Welcome to The Lunch Belle, a food website/blog that views the New York City dining scene through the lens - and belly - of a highly opinionated, critical, adorably quirky, and culinary-obsessed thirty-something year old.

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CLOSED: Dinner at Table 8, 6/6/09

  • Cuisine: New American
  • Scene: Smart casual, see-and-be-seen, small outdoor seating area, chic space
  • Occasion: 1x1/small group dining, lite bites and drinks (pre party)
  • Must try: Scallop crudo from the "salt bar"
  • Price: Starters, all under $12; Entrees, all under $29
  • Reservations: Via phone or opentable.com
  • Phone: (212) 475-5700
  • Website: http://www.thecoopersquarehotel.com/
  • Location: 25 Cooper Sq, (at 5th St)

Chef Govind Armstrong’s “Table 8” recently opened in the brand new, ultra modern/hip Cooper Square Hotel. New York City serves as the restaurant’s third location behind Miami’s South Beach and Los Angeles. So I’d be a liar if I told you that Em, Nora and I didn’t feel pretty damn cool to have scored a 9:30pm reservation at one of NYC’s hottest new dining establishments. It was a Saturday night, after all...

In order to access Table 8 from the street, one must walk through the restaurant’s modern library-themed bar en route to the hostess stand. Though different, the aesthetics of both the bar and the restaurant seemed to flow together like honey. Outfitted with massive floor to ceiling windows, gun-metal colored slate, splashes of onyx-shaded granite, and caramel wood accents, the space evoked a smart and refreshing sense of interior design.

Although arriving minutes shy of our 9:30pm reservation, our table was ready and we were seated immediately (there’s nothing worse than having to wait an additional 15-30 min’s for your reservation). I was pleased to note that the restaurant’s acoustics were forgiving, allowing for conversation; and that the service moved at a steady (neither hurried nor slow) pace. *Note that there is the option to dine alfresco on a beautiful patio.*

After having perused the menu, our waitress returned to take our orders. I chose to begin my meal with the scallop crudo, followed by the halibut. Within moments, our small bread plates were topped with a freshly baked and perfectly salted pretzel roll, which was almost the size of a tennis ball. Just as I began to spread butter on each half, our appetizers arrived. Served in a small black dish were three horizontally sliced pieces of raw scallop, swimming in a shallow milky broth topped with chopped kumquat and a light dusting of greens (forgive me, I’m guessing the “greens” were either cilantro or basil). When the delicate (and exquisitely fresh and firm) shellfish kissed the perky citrus (kumquat), a positively memorable flavor combination was born where no ingredient overpowered the other...Truly symphonic.
From appearances alone, my entrée was the most attractive plate in the room, consisting of an artistic display of the following: Thick halibut filet pan seared until golden brown, and topped with toasted bread; a side of green pureed ____ ; micro greens; stewed cherry and yellow tomatoes. While the fish was excellent (fresh, firm, seared to a buttery perfection), I couldn’t figure out why the hell it was topped with a thin slice of toasted bread, which had a thick spread of what I assumed to be some sort of chopped halibut schmear. To this minute, I’m still uncertain as to what the pureed mystery-side was. Green-dyed mashed potatoes/cauliflower, perhaps? All I do know is that it did not appeal to me whatsoever.

Overall, I found my experience at Table 8 to be very mediocre, as I felt that the kitchen was trying too hard to be innovative and eclectic. I whole heartedly welcome new ingredients and love trying different foods, but I just cannot get over the randomness of the menu. Besides my toast and green puree issue, Emily’s order of Grilled Baby Chicken was plated with beef short-rib hash. How do those two items even remotely go together?
Do I see myself returning to Table 8? Sure, but I'll give the restaurant a couple of months to work out its kinks and *hopefully* revamp some menu items.

This week in NYC dining news...

A finger lickin' good weekend, the city's best spots to get fresh, and a fab list of celebratory tables...All this week in NYC dining news.

