Catch, a newer EMM venture in the Meatpacking district, leaves classic American about two oceans away. Instead, traditional tranquility is replaced with bright lights, grandiose spaces (3 floors - including a club) and a pain in the ass reservation policy, not to mention impossible tables to obtain. The menu, Asian Fusion and Seafood, is as extensive as their wine and booze list, which is lengthier than most of the girls’ dresses dining in this trendazoid establishment. After being collected at the bar and escorted up to our table by a mixed crew of people (think: kids (22-25) older kids (26-30) and old machismos who probably have kids at home (50 to infinity))! At 10:00pm, we placed our orders in entirety: Chicken Lettuce Wraps, Crispy Shrimp (yum but total bootleg copy of original NoBu), Baked Shrimp (awesome and garlic-y) and two sushi rolls - Spider and something tempura. 3 drinks in... late seating...Friday night bender...who remembers the trivialities of some roll. Do you HeView? Our Brussels Sprouts, Branzino and Fried Chicken Breasts (not bras) over root veggies, potatoes and thyme jus came out before the strike of 12 - which was lovely because getting a carriage in this parta town is harder then turning Cinderella’s pumps into authentic Louboutins. The boys and I agreed that for this party-oriented, promoter-heavy, overpacked and over served type of place, the food was quite good considering this is a place where people are truly coming to meet, greet and possibly get dirty. Catch and Hopper really have nothing in common; maybe just the Sea and the See. You might croak waiting on OpenTable the night before, for the month-ahead - and with drinks, all in, Catch might get pricey, but it’s surely less than a real Hopper; and most certainly worth the time and effort to hang with good friends.21 Ninth Avenue | Between 13th and Little West 12th Streets (212) 392-5978
Many moons ago, I used to hang out and hook up with girls in Murray Hill. I was young and it was cheap, with some cheap thrills too - all good things. I haven't been there in awhile aside from passing it en route to the Midtown tunnel. That’s why it was such a treat to return to my past and get down and dirty… with Murray Hill.
Burlesque in a dimly-lit white tablecloth restaurant. Tits and ass seductively covered in glamour, pasties and well-placed glitter. Murray Hill hosting, boasting and roasting in a powder blue suit. Pot-yielding pals and a table in the corner. Nope – these are not the new lyrics to the classic song by Julie Andrews – these are just a few favored things that happen in a small yet perfect space on Duane Street in a restaurant I could definitely get into. The crowd is intimate – reservations only and no cancellations, with compliance ensured by your credit card when the reservation is made. Our so-diverse-it’s-obnoxious crowd included a lovely table of lesbian firefighters, a couple of bachelorette parties, a couple who disagreed on which anniversary they were celebrating, a few lucky dates and of course, the incomparable, inimitable, hilarious, mustachioed and polyestered, Murray Hill (the pseudo dude, not the pseudo neighborhood). Murray, I’ll know I made it in life if you deliver my eulogy. Although the menu is a $75 per head pre-fix (not including booze, tax or tip) and well, attached to a burlesque joint, there is a diverse offering of both starters and mains. We decided to start with a four-way of Tuna Tartare with Tahini Sauce, Seared Sea Scallops, Skillet Roasted Shrimp with Georgia Cheese Grits and Grilled Octopus, and a one-way of short, young brunette. Although I only tried the Tuna and the Shrimp, everything looked superb. The Tuna was very good and the surprisingly sweet Tahini sauce was the perfect complement. The Grits in SheView’s Shrimp would have even satisfied my cousin Vinny. Once we were done with appetizers and were each a dirty martini (or blood orange margarita) in, my defenses were down and my Murray (Hill) was up – the perfect host! For mains, we had a tall blond with more back tattoos than Kat Von D, the Organic Chicken with Potato Puree, along with Pork Loin with Grilled Georgia Peaches for our worthy counterparts, with Salmon for SheView and Red Wine Braised Beef Short Ribs and Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes for me. The Short Ribs were slightly on the fatty side, but hey, they are supposed to be fatty, and the potatoes were on the crunchy side, but hey, I was feeling happy. So strong marks on the food, stronger marks on the experience and strongest marks for your host – the King of Downtown with a name from Midtown, Murray Hill. 157 Duane Street | Between West Broadway and Hudson (212) 732-5555
A friend of mine recently quoted the movie, now old (circa 1989) "Parenthood" when the grandmother talks to the leads, Steve Martin (Gil) and Mary Steenbergen (Karen) giving them a metaphor on life after Mary's character finds out she's preggers later in life (with three kids already in tow).
Grandma: You know, when I was nineteen, Grandpa took me on a roller coaster.
