Tag Archives: upper west side

Noi Due Carne

I’m always excited to discover a good new Italian place. Noi Due Carne really hits the high mark. Let me get right into it, before I reveal a surprise that I’m meaning to save until the end.

Fried baby artichokes:

I haven’t seen these since Rome, and they were every bit as good here as they were there. Perfectly golden crisp, expertly seasoned, and garnished with a bright citrusy sauce. I could eat this by the bucket.

Grilled marinated sweetbreads:

By far the best sweetbreads I have ever had. They were tender yet firm at the same time, not mushy and watery like other sweetbreads I’ve had. No sinew. All flavor. Amazing.

Spiced lamb flatbread:

You can pass on this. The dough or bread portion is just not up to par.

Beef carpaccio:

This was nicely drizzled with balsamic and had great texture from the crispy sweet potato.

Artichoke ravioli with a lemon and white wine sauce:

These were incredible. I get excited about anything artichoke-related, but my excitement is usually tempered by shitty execution. This place nails both artichoke dishes.

Cavatelli with short rib ragu:

Cavatelli is my favorite pasta. The beef was nicely prepared, and had a pop of interesting flavor from the pomegranate. I liked this.

This baby was made for going viral.

That may look like just an ordinary large meatball, but look inside:

That’s right. Spaghetti INSIDE your meatball!

Not really my cup of tea. Both components end up being a bit off when they’re cooked this way, and I feel like the dish is really only designed for the shock value of the presentation. The meatball itself was nice and spicy though, and the sauce on the plate was well prepared. This is probably something that’s fun to order for the kids though, since kids can sometimes be really picky eaters. Adults should pass on this. Especially men.

Half chicken al Mattone:

This had a great crispy skin on it. The chicken itself was a bit dry in parts, and I wasn’t the biggest fan of the sweet potato puree underneath. But overall this dish was delicious.

Veal Milanese:

This was perfect. Pounded thin and flat, lightly breaded, and fried to a beautiful golden crisp.

26oz rib eye for two:

This is pricey at nearly $130, but there was no waste on it and no bone to beef up the weight numbers.

This was a 9/10 too. The simple olive oil and sea salt preparation really allowed the quality of the beef (USDA prime) to shine. It even tasted dry aged to me.

On the side we had some veggies and fries. Both just okay.

Dessert consisted of some kind of stacked, light, airy pastry with some sort of whipped topping and fruit…

A chocolate mousse cake of come kind, with some kind of frozen treat on top – like an ice cream…

And fondue with frozen banana, ginger snap cookies, marshmallows and strawberries:

The reason I’m cryptic about the pastry and the cake/ice cream is because, well, this place is Kosher, and I really have no idea how they pulled off pastry, whipped cream, cake and ice cream without using dairy. My wife would know, but I haven’t the slightest. Everything was really good.

But yes, that’s right: This place is Kosher. That’s the surprise I hinted about up top. This was the best Kosher meal I’ve ever had in the city, and I think I’ve had three or four? I would definitely eat here again. The fried artichoke, the sweetbreads, the artichoke ravioli and the steak were all top notch amazing dishes. Don’t PASS OVER (KNEE SLAP!) this place just because it’s Kosher and Kosher joints have a reputation for bad food.

NOI DUE CARNE
143 W 69th St
New York, NY 10023

Nice Matin

My wife and I were recently invited into Nice Matin to help promote their Provencal menu in their celebration of Bastille Day.

I’ll say this: Nice Matin is the best French joint in the restaurant group’s ownership among other French joints (L,Express, Cafe D’Alsace, and Le Monde).

We tried a few small bites and drinks from that menu, and, of course, the strip steak frites from the regular menu.

First, we started with some Ricard, which was sponsoring the evening’s French kick-off night. Some diners win goodie bags, and you can enter for a chance to win a trip to France.

Tapenade:

Mussels:

Squash Blossom Beignets:

Onion Tart:

All of those were on the special menu, and all were really good. I think the favorites, for me, were the onion tart and the tapenade, but the squash blossoms were really light and tasty and the mussels were really nice.

The steak was a solid 8/10. The meat was super tender, and I really only took points off because the cook was a little bit over what I asked (medium rare).