  • Big Apple BBQ Block Party (one of yours truly's most favorite outdoor events) is THIS weekend! For more information, click *here*
  • Wanna know the top 10 spots for an easy tryst in NYC? Blackbook's got the steamy list! Click *here*
  • Planning a large birthday dinner and have no clue where to go? Tasting Table did the homework for you (and scored an A+, if I do say so myself)! Check it out by clicking *here*

Recipe: Croissant Pain Perdu with Brown-Sugar Butter


The ULTIMATE French twist on French toast! Easy to make and decadent to eat, this recipe is sure to impress!

Recipe: Croissant Pain Perdu with Brown-Sugar Butter

Ingredients (makes 2-4 servings):

  • 1 5-ounce can evaporated milk
  • 3 ounces buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 croissants (day-old is best), sliced in half lengthwise
  • Butter (to grease pan)
  • Brown-sugar butter (recipe further below)
  • 100% pure maple syrup
  • Powdered sugar

In a shallow bowl (I use a square dish that’s about 6’ in diameter on each side), combine the first 7 ingredients and whisk until evenly blended. Place halved croissant slice directly in to bowl with wet ingredients, allowing it to soak up liquid. Flip to other side and repeat, allowing each side to soak for approximately 30 seconds. Place moistened croissant slice on a separate dry plate, and repeat steps above.
Grease griddle with butter and allow warming for approximately 2 minutes on medium heat. Delicately place croissant halves on to griddle and cook each side for approximately 3 minutes (or until golden brown). Remove from heat and plate for service. Top each half with a dollop of brown-sugar butter (recipe below), a dusting of powdered sugar, and maple syrup.

Recipe: Brown-sugar butter

Ingredients (makes 2-4 servings):

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
Place both ingredients in a small, shallow, microwave-safe bowl. Cover loosely with a paper napkin/towel and microwave for 20-30 seconds, or until butter appears spreadable (NOT melted). The consistency should resemble cake icing.
Remove from microwave and stir until smooth and blended. Great for topping on biscuits, muffins, French toast, pancakes, toast, etc.

Recipe: Summertime Burgers & Fixin's


Happy summer, Bellies! Can you believe it’s June already? I hope that all of you are enjoying the warm weather.
Last week, I promised to post my “Memorial Day Burgers” recipe. Well, it’s been over a week since the holiday, so I’m going to rename the title to “Recipe: Summertime Burgers & Fixin's.”
If kettle-cooked potato chips sound too greasy as a burger accompaniment, check out my simple and healthy “Emeralds & Rubies” recipe (inspired by Allie’s), which can be found further below.


Recipe: Fancy-pants burgers (variation on the original that I posted in July 2008)

Ingredients (makes 6 large burgers):

  • 2 lbs fresh/thawed ground beef: I prefer 80/20 meat-to-fat ratio, though 85/15 is also OK.
  • 5.2 ounces Boursin Fine Herbs and Garlic Cheese
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 4 slices of raw or cooked bacon, chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Using your *clean* hands, thoroughly mix everything together.
Evenly form six 1-inch thick patties and place on a large plate. When finished, cover plate with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to grill (at least 1-hour).
Cook to desired interior temperature.


May I suggest the following?
Serve burger on a warm, buttered high-quality bun/roll (not the crap that comes 6-per-bag that you buy at the supermarket)
Optional burger toppings (my personal favorites):

  • Fried egg
  • Bacon
  • Tomato slice
  • Mayonnaise or homemade aioli
  • Sautéed onions (recipe below)
  • Sliced avocado
  • Comte cheese (vaguely similar to gruyere)


Recipe: Silky sautéed onions

Ingredients (makes enough to evenly top 4-6 burgers):

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 thinly sliced (or chopped, if you’re lazy) medium-sized white onion
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
In a large saucepan over medium heat, add butter. When melted, add onions and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stir frequently and sauté until onions become nearly translucent (approximately 10 minutes). Serve as a topping for burgers.


Recipe: Emeralds & Rubies (avocado & tomato "salad")

Ingredients (serves 6):

  • 3 firm and ripe avocados, sliced (The easiest way to cut an avocado is as follows: Lengthwise, slice cut the avocado in half by circling the perimeter and not cutting in to the pit. Delicately place one hand on each sliced half, and move hands in opposite directions with the same motion used to open a jar. To remove pit, use moderate force and stab sharp knife, blade-side down, horizontally in to pit. Using the handle of the knife, turn utensil counter clockwise until pit loosens. Once pit has been discarded, peel and remove avocado rind. Cut flesh in to ¼-inch slices.)
  • 1 large tomato, sliced
  • Sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
  • Olive oil (small amount needed for a drizzle)
  • ½ cup-ish fresh cilantro leaves (no stems)
On a large plate, arrange avocado and tomato slices. Top with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste. Drizzle lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle with fresh cilantro leaves. Enjoy!

