Visit our Website


 Read my Tweets 












































FORKPLAY July 29, 2014

Whatjasay? The Cornivore's Dilemma. Drew's Revenge. Eating with the Nawabs. What Went Wong?

Dear Friends and Family,

       Introducing Zachary Fredric Ruderman, born July 25, 2014 at 11:20 to Anne and Nico. 7 lbs. 14 oz. 21 inches. Steven Richter's grandson. Guess that makes me a grandma.


       I often feel I am just crying into the wind when I complain about killing noise in restaurants. It's not the slightly rambunctious joyful buzz that annoys, or even an enthusiastic clamor that makes you lean in to hear your comrades. It's the uproar, the painful shrieks of millennials trying to hear themselves above the tumult.

      So when I complained about excessive noise at Drew Nieporent's new Bâtard in my review last week and he assured me that the sound-proofing was being installed even as we spoke, I was surprised and elated.

      Then as I was checking some facts about General Assembly with the Stillmans, father Alan and son Michael, I could scarcely believe my battered ears when Michael confided that they were planning to work on muffling the turbulence. I recall complaining to Alan about the numbing clamor at Quality Italian. "Oh, you don't like it the way the kids like it," he responded, positively crowing at my pitiful fragility. Quite a breakthrough.

      I took friends to The Writing Room last week, promising I'd ask for a table in the quieter "library." They'd walked out of the front room one evening in the middle of dinner because they couldn't stand the din.

     What a surprise to see new acoustical panels on the ceiling there. Maybe sound-proofing is the new kale.


The Cornivore's Dilemma

     Our colors today are summer green and yellow for corn. It's that time of year when I can't get enough. Corn soup with corn-fritters at The Writing Room is the corn triumph of the year so far. I took a spoonful and gasped. It tasted like corn times three. My cries prompted everyone at the table to demand a taste. Or two. Drat.

     Chef Lucas Billheimer says it's all about reducing a stock made from the cobs and scrapings, sautéing Vidalia onions in butter, mixing in just a small measure of double cream and char-grilling the kernels. Favas and baby shrimp add to the opulence. The soup is $14 (prices have gone up a bit at The Writing Room since my review), but it's a giveaway on the $38 Restaurant Week dinner. Worth a trip just for that soup. 1705 Second Avenue, between 88th and 89th Streets.

     Did a fresh corn polenta hidden under a veil of black truffle thins at Lincoln come in second? Truffle fanatics and Lincoln regulars will find that hard to believe. I'm shocked myself to report it, since I'm an unabashed devotee of Jonathan Benno's cooking. The black jewel slid unto the table between courses of the $24 Restaurant Week lunch on Wednesday. For a minute I didn't even recognize it as corn. It had the texture of very soft scrambled eggs. But it was sweet, unpleasantly sweet. Maybe it needed some Vidalia onion. Perhaps the chef held back on the salt. That could be my fault. Too much salt is my other constant complaint.

     As usual we were overcome by lunch -- there were moans with exclamation points over the bargain lamb shank and the berry crumble. Inspired, we booked to return this week for dinner. Daddy Warbucks is treating. 142 West 65th Street between Amsterdam and Broadway.

     Did you know Lincoln Center doesn't allow signage to help first-timers find Lincoln? I think that 's shocking.     


Drew's Revenge

     My friend Zarela and I were rooting for Drew Nieporent to triumph at Bâtard. He had suffered so publicly after the nasty blow-up with chef Paul Liebrandt that led to the closing of Corton in the space that began as Montrachet in 1984.

     I didn't rush to Bâtard when Drew called to say the door was about to open and that it would be "more user-friendly than Corton." To be frank, I'd never heard of his new chef-partner, Austrian-born Markus Glocker, with his Michelin-star-pocked resumé. How parochial of me. Quite frankly, the first buzz was not encouraging.