Grandma: Up, down, up, down. Oh, what a ride!
Gil: What a great story.
Grandma: I always wanted to go again. You know, it was just so interesting to me that a ride could make me so frightened, so scared, so sick, so excited, and so thrilled all together! Some didn't like it. They went on the merry-go-round. That just goes around. Nothing. I like the roller coaster. You get more out of it.
It's a great quote from a great vintage flick. But what about the swing? Back ‘n forth, back ‘n forth. It's boring. It sucks. I hate the swing. I like the coaster; at least I think I like the coaster. I did in my twenties. Luckily, tonight I got to forgo the swing and enjoy the ride with great imports from Williamsburg and dinner with a side of burlesque.
Duane Park, located nowhere other than the land of Triburbia, is a cute little spot for a three course meal, comedy and some burlesque. There are ten tables in the cozy white-tableclothed space with an unmistakable black shiny grand (probably a Steinway) piano, with some bar stools for other musical talents. On this very evening, the crowd was a mix of dates, hen parties, butches (that's how the host referred to the lesbo firefighters in the corner) and a huge party of Asian Americans celebrating an occasion I know nothing about. The menu provides a variety of options for even the most selective of eaters, ranging from pork to salmon to hake to the always safe and boring chicken. It's a $75 prefix, which doesn't include drinks or gratuity… it adds up - don't kid yourself. As we waited for our 7:30 show to begin, we grazed on shrimp over cheese grits (me), scallops over a bed of some wilted greens (female import from Bklyn), tuna tartare (HeView) and a fried octopus salad (male spouse/other import). Surprisingly, as we thought we were just there for the tits and arse, the food was pleasantly good and served nicely, neat and composed. I had a salmon special for my main, which was dry but the mushrooms and mystery mush underneath were a bit of a turnoff. HeView finished his plate of red wine braised beef short ribs, which he later said were fatty. Our really cool kat imports dined on the grilled loin of pork with grilled peaches, mustard greens & vidalia onion purée and surprisingly, the least boring person at our table got the most boring entree, the chicken! (Served over an olive oil Parmesan purée and chicken jus.) The main attraction was "Murray Hill," the comedian and host of the evening who shmoozed around cracking jokes on the diners and poking fun of her hedo/shedo self. Actually quite entertaining. An outrageous jazz singer belted out classics in between two burlesque dancers shaking their assets, exposing their ink and twirling their pasties. Not a job I'm applying for, but good for them. Tonight the only swinging would be of drinks, laughs and raw skin. I don't mind that kind of back and forth. That sort of swing is good is for any age and doesn't bore but sizzle. Duane Park is a total blast and definitely mixes up the commonalities of day-to-day life. It's the right kind of park! 157 Duane Street | Between West Broadway and Hudson (212) 732-5555
Life Lesson: Never leave your wife stag on Canal Street at night so you don’t have to pay the fee at the ATM. Not even for a New York Minute. She might get jacked and more importantly, you’ll never hear the end of it.
Isola is the newest incarnation of a gorgeous, breathtaking space in the Mondrian Hotel in Soho that for some reason keeps trying to make sub-par restaurants. Ideally, this space would just exist to make people happy – visually indulgent and a great place to meet for cocktails with friends. Unfortunately, we do not live in such a fantasyland and some people have to make a buck. When you do arrive at Isola, you feel like you are in for something special when you walk in and through an ivy-laced corridor with exposed brick. Even with no reservations, we were seated by the lovely hostess within 15 minutes of arrival - after a drink at the bar and Heview being hit on by the maitre he’, there we were at a table for four right in the middle of our dream space. The antithesis of the friendly (and quick) staff to this point was our waiter. He took so bloody long between visits I could feel my food getting cold before it even arrived. By the time we finally got our appetizers, our waiter placed a Burrata Pizza with Pesto and Roasted Tomato, an order of Tuna Crudo with White Balsamic, Jalapeno, Watermelon and Pine Nuts, along with the Beef, Veal and Pork Meatballs in Roasted Tomato Sauce. The Tuna was a nice dish and seemed to be enjoyed by all who ventured into it and the Meatballs looked amazing and tasted something like decent. The Burrata Pizza was a thin crust and also just decent. At this point the meal needed to be saved by our company and the maitre he’, who decided to join us for a bit! If only the food was as good as he was flamboyant and amazing, we would have been in for a treat. For mains, the Branzino was somewhere in the middle of the road and the Parmesan Potatoes were completely dry. The Mushroom Polenta was the one saving grace of the second act, but a side dish does not a meal make. If we were going to get jacked anywhere, I’d prefer it be in here than for real on the street, so the night turned out ok from that perspective, but I do not need to come back here until the next restaurant gets churned out – until then I’ll just admire the space from afar. 9 Crosby Street | Between Grand & Howard Streets (212) 389-0000
We get stuck in the roles we play, in the parts we take. We freeze time by referring to old classmates as "most popular," " tool," " nerd," " prude” or slut." Loser" more than any other pops up the most frequently, partially because they were or you were - or you're jealous of who they are now or the success they have now. The question is when is one no longer considered a loser to others (at work, in their social life) are they still a loser? Do you ever really lose that title? I guess it all depends on charm, personality, and a nice portfolio can't hurt. Which brings us to Isola, the old Imperial 9 space in The Mondrian in Soho.
