Landmarc TWC

Everyone seems to be writing good things about Landmarc and its new location at the Time Warner Center.

landmarc [at the time warner center] remains true to its original vision — delicious, straightforward bistro food with an award-winning wine list, all at reasonable prices. an amalgam of industrial and natural materials — exposed brick, hardwood floors, rebar and rusted metals, along with a smattering of luxurious materials, recall the downtown roots of landmarc’s tribeca outpost while creating a sense of luxury for this flagship location. [sic]

After all this hype, I really had high expectations for my dinner at Landmarc. We went, with V's family again (thanks!), for dinner after a show on Broadway. Overall I was satisfied, but I feel like the restaurant doesn't quite know what it is yet.

As I was walking home from dinner, I decided that Landmarc is like silly putty. Careful planning and intense research with the hope of developing the next breakthrough didn't quite result in what was expected, but produced a fun product that can be enjoyed by everyone. Such is Landmarc TWC. The atmosphere is fun, with a cool design and fun music playing, the staff wear black t-shirts keeping it not too dressy; but it isn't quite as much of a breakthrough as expected.

I haven't been to the TirBeCa location, but I know that it has been successful and is much smaller. This new location has a cool industrial decor with rebar on the ceiling and weathered wooden tables. It seemed a bit odd that our table looked out to a shopping mall. Even if the Shops at TWC are upscale, it brought the atmosphere down a notch from upscale to "dinner at the mall" for us. I imagine that if we were seated with a view out at Columbus Circle, I'd have been much more impressed.

The menu is unique, a folded sheet of tabloid sized paper, arranged somewhat peculiarly with lots of options under various headings. I had heard good things about some of the appetizers, "a few of the items, like the roasted marrow bones and goat cheese profiteroles, are already classics." So that's what V and I ordered. I found the marrow bones certainly to be unique, but difficult to eat. The plate came with three thick bones, kind of like those I'd give the dog, along with grilled bread, caramelized onions and a little bowl of sea salt. I stacked little bites of each element, but it was a real challenge to get the marrow out of the bones. V's profiteroles, or cream puffs were very good, with a nice taste and texture.

Because I had steak the night before, I decided against Landmarc's hangar steak (or others) and ordered mussels with chorizo and onion. They came in a cast iron pot with plenty of mussels and lots of sausage mixed in. I like mussels because they force you to take your time eating, though they are a bit of a messy meal. I found the seasonings to be very good, though bites of mussel and sausage had the chorizo overpowering the more subtle flavor of the mussel. This was also served with a large basket of french fries, that made for quite a sizable dinner. I couldn't even come close to eating all the fies, but they were tasty on their own and dipped in the mussel sauce.

V enjoyed the filet mignon with a sauce called butter maître d'hôtel, which is actually a pat of herbed butter placed atop the filet and allowed to melt into the steak as you eat it. It was very good, as a filet should be. It also came with the same french fries on the side. We also tried the "crushed potatoes" (they don't allow substitutions), and we were curious as to what these would be. Mashed? No, crushed is very accurate, they're small potatoes cooked and slightly smashed and seasoned before serving. Nothing amazing, but a unique preparation.

We didn't try any desserts, but it is worth noting that they are only $3 each, and they look very good. Our server did bring out a few house-made caramels which were a nice end to a very nice meal. I'm glad I went to Landmarc, it didn't quite meet my preconceived expectations, but, like silly putty, it is a lot of fun, and I'll probably give it another try now that I know what to expect.

Marriott Marquis Times Square Broadway Lounge

"The Broadway Lounge, overlooking Times Square, serves cocktails, tasty tapas and light fare." Sometimes you just have to take in the true tourist experiences available in New York, even if you live here and "never go near Times Square." This lounge, on the 8th floor of the Marriott Marquis, overlooks the heart of Times Square, and offers pretty good food and drinks to go with the views. I found it nice to be above the hustle-bustle of the crowd.

The food we ordered was pretty good, we tried just a few appetizers, including edamame, a quesidilla and some kind of fried cheese ravioli with marinara sauce. I found the edamame well seasoned but a little over cooked, making the bean-pods feel a little loose, though the beans themselves tasted just fine. The food was good, but really the experience is about the views and the location. This is definitely a place to bring visitors to show them a good time in Times Square above the hectic mess of the sidewalks below.

Gramercy Tavern

Opened in 1994, Gramercy Tavern is a renewal of the classic American Tavern offering refined, contemporary American cuisine, warm hospitality and unparalleled service in an historic landmark building.

