Maman Tribeca Brunch

Maman in Soho is an Instagrammer’s dream, which is why it’s packed with stylish, pretty little things with nice manicures and handbags drinking lattes and quiches off of exquisite china. Charming French cafes with croissants and avocado toasts is a pretty winning formula, and not surprisingly, the Maman team has opened a second location in Tribeca, knowing that they will appeal to those fancy yoga moms and their well-heeled kids.

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maman’s lovely rustic french table settings
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the bar doing brisk business

If Maman Soho is where all the young people are, Maman Tribeca is where the young people with families graduate onto. You’ll see former bros sporting baby bjorns with their well coiffed wives by their side. It’s much roomier, which makes it better for pushing through multiple strollers and seating actual large groups of families. They are so accommodating to babies, in fact, that should your stroller not fit through their entrance, they have a side elevator that can. Families need more food and service, and so the Tribeca branch builds upon the light menu and counter service of the Soho location with a proper full-service, fully staffed restaurant.

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pastry basket for two (more like one)

No meal at Maman is complete without its famous chocolate chip cookie, and an order of the pastry basket assures you of one. The fact that there is only one piece is a bit of a disappointment, as the word “basket” suggests a bounty of treats, but there’s only one cookie, one financier and one croissant. They were all very good, but more would have been better.

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squash spaghetti a la carbonara
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papa poule’s chicken caesar salad

They don’t skimp on the entrees, thankfully. The squash spaghetti “a la carbonara” lived up to its promise as being hearty and filling. Don’t be fooled by the healthy headlines of gluten free and squash on the menu, at the end of the day, pasta swirling in melted cheese and runny yolk is rich and tastes glorious. The papa poule’s chicken caesar also came armed with some meat and some heft. The generous slices of chicken and avocado ensured that you wouldn’t go hungry, and its tangy, yellow take on the traditional caesar dressing was much more interesting than the typical white variety. Like a good mother, Maman is keeping her children, and her grandchildren, very well fed.


Maman Tribeca
211 W. Broadway (between Franklin and White St)
New York, NY 10013
(646) 882-8682

Little Park in Tribeca

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a little park brunch

If you want to know where your eggs come from, and if you want to truly taste the farm on your table, then try the seasonal brunch at Little Park, Andrew Carmellini’s restaurant in the Smyth Tribeca hotel. Little Park sources its ingredients through the longstanding relationships Carmellini has forged with local farmers, rangers and foragers, and that earthy kinship really shows in these brunch dishes.

poached eggs with hen of the woods, heirloom grain porridge and pine nut
poached eggs with hen of the woods, heirloom grain porridge and pine nut

The poached eggs tasted like they were freshly hatched in the middle of an open pasture, so fresh and natural that the bits of mushroom and earthy debris were still on them. It’s the kind of bowl that you eat on a cool fall day, when you need something warm and comforting to fill you up inside. The closest thing I can compare it to is a bowl of congee.

beetroot tartare with horseradish, rye and smoked trout roe
beetroot tartare with horseradish, rye and smoked trout roe

The beetroot tartare took the farm to table motif one step further. It arrived on a plate looking like the chopped beets had literally been plowed from the depths of the earth, an illusion served by the sprinkling of crushed rye surrounding them. It appeared all very raw and wild, but the layer of creamy horseradish and the wonderfully smoky and vibrant trout roe smoothed out the rough edges and transformed this bite into an intriguing one with many layers and textures.

baked eggs with artichoke and lamb chorizo
baked eggs with artichoke and lamb chorizo
toast with jam and butter
toast with jam and butter

The baked eggs arrived in a stew of lamb chorizo that was intensely seasoned and spicy like a bowl of chili. It was certainly delicious, but a little too much to eat plain, which was why we ordered a side of toast to go with it. While the toast was intended to be a neutral surface, it had its own merits, especially when you slathered on the creamy butter and the jam. As you can tell, any dish, big or small, was going to leave an impression. Little Park may be its name, but its flavors are anything but.


