28 January 2008

East End Long Island Winter Dining and Wine Tasting

January is the cruelest time for restaurants on the East End of Long Island. Be it the Hamptons on the South Fork, or the more rural and agricultural North Fork the few “open all year” places are rare with even many of them “closed for vacation” in January. The customers are even rarer, as locals surprisingly fail to take advantage of some really great dining places that have open bookings and special prix fixed winter menus. Unfortunately far too few weekenders and tourists come out to Eastern Long Island, as the tourist promotion people have failed to make it a winter destination location and therefore the few open restaurants are struggling to get customers.

We spend the last weekend in January at our Southampton house and took to advantage of great dining and some great wines.

Q Restaurant
47 Quogue St
Quogue, NY 11959

In its brief less than two years history Q Restaurant has become a destination place on the South Fork / Hamptons located in tiny conservative Quogue. In fact Q is the only restaurant in the village that is know for stately homes, wide tree lined streets, and an overly aggressive police traffic enforcement force (beware of the 25 mph speed limit, the zero tolerance drink drive, and even having your fog lights on if its not foggy because you WILL be pulled over).

Q has been developed and nurtured by experienced owner/chef Frank Tramontano and co-owner/ manger Sean Kehlenbeack. Set in a stately farmhouse/inn the very large restaurant and expansive bar that is usually packed to maximum throughout the summer season, becomes smaller and more relaxed in the off season when the restaurant is only open during the weekend. From the moment one enters through the hallway and is greeted by Maria the outstanding professional host, you know you are in for a wonderful dining experience.

The winter menu is a short one page of Q favorites: roasted chicken, lamb chops, various fish, pasta with the homemade Q sauces, etc. Each is prepared with savory herbs and/or sauces, presented in very large portions.

While the service during the season is always professional despite the crowds, in the off season the entire staff is at your service. Maria may bring your water, Sean may bring your wine, Maria may clear the table after a course is completed, and while Dave the head waiter moves from table to table ensuring everyone is served properly.

The wine list is extensive with many local Long Island wines, US regional wines and international wines. We had bottle of North Fork Martha Clara Chardonnay which was crisp and clean and balanced well with our dinner.

Q Restaurant – Highly Recommend

Estia’s Little Kitchen
1615 Sag Harbor Bridgehampton Turnpike
Sag harbor, NY 11963

We were fortunate to attend a Wolffer Estate wine dinner at Estia’s Little Kitchen on the road from Bridgehampton to Sag Harbor. Colin Ambrose, formerly of Charlie Palmer’s Aureole restaurant in Manhattan has owned Estia’s for nearly 15 years and turned this simple roadhouse with a minimalist interior into a fine dining spot.

Chef Ambrose’s wine dinner featured a German influenced five course dinner in honor of both Christian Wolffer the owner of the vineyards and winery and Roman Roth the Wolffer winemaker, both from Germany. The meal’s four main courses used winter ingredients; squashes and mushrooms, pork and scallops combined into wonderful courses.

Each was matched with a Wolffer white or red. Highlights were the Estate Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc and a pre-release Chardonnay based “ice wine” which matched perfectly with the apple strudel like desert.

Estia’s Little Kitchen – Recommended

Second Floor
112 Riverhead Road
Westhampton Beach, NY 11978

Named for the Roman goddess of the harvest, Annona is located (actually hidden) on the second floor of the Coachworks/Manhattan Motorcars of the Hamptons showroom in Westhampton Beach. This chic and modern restaurant with Manhattan like interior design is a hidden gem of the Western Hamptons region.

Serving excellent Italian influenced contemporary cuisine highlighted by local produce; Annona is a year-round special place. A highly professional staff of host, sommelier, waiters, and busboys, and clearly a first class kitchen staff produce outstanding results.

The incredible $28 prix fixed menu served on many nights during the week is one of the best values on the entire East End. Each course is composed of three choices, each a winner including; Prosciutto with figs or pears to die for, outstanding salads, main course of grilled chicken, duck or pasta dishes and wonderful desserts.