I was lucky enough to be brought along with V's family for an amazing dinner at Gramercy Tavern. I was more than impressed by my dining experience: the food was spectacular with service to match. We were lucky enough to get a dining room reservation at the last minute due to someone else's cancellation. Before we arrived I didn't realize the "Tavern" is separate from the "Dining Room" each offering a different menu. The Tavern menu is more typical with several appetizers and entree options, where the dining room offers a three course prix fixe and several tasting menus. We chose from the fixed price menu.

Even before the first courses were served we enjoyed an amuse bouche (tiny bite-sized morsels served before the hors d'œuvre or first course of a meal), which I believe had onion and perhaps some kind of seafood, scallops perhaps. It was a nice light start to the meal. We were also served rolls, one of which was a unique olive bread with chunks of olives baked in.

I ordered the Open Crab Ravioli with Razor Clams and Nettles, and when it arrived it looked amazing. The openness of the ravioli was was more like a little seafood and pasta sandwich. But, I was also tempted by the Tuna & Beet Tartare with Radish and Hazelnuts, which V's brother J ordered. He typically doesn't share at dinner, but I managed to negotiate a swap. I think we both ended up happy. The tuna was mixed with beets, something I generally don't like. The beets weren't too crunchy but the combination of the textures was well balanced. From what J said, the ravioli was very good too. The nettles, a fresh herb, added a nice flavor.

The second course was even better. I ordered the Hanger Steak & Braised Short Rib with Snap Peas, Runner Beans and Puffed Potatoes. The steak was cooked perfectly, and the short rib was flavorful and tender, easy to eat with only a fork. The puffed potatoes were a bit of a surprise, they were lightly fried balls of mashed potato, that actually were a very light addition to the meal which contrasted nicely with the heavier steak and ribs. Thinking of steak and potatoes...the portions were just right, not huge, but very satisfying in the scheme of the entire meal.

V had the Monkfish with Spring Onion, Swiss Chard and Mussel Broth, something new for her, and I think she was satisfied. I tried a bite and found the texture a little grainy or stringy, not flaky like most fish. But it was tender and light, not too rich or buttery, which was nice for a summer meal.

Before talking about desserts, I want to mention the decor. I liked the Tavern area a little better than the dining room, in terms of decor, but then again the dining room really is about the food. The dining room had an authentic home-style feel to it with weathered walls, light stained wood paneling, curtains and exposed beams. There were quilts and paintings on the walls and beautiful flower bouquets all around the dining room. My first impression though was of something more like a "Country Kitchen" restaurant from back in Minnesota. But what Gramercy did was to really evoke that home feel and bring it up to a very classy level. I'm sure the bouquets were real flowers and the space, though large, was well divided to provide some intimacy. Additionally the service was amazing. Every detail was accounted for: from having the right fork for my appetizer, to the way they cleared the table after each course quietly and discreetly - I don't think we ever heard a clink of dishes, in fact we noticed that each piece of dinner wear was picked up individually and neatly stacked so as not to disrupt our conversation.

Now for dessert. Which was preceded by another amuse (which was good, but I can't remember at the moment). I had Milk Chocolate Praline Mousse with Mocha-Grand Marnier Ice Cream. It was the coolest presentation I've seen in a long time. The mousse was served in almost a candy-bar form, a long bar shape, it was light but chocolatey, kind of like a mousse Kit-Kat. The ice cream was on the side with a candy sugar droplet made by the pastry chef. V had Warm Chocolate Bread Pudding with Cacao Nib Ice Cream. I will admit that I was a little jealous of her dessert, which was rich and delicious. The warm bread pudding helped to melt the ice cream a bit, which is just they way I like it. I only got one bite!

Gramercy Tavern really shows a lot of respect for the food they serve and for the customers enjoying it. The service shows it, ans does the level of cuisine that comes out of the kitchen. I am really grateful that I got to experience such a great dinner! When another special occasion arises, I know I have a good place to go.

Grand Cafe

Grand Cafe is another Greek place in Astoria, surprise. I've walked past multiple times and I always see people enjoying big salads and other good looking food. We dropped in for a bite to eat and were pretty satisfied. The decor was nice, nothing amazing, they have a revolving door which i found amusing because every other window/door was open to enjoy the outside air. We sat at a window and had a nice view of the people walking by. Because the salads were always so appealing, I tried the cobb salad, and V had the portobello salad. My only complaint was the dressing which was too mustardy for me, I prefer blue cheese or ranch, but still it was a nicely composed salad. V's salad was "quite delicious" the best part was the cheese, she said. It came with goat cheese, yellow, red and green peppers, and of course the mushroom. She ate everything, except the lettuce, but really the toppings are the best part - I guess there wasn't any dressing on it (or it was on the side). They served a nice pile of pita slices on the side which were warm and fresh from the grill, giving them a nice, subtly charred flavor. The prices were pretty reasonable for the area, about $12 for a salad, and we added a bottle of wine too. I liked it. I'll go back someday.