The fries were perfectly cooked, but the addition of the Provencal herbs (like lavender) was a little bit aggressive.

For dessert we tried a sesame panna cotta and an olive oil cake. Both were really great, both flavor-wise and texture-wise.

Also, really nice bread here. Warm and tasty.

I definitely recommend this joint for anyone looking for some good classic French fare in the neighborhood.

NICE MATIN
201 W 79th St
New York, NY 10024

Tessa

TESSA is a modern Mediterranean tavern on the upper west side that blends southern French and Italian cuisines. Their opening in April 2014 was the culmination of a years-long journey by first-time restaurateur, Larry Bellone, and long-time restaurateur, Will Tracy. The joint is named after Larry’s daughter. Will has been involved in the restaurant business for over 30 years.

Executive Chef Eric Cope has been at the helm since the beginning. Before his position here, Eric worked for the Rancho Bernardo Inn in his hometown of San Diego. The Pastry Chef is Yarisis Jacobo, and the Sous Chef is Ray Martinez.

The industrial and rustic interior design is absolutely stunning, and you can see the immaculate kitchen through the massive windows downstairs if you use the spotless-clean bathrooms.

The bar is really beautiful too, and the cocktail list is inventive. I tried three drinks (Kilt & Dagger, 349 and UWS Manhattan), and they were all delicious.

But let me get to the food, because that’s what you really care about the most, right? We started with three apps.

Salmon Tartare

This was nice and fresh. It had a middle-eastern flavor profile, especially when eaten with the soft naan-like scallion pita bread with which it was served. The pomegranate, cucumber, pearl onion, black sesame and saffron aioli really worked well together.

Octopus

This a la plancha style octopus was crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. It was really nice! It’s served with marble potato salad, fried capers, black garlic puree and aged balsamic. This was my favorite of the apps.

Mussels

These “drunken” Hollander mussels were beautiful. The broth boasts tequila, tomato, garlic, kafir lime leaf, dried guajillo and cilantro. Super aromatic and tasty.

Next up we tried a duo of appetizer-sized pasta dishes (half of what you’d get for a full order). I must say, the app sizes were generous!

Duck Spaghetti

This was really good, and was offered as a special for the night. Duck sausage and duck confit lent a great savory component to the dish, complementing the fresh greenery of peas and fried basil.

Lobster Rye Trumpet

This beautiful rye pasta dish was topped with a generous amount of lobster for an appetizer portion. This was the better pasta of the two, for me. It was tossed with chanterelle mushrooms, celery root, chorizo, buerre blanc and chives.

We shared two entrees.

Long Island Duck

First, and actually my favorite between the two, was the duck. The breast was rendered perfectly, leaving just a layer of crisp skin above the tender, expertly cooked meat. This was served with a spiced honey sauce, a few crispy duck confit ravioli, baby carrots, cipollini onions and tarragon. The sweet and savory contrast to this dish was so amazing. I’d go back for this in a heart beat.

Cote de Boeuf

This beauty is pre-sliced and 32oz on the bone. Take a closer look at the meat though.

A little closer…

There you go! It’s a 45 day dry-aged DeBragga rib eye that carries a great earthy and funky flavor. The crust on this thing was excellent, and perfectly seasoned. It comes with roasted garlic, crispy fried shallots and  roasted bone marrow. 8/10.

This was a great steak, but I was really torn between ordering this or the other two beef options that were on the menu: a hanger steak frites and a 45-day dry aged strip steak. Next time.

We also tried the fries and shaved Brussels on the side. Both were great, but I only snapped the fries.

In the background, you can also see some grilled romaine lettuce which came with the steak (along with a nice reduction-style steak sauce, and the sun dried tomato chimichurri that usually accompanies the steak frites).

To finish off the meal, we tried two desserts.

Bomboloni

I’m usually not a fan of ordering doughnuts at a restaurant. I always end up liking doughnuts from specialty shops better. But these ones were incredible. It was tough to choose a favorite between the two styles (vanilla cream vs glazed). Both were incredible, and came with a hazelnut anglaise dipping sauce.

Coconut Cheesecake Sundae

Yes, you read that right. It’s coconut sorbet with malted vanilla sauce, diced mango and macadamia crunch. Really inventive, refreshing and exotic.