The wine list is comprehensive with many fine Italian, international, domestic and Long Island wines. We selected a 2004 Wolffer Merlot which after it opened up, was a perfect accompaniment to our hearty winter meal.

Annona – Highly Recommended

75 Main
75 Main Street
Southampton, NY 11968

Located on one of the two primary streets in Southampton Village, this storefront restaurant has gone through many recent owners, but has now seemed to have stabilized. With a rather large bar area and large dinning room, with summer crowds this can be a popular but somewhat disappointing place only in that the service can be painfully slow. In the winter off-season with no more than a handful of dinners, the service is professional and prompt.

The lunch menu is basic American fare, but a few items such as an ale beef stew served in a carved out bread boule is outstanding. And a veal meatloaf special was light, flavorful and satisfying.

The wine list is limited, but we enjoyed glasses of Pelligrini Merlot which had just the right about of chewiness to accompany our lunch.

75 Main – Acceptable

Preston's Wharf,
102 Main Street,
Greenport, New York 11944

Greenport which is located on the far southern part of the North Fork of Long Island has become a wonderful destination for day trippers, due to it being an authentic New England like old fishing and whaling port. With shops and galleries, it is crowed in the summer and lightly visited in the winter. The village has benefited by fine restaurants which make it also a dining destination. While the well recognized Fifth Season has closed permanently after the summer season due to inadequate seating to make the venture profitable, Greenport is still blessed with some top eateries.

Located at the far end of one of the two primary streets, directly on the pier extending out into the Peconic Bay, Scrimshaws is wonderful restaurant owned by top chef and author Rosa de Carvalho (Lo San) Ross. Rosa originally from Hong Kong, after years in Europe came to New York where she studied with James Beard, with Diana Kennedy and Jacques Pepin. She has also studied and worked with many leading chefs, including Bobby Flay, Daniel Boulud, Anne Rosensweig, Bradley Ogden, Jeremiah Tower, Jaspar White, Martin Yan. Rosa brings a wonderful Asian influence to American standards such as chowders and chili con carne, as well as to international dishes.

The long dinning room with opposing windows on the water is a minimalist traditional New England décor updated to modern sensibilities. In the summer an outdoor dinning area extends to the very tip of the wharf.

The lunch menu is a real value, featuring dim sum dumplings, local Greenport oysters that are crisp and refreshing as served with Rosa’s Asian mignonette. The chili con carne feature more Southeast Asian spice that southwest seasoning, and the pork and pancakes with hossein became a modern interpretation of the classic Chinese dish.

A rather small wine lists features Long Island wines as well as international wines. We had a simple Wolffer La Ferme Chardonnay which was perfect for lunch.

During the winter, Rosa is trying hard to get customers to travel to the far end of Preston Wharf. There is a multi-course Chinese New Year Duck dinner on 9 February and a Bedell/Corey Creek wine tasting dinner on Friday 15 February, which is an excellent alternative to overpriced Valentines’ Day dinners.

Scrimshaw – Recommended

PS –

One of the finest restaurants on the South fork, F.O.O.D. in Hampton Bays appears to have closed permanently, at least at the Montauk Highway location which is boarded up and for sale. A great loss for the area, and we can only hope it will relocate and reopen in the late spring.

24 January 2008

Five Guys

Five Guys Famous Burgers and Fries
43 W 55th Street
New York, NY 10019

There have been many studies done showing that people crave foods that are connected with childhood memories or other positive experiences. To this day I crave for a Philly cheese steak of my childhood. I also have developed a craving for the soft tacos I loved when I lived in Southern California, particularly the fish tacos popular in San Diego.

