We were brought here by an Istanbullu homesick for his mother’s food, and over the course of a three-hour meal we felt that he was mostly satisfied with the dishes he ordered; we were thrilled by all of it, of course. Big groups get to try almost everything, and the arnavut cigeri (fried calf’s liver) is something I would never have ordered for a smaller table; it was a great choice for a big group to share, as 3-4 pieces of deep-fried, spongy cubes of liver ($10) constitute the limit for most people. The mixed meze platter ($20) was well-balanced with light babaghanoush and hummus, while the sigara boregi (cigar rolls filled with cheese and parsley, $7) were perfect addictive comfort food. Kalamarizgara (grilled calamari, $11) are a must, though the mucver (zucchini pancakes) were nothing special at all.
All the meat and fish we had was of the finest quality, well marinated and seasoned. Special mention must go to the salmon scaloppini ($19) cooked in garlic wine sauce and sun dried tomatoes, and the kuzu bacagi (lamb shank, $20) which is one of the restaurant’s specialities.
Turkish wines are served, great baklava is available and the atmosphere is pleasantly higher-end. But of course none of this was as good as our Turkish friend’s mother’s cooking – of course not.
This is an udon noodle bar run by the same owners as Bozu just up the street, and the two restaurants share much in common: a wonderfully lit interior, warm, cosy and unsurprisingly full of canoodling couples. The menu has a lot of variety, but we would strongly advise against ordering any sushi rolls – the rice, on our visit at least, was scraped from the bottom of the pan, completely lacking moisture and sponginess. To allow this to be served was a grave error, especially when we were eagerly awaiting jalapeño yellowtail rolls ($8). The vegetable gyoza ($8), however, were well-presented and revealed a moist texture under the crispy pancake lid. But it was the curry seafood udon soup ($16) that stole the show, with its rich flavors and robust noodles: perfectly peppery, though there could’ve been more shrimp and mussels inside.
For atmosphere, Samurai Mama really does score highly. We look forward to giving the sushi here another chance, even though we’ve already been won over by the gyoza and udon.
Tequila/Mezcal passports from the folks at Good Passport brought us here, and once the staff figured out what it was all about, they treated us like kings; before that we were mere coupon-crunchies. So we obviously had an interest in the agave spirit, and we were talked through the combinations used in our cocktails by the mescaliers: the Tamarind (Fidencio Clásico mezcal, tamarind, canela agave and lime) and the Mezcal-isco (Pelotón de la Muerte mezcal, Espolón reposado tequila, lime, agave nectar and orange). Both drinks had definite bite to them, but were well concocted. Even the happy hour specials – the house marg and the frozen pomegranate marg ($8) – were excellent cocktails. Two tacos or a quesadilla can be bought for only $6, and the Alambre de Carne of the former, and Res of the latter, are both sound choices. The bar is packed from 5.30pm for obvious reasons, but it clears out a little when happy hour fades from view. Lighting is low and noise levels can be high, but it’s a great little spot for dates and groups if you get in early and stake your space.
Subway: Chambers St
The converted garage space that La Urbana has added to its already achingly-hip restaurant is worth a look; large-scale skeleton murals, cocktails and tacos on basic street-eat tables and bar orders make this a quick and casual spot. The short rib gorditas were juicy and well-balanced in texture, while the fish taco was above average. Sopes, tortas and tostadas are also available. Sangria is merely good, but their Mexican Mule with its punchy ginger beer and jalapeño syrup is a real winner. Come here for the great vibe, to watch the football and be in an indoor/outdoor space with dramatic murals.
I was taken to the original iteration of this Anglo-Indian fine dining restaurant in Chelsea about 25 years ago and remember being impressed by their salmon kedgeree amongst other colonial-style mash-ups. Their new location is far more central though less cosy, but the menu has had an overhaul to chime with modern tastes in Indian cuisine. A wide range of mocktails and wines by the glass are on offer, Business Lunch works well for fish (salmon tikka and sea bass) and kebab fans, though lamb chops ($26) don’t work well for your pocket. The scrambled eggs akoori can be ordered for breakfast or lunch, and definitely shouldn’t be missed. The desserts are fantastic: salted caramel kulfi and dark chocolate chikki fondant. Prices are high, clientele classy but the cooking is exquisite.
A small corner gastropub with bench seating serving comfort food, steak and salads, this is the place to come for some craft brews and a small range of cocktails and wine. Service can be a little slow at busy times, but a little cajoling will get them on your side. The Kobe sliders ($15) were a little dry, but fish tacos ($15) and ‘Epic fried chicken’ sandwich ($12) were more successful. The greens really excelled here: for example the firm and well-seasoned Brussels sprouts with dried cranberries and candied walnuts, and the butternut squash salad ($12) which was perfectly served and balanced with toasted almonds and balsamic vinaigrette. There isn’t a large choice of wine or cocktails, but beer drinkers are fairly treated to a well-curated list.
Subway: Delancey St (F), Essex St (J,M,Z)
Just a couple of blocks from the Lincoln Center is this spacious neighborhood restaurant with great service – but slightly inflated prices for the mains. We should have ordered the mucver (zucchini pancakes) but instead opted for the sigara borek ($6.50), uninspiring feta cheese pastries. The karides sote (sauteed shrimp, $17) were smaller than expected and surprisingly bland. Efes beer in two varieties is great value at $5, but all in all this joint seems like a place for small appetites and unadventurous palates.
Subway: 72nd st (B,C, 1,2,3)