The 'rents were up for the weekend, so I was looking for a place that would make them happy - unique, delicious food with a menu not too saturated in lactose - not too loud, situated in a beautiful neighborhood - and Perilla was the answer.

We came in on a Saturday night, and it was bustling but not too packed.  We had a glass of wine at the bar - the chardonnay was excellent, as it should be at $16 a glass - and then moved over to our table towards the back.  The waiter was on top of his game, very well-versed in the intricacies of the menu.

Nobody was all that interested in apps, but I insisted we try the duck meatballs, as they're the star of many reviews.  They were unique, with a quail egg on top (yum), but the light pink color was a little disconcerting at first.  They're served broth, and the dish is almost reminiscent of an Asian-style soup.  Either way, they tasted good enough to finish every bite between us.  We also had the crispy mussel salad - which was fresh and light.  My dad LOVED that one.

For entrees, we all decided we needed to try something different.  The special that evening was salmon, which was a huge win.  I had the hanger steak, which absolutely blew my mind due to the portion alone.  It was MASSIVE.  I don't know how to measure steak in terms of ounces when it's sliced, but I'd estimate it was 12 strips piled on top of one another, over a bed of sunchoke creamed spinach.  Really, really good, and no way to finish it all without sharing.  

Also thought it was interesting that their pre-fixe menu of the evening was a vegetable tasting.  We didn't go for it, but I liked that inventive twist for a spot that's also famous for top-chef-winning steaks.  Shows versatility.  I'd be back with clients, or for a special occasion.

 
 
Came out to Greenpoint on a birthday-week outing with my friend Kim to see her new place.  I traveled back to the West Village feeling a little depressed about the square footage of my apartment, but also VERY full of pizza.

Prepare to wait, as they don't take reservations and are poppin' off on a Sunday night.  The good part is it's right by the Greenpoint waterfront, so come on a nice night and have an impromptu photo shoot with the Manhattan skyline to kill some time.

A few of the reviews reference Roberta's, but I think Paulie Gee's has its own thing goin' on.  We had a margarita pizza and the Hellboy.  The star of the Hellboy show is Mike's Hot Honey - it really takes a pepperoni pizza to the NEXT LEVEL.  Spicy and sweet, over indulgent/fatty pepperoni and cheese...it really burns a spot into your consciousness as a unique and crave-worthy taste that's strange at first, but you'll want for days afterwards.

I realize the blurry photos are super lame - it's dark in there.

 
 
So conflicted over Tartine.  Such strong feelings of love and dislike.

LOVE: BYOB
LOVE: Cheesy food
LOVE: Prices
NOT IN LOVE WITH: Ambiance.
HATE: ridiculous wait time and inefficient management of said wait time.

So, tartine does not take reservations, is in the most BEAUTIFUL area of the West Village, and is BYOB.  This is a lethal combination for NYC wait times on a gorgeous Friday night in the West Village.

I'll start with the negatives and finish with the positives: We waited for 1.5 hours for a table, even though the hostess kept coming out and saying "just a few minutes." Why were we so dumb to not go to one of the other 8,000 amazing restaurants in the area? Because it's BYOB, we'd already purchased a gallon of wine, and there was nowhere else to go. So we hung out for quite a while.

Also, if you go with a group larger than 4: forget about it.  It's primarily 2 tops, so  definitely take a date.

The ambiance inside is a little hot and sticky, too, and there was a massively drunk couple next to us that kept trying to jump in our conversation.  That's not Tartine's fault, just noting.

On to the good stuff: BYOB.  Friendly wait staff.  No corking fee.  SUPER inexpensive and SUPER delicious.

It's so inexpensive that they have to impart a $15 minimum order per person, which is actually somehow hard to hit.  In the West Village.

Yellowfin Tuna Tartare: Super fresh and light.
Kale salad with butternut squash: actually much heavier than expected, but delicious served warm.
Gnocchi with brussels sprouts and mozzarella: SO MUCH CHEESE.  SO GOOD.  I'm not going to claim it's a highly authentic Italian dish, but they had me dreaming about this belly-busting plate of awesomeness for days.
Warm Artichoke Gratin: the only slight miss in our order - a little too heavy on the spinach.

I'll definitely be back with *1* friend or a date, on an off-night or potentially at 5pm.

 
 
Bar Primi has replaced the Bowery standby Peels...and while I'm sad to see Peels go, Primi is as welcome of a replacement as possible.

It took us a while to get seated, and it was irritating that there really isn't a place to stand while waiting for a table we had a reservation for.  Once we got seated, however, everything went quite well.  We were there for a friends' bday dinner, so the wine order was heavy.  One red, one white, one rose.  

