If it’s an accurate critique for foods and restaurants, rely on Bonnie Tandy Leblang at Bite of the Best to lead you in the right direction.
Here are some of her latest picks and re-visits to whet your appetite.
By Bonnie Tandy Leblang
Frenchette where dinner reservation at “are scarcer than Burgundy truffles.” Their menu is French-ish with some German-style dishes, some Italian and more. Hence the name French”ette.” The service is good, food generally exceptional. For apps, we shared the duck and pork rillettes with celeriac slaw, Armagnac-soaked prunes ($19) with a grilled baguette and my favorite, the four poached leeks in a light gribiche (cold chopped egg) sauce.
Next, we enjoyed our pasta course as an “app” portion of spaghetti carbonara. It was made to order and took longer than the other pasta. They make the dish with whole wheat pasta cooked al dente topped with shredded Pecorino and crispy guanciale. We needed to toss in the egg yolk to finished the luscious sauce ($22). A perfect sized portion for sharing.
The wonderful and oh, so French duck confit came with roasted potatoes, sliced mushroom and lots of cipollini onions. Don’t miss. We weren’t as happy with the freshwater arctic char in a green puddle of nettle puree with mushrooms and sunchokes ($36). The flavor was perfect, the fish a bit too underdone for both of us. We were too happily satiated to mention it to our server.Frenchette
241 West, Broadway
New York, NY
A Trip to Morningside Heights to Dine at Elysian Fields Cafe
Elysian Fields Cafe, a rustic-modern restaurant near Columbia University, offers Mediterranean cuisine with lots of Greek specialties. We shared a bottle of the light Greek wine, the Assyrtiko, Dougos Winery, Drama, Greece, 2017 with citrus and mineral overtones ($39) as we looked over the menu. We started with a meze. Specifically, their selection of three spreads ($13.95) with pita bread: whipped feta with smoked jalapeño (tirokafteri), hummus and the tzatziki, yogurt with cucumber, dill and garlic — our favorite. We added a full serving of the smoked eggplant ($8.50) melitzanosalata.
There were so many good options on the menu to sample that we did so in stages. After those apps, we ordered the grilled octopus combined with red onion, capers and tomatoes ($17.95) and the fried cauliflower with a spicy aioli for dipping ($12.95).
Next we each tried a souvlaki platter. My friend had the chicken ($16.95) accompanied by rice; I had the lamb with fries. They each also came with grilled pita. Fry-lovers will like the huge side of French-fried potatoes sprinkled with feta ($6.95); we ordered that as an extra. Same with the grilled veggie medley ($7.95) that included sliced zucchini and roasted red peppers drizzled with balsamic.Elysian Fields Cafe
1207 Amsterdam Ave (at 119th Street)
New York, NY 10027
A Return to Norma Gastronomia Siciliana for Authentic Cooking
For authentic farmhouse-style Sicilian cooking, I head to Norma’s, a small restaurant taking no reservations. I met a wine colleague for lunch.
In addition to a glass of Barone di Villagrande, Etna Rosso, 2016 ($16), we shared two items. I’d go back for the wonderful porchetta cabbuci ($19). It’s a sandwich of roasted pork, arugula and provolone on a bread similar in thickness to pita, cooked in the wood-fired oven. Half was almost more than I could finish! That cabbuci would have been enough for me, but we had also ordered Norma’s pasta con le Sarde a timballo ($22) — saffron-scented spaghetti with Portuguese sardines, wild fennel, raisins and pine nuts ($22) breaded and served from a mold. Worth checking out when you’re in the hood.
438 3rd Ave
New York, NY 10016
A Trip for Oaxacan Food at Claro, Gowanus, Brooklyn
The trip from Union Square to Gowanus, Brooklyn took 20 minutes as the subway gods were with us. We arrived at Claro restaurant so early, the gate was still down! Once we got in, we were down to business negotiating what to order. We hadn’t a clue that the portions would be so humongous that the two of us — who are really good eaters — ending up sharing one of our four dishes with the table next to us and took half of another home. We would have been stuffed with one less dish. That said, I wouldn’t know which one to have given up as they were all good. The octopus came piled so high on a housemade tortilla along with pickled chilies that we actually left some ($23). Do not miss their chipotle-spicy shrimp tacos with quesillo, a white stringy cheese ($17 for three) with a perfect blend of flavors.And, once warm weather arrives, request a table in the backyard and watch the tortillas being pressed and the masa memelas and tostadas cooking on the wood-fired comal.
284 3rd Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11215