Is that everything? I think it is. But I want more. I highly recommend this place. The quality of the food and attentiveness of service is top notch. You won’t be disappointed.

TESSA
349 Amsterdam Ave
New York, NY 10024

Saiguette

This little take-out joint slings a pretty decent banh mi. I haven’t tried their Vietnamese food yet, but I can at least give a run down of their “classic” sub. I put the word “classic” in quotes, because there really isn’t much pate, head cheese or other items that would make this a classic viet sandwich. Perhaps they gave me the roast pork shoulder by mistake? Not sure. It could just be that they’re using different ingredients from the other shops.

SAIGUETTE
935 Columbus Ave
New York, NY 10025

The Fat Monk

NOTE: THIS PLACE IS NOW CLOSED

The Fat Monk has one of the most incredibly ambitious and delicious looking menus I’ve ever seen. Just about every item sounds unique and awesome, and I pretty much got to try them all.

Chef Rob McCue, who has been honing his art for 25 years, elevates American comfort food by using only the finest ingredients sourced via his close relationships with local artisans. He achieves the unexpected through molecular gastronomy, a style of cooking that you don’t often associate with American comfort cuisine.

And the unexpected delights are not limited to the food here, either. The cocktails are equally as exciting. Cory Goldstein, founder of Muddling Memories, put together an amazing cocktail menu.

We tried a whole bunch, but the standouts for me were the “Emma Stone’s a Ginger” (bourbon, peach, Lapsang Souchong tea, molasses, ginger beer, cookie “snack back”), “Say a Dirty Word” (barrel aged gin, vodka, house dirty brine, white pepper, chili oil, Boursin cheese stuffed olives), and “Paul Bunyan’s Flask” (rye, pine infused maple, Oloroso sherry, Bergamot bitters, apple wood smoke) cocktails. In fact, that’s the order in which I would recommend drinking them, the Emma to start the meal, the Dirty with your main course, and the Flask – which is a treat to see being served – with dessert.

Their PR person contacted me, and we arranged to bring in a crew of savage meat eating wackos to get down on all the tasty shit and post some pics of their joint on Instagram. So here’s what we had:

STARTERS

Oyster Escargot: Yeah – I know. Making you think a little, right? Oysters served with a parsley and pernod crust. Lovely.

Kale Caesar: Ours was more arugula and mixed greens than kale, which I was actually happy about. Kale is a bit woody for my liking. All that said, I didn’t even eat any salad. I had my sights set on tons of other delicious stuff.

Crispy Duck Wings: Crisp on the outside, super tender and fall-off-the-bone on the inside. Really amazing Thai/Viet flavor combo too from the sweet and tangy fish sauce glaze and scallions.

Double Cut Slab Bacon: This delicious shit tasted like spiral ham, but more bacony, if that makes any sense.

Deviled Eggs: That’s a “chicken-fried” oyster on top. The balance of textures here is what really sets this deviled egg apart from all the rest. It was a nice crisp against a velvety smooth egg.

Dungeness Crab Tater Tots: If these were around when I was a kid, I may have never found French fries. They’re like part carb cake, part tot. Really genius.

Shells & Cheese: Really nicely executed adult mac and cheese right here. Smoked bacon and fontina cheese make it decadent, but it’s not too rich to the point where you don’t want to touch your main courses after.

Scotch Egg: Perfection. Just really nicely done. Crispy outside, perfect slightly yolky egg inside. Again, great texture contrast.

Foie Gras Bratwurst: The ultimate mash-up of cheap eats and decadent eats, this is a bratwurst served in a hot dog style potato bun with foie gras, crispy onions and truffle mustard on top. Why hasn’t anyone thought of this before? Delicious.

ENTREES

Schweinshaxe: Good luck trying to pronounce that shit, but I think it kinda sounds like you’re saying “swine shank” with your hand in your mouth, which makes sense considering what this is. Successfully speaking the name of this item is one thing, but I know you’ll succeed wildly at eating it. It’s a pork shank with a crispy-as-fuck skin on the outside and juicy-as-fuck meat on the inside. It’s served with spaetzle and cabbage.

