I did well. Within hours of arriving in Manhattan I was supping at The Madras Cafe. Rasam (a transparent and aromatic soup flavored with tamarind, cumin and lots of black pepper--the last a favorite ingredient at the restaurant), masala vada (nutty, dense fritters) and adai (something like uttapham). All lovely. Even the pappadam and the accompanying onion relish given to each customer are delightful. This is one of the very finest Indian dining experiences I've had outside my own kitchen, comparable with Dasaprakash in Santa Clara, California. From there I walked southwest to Sullivan Street Bakery, admired the handsome loaves, bought a couple and a piece of the potato pizza, which was tremendous, the onions slightly crisp at the edges, the crust quite perfect. Thanks, Jeffrey Steingarten. I walked to Bazzini and began to believe that scrittrice might prove the most reliable of my informants (videlicet, "I wouldn't make a special trip").
On the following day I lunched at Grand Sichuan International. Based on the food I had, I'd say B+. Service quite bad, very Chinese. I bought a bottle of the 2001 Lucien Crochet Sancerre "Le Chêne" at Garnet Wine and Liquors ($21 I think). The bearded white fellow who appeared to be te manager or owner does not know his stock very well, but it's quite a good shop. Thanks, Jim. I advanced to Le Maison du Chocolat, where a hairless man waited on me very unpretentiously and a French woman at the cash register dispensed chilly contempt. (She's French.) Note new address: no store on 73rd any more. From there to Orwasher's Bakery. I don't care for the dense dryness of the corn rye bread, but the raisin pumpernickel ("fart goblin") is sublime. Just tell them not to slice the bread; they have paper bags; you just have to ask.
On Saturday I lunched at Honmura An. Thank you, Kale Girl & scrittrice. Who is this Honmura san and why are his noodles so skinny? It is a beautiful room; I like the goldfish; the seaweed salad with mustard dressing was delicious. A moment later I was wolfing down a slice of the cherry tomato pizza at Sullivan Street Bakery--fabulous. The Yoghurt Place II, next door, is a nice shop; I don't do dairy. For dinner, before a Dave Douglas evening, Pongal. This is a passable Indian restaurant, but not at all in the same league as The Madras Cafe. The spinach pakoda was a bit leathery, all the sauces were insipid, the masala dosa was imperfect in its ratio of potato filling to crepe, etc.
Marray's Bagels Sunday morning. First rate. Somewhat soft when fresh, then getting remarkably chewy and challenging over the next hour. They helped me through a long west-east traverse, as did Ashley, seated next to me (she was unprepared for the Southwest Airlines austerity diet).
The Madras Cafe
Authentic South Indian Cuisine, mostly from Karnataka
Vegetarian & kosher
79 Second Avenue (between Fourth and Fifth)
Monday-Saturday 1-11, Sunday 1-10
Sullivan Street Bakery
73 Sullivan Street Bakery (between Spring and Broome)
Garnet Wines & Liquors Inc
929 Lexington Avenue (between 68th and 68th)
Le Maison du Chocolat
1018 Madison Avenue (between 78th and 79th)
308 East 78th Street (between First and Second)
170 Mercer Street (between Houston and Prince)
Lunch: Wednesday-Saturday 12-2:30
Dinner: Tuesday-Thursday 6-10, Friday-Saturday 6-10:30, Sunday 6-9:30
The Yoghurt Place II
71 Sullivan Street (between Spring and Broome)
Monday-Friday 10:30-8:30, Saturday-Sunday 12-8:30
242 Eighth Avenue (between 23rd and 22nd)