I've read a lot about Morandi, and a few weeks back while exploring the Village (in search of a random artist on the street - long story), I walked past it (it is very near Central Kitchen), which inspired me to give it a try.

Morandi is a rustic Italian trattoria from restaurateur Keith McNally. Executive Chef Jody Williams creates regional dishes from Italy such as Pici al limone and Pizzoccheri al forno. In warmer months, Morandi welcomes guests at its sidewalk café.

V and I made reservations for dinner, but then I got sick and we bumped our plans back a few days to a Sunday brunch. We made our way downtown after church and as we walked to the restaurant we realized that the Gay Pride parade was about to begin. It definitely would have been an interesting meal with a parade marching by, but it turned out that the restaurant was a few blocks from the parade route.

Morandi goes a long way toward creating an authentic atmosphere for their restaurant, from the phone message with a nice Italian accent, to "WC" on the bathroom doors, shelves lined with wine jugs in the dining room, exposed beams along the ceiling, and artisan breads stacked near the kitchen, it all evokes the "rustic Italian trattoria" they're going for. Eating outside with views of New York city and lots of parade participants and spectators decked out in various attire walking by during our meal took away from the atmosphere a bit, but it was still quite nice. It definitely made for good people watching. Where else but New York city can you see drag queens and get authentic Italian at the same time?

The brunch menu had some interesting choices. We started with Cestino di pane, a selection of sweet breads including ricotta fritters, sugar donuts, Italian croissants, anise donuts, grape focaccia and sweet bread. We got little pieces of each of the breads and it was nice to try them all, though my favorite was the ricotta fritters. Our server told us they'd be served warm, but they came out room temperature.

I tried the Fagottini con prosciutto, a baked crepe with ham and fontina. It was very good with great ham and cheese tastes complimented by a soft crepe that was nicely crispy and buttery around the edges. I was very satisfied. V had Trofiette al pesto, a pasta with pesto, potatoes and green beans. I thought it would be odd to have potato in a pasta dish, and I wondered how it would be served. It was much different than we expected, the beans and the potato were mixed into the pasta itself, with he potato julienned into thin strips that fit well with the texture of the pasta. The pesto sauce was very good and gave the dish a nice green color.

After our meal, I was definitely satisfied, though I wanted more - not because I wasn't full, but because I felt like I didn't get the whole Morandi experience. Next time, I'll go for dinner, and I'll sit inside to really soak it all in. Overall it's pretty reasonably priced, with good service and a great atmosphere.

Carnegie John's

New York Magazine ranks the cart I sometimes get my lunch from on the street as 8th best in the city. It's definitely good and cheap.

To put it in SAT terms, Carnegie John’s is to Tony the Dragon’s as Mary’s Fish Camp is to Pearl Oyster Bar—the difference being that unlike those feuding fish ladies, should Tony and John meet up on the street, neither would attempt to scratch out the other’s eyeballs. Tony Dragonas, you see, taught his Greek compatriot John Antoniou the chicken-and-rice ropes, letting John run the show when he was away. When there was nothing more that Tony could teach John about grilled chicken breasts, Italian-sausage sandwiches, and combo platters, John, as straight-A students often do, struck out on his own—with Tony’s blessing, of course. Read more...


What sets Ovelia apart is the emphasis on their charcoal grill. They grind their own sausage in-house, in addition to several other homemade specialties. The dishes are full of flavor, and there is a full bar to complement any dish with a glass of wine or cocktail.

We’d been in Ovelia once before, for a drink after sushi across the street at Go Wasabi, and found the décor and drinks very appealing. The bar has integrated fiber-optic lights and in the back there are cool flames shooting up the walls tornado-style.

Upon our return for a meal though we weren’t quite as satisfied. The drinks were expensive for the neighborhood at $8-10, and the food wasn’t anything amazing. Though admittedly we didn’t have the aforementioned homemade sausage, we did order from the grill. V tried the pork chops, which were tough and over dry. I had the ground beef and lamb kebabs which one review called a “dish worth scrambling for.” I disagree. The meat wasn’t anything special, cooked well done, and more chewy than anything else.

