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NYC writeup (long) - Village Yochoko, Luger, Babbo, etc.

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NYC writeup (long) - Village Yochoko, Luger, Babbo, etc.

PekoePeony | Jun 10, 2004 07:56 PM

Am a SF hound just back from four days in New York, stopping over from a 10-day trip to Spain. I adore the hustle and bustle of New York, though I'm glad not to have its heat in San Francisco :) Here's a writeup of my New York dining experiences:

* Snack at Otafuko. Seeing a little counter place like this really warms my heart. We had takoyaki, a bit milder in taste and with fewer toppings than versions I've tried in Japan. But the octopus center was nicely textured and more prominent, which I like.

* Dinner at Village Yochoko. The SF Bay Area's been having an izakaya surge recently, so I was curious to try New York's offerings to see how they compare. Village Yochoko seemed like a good bet, and when I saw that they had chicken cartilage on their menu (a dish I loved in Japan but can't find anywhere here in the US), I knew I had to go. Unfortunately they were out of the cartilage and a couple of other dishes we wanted, but overall the food was quite decent, though it varied depending on what you ordered. Don't get sashimi here -- the bluefin tuna belly was super-stringy.

* Lunch at Grimaldi's in Brooklyn. Had a pizza with extra basil and sausage. The ingredients are all good quality, but the pizza itself was a bit uneven. Some parts of the crust were nicely slightly charred with a delicious light crunch, other parts were a bit soggy, and others were overly burned. I'd say this is a good but not a great pizza. And it's full of tourists like me.

* Dinner at Peter Luger in Brooklyn. I had steak at Asador Fronton, a well-known steak place in Madrid, just three days prior and Peter Luger's steak wins hands-down. The key is Luger's perfectly charred crust with a beautiful crunch, though I liked Asador Fronton's coating of sea salt more. I'm not sure if Peter Luger's is the best steak I've ever had, but it was certainly excellent. IMHO, the dry-aging might have overly-mellowed the taste -- I think I might like a tad more mineral flavors. It was difficult to tell whether the buttery flavor was from the meat, or from the actual butter, but I'd definitely go here again. The creamed spinach was also a winner, and the tomatoes/onions were good, though the german potatoes were just so-so. Well-priced at $55/person including tax and tip but no drinks.

* Lunch at Takashimaya's Tea Box. I had the day's bento box -- lamb chop on a bed of long beans, salmon, asparagus in black-bean sauce, and rice with Chinese long beans. It sounded a bit weird for a Japanese place, being more Chinese-influenced, but was really quite good, with each dish having a delicate balance of flavors. The teas are also excellent.

* Dinner at Babbo. Funny to read a review of Babbo on nytimes.com that night when we got home. The downstairs is really loud and crowded, and they were playing country music overhead. Fortunately we were seated upstairs. I tried the tripe (I'm not a tripe fan, but fortunately the spicy red sauce overpowered the tripe), sardines (very simple, I wouldn't order it again), mint love letters (very good, the best dish of the meal), beef cheek ravioli (too heavy), and sweetbreads (good but not the best sweetbreads I've ever had). The amuse of balsamic/garlic chickpeas on toasts was amazing. However, I thought the dishes were overall too heavy; they didn't have the nice play of contrasts that I like in a well-executed meal. Perhaps this may be due to our ordering decisions, though. The wine list is excellent with several selections by the quartino, which is the perfect size for light drinkers like me and my fellow diners. Cost was less than expected, at $60 each including tax, tip, and one quartino of wine per person.

* Lunch at Grand Central Oyster Bar. Two of us sat at the counter and shared a combination panroast (good, but overpriced. Next time stick to one seafood for a better value) and 18 various oysters (quite good, though a couple were a bit tipped and had lost their "juice"). A bit expensive at $36/person with no drinks, and not really full afterwards.

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