Not a Ramen: This is an American fusion version of ramen. The broth is a beef bone consomme, and it’s served with a soft duck egg, a hunk of tender short rib, marrow and egg noodles. Obscenely good.

Duck Burger: This is actually quite lean, so if you’re trying to be mindful of fat intake, this might be the way to go for you. It still had a robust duck essence without being overly gamey. It’s topped with melted Emmenthaler cheese and shallot confit, and served with house cut fries.

Monk Burger:  This was my favorite between the two burgers; a house blend patty topped with cheddar, lettuce, tomato, shaved red onion and house pickles, served with smoked ketchup and fries.

Fried Chicken Sandwich: I actually didn’t get to try this, but take a look at that amazing batter on the chicken! The chicken itself is breast meat, but it has been pickle-brined. Very inventive!

Bone In Rib Eye: Here we go! This baby was cooked to a perfect medium rare through both the eye and the cap. It also had a pretty decent char-crust on the outside. It was seasoned nicely with flake salt and pepper, and served with roasted tomatoes, roasted garlic and seared exotic mushrooms (my guess is Hen of the Woods). 8/10.

SIDES

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon: The bacon in this was thick cut style, and the smokey, sweet, meat flavor really permeated into the sprouts. Nice execution.

Seared Exotic Mushrooms: These also came with the steak, and were absolutely delicious. Earthy and savory.

House Cut Fries: The fries are pretty great! Usually I see thick fries like this and I’m immediately turned off. These were perfectly fried to a beautiful golden crisp, however, and nicely seasoned.

Also worth mentioning here is the homemade Irish Soda Bread that comes to the table at the beginning of the meal. Really good stuff.

You see how much shit I tried here?!?!? Well, I actually want to go back and try even more stuff. As I said, the menu is bonkers. Give this place a try. You won’t be disappointed.

THE FAT MONK
949 Columbus Ave
New York, NY 10025

Bella Luna

My wife and I were recently invited into Bella Luna, and upper west side Italian joint, for a complimentary meal in exchange for an honest review of the food. The menu looked pretty great, so I was excited to get in here.

The restaurant was jumping on a Thursday night. I don’t think there was an empty table in the joint. It makes sense, given the attractively priced pasta dishes ($12 for their long list of classics) set in a beautiful dining room.

We started with an order of mussels. These babies are cooked in a garlic, white wine and tomato sauce.

The sauce was awesome. In fact, we kept asking for extra bread to soak up the goodness. I was happy there was a spoon on the table, because I was eating the sauce like soup.

Next up was one of their special pasta dishes: lamb pappardelle.

Pappardelle is one of my favorite styles of pasta: long, wide ribbons. This stuff was fresh made, and the lamb ragu was great. The meat sauce also contained some diced carrots, onions and peppers. It reminded me of the Sunday meat sauces (aka “gravy,” in some circles) that my grandmother used to make when my family would visit each week. It was boldly flavored, yet not too heavy where you feel bloated after. This was definitely my favorite dish of the night.

Then we shared a pizza.

We ordered the “Bella Luna” pizza, which is topped with wild mushrooms, truffle oil, onions and fontina cheese.

As you can see, we added some prosciutto and olives to the party.

This was a really great pizza! The dough was puffy and light, but still had a good crunch with an airy, doughy bite. They’re working some magic back there in the brick oven!

Dessert was impressive, as they were offering slices of a special praline ice cream cake from the bake shop that used to be located next store (Grossinger’s; a neighborhood classic for many decades).

This was so rich and decadent. Such awesome flavors going on, and I even thought I tasted some halva in the mix, which I love. I highly recommend a slice of this if they have any left when you go.

My wife’s choice was tiramisu, her favorite, but with a scoop of their toasted pistachio gelato on top.

A genius idea, if I may say so. The tiramisu was soft, and nicely coffee flavored. The lady fingers weren’t soaked in too much booze, and it was overall very creamy and tasty.

I definitely recommend this place. It’s a great neighborhood joint with extremely reasonable prices, set up with gorgeous exposed brick and rustic wood decor.

BELLA LUNA
574 Columbus Ave
New York, NY 10024

Flame

Flame is a pretty large hibachi joint on the upper west side. I was recently invited in for a hibachi meal with a bunch of lunatic foodies.