Little Park
85 West Broadway (between Warren and Chambers St)
New York, NY 10007
(212) 220-4110

Sushi Azabu in Tribeca

sushi azabu

Sushi Azabu is one of those restaurants so under the radar that you can’t even see it on the street. For awhile, it used to be in the basement of the Greenwich Grill, and now it’s underneath an izakaya place called Daruma-ya. You might wonder how a restaurant with such a low profile can survive in this town, but with sushi this good, strong word-of-mouth will keep them coming.

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appetizers: asparagus in miso mustard, eggplant in soy sauce and homemade tofu and salmon roe

You can either choose one of the omakase options, or you can order dishes a la carte. We opted for an abbreviated omakase titled the “omotenashi course”, which featured a different assortment of sushi, sashimi and small hot plates, as well as a hot bowl of soba at the end. We supplemented that with the nigiri special, a chef’s selection of 10 pieces of sushi, a maki roll, an egg omelet and some miso soup.

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amberjack, salmon, medium fatty toro, japanese mackerel and octopus
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an assortment of nigiri–my favorite was the scallop, fatty tuna, shrimp and uni
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5 pieces of sushi, chef’s selection

The fish truly has that soft, melt-in-your-mouth quality that can only be found in the freshest catch. I was also struck by how much I liked the sushi rice. The rice was a bit al dente, but with some cohesion between the grains, and there was a subtle sweet and tangy flavor aspect that was very appealing. According to their website, Azabu uses a unique blend of sushi rice imported directly from Japan and from a prior year’s crop so that it avoids the overly-high water content that you find in fresh harvests of rice. They always say the difference between sushi places is really the rice, since all the best restaurants source fish from the same places, and I didn’t really appreciate that until now.

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tofu with salmon roe and uni
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deep fried taro potato with duck
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yellowtail collar with radish and mountain peach
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miso soup and steamed egg custard
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hot seiro soba

The cooked dishes were just as good as the raw courses. The dreamy blend of rich, briney uni and salty salmon roe in our tofu dish was just so effortlessly good, and the yellowtail collar had been cooked perfectly so that the crackling skin unearthed a plethora of tender, mild meat. The deep fried taro potato with duck was certainly rich but also very clean. so that any sense of heaviness was very much contained.

Really, the only thing I didn’t like about Azabu was the physical space. The booths were arranged along the walls so that there was an odd, open space in the middle. The atmosphere felt a bit cold and impersonal, and it didn’t help that with all the mood lighting and clubby music, that you felt like you were in a hotel lobby. Obviously there are worse things in life than eating fantastic sushi in a nice hotel lobby.


Sushi Azabu
428 Greenwich St (between Vestry and Laight)
New York, NY 10013
(212) 274-0428

Arcade Bakery, a Hidden Gem in an Office Lobby

Office lobbies suck. You’re usually there because you’re waiting to check in for something unpleasant like a dental appointment or a job interview or an eyelash procedure. But the office lobby of 220 Church St will renew your faith in office lobbies. That’s because you will be greeted by the wonderful smells of butter and pastries wafting through from the ovens of Arcade Bakery, as opposed to a bored security guard asking for some form of identification.

arcade bakery - sign

Arcade Bakery is run by Roger Gural, who used to be head baker at Bouchon Bakery and French Laundry. But you wouldn’t know about any of that pedigree, as the bakery seems perfectly fine with keeping a low-profile. Unless you really follow the food blogs or live nearby, you probably haven’t heard of it. The hours of operation are extremely limited, open only during the work week from 8-4 pm, so clearly Arcade Bakery isn’t interested in taking advantage of capturing a broader weekend audience and is intent on flying under-the-radar for now.

arcade bakery - croissant

This essentially means that I can never make it out to Arcade Bakery unless I get called for jury duty again, which is a bit frustrating, because the pastries here are absurdly good. I almost wish I were back at Citi just so I could buy the almond croissant everyday, which completely blew my mind. I’ve never had anything so buttery and flaky and crispy in my life. I’m not sure what the secret is, maybe it’s that they use a lot of butter, or the best butter there is, but it’s like King Midas gave this pastry the golden touch and every other croissant simply feels gold plated.

arcade bakery - babka

The chocolate walnut babka was also excellent, although I still think the one at Breads Bakery is my favorite. The one at Arcade Bakery felt more airy and brioche-like, whereas the one at Breads felt more like a dense pastry, and I probably like my babka all concentrated with chocolate in every layer. There were so many things behind the counter that looked amazing, but it just wasn’t possible to consume them all on one visit. And given the bakery’s hours and the out-of-the-way locale, I probably can’t return any time soon. Good for the waistline, bad for gabbing and gobbling!


