stirfry that was spicier than expected for not having to
ask for extra heat. $7.95 isn’t a horrible price (you could pay $13 for a
takeout salad over here) for two dishes in a non-frenzied setting. I'll probably go back and just get a larb and a glass of Riesling (drunk lunch is my new midtown M.O.–don't tell anyone) You don't
like chandeliers in lucite boxes and Louis Ghost chairs during your lunch break?

Bonefish grill april duo
Bonefish Grill Ok, well, I am obsessed with Bonefish
Grill. Twice in one quarter is a lot even for me. This is a weirdo location in
Paramus that instead of sharing space with a fellow OSI brand like Carrabba’s is
attached to a Crowne Plaza next to a mall. So it felt like I was on a vacation.
There was no trout for my grilled fish with pan Asian sauce (pretty much soy,
ketchup and oyster sauce
) so it was scallops and shrimp instead. They did,
however, have a new appetizer, white tuna, a.k.a. escolar, a.k.a. shit fish
sashimi (that's seared) which I ordered because I’m wild that way. The seasonal sides have
progressively gotten more creative. I don’t mean that chickpeas, spinach and
turkey sausage is Michelin-worthy, just that it’s trying a little harder than the
usual mashed potatoes, rice or steamed vegetables.

Ikea Horse-free, I think, not that I would be
bothered by a little horse meat (apparently, the Swedes aren't either). I
haven’t eaten in an Ikea cafeteria in years—when did they replace the boiled
new potatoes with mashed?






Eaten, Barely Blogged: Heroes and Never Ending Pasta

Defonte's duo

Defonte's With two weeks left in Carroll Gardens
(never mind that I'm only moving four miles away and have access to a car)
there are some oversights to be corrected. Though it seems farther because of
the BQE and Brooklyn Battery Tunnel entrance, Defonte's is technically only
three blocks from my apartment yet I haven't been once in eight years. Ridiculous.
So, I finally got the famous roast beef, mozzarella and fried eggplant hero, as
well as one, equally hefty with roast pork and pickled vegetables. Both seriously
filling workhorse sandwiches that I'm happy still exist in this ever rarefied
section of Brooklyn. I'm afraid I've been exposed to too many improved
versions, though, like Paesano's (scroll down) in Philadelphia (yes, weird to compare to
Philly, not NYC, but I don't eat a lot of Italian-American things on bread
here–I still haven't tried Parm either) and now I find the originals kind of
dull–or maybe just in need of a little salt or an extra condiment. 

Rocky Sullivan's I didn't realize the Friday night
6-9 lobster thing
they advertise starts at 6pm and means you need to be there
then, not any time in that three-hour slot. At 7:30pm, the 35 lobsters had been
spoken for. The cheeseburger and fries I consoled myself just didn't cut it.
And it must be said that if you're at Rocky Sullivan's, which is attached to
the Sixpoint Brewery, one should probably drink a Sweet Action or whatever may
be on tap, not a bottle of Bud, as suggested by possibly contrarian Sam Sifton
last week.

Never ending pasta bowl 2012

Olive Garden The Never Ending Pasta Bowl may not be
local or organic, but it's highly seasonal. Each August the ads appear, teasing
with the limited-time disclaimer. I'm not sure when it ends, but not much later
than Labor Day. I've written about the absurd secrecy of claiming this $9.95 promotion
in Manhattan
more than once, and this still hasn't changed. You have to ask because
it's not on the menu or any signs, then will be given one big bowl (plenty
for one meal) on the first round, then subsequently smaller ones. And if you
order a drink (no making fun of my malbec) at the bar while waiting for friends
to show up, you'll get an automatic 18% tip added in. Do I look like a tourist?
Who else but an American would be at an Olive Garden on a Friday night?


Bar Basque & Txikito

Ever since experiencing Basque food in its own element, I have become insufferable. Ok, not really, but I have wondered why there aren’t real pintxo bars in New York City when we have so many other niche culinary ventures. I’m envisioning a counter teeming with trays of small, high quality, totally creative, reasonably priced ($3 short pours of txakoli, not $12 like I experienced this weekend and $5 plates, not double digits) gems to be consumed while standing or on stools at a bar. It’s so crying out for a Brooklyn treatment. Could you street-food-ize it or make it pop-up?