They put on a great show here, I must say.

We started off with a pair of shrimp.

Then some fried rice and veggies.

And then the steaks came out!

Very simply prepared, and nicely cooked.

As far as hibachi goes, this is one of the best I’ve experienced. But that’s not where the action stops. They also serve a variety of nice dumplings, sushi and other seafood.

Everything was great; especially that miso octopus tentacle. I highly recommend this joint. There’s a lot of space, really beautiful tables and decor, and even some really nice mixed cocktails.

FLAME
100 W 82nd St
New York, NY 10024

Bettola

Bettola’s story is very unique. Giga Leszay, the long-time manager, was in need of a chef. Chef Vlado Kolenic, the rockstar that left Czechoslavakia for the US in 1979, discovered a love for global cuisine while touring around the world with his band TAKTICI. Giga and Vlado met on a ski trip when one of Giga’s friends recognized Vlado from the band. The two became friends and took ownership of Bettola in May 2016.

Vlado incorporates the influences and techniques he cultivated on his travels as a musician to create the progressive dishes at Bettola.

Vlado’s love of music and food comes together on Sundays with a Beatles Brunch, during which music by The Beatles plays, and dishes are named after band members and songs. Bettola also offers a late-night happy hour, nightly, from 10 p.m.-11 p.m. Occasionally there is even live music by Chef Vlado himself at the piano. And starting soon, you can experience their movie nights, where pizza is just $10 and drinks are just $5, and you get to watch a movie for free on their TV.

It’s a really fun joint. The restaurant features a beautiful and rustic wood-burning oven that’s used for signature pizzas and some special dishes. The interior is cozy yet spacious, with a majority of seating being four-tops.

We sat down to enjoy our meal with two glasses of wine; a Malbec and a Montepulciano. Bettola has a sommelier who comes in twice per week, so the selection is curated by a professional.

We tried two apps. First was the oven roasted eggplant Napoleon.

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The cheese blistered up to a nice crisp in that gorgeous wood oven, and the tomatoes shriveled to a soft and juicy compliment. The best bits of the eggplant were the slices that had developed a really great char in the oven.

The meatballs were very tasty.

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The sauce really popped here, and with a portion size of three you can almost just grab a salad first and get this as an entree.

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Just ask for extra bread for sopping up that yummy sauce.

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I was intrigued by the Fantastico entree. It’s sliced filet mignon, cooked with 17 spices, and served on a bed of fettuccine and mushrooms.

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All pastas are made in house, and that fettuccine was the star of the show in this dish.

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I’d definitely try some other pasta dishes here. In fact, there are daily specials that constantly change, so you can try something new and unique every time you dine.

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Where Chef Vlado really shines, though, is when he is messing around with your taste buds. His global travels have exposed him to lots of interesting flavors and dishes, and he’s used that experience to develop a host of his own recipes. I suppose you can call a dish like Shrimp Prosecco an “Italian Fusion.”

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With elements of middle eastern and Thai cuisine, this dish really pops. There’s a coconut milk and Prosecco base in the sauce that almost acts like a curry, and the Israeli cous cous is mixed with zucchini and carrots. The cook on the butterflied shrimp was perfect as well; so tender and flavorful.

For dessert, we had a bread pudding that happened to be made with focaccia bread! But that’s not where the fun ended. It was topped with sliced green apple, garnished with sliced dates, and dressed with a whisky cream sauce. Really unique.

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Note: I was invited to dine as a guest of this establishment and received a complimentary meal. This was not in exchange for a positive review; all opinions expressed are my own.

BETTOLA
412 Amsterdam Ave
New York, NY 10024

Lala Sahab

Lala Sahab is an upper west side place for modern, creative and approachable Indian cuisine. The restaurant is named after Executive Chef/Owner Lala Sharma and the Hindi word for “Sir.”

Sharma began his career in his hometown of New Delhi at Bukhara, which is considered one of the 50 best restaurants in the world. In India, he trained with top chefs and learned the art of tandoor cooking.

The menu at Lala Sahab is divided into small plates, Mumbai bites, bhatti se (from the tandoor), choolah se (from the pan), larger traditional plates, biryanis and a “bread bar.”

