Welcome

Welcome to The Lunch Belle, a NYC based food, travel, and hospitality consulting services website!  I'm glad you're here.

xoxo, 

Lindsay

Search this site
Login
Contributions & affiliations

Tabelog Reviewer TheLunchBelle

 

 

My delicious calendar
  • 6/20-6/23: Milwaukee
  • 6/28-7/7: Turkey & Greece
  • 7/17: Lionel Richie concert
  • 7/20: Rockaway Soiree
  • 8/10-8/19: LA & San Diego
  • 8/31-9/2: Nantucket

Need more streamlined advice?  Shoot me an email with your specific requests:  Lindsay@TheLunchBelle.com.

Entries in RIP: NYC restaurant cemetary (79)

Wednesday
Oct242012

Dinner at Tertulia

*This restaurant has since closed
  • Restaurant  Tertulia
  • Cuisine  Spanish, tapas
  • Location  359 6th Avenue (at Washington Place), Manhattan
  • Phone  646-559-9909
  • Directions  Hopstop
  • Atmosphere  warm, intimate
  • Attire  smart-casual
  • Ideal for  1x1, small groups, foodies, date night, small plates, outdoor dining area, dog-friendly
  • Price  moderate
  • Tertulia on Urbanspoon

"Cec, the choice is yours.  After all, we're celebrating *your* birthday." I replied, via email.  "Tell me where YOU want to eat."  It was a toss-up between Red Farm (for a unique spin on Chinese/dim sum) or Tertulia.  And, to be 100% honest, my fingers and toes were crossed in the hopes that Ceci would choose Red Farm.  I mean, Spanish food is just so...boring.  There, I said it.  And tapas?  The word, "tapas," alone, just pisses me off.  The last time I had "tapas," I was on a super romantic date with a guy that, actually, I really liked.  And, poof!  Just a few weeks later, we were done-zo.  So, yeah, aside from the word being annoying, I also associate "tapas" with heartache. 

"OK, so I've decided." Ceci exclaimed, "I choose Tertulia!"  Sigh.  On the Friday afternoon prior to our date, I spent what seemed like hours scrutinizing Tertulia's dinner menu, wondering a) if the restaurant had a full bar, and b) if dainty little tapas even had enough sustenance to fill me up.  Only time would tell...

Although Friday was rainy and dreary, the clouds seem to part the moment I arrived at TertuliaGo figure.  After receiving the decent margarita that I ordered while awaiting Ceci's arrival, I informed the hostess that there would be two of us.  "Just let me know when your guest is here," she said.  

When Ceci arrived, the hostess advised that the current wait time was an hour.  I gasped.  "But what about outside?  I see people eating out there," Ceci replied.  Luckily, due to a fickle forecast and trepidatious diners, there was an outdoor two-top with our names on it...

Table setting, margaritaDrink #2:  Apple cider sangria

Although not as sweet as I would have preferred, this cocktail was chock-full of flavor, courtesy of the apple and cinnamon infusion.  Each sip perfectly embodied the crisp, autumn season upon us.

In order to sample as many dishes as our stomachs would allow, Ceci and I chose to split multiple plates/tapas:

Langostinos A La Brasa (grilled Mediterranean prawns)

Although the menu described them as grilled, the prawns appeared and tasted as if they were steamed.  While relatively bland on their own, the grilled, halved lemon and garlic aioli accompaniments set the prawns ablaze with flavor.   

Croquetas de Jamon Iberico (Iberico ham croquettes)

Served atop smudges of sweet membrillo were three golden, golf ball-sized Iberico ham croquettes.  Enveloped by an exterior of crunchy fried breadcrumbs, each bite revealed a warm, molten cheese core that was dotted with salty bits of ham.

Ceci and I fell in love with these savory morsels. 

Ensalada de Otono (Autumn salad of kale, smoked egg, wild mushrooms, squash, pepitas, and Iberico ham)

Dense leaves of lightly-dressed kale greens were tossed with wild mushrooms, sliced butternut squash, pepitas - and crowned with ribbons of Iberico ham and a poached, smoked egg.

From the looks of it, alone, I was surprised by how much I actually enjoyed this salad.  Ceci allowed me to pierce the egg, whose yolk gently trickled down the kale leaves.  The bouquet of textures - silky/smooth ham, meaty mushrooms, supple squash, crunchy pepitas, and the egg - was truly invigorating. 