If I were the opposite of me, I would make this happen despite my complete lack of business sense, industry experience and capitol. Like this is the part of the T Magazine or New York profile where the subject says, “I liked kombucha…so I started a kombucha company” or “I loved s’mores as a kid…so I’m now producing artisanal graham crackers. It’s a full time job.”  Uh huh. Myself, I’ve wanted to start a category (tumblrs just don’t do it for me) A to C, documenting these inexplicable journeys from idea to execution.

There are factors holding back pintxos bars in NYC: price, as I already mentioned, and the bar thing. Americans like to sit down and stay in one place when eating a meal and you couldn’t have a crawl anyway without a concentration of options in the same area. One destination pintxos place wouldn’t cut it.

This week I tried two extremes: Bar Basque (comped, I must point out) and Txikito (on my own dime—the difference between the two meals was almost exactly $100 on the nose, though mostly because I tried far fewer things at the latter not because the quainter restaurant is bargain-priced) to see the state of Basque cooking in the city.

Bar basque hall Bar Basque is just as bombastic as one may expect from a Chodorow production. The relentlessly red panels, ticker tape blue digital squiggles racing along the surface, and wall of windows open to a giant outdoor movie screen is like a lounge in an Asian capital that has a tough door policy for locals while letting in all Westerners even if they’re clad in Old Navy. When people said, the décor is like Blade Runner, I thought they meant that metaphorically, but Syd Mead, Bar Basque’s designer really did have a hand in that movie’s sets. It was jarring to see Annie Hall, a film only five years older than the sci-fi classic, playing on the screen visible from most tables. 1977 Manhattan contrasted with 2011’s interpretation of cinematic 2019.

All the show might give the impression that eating was secondary, yet the food is quite good. Spanish ingredients abound—you will get your Idiazábal, jamón and olive oil—while a whole series of seafood crudos and escabaches seem more like the product of chef Yuhi Fujinaga’s imagination. There is not a lot of raw fish traditionally eaten in Spain.


Bar basque gin & tonics

While light and effervescent txakoli is the wine most associated with the Basque region, gin and tonics are also a Spanish favorite. (I drank them by the tumbler-full at Madrid’s deco Museo Chicote) The list of modernized variations, each paired with a unique brand of spirit, including the rosemary and chile with No. 209 Gin above, was clever. Cocktails and a few shared plates of food might be the best way to enjoy the restaurant, which doesn’t feel like the right venue for a drawn out multi-course meal.

Bar basque starters

Idiazábal croquetas and yellowfish tuna tartare “push pops” with red wine caviar.

Bar basque crudo

Of the lightly marinated items playfully presented in cans—Spain is the king of preservas; entire grocery aisles are devoted to canned mariscos—the mussels with pimento de la vera, onion, garlic and fennel were my favorite. The meaty blobs, hit with smoked paprika seemed right on and the crimson oil and caramelized aromatics left behind made the best bread dip. 

There was also Spanish mackerel with shallots, chiles and coriander seeds, octopus, black olives and tomato confit, and Yellowfin tuna with ajo blanco and chimichurri. The only dish that felt a little clunky were the sea scallops with Mediterranean flavors. On paper black olives and preserved lemon seemed fine, but the olive puree smudged on the plate (which I genuinely thought was refried beans) overwhelmed the raw seafood.

Bar basque mains

The smoked trout with jamon butter trumped the pudding-like pork belly with baby clams, if only because the fish had its crispy skin showcased.

The heirloom tomatoes with Pedro Jimenez sherry vinegar, were simple, greenmarket and somehow very American. I’ve been researching where to eat in San Francisco next week and this falls squarely under the hyphenated style they like to call Cal-Spanish. Everything gets the Cal prefix by using local produce and serving it simply.

Bar basque desserts

Leche frita with chocolate and passion fruit sauces and piña colada flan with caramelized pineapple.