Arcade Bakery
220 Church St (between Worth and Thomas St)
New York, NY 10013
(212) 227-7895

Upscale Euro at Bâtard

When I walked into Bâtard on Saturday night, I was struck by how austere the dining room looked. For a fancy restaurant, I was expecting some more flash, but I felt like I was inside of an old school schnitzel place. Aside from two small chandeliers and some gold wallpaper, the place was pretty much bare bones and no fuss. It was all very Berlin and not very Tribeca. Then I learned soon after that Chef Markus Glocker is of Austrian decent, and the stark Germanic design sensibilities made a lot more sense.

sourdough and green olive bread
sourdough and green olive bread
branzino with butternut squash, grilled lettuce and pumpkin seed vinagrette
branzino with butternut squash, grilled lettuce and pumpkin seed vinagrette
ora king salmon with roasted sunchoke, orange, watercress and maple
ora king salmon with roasted sunchoke, orange, watercress and maple

Luckily, the food at Bâtard is anything but bare and simple. It’s beautiful and creative, and the only German thing about it seems to be a dedication to technical excellence. The fish in particular is one of the restaurant’s strong suits. We ordered the ora king salmon and were floored by how a filet could be so rich and buttery, literally dissolving into a pool of creamy, smokey liquefied seafood. There was no way the branzino could top this, but then this handsome filet with the most perfectly seared skin and a posse of sweet orange and squash arrived, winning us over with such sublime flawlessness. Deciding which one was our favorite was like asking a parent to pick a favorite child–impossible to do, you love them equally the same.

octopus pastrami with braised ham hock, pommery mustard and new potatoes
octopus pastrami with braised ham hock, pommery mustard and new potatoes

While the fish dishes were more rooted in tradition, the octopus pastrami highlighted a much more out-of-the-box approach. The octopus legs were deconstructed into a rectangular terrine-like fashion, perhaps to resemble a slice of pastrami deli meat, while small rye croutons were scattered about to complete the “sandwich.” I wasn’t entirely won over by this dish, as it lacked the robust juiciness and the sharp tanginess that truly define a superb pastrami sandwich. A substitute for Katz’s, this is not.

beef cheek "pot-au-feu" for two
beef cheek “pot-au-feu” for two
beef cheeks up close
beef cheeks up close

For our main, we shared the beef cheek “pot-au-feu” for two, a hearty beef stew of French origin that celebrates “the tables of the rich and poor alike.” I suppose this phrase came about because, although the dish features beef cheek, a cheaper cut of meat, its flavors are good enough to transcend class and please not only the king but his whole court. As good as it was, I was just overwhelmed by how much meat was in here. These cows must have had the fattest cheeks, the yield was so much, and then there were generous slabs of bacon piled on. The braised vegetables were a welcome respite from the dense meatiness, and the sourness of the blood sausage bread, which tastes a lot better than it sounds, also helped. It was a great stew, but you can only have so much beef cheek at one time.

caramelized milk bread with blueberries and butter ice cream
caramelized milk bread with blueberries and butter ice cream
citrus jellies and truffles with olive oil liquid
citrus jellies and truffles with olive oil liquid

We capped the night with the caramelized milk bread, another one of Bâtard’s heralded signatures. It resembled a fluffy brioche covered in a caramelized glaze, a creme brulee “toast” if you will, and it did live up to expectations. As we waited for our check, which almost killed the mood because it took so long to get, I looked around and noticed that almost everyone looked like they were in their 50s or 60s. I could have been in the lobby of Lincoln Center, for all I knew. Ruoxi basically summarized it as, “if I were a middle-aged divorce(e) looking for a good time, I would be hanging out here right now.” This doesn’t surprise me, because fancy dining in Tribeca of all places tends to attract this sort of crowd. But why fret about age, it’s nothing but a number–what matters more is how much you like the plate in front of you.


Bâtard
239 W. Broadway (between Walker and White St)
New York, NY 10013
(212) 219-2777

Bara Restaurant