Not too long ago I was schoolteacher with a tremendous perk â€“ time. Time to practice judo and cook for my friends, and go out to every hot new restaurant that opened.
The downside to working in the restaurant industry is the hours. As an entrepreneurial owner, even worse. My sometimes off night, glorious Monday, is a tricky day to go out. Most regular people are lamenting the first day of the work week, and unless itâ€™s Monday Night Football, it is quite difficult to get one of my friends to come out for a culinary excursion. So often I will plan to visit a new place or two on Monday night, only to lose steam by Sunday.
This past Monday I was determined, with or without moral support. I decided to see what all the buzz was about at the Upper West Side, where a spate of new restaurants have nudged their way in to gastronomic wasteland of mediocrity and take out joints.
First I hit an old standby, Sal & Carmineâ€™s, the best pizza around. The brothers were still there, and the slice is still suberb. The slice tidied me over for the walk to the uptown branch of Mermaid Inn, where I would test the oyster waters. The bar was busy, so much so that another bartender should have been hired, as evident by the mistaken cocktail I received. But all was forgiven with pristine oysters, a sure-fire sign that the rest of the menu would be a safe bet. The barkeep comped my drink, another show of proper service. I will be back for clams and a lobster roll. It did not feel like an UWS restaurant, but did have some UPW people in it.
Next stop was Dovetail, which I have heard from foodies is a must see place for exciting food. I slipped into the bar where two lovely ladies (a mom and her daughter) were sharing a meal. We split a bottle of Paul Georg Rose Champagne and had a nice time. The bartender, the one photographed by the NYTimes was present, with his quirky look and sardonic sense of humor. The service was professional, and the menu was classically scintillating. The ladies shared a chopped liver appetizer, and I started with poached egg. Their main courses of duck magret and trio of lamb were tender and delicious. I had squab on polenta and crab ravioli. The food was delicousness. I finished with a bread pudding that tasted like adult baby food. Yummy!
The ladies said that the menu had changed, and the place was completely packed (on a Monday!). Another good omen. 81 was my next stop, but I met my brother and his friend for yakitori instead (Yakitori Totto). All the chicken parts were good, and the silken tofu was creamy and delightful.
Seems like dining uptown may actually be an option after all.