But for most people who grew up in America, their primal craving is for the hamburger and fries of their youth. Manhattan is fortunate for the many places to get a good burger. But there is also the need to have the iconic place that serves up the burger and fries that reminds us of our memories. It needs to have the same look, feel and smell of the joints where we had our favorite burgers. The closest places I have experienced in my adult life are the IN-N-OUT Burger chain of Southern California. Unfortunately IN-N-OUT has yet to travel beyond California, Arizona and Nevada let alone to Manhattan. A reasonable alternative is Five Guys. Originally started in Alexandria Virginia, just South of Washington DC, Five Guys has expanded not only throughout the Mid-Atlantic States but also throughout the Eastern half of the US including Manhattan.

The Five Guys on West 55th Street is located in a mini-restaurant row. When one enters the brightly lighted white tile with red tile joint, one encounter tall stacks of Idaho potato bags stored and displayed to announce that there are no frozen reheated fries coming out of this place. There are also stacks of malt vinegar and pickle jars, announcing the basic ingredients.

In the rear of the space is the short order grill, the order and pick-up spots and smell of burgers and fries. The menu is short and to the point; burgers and accompaniments, fries, dogs and soft drinks.

The burgers are great and the fries are better than average. Are they the best burgers in Manhattan? No, but they are darn good, and a great value.

Does the place remind one of the burger joints of your youth (assuming you are 30+ years old)? Yes, undoubtedly.

Does it satisfy one’s craving for a burger and fries? Yes (at least until IN-N-OUT ever comes to Manhattan).

Five Guys Famous Burger and Fries - Acceptable

21 January 2008


Dream Hotel
204 West 55th Street
New York, NY 10019

Visit after visit one of our favorite dining places in midtown is Amalia, located adjacent to the Dream Hotel.

The overall decor is hip but at the same time emphasizing natural materials of brick and barn siding aged wood, combined with glass, a touch of Chinois wall paper and a pseudo-classic art gallery located on a ceiling.

The entrance bar area is large and inviting. Seating in the front of the house has a casual and contemporary feel. The first room in the back is small and slightly Oriental. Further back is the raised gallery that has views of the overall restaurant. A final room that is the least interesting is used for private parties and overflow diners.

The menu is primarily Mediterranean, with focus on foods of Spain and Middle Eastern cuisines. This combination is rare in Manhattan, actually in the United States, but common in Spain and parts of Mediterranean France. The menu while small has fantastic gems waiting to provide excellent savory and spicy flavors to the fortunate dinners. The lunch menu is short; however it provides a wonderful sampling of the cuisine.

The wine list is an excellent compilation of moderately priced wines reflecting both the region and the cuisine. A moderately price Chardonnay from Spain is a knockout value displaying abundant fruit and finish.

Service is both casual and professional at both lunch and dinner. Wine service is above average.

Amalia - Highly Recommended

20 January 2008

Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill

6 Columbus Hotel
6 Columbus Circle
New York, NY 10019

The latest of Bruce and Eric Bromberg's Blue Ribbon restaurants is the Sushi Bar & Grill located across the street from the Time Warner Center in the lobby of the 6 Columbus Hotel, a new boutique hotel.

The trendy interior couples traditional Japanese architecture elements with contemporary Manhattan interior design. The feeling is warm and inviting as well as cool and chic. With a no reservations policy, one begins the journey in the bar area a dark but at the same time an inviting space. While the barkeepers can be overwhelmed by the thirsty customers, the drinks are excellent and well priced.

The dining area is composed of three areas, a series of wooden booths along the walk way to the main dining room, a back room niche ideal for a group dinner but not for individual two-somes and four-somes, and the large main dining room made up of a long sushi counter, a small single table niche, more wooden booths on the far wall, and the main multi-table dining area all with views of the sushi chefs.

The menu is very long filled with sunomono, osuimono and salad starters; fish, shellfish,meat, poultry and tempura main courses, and with sides of vegetables, yakimono and yasai. In addition there is Hakozusho, Maki, yasai, taiheiyo and taiseiyo sushi/sashimi/rolls.The ingredients are first class and the preparation is perfect. It is debatable, but the cooked dishes are somewhat superior to the raw dishes.