Is it ok to admit that the real reason I wanted to go to Txikito was to see the adorable food wallpaper in the bathroom? I’m a sucker for design. Fewer than ten blocks from Bar Basque, the Chelsea restaurant is cute, rustic, woody, the dead opposite of the theatrics occurring adjacent to the Eventi Hotel. Then again, on my way out my exit was blocked by a white-haired gentleman demanding enthusiastically, “Give me the best seat in the house!” I thought that only happened in movies. Also, that’s not someone who would appreciate pintxo-hopping.

Txikito morcilla

Like most Spanish restaurants in the city, the offerings tend to be more like raciones than tapas. The morcilla, stuffed into wonton skins like spring rolls, is mild in its fried shell and on the tapas end of the scale. Little rich bites.

Txikito melted cheese

I was sitting at an odd angle from the blackboard, so I did not catch which mild, oozy cheese this was. Perked up by two anchovies and a bed of softened grilled red pepper strips, the fondue-style dish serve with bread was a little like Spanish queso, no Velveeta needed.

Txikito salad

Arugula hides the poached egg, the most important part of any such dish. The tiny, battered, fried fish covering the whole tufted affair added great texture and a hit of salt like barely fishy canned onions. Who would like to make a green bean casserole with these instead?

Txikito squid ribbons

Txipirones, a.k.a. squid, cut into ribbons and served with…what was described as pine nuts and sweet onions. I had been picturing a sweet-savory thing with raisins even though nothing really led me to believe there would be any chunky dried fruit. This was more creamy,  rich with concentrated natural sweetness from the onions, and the kind of topsy-turvy dish that wouldn't be wildly out of place in San Sebastián.

Salinas, Basque chef Luis Bollo's new restaurant, is also on my radar. Though when I see a restaurant running specials like Salinas did this morning with Gilt City, I now get suspicious thanks to The Bad Deal.

Bar Basque * 839 Sixth Ave., New York, NY
Txikito * 249 Ninth Ave., New York, NY

Unchained Melody

Regular readers (all ten of you?) might've noticed that I've started bulking up on the chain restaurant coverage here. I've tried twice now to make Chains of Love a reality, but single-minded blogging isn't for me even if that's the oft-cited key to success. Success is for losers.

It's just too much to ask strangers, even friends, to follow two food blogs from the same person. Attention spans are short, skimming is the norm–I’m the same way.

So, don't be surprised to see more Cheesecake Factory creeping into your world.

Tipsy Parson

1/2 I’ve been indecisive and forgetful lately, which isn’t the optimal state of mind for choosing and assessing restaurants. I couldn’t come to a conclusion while mulling over which new spot to try mid-week so I had to stoop to superficial criteria. One of the Tipsy Parson’s owners happens to share my last name and in a recent photo appeared to be transitioning from brunette to gray. It’s absolutely impossible to find an attractive (or homely—I’ll take what I can get) New York woman in her 30s who doesn’t dye silver strands or entire locks into submission. That settled it. I was going to Tipsy Parson.

Also superficially, I loved the trompe l’oeil bookshelf wallpaper. I had my eye on a similar motif a few years ago but I’m not sure how to handle wallpaper in a rental.

And to the forgetful: I lugged my damn SLR around all day in anticipation of going out after work only to realize after sitting down (I made 8pm reservations and we were seated fairly promptly in the tightly packed bar area, not a problem, as the back dining room where we had a choice of waiting for wasn’t particularly more luxurious in terms of space) that I’d left the memory card in my laptop at home. Urgh, an obnoxious food blogger’s worst nightmare.

It did allow a showdown between the photographic capabilities of the iPhone vs. the MyTouch. While a million miles from food porn-creating, the iPhone crushed my android powered device. Do keep in mind that these are sad little camera phone photos presented here.

Tipsy parson cheese curds Fried cheese curds beat mozzarella sticks any day. This little $5 pile was served with a chimichurri sauce. A spicy or creamy sauce would come to my mind first, but parsley and olive oil worked too. The thing is, I can barely remember the cheese. Char No. 4s version has more presence.

At the last minute we switched our minds from lamb ribs to chicken livers (I would’ve ordered both but as you’ll see below, I knew I was already in for a meat overload with the pork shank). The opposite of neutral cheese curds, these breaded organs stood out: creamy, a little funky, not for everyone. The tart green tomato marmalade cut through the richness and made a perfect grilled toast topping.