Isola is in the most outrageous space that I goo and gaggle at each time I pass it on Crosby Street (or go inside). The setting is nothing short of magical, from the ivy aisle with tons of potted plants beside you that escort you into the hotel, the modern hang-out area that is sleek and polished, minimal but clean and chic... and then there's the great room, the best room, the greenhouse that really makes my heart go pitter patter. This space is hearty and long with grandiose chandeliers hanging from the rafters. Above the communal or party tables, damn smack in the middle, hangs a long floating piece of glass with abstract glass pitchers, goblets, vases, structures and great shards of glass that add to this cool yet elegant decor. It reminds me of the work of Dale Chihuly. The bar inside the restaurant, long and lean AND stocked, is bustling, whereas in the old space the bar was outside the main dining room so that your drinking/eating experience was separate. This was a topic that came up at our table of four - how it's one thing to grab food at a bar yet it's another to make your dinner reservation at a bar; but this in fact did not bother me. The cocktails were fun and there were lots of specials of the house, which I enjoy on a Saturday night. Unfortunately, getting your drinks or getting your anything can be compared to gridlock at 6pm leaving the city; thus the service was an abomination. We should have placed our apps and mains right off the bat but in an attempt to stop and savor the moment we didn't; much to our chagrin this was not the route to take. Eventually, our Italian apps came to us - a veal, pork and beef meatball served with garlicky crostinis, parmesan potato skins, a ricotta pizza and one tuna tartare served over watermelon. The meatball (two) were tasty and delicious as three of us devoured it and taunted the kosher doctor, the fourth in our posse. The rest - forgettable. The watermelon and tuna clashed more than loafers with boot cut jeans. Sadly, the girls had scallops and the food was so forgettable that I simply forgot what the gents got! Now, that's ruff! Soooo, atmosphere awesome and food/service (to be nice) not so hot. Aargh, another night BITES the dust. Isola despite its pretty name and pretty look might just be a loser. 9 Crosby Street | Between Grand & Howard Streets (212) 389-0000
I enjoy cocktails. No beating around the bush – a glass of wine, a vodka drink, a dirty martini, a scotch or a special of the house… they all sound delicious. So obviously, when one is in the Hamptons and having fun in the sun (meaning wine and sangria during the day and liquor at night), a partner in crime is good too. Here’s to you pahdna and Happy Birthday!
Beaumarchais. Fancy name. Fancy address. A reservation here means securing a babysitter and having a civilized dinner in a nice restaurant right? If that’s the direction you’re thinking in, try taking a step back and putting on jeans, some carefully placed ink and a crumpled v-neck if you’re a dude and a micro mini that does not cover your caboose if you’re a gal. Yup, welcome to da club. Luckily, our crewsome of four caught ourselves covered both ways by showing up as adults, but adults who’d been drinking for a few solid hours pre-arrival (well, at least the dudes were). Once seated, if you happen to be a married couple who enjoys people watching other married types while enjoying good food at a restaurant, welcome to a complete change-of-pace delight as you gawk at young, too young and early-20’s carefree revelers parade by in a stream of random hookups from your youth, most likely (we think) caused by déjà vu. Lil View is not allowed on the premises until 2042. The menu is pretty simple and straightforward with 3-4 salads, a few appetizers, couple of pastas and a few fish and beef entrees. We decided to start with the Burrata, which has to be good because all cheese is delicious, and the Truffled Ravioli, which has to be good because all pasta is delicious. Well, turns out the cheese guy was downstairs in the kitchen bathroom and the sous chef was staring at the 20-somethings instead of cooking the ravioli, because we were wrong on both counts. Stiff Burrata and cold Ravioli. At this point you should just go with the flow and (a) order more vodka, and (b) order more bad food, because it’s fun! For mains, we ordered one Scallops, one Nicoise with no tuna, one Filet medium rare and one Steak Frites medium. The Nicoise, while obviously not a true Nicoise since it had no tuna, was not remotely enjoyed by its owner (and preggers deserved a good meal!), while the Scallops were rejected by SheView’s distinguished scallop palate. The steaks were good for a bite or two, but that joy quickly dissipated as we got into the meaty part of the meat. Truth be told, the fries were very good – maybe they were flown in? The end result of the evening had two of us with plenty of drinks being drunk and staying for a bit to make sure the kitchen closed down ok, but not until we had the ridiculous and obnoxious dessert served in a giant sundae glass with a sparkler. In a restaurant like this where the kitchen serves less utility than the bar and the crowd, the most you can hope to leave with is a couple of shekels in your pocket and less of a stomachache than the hangover you know you’ll have the next day. 44 Three Mile Harbor Road | East Hampton (212) 675-2400
Untz untz and restaurant don’t mix. At least for me… a thirty+ mom/writer/wife/complainer who doles out major dough for childcare both night and day (don't get me started on the terrible twos pre 2, nonetheless)! The days of shares in the Hamptons are over but the sharing of a house is well, not. In these economic times, sharing is key but barbecueing instead of dining out may not be.