The service, while well meaning, is far from perfect, but the overall positive attitude of the service staff makes the food even more enjoyable.

The wine list includes various sakes, as well as a decent list of appropriate selected wines including excellent Rieslings which match up well with the sushi dishes.

While the current over popularity may ruin the place, right now Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill is nearly perfect despite the crowds.

Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Gill - Highly Recommended

16 January 2008

Home Restaurant

20 Cornelia Street
New York, NY 10014

As the news came out that after ten years David Page and Barbara Shinn were selling and have now sold Home Restaurant to their former silent partner to focus on their Shinn Estate Vineyards winery and bed and breakfast in Mattituck on Long Island's North Fork, we decided to make one last visit before the closing for renovations scheduled for early 2008.

Home seemed as cozy as ever and the menu retained its comfort food base. We found the kitchen's preparation a little tired and apart from some wonderful fried onion rings, nothing was exceptional.

The service was problematic. Our waitress seemed upset by the pending sale and temporary closure and was less than attentive.

The wine list that has always featured Long Island and US regional wines remained comprehensive, although many listed wines were not available (as they used existing inventory prior to the now concluded sale).

While our memories will remain, it was clear that in this case you truly can never go Home again.

Home Restaurant - Closing

15 January 2008

Hacienda de Argentina

339 E. 75th Street
New York, NY, 10021

Having traveled twice to Argentina (and once to Uruguay which shares much dining style with Argentina), the one conclusion that can be made is that there is not one Argentinean dining experience. Sophisticated dining in Buenos Aires is nothing like country dining at an estancia or alpine dining in Patagonia.

Hacienda de Argentina is in fact close to the meal one would get at an estancia – a ranch in the pampas.

The décor is country eclectic dominated by candlelight.

The service is homey, if not perfect.

Grilled beef and other meats dominate the menu. The preparation is traditional country cooking, and can be very good. The owner’s wife is from Argentina and it shows in the small touches.

The wine list is small and reflects many of the fine wines from the Mendoza region of Argentina. If you have not tried a Malbec, this is a perfect place to sample a dine selection of Mendoza's best Malbec wines.

So if you want estancia dining experience on the East Side, here is the place.

Hacienda de Argentina - Recommended

Gordon Ramsay and Maze at the London

The London New York City Hotel
151 W. 54th Street
New York, NY, 10019

With major hotel renovations that resulted in the London NYC, there also emerged the restaurants of Gordon Ramsay. With his first restaurant project in the United States being in Manhattan, Ramsay took on a formidable task - convincing skeptical New Yorkers to partake in his contemporary versions of classic French cuisine.

The decor of the bar/cafe area is very contemporary with a bit of Austin Powers set design. The formal dining room is just that with Continental Classic decor.

Prior to booking at the formal dining room - Gordon Ramsay at the London, we tried Maze by Gordon Ramsay (previously called the Bar) at the London, after we read about the common kitchens and prep-chefs (see the New Yorker magazine article).

We were pleasantly surprised with the excellent tapas style menu with its excellent execution. We ordered 10 small plates that we shared, and each one was outstanding. It is clear Ramsay and company are using the Maze menu to test compositions, (very much like Nougatine does a Jean Georges) as well as provide lower priced teasers for customers. Our only problem was the waiter. The headwaiter, sommelier and the bus boys were great, but our waiter and the nearby waiter were both poor.

We then celebrated a special occasion at the formal Gordon Ramsay at the London restaurant. The menu was exceptional. Ingredients and sauces were outstanding. Everything was wonderful other than slightly over cooked fish main courses, which we find is typical of European preparation but is not what we expect at a top Manhattan restaurant.

Service was very professional as expected.

The restaurant's wine list, as at Maze, is excellent but very high priced.

