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Welcome to The Lunch Belle, a NYC based food and travel website that views various dining scenes and destinations through the lens - and belly - of a highly opinionated thirty-something.

xoxo, 

Lindsay

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Thursday
Sep272007

Dinner at 15 East, 9/27/07

For a couple of weeks now, my friend, Linda, and I had plans to attend a Tory Burch event last night (Thursday, September 27th) from 6:00-8:00 p.m. We decided to make "a night of it" and planned to grab some dinner afterwards. After debating about which cuisine we'd prefer, we chose sushi. I suggested we try 15 East, after reading the rave reviews on chowhound.com. 15 East is located on 15th Street between Union Square and 5th Avenue. If you blink, you'll miss the restaurant. Upon entering the space, the sushi bar is to your right. This area is bright, with an immaculately clean and shiny white tiled background. What seems like a very sterile room is illuminated by the bright colors of the fresh fish and the interaction between the sushi chefs and their patrons. We had reservations for 8:30 p.m., but arrived at the restaurant much earlier. The hostess was very accommodating and sat us immediately, despite our forty-five minute early arrival. (Upon making my reservations a couple of days prior, I was asked whether I wanted to sit at the sushi bar, or in the main dining room. I asked the reservationist which area she preferred, and she insisted that since it would be our first time dining at 15 East, we be seated in the main dining room.) The main dining room at 15 East is modern, yet elegant with high ceilings, large windows with sheer white panels, slate grey walls with beautiful white crown molding, and perfectly dim lighting.

Upon being seated, my friend and I ordered drinks; she had a sake, and I had the hot buckwheat tea. The menu is of good size with a lot of variety, both raw and cooked items. We decided to share an order of the house-made soba noodles with the duck and scallion broth. For our mains, she ordered a roll and sushi and I ordered a tuna roll and a couple of pieces of hamachi.

The amuse bouche of the evening, pumpkin tofu, arrived in a soup bowl. The morsel resembled a perfectly squared piece of an orange pate d' fruit with a white-chocolate-covered almond on the top. I ate the amuse in one bite. The pumpkin portion was gelatinous in texture and what resembled a white-chocolate-covered almond was firm in texture. The flavor was smoky, sweet and salty, finished with a firm "crunch" from what I still can't figure out what the topping was.

About ten minutes later, our soba noodles arrived. The cold buckwheat noodles paired with the steaming hot, salty, smoky broth was fantastic; each bite made better with the delicate crunch of the scallions and the thinly sliced gamey duck. Our sushi and rolls arrived next. My hamachi was extremely fresh, firm, buttery and creamy. The tuna roll I ordered was so simple and delicious; the only components being seaweed, wonderful sushi rice, fresh fish and wasabi. I've had so many rolls with bad sushi rice, old fish and too many ingredients for something that should be so simple....and then the dessert menu arrived. Today, I'm hating myself for being "good." This dessert menu was perhaps one of the most appealing that I've seen; i.e. Rice Pudding Tempura A La Mode and a Passion Fruit Pudding. There's no question...I must order dessert next time!

Overall, my experience at 15 East was great. The food was fresh, the service was great and the atmosphere was lovely. I will definitely be returning soon.

Saturday
Sep222007

Lunch at Grand Sichuan Eastern, 9/22/07

Being bad NEVER tasted this good. Picture it...Saturday, September 22, the Jewish day of atonement (a.k.a. Yom Kippur). I'd stopped eating the night before around 7 p.m. with the intention of fasting for the next twenty-four hours. I woke up on Saturday morning feeling confident that I could make it to 7 p.m. that evening without a bite of food. A friend and I went to services around 11 a.m.; after doing some much needed praying, we went outside to take a break. He'd received a text message from a coworker telling him to come over and meet him at Grand Sichuan Eastern. We decided to meet up, but would be strong in the midst of temptation and NOT eat a thing. After all, we were going there to visit with a friend...a friend who just so happened to be at a restaurant.

Saturday turned in to a rainy mess. After dodging the storm and racing from window over-hang to window over-hang, we finally reached Grand Sichuan Eastern. My first impression of the restaurant: small, clean and modern with our table being the only non-Chinese diners. This was one of the first times in my life that I've gone to a Chinese restaurant where the rest of the crowd DID NOT look exactly like me. My God, I love New York! What a welcome change from Texas.After trotting through rain puddles and shivering from my drenched outfit, I'd worked up quite an appetite. I decided to give in (God help me, for I've truly committed the ultimate Yom Kippur sin) and order lunch, as did my friend. Every thing we ordered was fantastic: soup dumplings, egg drop soup, sliced fish in red sauce, beef & broccoli, sesame chicken and the shrimp special. I'd never had soup dumplings before, but now I'm hooked. A soup dumpling is basically what it sounds like; a dumpling with a "soupy" interior. One has to be very careful when consuming a soup dumpling, because if you're not careful, you could hurt yourself (with a hot broth explosion in your mouth), or someone else (with a hot broth explosion directed at their face). The sliced fish in red sauce and the shrimp were probably my favorite dishes. Both were extremely fresh and had the right texture and balance of spices. The beef and broccoli was your hum-drum, run-of-the-mill Americanized Chinese food that tastes the same at every Chinese restaurant from New York City to Amarillo, Texas; but the sesame chicken at this restaurant was of much higher-quality than the versions I was used to: chunks of golden, white breast meat that was bathed in a perfectly sweet and tangy sauce.