     Still, Zarela and I were luxuriating over generous pours of red wine by-the-glass in seriously beautiful goblets. Then came a fine pea soup and the stunning still life of octopus terrine -- tender, full of flavor, alternating with chunks of braised ham hock and potato, framed by rivulets of Pommery mustard.  But it was the lamb feast for two that had us hyperventilating. Click here to read more.

       If you've held off checking out Bâtard, go now. When word gets around to the savvy crowd that must eat where it's happening, you may have a problem booking. 239 West Broadway between White and Walker Streets.


Eating with the Nawabs

     Everything about Awadh is surprising. It's a sparkling duplex glass-fronted vitrine on a tacky stretch of Broadway, north of 96th Street. Encouraged by two stars at his Moti Mahal Delux on the Upper East Side, chef-restaurateur Gaurav Anand has taken on the slow and sophisticated Awadhi cooking of Lucknow, "the city of the Nawabs" in Utter Pradesh. I've been twice and most everything I've tasted is special, different and very good.

     Awadh is several castes above the typical, inexpensive neighborhood Indian café in ambition. Gorgeous service platters. Cushy leather chairs in the teeny lounge. A wine program designed by consulting sommelier John Slover (Charlie Bird, Daniel, Cru). My ethnic adventurer pals are excited. They've been online checking out the menu. "I've never eaten with the Nawabs before," says Peter.

     Indian menus can be baffling. Click here to read more because you'll want to go, especially if you're an upper west sider. You'll need help ordering too.  


What Went Wong?

     I've never spent an hour or two at one of Wong's postage stamp size tables without a swoon or three. (Click here to read about it.) I always start with the shrimp fritters and manage to work in the lobster egg foo young somewhere along the way. Everyone I've  ever taken has been enchanted. Pete Wells gave it an enthusiastic two stars in his first review as the new Times restaurant critic. Two months later he gave two stars to Red Farm.

     Lines formed around the block for Red Farm. But Wong was not always full. Maybe it was the trickle of traffic on Cornelia Street. Or the lack of an Eddie Schoenfeld juggling the door, schmoozing the regulars and changing his eyeglasses to match each new cardigan.

     Simpson Wong decided to celebrate Wong's first birthday with a "Balinese Whole Hog Roast." It was a numbing feast for $20. The room was jumping. At first I tried to save myself for Porky. But then, much to my surprise I actually liked the pig ear-and-Asian pear  salad. I couldn't resist elegantly skinny scallion pancakes. Sweet potato shoots in Sambal Belacan and sautéed water spinach made me feel virtuous. Then came fried rice with Chinese sausage and mint leaves, prelude to a large platter of pig delivered by Simpson's talented second, Blake Joyal.

     Wong planned to make the "Balinese Whole Hog" a regular Sunday event, but Sandy flooded the place a week later and extinguished the lights on that deal. I so craved an encore of pig, I booked a pork butt feast with my ethnic adventurer coven once the place got going again. Then Blake Joyal left to seek his fortune in Charleston.

     I got an email from Simpson last week that he would close Wong July 31st, redo the space, and reopen with Vietnamese street food. It will be called Vuong. "That's Vietnamese for Wong," he wrote. Saturday night I said farewell to Wong. We swooned over the superlative shrimp fritters and the lobster egg foo young. I ate too much of the turnip cake, as always. And the chef sent out gifts of peach-heirloom tomato salad and elegantly fried stuffed squash blossoms. At 9 pm on Saturday night, the room was almost deserted. Very sad. 7 Cornelia Street between Bleecker and West 4th.


Click here to return to BITE listings. Follow my twitterings by clicking here.

Click here to see my fabulous vintage evening bags on summer sale now, $30% off for any bag $100 or more.


Photographs of The Writing Room corn soup, Lincoln's truffled fresh polenta, the turbot and the lamb at Bâtard, minced lamb patties and the biryani at Awadh, and Wong's shrimp fritters and the stuffed squash blossoms may not be used without permission from Gael Greene. Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.