The best part of our meal though, was the cheese appetizer, which consisted of three hot cheeses, including halloumi, feta and saganaki. Each was distinct in its taste and texture, and I enjoyed them all (even though halloumi remains my favorite cheese of all time).

Overall, I may go back for an appetizer, maybe a drink if I’m in the area and in the mood for the atmosphere, but otherwise, I didn’t find the service or the entrées that good.

Firehouse Tavern

Firehouse Tavern is a great bar/pub just a few bocks from Central Park on the Upper West Side. After the longest run of my life to date, I dropped in with V and a few of her Volleyball teammates. I don't have much to say about the place, other than that I really liked the atmosphere, and the food was above par for a bar (I rhyme!).

The decor is that of a firehouse, natch. There are old fire station things like fire extinguishers, photos of dalmatians, fire helmets and sirens throughout. I believe, though they could have just decorated it so well, that the space was actually once a fire house.

I ordered a BBQ chicken pizza, which was very good, with a hand tossed crust that was chewy and crispy at the same time, with red onions, BBQ sauce, chicken and cheddar cheese. V enjoyed the boneless chicken wings, which I found funny (boneless wings?), and spicy. It's definitely a nice place to come after a long day in the park.

Umbertos Clam House

Umbertos Clam House is my first restaurant in the Bronx! Now all I have left is to eat somewhere in Staten Island to complete the "Restaurant Reminder Quinfecta™". Anyhow, Umbertos claims don't add up to the real experience they provide. Located in little Italy in the Bronx, on Arthur Avenue, the restaurant is in the heart of a real Italian neighborhood, with great markets, delis, bakeries and butcher shops. I expected an authentic meal, not necessarily the pinnacle of cuisine, but at least quality Italian food, even for a Friday lunch. Really to me though the restaurant seemed more like a chain seafood/Italian place, with lots of nautical stuff screwed on to the walls and lacking the authentic charm of the rest of the neighborhood.

The lunch menu wasn't very large and we all decided to take the lunch special, which included salad and an entree. The salad was plain, the typical house salad, with iceberg, a few cucumber slices and a cherry tomato, with a little plastic cup of dressing. For an entree I figured they'd have a good fish and chips, so I ordered it. It was probably the worst fish and chips I've ever had, seriously. The fries were soggy and flavorless, and the fish was dry and the breading was thin and close to soggy too. No crunch, no texture. It was disappointing. Further our service was slow and stuttered with one or two of us having to wait for their order after everyone else was served. Too bad. At least it was on the office! Maybe I need another Bronx experience to really claim the Quinfecta. (Probably more in Brooklyn too.)

p.s. Sorry I haven't posted much lately, I've got a backlog of about a dozen restaurants I'm beginning to work on today.


The great thing about New York City is that there is something for every niche, and because of the diversity and size of the city, so many unique places can thrive. For example Crumbs is a bakery near Union Square that just makes really unique cupcakes. My brother and I happened upon the place and were entranced by the delicious looking treats. I tried a cookie-dough cupcake and it was good. It just looked like cookie dough frosting but tasted more like regular frosting, on a white cupcake. A little bit of a let down. There are so many more flavors to try though, I'm sure they get it right on a few.

The E.U.

The E.U. or The European Union if you want to spell it out, serves a variety of European cuisine in a great environment, and with excellent service. It has been on my list of restaurants to check out for a while. It is a very popular dinner spot; we walked in and were added to the list for a table, but ended up just eating at the bar.

That was no problem. The bartenders were friendly and very helpful - the beer list was filled with unique and rare offerings, as was the wine list, and they could easily describe each and were happy to offer samples. The same went for their knowledge of the menu. We got recommendations on what to try and what to avoid. I was even able to convince them to give me the Sunday special on Saturday.

We tried the Charcuterie Plate, a selection of cured meats with house-made pickles and olives, which was pretty good. I enjoyed trying the different meats offered, and it served as a nice starter. Other appetizers we tried included oysters from the raw bar, and a seafood gnocchi (amazing...creamy sauce that was good to the last drop).

As I mentioned earlier, I was able to convince our bartender to give me the next day's special, a hangar steak (my favorite) with fries. It was great, the meat was juicy, tender and flavorful. The fries, served in a cone, Belgian-style, were crispy and well seasoned.

Overall dining at the European Union was a great experience. I really liked the atmosphere, the prices were reasonable (a little expensive, but great quality and service), and the food was great from start to finish. This is definitely a place to take out-of-town guests, just try for a reservation.