Beaumarchais, right by Nick& Toni's (hot spot foreva) is located on Three Mile Road in East Hampton, very posh. It might scream blinking lights of caution or dismay when other Hampton summerers/friends come screeching out of their BMW SUV to warn you about this impending disaster of a dining experience and well, not to attempt it... but, we move forward...ignoring their sage words. Upon walking into this trendazoid bar scene/late night party restaurant you have become abruptly aware that you are not here for the dining experience (which is not always a bad thing). Beaumarchais' decor is set up more like a night club (white everything, cheesy chandeliers, DJs spinning The Hot 40s in party remix renditions). In another life, quite possibly a decade ago (ah, I’m not that old, so less than a decade but many a year ago) this craziness for dinner might’ve been the ultimate go-to or the perfect place for a birthday or girl/guy special occasion. Now, not so much. We were placed right under the DJ booth, not ideal but our party-loving untz untz enjoying partners and people-pleasing HeView didn't make a fuss about it, so I did something very UN ME and went with it. As 9:00pm came upon us, the restaurant was filled to the brim and every table was occupied. What were my friends initially yapping about when they approached us in a tizzy about foregoing the joint?? We ordered salads, Burrata with Tomato (a huge summer pleaser) and a Ravioli with Cheese and Peas to begin which all arrived in a blink of an eye, as tables are turned very quickly here (pun intended). All the eats were mediocre at best but the vodka was poured thick (so shortly into your dining experience, or lack thereof, your vision, sense of smell and taste are hazed and blurry). Our Steak Frites, Scallop main and Nicoise salad came next, squealing with sodium, ugly and rather vile but by this point the foci was more on the tightly wrapped bandage dresses, the scene and the people we may have known in our past single lives/hooked up with, etc. Huge ice cream sundaes adorned with a massive sparkler were shoved into the middle of many a table’s meal (for casually, 40$), in which our drunk and so-lovable friend/dining companion/summer roomie HAD to order and not really eat. I love my sweets and this was just a massive ice cream float of Reddiwhip. I could have gotten this in two cans for 4.50 at King Kullen and enjoyed a whippit or two :) Us girlies left after the sundae disaster and as the skinny and not-so-skinny girls pranced up on their tables to dance and grind, this place was not my scene and officially in the later hours, really not my scene. HeView and best pal stayed for the voyeurism and capacity to drink more without wife judgment and I was shocked to hear later that they didn't tap the night off with Jason Kidd and Alessandra Ambosio @ SL East right next door. Maybe they knew too that they were a decade, less or more, too old and a bit too gameless for that. To wrap this up with a silver bow, our infuriated friends in the parking lot got it right, Beaumarchais is not the place you want to dine if you actually want to eat and linger; Beaumarchais instead is a place to get wasted, mingle with the new and used of the past or watch all within a short distance. I think Lil View will see this place before I see it again. 44 Three Mile Harbor Road | East Hampton (212) 675-2400
I had never been to Shelter Island before this past August. I have had tons of students that had second homes or "country" homes there, but I never knew it was so close to the Hamptons - a mere 2 minute car ferry to the isolated island… beautiful, artsy, killer cool sunset beach, one cemetery, no hospital and us.