After that, pasta time.  I was so excited that they had my favorite Italian dish - bucatini al amatricina.  Spicy, bacon-infused sauce over a hollow spaghetti - definitely the best pick of the bunch.  Spinach cavatelli was great, infused with breadcrumbs and cheese.  Didn't love the ricotta ravioli, but we'd chosen enough options that we were all able to try a few bites of everything.  The portions are tiny, though - after as much wine as we'd consumed, we definitely could have gone for a few more.

 
 
Was about to embark on vacation, so had to keep it somewhat healthy.  Seafood was the move, and Barchetta had a wild range of yelp reviews - ALL 5s and 1s.  
The wait staff is crazy attentive.  Didn't recognize any of the wines on the list, but apparently picked the waiter's fave, which he was very excited about.  We had the crudo tasting, and I actually really loved the more unusual fish rather than the ones I'd expect (salmon, tuna, bass) - those were good, but more like a typical sashimi - the snapper with a pink grapefruit salt and citrus broth was really different, super light, and tasty.

Grilled whole fish are inherently pretty intense, so we asked that they filet it in the kitchen - the porgy would have been kinda plain, but it's served with a salsa verde that's actually more reminiscent of pesto.

Only complaint, I think, is that the place itself smelled a little fishy.  I mean, it makes sense...just saying.

 
 
I underestimated the residual trendiness of Pearl & Ash - on a Friday night at 10:30, it's SO PACKED you can't move in the "lobby" area, and there's extremely restrictive rules about ambulating in the bar area.  Go on an off night, or prepare to be crammed.

It's beautifully decorated- candlelit, with geometric wooden shelving on the walls housing various accessories and vases.  Very romantic atmosphere - would be even more romantic if it was less crowded.

The menu features (extremely) small plates, so our waitress (who was very nice) recommended we order 8-12...which, even with an appetite like mine, I found to be a little aggressive.

In terms of wine, we had a summery rose she recommended - which was lovely on a humid evening.  The cocktails are soju/sake/beer/aptertif based, which usually aren't my favorite, so I'd definitely recommend going the wine route.

From start to finish:

Hangar Tartare - beautifully presented and incredibly flavorful.  one of my favorite steak tartares I've had. Peppery and served with an artistic swipe of egg yolk and a "melba" toast that's reminiscent of rye and twisted into a beautiful shape.

Tea Cured Salmon - This was recommended by the waitress, but I'd skip it...it's served over a seaweed salad that kind of overpowers the salmon flavor.

Bread / Chicken Butter - A good add-on, the chicken butter was interesting and almost had a smoky flavor - but not a main tenant of the meal.

Octopus - must-have.  Perfectly cooked, briny/salty on the outside and creamy on the inside, soy/Asian flavor swipe of dip to the side.

Cod / Thai basil - Also an awesome choice - super-light fish in a thai broth with delicate swirls of what appeared to be a pesto coconut oil.

Duck - Definitely the most substantial dish we ordered.  Served with a green sauce that didn't have too much flavor, but deconstructed meatballs (perhaps duck pate?) that were AMAZING paired with the fatty duck.

Potatoes - served patatas bravas style - garlic-y, crispy - also substantial, so I'd opt for these as well to beef up the calorie count of an otherwise super light meal.

Asparagus - served in a spicy curry - great complement to the thai cod.

Perfect date spot - I'd recommend going on a weeknight to beat the crowds - and surrounded by the plethora of bars the LES offers for a post-dinner cocktail.

Photos: up top - cod, middle - hangar tartare, below: octopus.
 
 
If you make it out to Roberta's at prime time, get ready for a WAIT.  Arrived on Sunday night around 6, and was quoted an HOUR FORTY...for pizza.  OK, fine, there's a "tiki" bar in the back that's partially outside and has plenty of places to sit.  

The wait actually boiled down to an hour ten...so my first piece of advice: arrive when you are NOT YET HUNGRY.  
The tables are communal, for the most part - and it's good to go with a group so you can try all the different types of pizzas.  I was super hyped about the Downward Dog - as it features romesco (garlic-y almond-based  sauce) and a ton of vegetables - but it ended up NOT being my absolute favorite.... which was the off-menu Beastmaster. 

The absolute opposite of anything entitled Downward Dog, the Beastmaster features sausage, onions, mozz, jalapeño, and wild card: capers.  This was the pizza that made me understand the hype around Roberta's.  Crispy, delicious, inventive - a must-try.

As far as non-pizza goes, we had a pasta dish and salumi - pasta was great, but it's a pizza place first and foremost - skippable. Salumi was really good - the duck prosciutto was awesome.  Good for a large group of friends interested in creative pizza in a cozy setting.
 
