Chumley’s Old-School Glamour

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If you want to travel back in time to old New York, the kind that lives in movies and books like The Great Gatsby and Inside Llewyn Davis, then pay a visit to Chumley’s, a historic speakeasy and pub on 86 Bedford St. You might miss the unmarked entrance, a detail from its Prohibition Era origins, but once you find it and open the door, you won’t need a secret password, just a reservation. The reservation is essential, as demand for a table is extremely high, given that the restaurant has finally reopened after nearly a decade-long renovation. “We don’t like breaking hearts” is how the hostess will turn you away if you attempt to do the walk-in.Read More

Casa Apicii

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It’s hard to pay attention to your food at Casa Apicii when there are big, flashy chandeliers hanging all over the ceilings. The space is so stunning in an ornate and overt kind of way, a throwback to the flash of the 80s and the early aughts. It’s quite a change from the casual and clean lines of the minimalist eateries that have been the trend lately. Maybe it’s the type of thing you see in the Midtown power lunch dining rooms. Or maybe the economy really is improving and lavish spending is making a comeback. Read More

Hao Noodle and Tea by Madam Zhu’s Kitchen

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The moment I walked into Hao Noodle and Tea by Madam Zhu’s Kitchen, a new Chinese restaurant in the West Village, it was such a shitshow that I thought there was no way the food here was going to be good. I was greeted by a hostess with a blank stare who kept quoting guests wait times that probably weren’t real and showed us to the waiting area, handing me a menu of “mocktails” and teas that I could order from, only two out of the three special teas were not available that night. It didn’t really matter if I wanted anything, because no one was really around to take my order. The whole staff looked like they had been cobbled together at the last minute to run this restaurant, except no one gave them any guidance on how to do it, and no one looked like they really cared.Read More

Perla, Romantic Italian

I usually try to push myself to eat something interesting when dining out, but once in awhile, I just want to eat something safe and reliable. This usually means a traditional Italian restaurant with lots of delicious carbs in a charming, cozy space downtown. Think L’Artusi or Barbuto. And now, another one to add to the list, Perla in the West Village.

some cider and house bread
some cider and house bread

It’s refreshing to be in a restaurant like Perla that is more old school in its approach. There is a sincere focus on customer service, the menu is catered to please, not to provoke, and the romantic and grown-up ambiance makes it feel like something special is taking place. I loved how uncomplicated the menu was. A few starters, some vegetables to make you feel like you’re being somewhat healthy, some solid and reliable pastas like spaghetti and gnocchi, and mains that cover all the major proteins that people like to eat.

the agnolotti with sweet potato, brown butter and sage
the agnolotti with sweet potato, brown butter and sage

We always ask the server what their favorites are, even though I’ve heard that this question doesn’t always get you honest answers, but his recommendations were spot on. One of them was the agnolotti, and it was everything you could ever want on a winter’s day, which are fat nuggets of dough drenched in brown butter and stuffed with sweet potato. My mind was blown by how good it was, and even til this day, I am star struck by that delicious encounter.

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orecchiette with sweet italian sausage and broccoli rabe pesto
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sardines with tripe, tomato, olives and fennel

The orecchiette was a little more interesting, a little edgier with its fragrant and herbal broccoli rabe pesto, but the crumbly italian sausage was a real people pleaser. Even something like sardines in tripe, which sounds disgusting, managed to be comforting and delicious.

I basically love this place and would recommend it to anyone who wants a good meal in the most conventional sense. It’s like the Paris of restaurants. Yes, it’s not the most original, but it does its job so very well. Let the scrappy entrepreneurs take the vegan burgers and poke bowls, and leave classically good cooking to the experts.


Perla
24 Minetta Lane (between Ave of the Americas and Macdougal St)
New York, NY 10012
(212) 933-1824

Cafe Clover’s Skinny Eats

For the stylish and health conscious, Cafe Clover is the restaurant to see and be seen. The big, circular dining room is prime for people watching, and everyone is certainly dressed for the occasion, with suit and ties and designer handbags in tow. I was probably a little under-dressed in my J.Crew sweater and shorts, but the congenial waitstaff didn’t hold it against me, which was nice.

The menu at Cafe Clover has been designed with skinny girls and calorie counts in mind. In an interview with Well + Good, Chef David Standridge, formerly of Market Table, mentioned that he’ll try to repurpose a delicious dish to have less calories. They even have a Peak Performance nutritionist on hand to help skinny things down, that’s how serious they are about it.  Less calories doesn’t necessarily mean less flavor, but we’d be lying to ourselves if we said there wasn’t a difference.

seed crackers and spring pea guacamole
seed crackers and spring pea guacamole
seared diver scallops with summer corn, tomatoes, pickled peach and green curry
seared diver scallops with summer corn, tomatoes, pickled peach and green curry

For instance, instead of bread and butter, Cafe Clover serves every table a complimentary plate of gluten-free seed crackers and spring pea guacamole. The crackers, true to their word, are purely made of seeds and there isn’t a fiber of gluten holding them together. Knock out a pepita and the whole thing crumbles. It certainly tastes wholesome, but nothing compares to a basket of hot, freshly baked gluten-filled bread.

poached halibut with artichokes, baby potato, olive tapenade, turmeric oil
poached halibut with artichokes, baby potato, olive tapenade, turmeric oil
blistered shishito peppers
blistered shishito peppers

The poached halibut was actually pretty solid, the fillet was soft and buttery, but you could tell that perhaps they used maybe half the olive oil or wine to cook the fish in. I thought the artichokes and the olive tapenade came on too strong, but otherwise I would order this again. Something I would pass on? The blistered shishito peppers. In a traditional preparation, the peppers are mild and soft, but the ones at Cafe Clover were at times way too spicy and still pretty tough. I think they may have flashed them in the pan for a hot minute and then removed them so that the oil wouldn’t get absorbed too much. I would also pass on the seared diver scallops. They were too dry and tasted as though they had been toasted directly on a pan without any oil, and the accompanying sauce and pickled vegetables felt a bit overdone.

quinoa tagliatelle with beet greens, maitake mushrooms and sunflower kernels
quinoa tagliatelle with beet greens, maitake mushrooms and sunflower kernels

The quinoa tagliatelle was the one dish where health and flavor made a successful collaboration. This dish was just as hearty and robust as any bowl of bolognese from a Babbo or Del Posto, which was impressive, given that there were only mushrooms and beefy vegetable proteins in there. The noodles broke apart a little too easily, which I assume is due to the unconventional whole wheat and quinoa blend, but those broken bits still tasted great.

Not surprisingly, this dinner left me wanting more, probably because my usual dinner calorie and fat intake had been cut in half. And also half the flavor. There’s no doubt that Cafe Clover is a beautiful restaurant with good intentions, but sometimes being just another pretty face won’t cut it.


Cafe Clover
10 Downing St (between Bedford St and 6th Ave)
New York, NY 10014
(212) 675-4350