Thanks so much to Ping for recommending Kurio, 338 East 92nd (just west of 1st Ave.).
I went last Saturday, and there were so many things to like about the place:
1. The decor is spare and lovely.
2. Attention to detail, from the lighting to the eclectic and well-chosen music that was played.
3. It's a family affair, with wife China in the front, husband Jim in the kitchen, and China's parents helping out (Mom was our primary server).
4. It's small -- maybe 8 tables, and an intimate bar that could seat 6 or 8.
5. Lots of small plates and salads, with extremely fresh and well-chosen produce (we didn't have any of the tempting small plates, such as lollipop lamb chops, shell-on cajun shrimp, green bean tempura, etc.).
6. Entrees were muscular and bursting with flavor. My friend's grilled rib eye steak w/sauteen onions was superb, and my ragout of lamb and gnocchi was just what I was after.
7. I ordered strawberry shortcake for dessert. It wasn't what I was expecting, but then maybe I need to alter my expectations. Before ordering strawberry shortcake at a good restaurant, I always ask what the "shortcake is." I was told it was a biscuit. Not quite as good as shortcake, but more to my taste than dreaded sponge cake. What I didn't expect was that the dish would be hot -- it was really a form of bread pudding, with the hot biscuit lying in custard and topped by hot but intact strawberries. Terrific.
8. It's nothing special to have a small, family-run place if the family isn't appealing, but this family is (I didn't meet Jim, but after sampling his cooking, I can wait as long as he churns out good grub). The other three are charming, and I especially liked that even though the place was almost empty, folks from the neighborhood were dropping by to say hello. It's that kind of place.
9. The menu is full of things I'd like to try: loin of pork in adobo sauce w/saffron rice; atlantic salmon with basil oil; mixed seafood fish fry; polenta lasagna with sausage and beef, etc.
10. Prices? Main courses are mostly $15-$20, with the large ribeye and scallops, shrimp, & calamari scampi at $25. Decent wine list and a full bar. Open only for dinner. Phone (212) 828-1267.