Vine Street Cafe
The Vine Street Cafe, a great indoor/outdoor restaurant with a grossly expensive market attached and submerged below it, was a last minute Labor Day reservation that HeView scored. I don't give props much, but this reservation earns one to the guy! After leaving the trendy, cool and bumping Sunset Beach cafe for outrageous costing cocktails, we drove to "Vines," had trouble parking (the lot is the pits and valet-less) and proceeded to stumble through the rocks into their small waiting vestibule. Our 8:45 reservation was running late (big surprise there), so we hung until being seated. We peered and pried on other patrons’ plates as we got to our sweet nook of a table tucked in a corner (quiet enough for a kvetch called my father).
There was absolutely no question, someone would be getting the house fave - the Pasta Bolognese - and I was itching for some heirloom tomatoes with mozzarella. I'm not a huge tomato fan but out here the farm fresh tomatoes change the rules. In order to all get a spoonful or two or three of their acclaimed Bolognese, we ordered one for the table as a starter. MAGNIFIQUE! OMG! INSANITY, our party of four gasped and raved! Filling, fresh, thick spaghetti and a to-die-for, perfectly made, red, meaty, salted to perfection Bolognese sauce! I will never forget this dish - officially most definitely on my bucket list. Can we import it to Manhattan? The ladies were virtually full after this sick sampling, but ordered Salmon (mom a.k.a lulu) and Roast Chicken (for me, I know-boring). The kvetch father had Moules and Frites as HeView also got the teriyaki tasting salmon. Despite being pretty darn full, I ate many a frite or too many a frite, picked at my flavorful, beautifully presented roast chicken over broccoli rabe, mango chutney and coconut rice - knowing full well I would not get close to finishing this and would bring it home for Lil View a.k.a "the monster." My mom's salmon also took the ride in the car on the ferry back to North Haven, an area of Sag Harbor. Just too much food and drink after a long day of lounging, sunning, complaining, etc. Still, every bite delicious, perfectly polished and prepared and also mouth watering. The Vine Street Cafe might be a schlep for SouthHamptoners (not us) BUT well worth the travels. Side note: the car ferry is super fun, a definite perk! Get the pasta-it’ll warm your heart and belly. 41 South Ferry Road | Shelter Island (631) 749-3210
Shutter Island: A movie that stars Leonardo DiCaprio and takes place on a remote island that houses the criminal insane.
Shelter Island: A remote island that stars HeView on multiple occasions this summer and consists only of beautiful homes, a gorgeous beach, a few good (and one great) restaurants, a school and a small police station.
Shutter Island… mental hospital. Shelter Island… no hospital.
Vine Street Cafe
The Hamptons are a playground for various demographics… foodies, partiers, families, singles, swingers, celebrities, too young to have obligations and too old to forget responsibilities. The next time you are this far east and still in New York, no matter which bill fits you, I suggest getting on the car ferry and taking the 120-second ride from North Haven (Sag Harbor) to Shelter Island. Not only is the ride fun, but you can also people-watch at Sunset Beach and if you were lucky enough to score the reservation, head over to the Vine Street Café on Route 114. The restaurant is located right off that main road and housed on topographically challenged land, so the parking situation is pretty rough to say the least. Once you manage to sandwich your car between a tree and a giant rock, you are ready to roll into the bustling scene. On a strong recommendation, we pre-gamed a strategy of ordering the Perciatelli Bolognese, which is a thick homemade spaghetti in a ragu of specialty meats, tomatoes and cheeses. To start, we decided to share that Spaghetti dish along with a farm fresh Tomato (red and yellow) and Mozzarella appetizer. I cannot say this strenuously enough: the Bolognese was the BEST I’ve ever had. The pasta itself was screaming homemade to my mouth and the sauce had enough meat to make it thick but not too much to make it chunky. The seasoning was perfect – enough flavor so you know the chef cares but not even close to being overseasoned. I would eat this dish every day if it wouldn’t mean I’d gain a couple hundred pounds. For mains, SheView got the Chicken (for reals?) and I ordered the Grilled Miso Glazed Salmon, served with Bok Choy & Mushrooms and Coconut Rice. Our dining companions also (wisely) ordered the Salmon and the Moules Frites. Although I didn’t try SheView’s chicken, it sure looked good, but I’ll save my detail for the Salmon and the Mussels, which I did try. The Miso Glaze on the Salmon was salted perfectly and the Salmon itself was served medium rare. It was a wonderful piece of fish and ranks near the top of my list the next time a craving for salmon hits. The coconut rice was a bit of a throwaway, but everything here is so good I ate that as well. The Mussels were fine – not outrageous, and the French Fries were hand-cut and excellent. Overall, this was simply an excellent meal and worth the trip – get on the ferry and ride over – just don’t choke (no hospital)! 41 South Ferry Road | Shelter Island (631) 749-3210