The joint also has a newly installed full bar with cocktails, and a rotating line of draft beers and wines. In fact there’s a small bar in the front and a larger bar in the back, so there are two places to pull up for a refreshment.

I tried a 1947, which is an Indian imported beer that’s on par with a Bud or Coors. My wife tried a nice, thick and creamy mango lassi.

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Every meal begins with a basket of papadum, which is a thin lentil flour cracker. It’s served with a delicious green mint and cilantro chutney, as well as a tamarind chutney. I can seriously drink this green stuff. So refreshing and tasty.

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For those of you not familiar with this, the crackers are super thin and light, and you can taste the toasty lentil flavor. Way better than bread sticks or dinner rolls, guys!

The first app we tried was an order of tikka wale samosas.

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This is essentially a samosa with chicken tikka inside, and a creamy tikka masala dipping sauce on the side.

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These were packed with delicious, high quality meat and had a great crisp on the outside of the samosa. It’s no surprise that this dish is one of Lala Sahab’s best sellers and signature items.

Another really fun starter is the plate of chicken tikka sliders with cucumber and greens (three per order).

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These are garnished with a nice paprika mayo, and come with a pair of thick cut masala steak fry wedges. Very unique, and a fun way to integrate Indian cuisine into the American “slider” culture trend. I love a good chicken sandwich, and these sliders are right on par with some of my favorites in the city like Fuku+ and Delaney. They’re just not fried or flavored in the same style as those joints; they are distinctly and refreshingly Indian.

Since I’m the meat guy, and beef is typically scarce at Indian joints, I jumped at these lamb chops for my entree.

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There are four of them, served with tangy mushroom rice and lemon potatoes on the side.

The chops have decorative foil on the bone in case you want to grab it like a man and skip the fork and knife. They’re marinated in Indian spices, red wine and herbs. They’re cooked thru, but tenderized so beautifully with a great char from the tandoor oven.

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And of course, what good would an Indian dining experience be without a taste of curry? My wife and I tried this really luscious coconut shrimp curry.

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This comes with basmati rice, but we also got some garlic naan bread to dip. The shrimp were cooked perfectly, and to me that signals that they add them as the orders come, so they don’t get overcooked. Very smart. A mix of red peppers and onions are folded into the curry, but I bet this would really pop with some more heat from chili peppers. The menu advertises this as spicy, but I think they may have toned it down for the typical American palette. Give me the heat!

The garlic naan was great as well. It was topped with cilantro, and had good charring and bubble puffs throughout. Really yummy.

Dessert was simple and delicious.

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Rice pudding topped with crushed pistachio, and floated with a fried rice flour doughnut that was flavored with honey and coconut. This may sound crazy, but this little bowl of simplicity was my favorite part of the meal! The texture was nice, and it was just the right amount of sweetness in each bite.

I haven’t been to a lot of good Indian joints in this area until now, so Lala Sahab is a really important find. Go and give it a shot!

Note: I was invited to dine as a guest of this establishment and received a complimentary meal. This was not in exchange for a positive review; all opinions expressed are my own.

LALA SAHAB
489 Columbus Ave
New York, NY 10024

Vai

We scored a Gilt City deal for this place: $79 gets you two cocktails, two apps, two entrees and a shared dessert.

We started with the charred octopus and veal tartare. Both were well executed and tasty.

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The octopus had a great snap to it, yet it was still very tender.

My wife picked the pork tenderloin for her entree. I thought it could have had a third medallion of pork, but since it came with some shank meat and belly meat, I guess it wasn’t a big deal.

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I had the roasted skirt steak (Creekstone Farm), though I could swear it looked and tasted more like a hanger steak. It had a great outer crust from the roasting process, and it was cooked to a perfect medium rare inside. However, both this and the pork entree lacked salt. Luckily there was a small bowl of flake salt at the table for adding. 8/10.

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For dessert we shared this chocolate mousse cake. Very nice.

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As it turns out, the general manager remembered me from when she waited tables at Vic & Anthony’s. That earned us a complimentary glass of bubbly! So nice.

VAI
429 Amsterdam Ave
New York, NY 10024