My touch chicken livers


Tipsy parson chicken livers


Tipsy parson pork shank I will always order the pork shank when offered, no question, which isn’t that often outside of German restaurants. And how often does one eat at German restaurants? Ok, maybe I do more than the average New Yorker considering that even when on vacation in Hong Kong last November I tried an eatery called King Ludwig Beerhall where I ordered a pork shank that could’ve fed an entire family of four.

Where many of the dishes lean towards snacky and sharable at Tipsy Parson, the hunk of  pork that our server quoted it as being around a pound and half—do keep the bone heft in mind—is certainly an attention-grabber. There was plenty of tender dark meat and a few welcome gelatinous bits coating the ends of the bone. I almost forgot about the apple puree beneath the club-sized but of meat that I think was spiked with bourbon. The only thing that would’ve made this better would be the inclusion of crackly skin. Shank is as much about the skin as the flesh.

Tipsy parson trout A grilled trout stuffed with thyme was also eaten. Though not by me.

Tipsy Parson is a cute restaurant that I can’t compare to Little Giant because I’ve never eaten there. It does feel a little Brooklyn, or maybe it’s that the casual, seasonal style just isn’t typically Chelsea.

Tipsy Parson * 156 Ninth Ave., New York, NY

Great Burrito

I don’t really eat burritos in New York. It’s something I’ve weaned myself from, not because I’m a snob but because I just can’t find any made the way I’m accustomed to (and no, I don’t like Mission-style).


Great Burrito isn’t really about burritos (though you can see one above) and it’s definitely not about the pizza on display. Their main appeal is offering “real” tacos and tortas with fillings like tripe and tongue in a neighborhood that’s hardly a bastion of Mexican authenticity. Or any authenticity—as much as I love them, this strip of Chelsea is rife with the likes of Outback Steakhouse, Dallas BBQ and Olive Garden.

Purists might scoff at this hodgepodge 24-hour take out counter, but where else are you going to go in this part of Manhattan when a 4am urge for al pastor strikes?

Read my review.

Great Burrito * 100 W. 23rd St., New York, NY

Olive Garden

The Never Ending Pasta Bow(e)l should really have an extra E because there were some never ending bathroom trips the following day (it was probably my jungle curry lunch, but I don’t want to say anything bad about Chao Thai). Who knew? Even more disturbing is that this was my fourth visit to the Chelsea Olive Garden and I don’t even like (Italian-American) pasta. But all you can eat for $8.95 demanded investigation.

They’re very sneaky with this promotion; despite being advertised on TV continuously, there’s no signage, menu inserts or little cardboard foldovers on any of the tables. It’s all very hush hush and I’m not assertive so I started getting a little nervous. Thankfully, a dining companion who tipped me off in the first place had no qualms about piping up for cheap pasta.

Phew, paying Manhattan chain restaurant prices for mushy alfredo would be harsh (I’m still steaming how once I inexplicably spent close to $50 on a cheeseburger and two margaritas at a Times Square T.G.I. Friday’s. It’s the price you pay for suburban simulacra). I had no idea how the whole thing worked, it’s much more customizable than I’d anticipated. I figured you’d get spaghetti and a couple sauce options, but there were approximately six choices for each.

I have to admit that my linguine with smoked mozzarella and breadcrumbs was satisfying in a creamy starchy way. And I would’ve been fine with the one bowl—pasta is one of the few foodstuffs that never spurs a desire for seconds—but it’s never ending so you have to play along.


Penne with five cheese marina came next, and amusingly, in a bowl half the size as the first. Would the third come in a teacup, we wondered aloud. “People don’t finish their second,” we were bluntly told. I wasn’t complaining because entrée number two had no flavor, like I imagine hospital food would taste. Under-salting is one of my many cooking crimes, I never touch a shaker in restaurants, but this blob was crying out for sodium. Maybe they do it on purpose to quell appetites. Like many a diner before me, I didn’t finish my second bowl.

The upside of such a bargain (don’t forget the salad and breadsticks) is that you’ll have plenty of money left over to get sloshed on inexpensive Shiraz. (9/20/07)

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