CLOSED: Dinner at Philippe Chow Express


  • Cuisine: Chinese
  • Scene: Casual, small outdoor seating area, chic space
  • Occasion: 1x1/small group dining, families, lite bites and drinks (pre party), delivery/take-out
  • Price: Wok-fried beef dumplings: $8; Green Prawns: $18
  • Reservations: Via phone
  • Phone: (212) 929-8949
  • Website: http://www.philippechow.com/
  • Location: 469 6th Ave, (Btwn 11th & 12th St)


The Friday evening before Memorial Day was slightly eerie for those of us left in the city. It reminded me of the scene from the movie "Vanilla Sky" when Tom Cruise walks through Times Square sans traffic and people. Luckily, my friend Phil was also in town, so we decided to grab a bite in what would surely be a quiet night for restaurants. Philippe Chow had recently opened a small satellite of his haute and swanky 60th Street eatery, "Philippe," in our Chelsea neighborhood. Aptly named "Philippe Chow Express," Phil and I were anxious to dine in a more casual setting for a fraction of the price tag at the Upper Eastside's flagship location.

We arrived at the restaurant just shy of what would normally be considered "prime time" on a Friday evening, 7:45pm. As anticipated, Phil and I were the only patrons, minus the outdoor cafe table occupied by a couple of gents smoking cigarettes and sipping espresso.

We were greeted by a friendly hostess who informed us of the restaurant's ordering process: Read the overhead board or leather-bound menu, place your order (with the hostess), take a seat, and pay at the end of your meal. After I decided on a glass of Riesling, wok-fried beef dumplings and green prawns, Phil and I made our way to a table. "This is a nice space, don't you agree?" Phil asked after we received our wine (once seated, a waiter brings food/drink/refills). Adorned with a color palate of onyx, cherry red and gray, with textures of exposed brick and hardwood flooring, the interior was nothing short of clean and sleek; not something I would have expected from a quick-service joint.

Within 15-minutes of being seated, we received our appetizers. I eagerly took my first bite of the wok-fried beef dumplings (5/order): The skin was buttery and thin with the perfect ratio of crispy to doughy. The beef, however, was overcooked and the dipping sauce that accompanied the dumplings was offensively sour.

Shortly after our appetizer plates were cleared, Phil and I received our entrees. "These aren't prawns! They look more like jumbo shrimp to me. Weird." I said as I observed the green morsel on my fork. "Ew, why are the prawns green?" Phil asked. "Because of the green curry," I said, before taking my first bite, "which clearly does nothing flavor-wise for the dish." While the carrots, water chestnuts, morels and peppers were fresh and crisp, I found the "prawns" fishy and the sauce bland.*Note* Rice comes free with entrees.

Phil and I finished our dinner with an order of red velvet cake, which happened to be the evening's special. "Red velvet cake at an Asian restaurant? Wow. This is going to be interesting," I said. Though my expectations were low, I was pleasantly surprised by how delicious and moist the cake was. But even more shocking was the mild cocoa flavor, which is exactly how this Southern treat is supposed to taste.

Do I see myself returning to Philippe Chow Express in the future? Probably not, as I found the food to be quite bland. However, if you're looking for a Chinese delivery restaurant with healthier and higher quality ingredients, this may be a great option. Though Philippe Chow Express is not a destination restaurant, I found the concept to be innovative for NYC.


Famed FroYo makes its UES debut!

Grace Notes NYC's Fro-Yolympics  
As if we needed another reason to love 10021?
If the name “40 Carrots” doesn’t ring a bell, perhaps the word “Bloomingdales” will: The “exclusive” frozen yogurt made famous at Bloomingdales’ 40 Carrots Restaurant is now available at the Upper Eastside’s fabulous Butterfield Market. Lookout, Pinkberry!