Overall both venues were just short of exceptional. The more casual Maze offers good value and the formal restaurant offers a perfect place to celebrate a special occasion.

Gordon Ramsay and Maze at the London - Highly recommended

Fred's at Barneys New York

660 Madison Avenue
9th floor
New York, NY, 10021

Just like the Flintstones, Fred's restaurant goes perfectly with Barney's department store – in this case both being sophisticated and very Manhattan.

The atmosphere is casual elegance, sort of country club goes to the big city. Many locals and regulars exchange kisses, hugs and conversation. The odd out-of-towner must feel somewhat awkward not having anyone to schmooze with during the meal.

The menu and food is interesting and darn good, the service is more than adequate, and the views of Madison Avenue are great as well as the views of your fellow diners. Enjoy.

Fred's - Recommended

Cafe Boulud

20 E. 76th Street
New York, NY, 10021

Cafe Boulud provides a stylish, quality dining experience, executed by the guidance of Daniel Boulud, who periodically stops by to oversee the operation.

The room and decor are reflective of the original Daniel and presents a conservative Manhattan dining experience. However, the total experience is compromised by the tight seating, in which you are as likely to participate in the conversation of the neighboring table as with your companions and guests. I assume the demand for tables has caused management to “double up” the tables, which presents a formidable challenge to the wait staff.

After getting comfortable with the tight quarters, the dining experience is a pleasure, great menus, quality ingredients and preparation. Service is professional and first class.

A recent lunch proved again that this is an outstanding dining place and the prix fix menu yields a real value meal.

The wine list has selections that match well with the menus. Prices tend to be high.

Overall this is elegant cafe dining on the Eastside.

Cafe Boulud - Recommended

14 January 2008


15 W. 56th Street
New York, NY 10019

We live in Midtown and have frequently dined and enjoyed the cuisine of Geoffrey Zakarian's Town restaurant inside the Chambers Hotel. While the initial buzz has been lowered the restaurant continues to be a top Manhattan dining spot.

Dining at Town during the week is a dining pleasure from start to finish. However, going to Town on a weekend night can still be a challenge. On a Saturday night we had not been prepared for a long wait. Due to either overbooking, poor timing by the kitchen or the staff, a reservation after 8:30 pm resulted in a lengthy delay at the cramped bar.

This was eventually compensated for when we are finally seated and served by a first class wait staff, sitting in the amazing David Rockwell decor and dining on very good to excellent food which actually lives up to the menu.

The wine list is comprehensive but priced at the high end of current Manhattan wine pricing scale.

Save room for the outstanding desserts.

Town - Recommended

Brasserie 8 1/2

9 W. 57th Street
New York, NY, 10019

Brasseries are the mainstay of not only Parisians but also for Frenchman throughout the cities of France. New York has a few restaurants that serve as the American equivalent of these brasseries. Brasserie 8 1/2 is a real brasserie and a real New York restaurant.

This restaurant is all about NYC Class.

Walk in and be greeted, then walk down into a stylish subterranean décor and allow the professional staff to seat you and serve you promptly.

There is an excellent recently updated menu and the food prepared by an outstanding chef and his staff not only matches but also exceeds the promises.

The wine list is comprehensive and reasonably priced, and overall matches well with the menu.

Stop in the bar/lounge before or after to adjust your mood.

Exit up the spiral staircase and rejoin the real world of 57th Street and 5th Avenue with an improved attitude.

Brasserie 8 1/2 - Recommended


100 E. 53rd Street
New York, NY, 10022

Brasserie is not a classic French brasserie in design or concept. And it is unlike any Manhattan restaurant that serves as an American version of a brasserie.

The interior design of Brasserie is a bit like a school cafeteria from the Jetsons' cartoons. It is large, bright with all hard surfaces which mean the noise level is always cranked up.

What fills the room is the quality food prepared by a talented kitchen. The limited menu has a variety of choices. And all are fantastic. Classics such as moules frites bring back fond memories of Paris or Brussels.