 


Lack of pictures is lame, but it's pitch black in there!

Bodega Negra is the brand new, uber trendy spot in the Dream Hotel downtown.  While the food was decent, the awkwardness of the service and elements of the try-too-hard ambiance knock it down a few stars.

First of all, they absolutely couldn't accommodate our reservation at 6 - but could do 5:30 - so I expected to walk in to at least a somehwat lively house - nope. We were the FIRST table to arrive, so that rubbed me the wrong way a little bit.  We got over the awkwardness of a 100% empty room with a cute circular table in the corner.  

Guac is a must, and I liked the variety of margaritas.  The Spiced Celery sour was my fave, and the rest of the crew really liked the Blood & Fire.  What was weird, though, was a friend asked the waitress for a recommendation - and she just refused to provide one.  She said she liked something fruity but not too sweet, and the waitress was like "umm...well....i'm not sure what to tell you, because I don't know which one you're going to enjoy...." It was super awkward.  

Anyway, as far as the food goes, the guac was solid.  We had that, a ceviche, and a variety of tacos.  The grilled fish taco was an absolute winner - I believe it was a sea bass that night, and there was some element of caramelization that made it sweet and delicious in addition to fresh.  Carnitas were a little dry - grilled corn salad was spicy and good.

Our wait staff switched something like 5 times, and they kept trying to take plates before people were finished eating.  All in all - the food was good, but I wouldn't go crazy over knocking this one off your to-do list.
 
 
Yet again, a hit from Jean-Georges.  Nougatine was a fantastic experience, and one of the best meals I've had in NYC.

First - the location is prime - on 61st just at the southwest tip of the park.  There's a terrace in the summer, and there's a pretty cool view of the CNN sign and other epic skyline landmarks.  Service is on point from start to finish - extremely polite and gracious hosting staff, knowledgeable waiters.  

The dining room is pristine, and the wine list is LONG.  We tried a California chardonnay that was explained to us in detail by the sommelier - something about being fermented in metal instead of oak? - and it was mild and tasty.  Good for a warm evening - the first of the season in NYC! - so my date and I were in a fabulous mood, and the wine only made it better.
There are a TON of seafood options - and we tried nearly all of them.  The salmon sushi on a bed of crispy rice is so unique, and the sesame seeds give it a rich kick in addition to the blending of soft fish / rice crunch.  Awesome.  Tuna tartare and crab cakes were both good - but I think the raw fish is the move.  Tartare is served on a bed of pureed avocado, with some derivative of an asian sauce...very light and much more blended than the usual tartare dish.  Hamachi sashimi was served with sliced grapes and I believe raisins? - although I could be wrong on the raisin part - but regardless, the fruit sweetened up the whole dish and made for a nice variety next to the saltier options.

My absolute favorite was a whipped goat cheese, beet, pistachio and olive oil dish - ultimate cheese dish that won't make you feel too heavy.  The goat cheese becomes so thin, it clings to the utensils and picks up tiny fragments of pistachio and beet - literally PERFECT.  Was absolutely in love and could eat this every day.
By the time the entrees came out, date and I were both borderline stuffed, but had a taste of the rigatoni and meatballs and lobster burger.  The meatballs were interesting - they definitely had a different type of savory flavor than I'm used to in a typical italian dish.  The lobster burger was on special - ridiculously decadent and fresh. Wish I would've saved ordering entrees for next time so I had more room - was really too full to get into it, but enjoyed what I tried.

It's the epitome of a perfect place to bring parents or clients- comfortable, upscale -but not sterile, with incredible food in an iconic location. Go JG.
 
 
Everyone's bugging out about the salt on here - and I see that at Fatty 'Cue, but honestly, Fatty Crab did nice work.  I think they're aware of what's going on on Yelp here, and they're working hard so their customers have a great experience.

It's approximately a 4 minute walk from my office and is constantly offering coupons and deals, so I don't know why it's taken me so long to get here.

Got here way before my friend did, and they don't waste any time with the whole "is your whole party here?" business.  Sat down alone, and quickly ordered the Lower East Side cocktail - vodka, gin, cucumber - my usual faves.

When Julie got there, we shared a couple dishes that were all tasty (and not too salty!)  The watermelon pickle and crispy pork is probably their most lauded - and while it's certainly fatty, it has enough acidity to balance it out a bit and is super interesting flavors.  My fave, however, were the tea sandwiches - very tiny, but so flavorful: lamb, shallot raisin sambal, chilies, vietnamese mint.

A nice spot in a great neighborhood to catch up with friends.