To make a long story short, I believe that if you're one of, if not the only English speaking customer at a non-English-speaking ethnic restaurant, you're probably in for a fantastic dining adventure. My favorite part of this lunch was when we first arrived and were placing our order (I'd been craving an egg roll), and when I proceeded to order an egg roll, the waitress looked at me like I had five heads and ten eyes, then began laughing (as did the entire restaurant).God, I love New York. I feel so blessed to live in this amazing city. I highly recommend Grand Sichuan Eastern...a wonderful meal from start to finish. Being bad NEVER tasted this good!

Wednesday
Sep192007

CLOSED: Dinner...And brunch at The Nolita House, 9/07

I feel like it's always so hard to make plans for an after-work drink or dinner with friends in this city. Everyone is so busy and has so many things going on in their lives. So when one of my most busy and successful fashionista friends, Megan, was able to grab dinner with me last night, I was elated.

In honor of Megan's birthday (which was actually over the past weekend), we decided to have dinner at The Nolita House. Neither of us had been before, but we were both excited about what we'd seen on the menu via the website. Upon arriving at The Nolita House, we were seated immediately. After Megan and I caught up a bit and perused the menu, we decided to order: Hefeweizen beer (two-for-one Happy Hour special!), corn fritters, macaroni and cheese, and the wild mushroom papparedelle pasta. The corn fritters were fantastic, and honestly, I cannot stop thinking about them. An order of fritters comes with about five one-and-one-half-inch long treats that look similar to mini footballs. Crispy and golden on the outside, the fritters ooze with creamy, corny, cheesy goodness on the inside. We could not have been happier with this appetite teaser...until our main dishes arrived. The macaroni and cheese is served in a skillet with a salad on the side. The noodles weren't your everyday elbow macaroni noodles, but more of a rotini noodle swimming in the most rich, delectable cheese sauce I've had in a long time. Every creamy bite had a nice crunch from the golden brown bread-crumb crust/topping. The wild mushroom pappardelle was one of the best pasta dishes I've had in Manhattan. The pasta was HOMEMADE (which I appreciate so much), with chunks of wild mushroom, artichoke, red peppers and pine nuts throughout, and finished with a light cream sauce. The Nolita House is a wonderful restaurant and bar that really shines in every department. I can't say enough about the service, happy hour specials and food. Two thumbs up!!

9/23/07

I'd be a liar if I said that going to the same restaurant twice in one week is normal behavior for me. So on Sunday, September 23rd, I found myself at The Nolita House, once again. My favorite dining companion, Emily, and I arrived for brunch around 12:30. The restaurant was packed, but we were able to find two stools to sit at while we waited for a table (which I found to be a welcome relief; nine times out of ten, I end up standing during my thirty-minute table wait). About twenty-minutes later, Emily and I were seated. The brunch menu at The Nolita House is quite extensive; from omelettes, French toast and pancakes, to croque monsieur's and everything in between.

To our pleasant surprise, there was a live jazz band playing at the restaurant. The music was fantastic, and most importantly, not too loud. After perusing the menu and debriefing Emily on The Nolita House's famous mac n' cheese, we each ordered an omelette and split a side order of the mac.

For my omelette, I requested egg whites with: avocado, locally made sausage, caramelized onions and Brie cheese. My order also came with mixed greens, homemade herbed fries and a fresh-squeezed orange juice. I must say that this is one of the best omelettes I've had. The ingredients were impeccably fresh and I was particularly impressed that the buttery avocado chunks and brie cheese didn't overpower the omelette with a greasy aftertaste. Each bite was made more delicious when paired with the delicately seasoned (I'm guessing it was rosemary) herbed fries.

Emily enjoyed her breakfast, as well. She seemed to be very impressed by the mac n' cheese, as we devoured the entire dish and fork-fought for the last bite. The Nolita House wins again!

Friday
Sep142007

I just don't get it!? 9/14/07

Barely forty-eight hours after my previous "I just don't get it!?" experience, it happened again! After a friend of mine had to cancel dinner plans with me on Thursday night, she felt obligated to make it up to me on Friday evening. We decided to get a couple of girls together after work and eat dinner at La Palapa (St. Mark's location). I couldn't wait for an ice cold margarita and some really good gossip.I'll make this one short and sweet. What is the deal with Mexican restaurants CHARGING customers for chips and salsa? I just don't get it!? I would be more understanding if one was only having drinks at the bar and not eating a meal; but I'm infuriated that I have to pay an additional price for chips and salsa when I'm already paying a premium for Mexican food in Manhattan! As if that weren't bad enough, my cheese enchiladas were stuffed with un-melted queso fresco that had the consistency of cottage cheese. My girlfriend also complained that her fish tacos were too "fishy."Oh La Palapa, you've truly let me down!