The wine list is limited, but adequate to match the food.

The service is uneven and can disappoint.

Brasserie - Acceptable


36 W. 52nd Street
New York, NY, 10019

Anthos is Greek for blossom, like the cherry blossoms in sepia photos adorning the walls, which owner Donatella Arpaia has transformed her brother's former Acqua Pazza into an elegant Greek dining room.

The Michael Psilakis delicate food is the essence of Greek cuisine, not the robust fare one expects from a Greek restaurant.

We sampled Anthos in the first ten days after the opening and again over the last 9 months. The food and service is impeccable, including perfect wine service. We appreciated the elegant food, but continue to question if this very high priced cuisine will attract an appreciative audience.

Our initial complaints that were with the front of the house have been corrected over the past year. While when we arrived early in the year to an only one-third occupied restaurant, we were disappointed to be seated shoulder to shoulder with other diners in the rear of the restaurant. When we asked for an end table we were told it was assigned. When we again asked half way through the meal to move to this unoccupied table, the same response. The table was never occupied. However, on subsequent visits our table requests were always honored and every effort was made to accommodate our seating preferences.

The wine list is somewhat disappointing and now as extensive or comprehensive as one expects at a top restaurant. The Greek wines are an interesting approach to match with the modern Greek cuisine.

Anthos - Recommended


60 E. 65th Street
New York, NY 10021

Daniel Boulud is a New York institution.

And now with his popular television appearances (in particular his After Hours with Daniel series) he has become one of the iconic chefs of America, if not the world. And while he is undoubtedly spread very thin with multiple restaurants, books, television, etc., he maintains a close watch on his main restaurant - Daniel.

Every aspect of Daniel (other than the current renovation pedestrian bridge over the entrance of the restaurant) is refined, organized and near perfection. The Michelin Two Stars seem stingy and the Third Star is mandatory. And while one expects, perhaps fears, that snobbery and haughty attitude come with such high class restaurant, nothing could be further from the reality of Daniel. From your encounter with the first person to the last, you the customer are king at Daniel.

The entrance, bar area and mini dining area in the front of the house are beautiful, but only a prelude to the main dining room, an operatic stage of flowers and lighting for the dining tables. Managers, waiters and bus boys glide through the room. Daniel makes an appearance and dinners do their earnest to catch his eye and be honored by his appearance table side.

But one comes to Daniel to eat and not to worship the chef and decor. And the food is first class. The classic to contemporary French cuisine displays the finest of ingredients, excellent sauces, and knowledge of American/New York dining preference. Everything is excellent - period.

The wine list is long, excellent in selections and very high priced. Finding an enjoyable bottle of wine for less than the price of a meal is a challenge.

Yes the price for perfection and elegance and a bit of celebrity is high, which makes dining at Daniel more frequently than annual birthdays, anniversary and receipt of Wall Street bonuses unlikely. But those annual visits are well worth the wait.

Daniel - Highly Recommended


Carlton Hotel
90 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10016


What continually impresses us about dining in Manhattan is going to a place that we know about but have not previously dined at for one reason or another, and then being blown away with the place on out first visit. These "why on earth have we not dinned here earlier?" shocks are always a pleasant surprise.

As we live in Midtown, we have frequently dined and enjoyed the cuisine of Geoffrey Zakarian's Town restaurant inside the Chambers Hotel. But we made our first visit to the sister restaurant Country at the Carlton Hotel in Gramercy only recently, and we were wowed.

First the elegance of the hotel, the bustling casual Cafe at Country on the lower level and then the refined elegance of Country on the second level. The David Rockwell designed space exudes refinement and a sophisticated elegance of dining at a fine house in England, France or perhaps dining in an earlier day in New York City.

Professional staff at every position provides the fine dining experience one expects at such an establishment. The Michelin one star is well deserved and an additional star (or two) is warranted.

The menu is composed of fixed price choices. In mid-winter it was a black truffle tasting menu and the ever changing Prix Fixed four course daily menus. We chose the four course menu and found we had ample options such that we selected different dishes for each course. Additionally the chef provided demi-tastings throughout the meal resulting in two eight course meals.

The ingredients and preparations were outstanding, providing bridges between classic French, Modern French and Contemporary American cuisines. The kitchen appears equally talented in the preparation of both meats and seafood. Of the eight selected course only one was less than outstanding, and upon notice of my lack of interest is a strangely soupy cod dish, the head waiter offered to immediately replace the course, and the resulting dish of veal confit and veal sweetbreads was a top notch dish.

The wine list was extensive with both European and New World wines. Given we had selected more seafood than red meats; we went with a 2004 Rully white burgundy that was excellent and reasonably priced. Wine service was knowledgeable, prompt, and overall excellent.

While one expects outstanding dining at well known places such as Daniel, Jean-George, Four Seasons, etc, it is a pleasant surprise to find equally outstanding food, wine, service and ambiance at a relatively under-promoted place such as Country. We are already planning our return.

Country - Highly recommended

Bar Boulud

1900 Broadway
New York, NY 10023

Daniel Boulud's new dining spot opened the first full week in January. Located directly across the street from Lincoln Center, the location alone means it is and will be a popular place, particularly considering the lack of fine dining competition in the neighborhood.

This cafe/bistro is in fact not a wine bar as originally promoted. Currently the front desk will not permit guests to congregate around the so called wine bar - a strange edict if there ever was one. With the place overflowing with people wanting to taste Daniel's Lyon-style menu, the entrance area including the front seating area has become as crowded as a subway platform at 5:30 pm. And without a glass of wine in hand the waiting crowd became unruly rather rapidly. Clearly the front desk (while quite professional) is currently overwhelmed and quite frazzled. They need to find a quick fix, or it will fix itself as people tire of this inadequate arrangement.

Part of the current problem appears to be overbooking, waiters struggling with getting checks to customers and credit card receipts back to customers, and the slow clearing and re-setting of tables. Undoubtedly an opening week problem that is hopefully to improve.

The menu does not disappoint in providing a rather long list of traditional French cafe/bistro fare with a heavy Lyon regional focus. Prices are rather high for what is generally considered simple food and even with the Euro at 1.50 to the US Dollar, one could probably eat the same meal for less in France.

The food itself is fine - nothing spectacular as one has come to expect at Daniel's dining places. Nothing is really off, but then again nothing seemed to blow us away. The list of pates is interesting and the pates are quite well made. The classic escargots are fine, but nothing out of the ordinary. The "coq a vin" was also acceptable, but we have had better. The "boudin blanc" - a real test of the French Bistro- was moist and tasty, but the singular sausage on a large plate with minimal accompaniments looked lonesome and quite inadequate as a $27 main course.

The wine list is focused on French moderately priced and middle of the road wines. Like the food, nothing unpleasing but nothing spectacular in selection or pricing.

We passed on desert as the waiting customers began overwhelming the seating area in front assigned to "twos", and it became uncomfortable to remain seated while hungry people stood hovering over our table waiting to be seated.

Reviewing any dining place during the first week is always tricky. Even the best places struggle getting out of the starting blocks. However, a place with Boulud in its name that struggles as badly as Bar Boulud did on our first visit is unexpected.

Bar Boulud - Acceptable

Happy New Year

Happy New Year.

We look forward to 2008 and all the fine dining and wine tastings ahead.

We spend the holidays travelling in Costa Rica. More on an upcoming posting. While there are many acceptable simple places to eat throughout Costa Rica, fine dining is more of a challenge. We have one top recommendation - Grano de Oro in San Jose. The restaurant located in the hotel of the same name is heads and shoulders above any other place we tried in the greater San Jose area.

We are back in Manhattan and the prime winter dining scene is upon us in force, so we will be posting frequently.

All the best,