All in all, a brilliant and unique twist on composed greens.

Brussels Sprouts

Unfortunately, this dish is not listed on the restaurant's online menu, so I can only guess/assume its exact ingredients and how it was prepared

Halved and quartered Brussels sprouts arrived in a hot sautee pan (in which, I assume, they were cooked).  Texturally, they hinted at having been both pan-fried and roasted.  Heavily seasoned, the flavors were exotic and aromatic, with notes of cumin and, perhaps, some paprika.  Chunks of pork belly added a subtle smokiness.

Evening's special paella

Instead of the traditional rice base, this paella was composed of short angel-hair noodles.  Artichoke heart quarters, briny clams, and handmade sausage completed the dish. 

While I found the flavor of the clams verging on offensive, I absolutely loved the garlicky, house-made sausage and that crunchy "crust" that formed on the bottom of the skillet, a.k.a. "socarrat."  Aside from the clams, my only other complaint would be the sheer size of the paella:  It was tiny.   And it was also $38.  Gasp!

...

To conclude:  Tertulia was absolutely fantastic!  I would recommend this restaurant to anyone who appreciates unique and complex flavors, and portions that are un-American in size.  In other words, you won't leave the restaurant feeling as if you consumed a cow. 

I was, and still am, surprised by how much I actually enjoyed - and embraced - Tertulia's twist on Spanish cuisine, considering my disdain and romantic stigma surrounding "tapas."  In fact, I look forward to returning soon for brunch!

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle 

Tuesday
Sep182012

Celebrating Wong's 1st anniversary with $9 cocktails & Gael Greene

*NOTE: This restaurant has since closed.*

I was thrilled when Hollywood invited me to join her and her husband, plus two of our other couples friends for Wong's First Anniversary Whole Hog Roast.  Gosh, I'm such an exemplary Jew...

For $38 (Including tax and a service fee), we enjoyed a multi-course, pig-centric meal.  Added bonus?  $9 specialty cocktails.  Look, I realize that $9 for a drink may sound pricey to those of you outside of the five boroughs but, sadly, that's quite a steal for us locals.  Or suckers that pay too much for everything.  Whatever you'd like to coin us...

Despite the fact that we would not be sampling any of Wong's daily menu items, I was really looking forward to this large format meal.  There was just something about the restaurant's casual, yet sophisticated, space that made me want to linger.  I especially got a kick out of the chairs...They reminded me of those from grammar school.  Perhaps it was those chairs, coupled with the long, communal tables that resembled desks, that really evoked the whole "being in a classroom" thing.  Only this was a classroom where you could actually talk to your friends without getting scolded...and drink.  A lot.

Source: wong new york dot comI whetted my palate with an excellent Tamarind Margarita (...that tasted even better at $9/glass).  Rimmed with a blend of black sesame seeds, tamarind, and salt, an "old fashioned" glass was filled to the brim with this fragrant, exotic take on a traditional favorite.

Tamarind MargaritaThe first course we received was the Pig Ear Salad.  While I did take a lovely picture (ahem, see below), there was no way in hell that I was going to devour this dish.  I took one bite and spit the ear out.  It's not any fault of the kitchen/chef, I'm just not a big "offal" fan.  And I guess I draw the line at pig ears.  Sorry, y'all.  But, please, do enjoy that pretty photo!  Oh, and make sure to note the white "stripes" in each noodle-looking thing - that's cartilage!! 

Pig Ear SaladJust as I was about to start eating my chopsticks from hunger pangs, something arrived that warmed my picky little heart:  Scallion Pancakes

Are all scallion pancakes made with rice flour?  Because these were greasier than most - along the same vein as Korean pancakes.  Don't worry, it's not like that stopped me from eating my portion - and then ordering a second helping.  Laced with plenty of melted scallion bits, the 'cakes were accompanied by soy sauce for dipping/dunking purposes.    

Scallion PancakesThe next dish to arrive was the Dan Dan Noodles.  One of my most favorite things in the entire world...When prepared properly, of course. 

Wong's version was constructed with ultra-thin ramen noodles.  By "ultra-thin," I mean thinner than the noodles I've seen in most versions of Dan Dan - as in vermicelli-thin.  Anyways, the gristle-free ground pork, crunchy scallions, and tangy - but not spicy - vinaigrette were fantastic and incredibly flavorful when combined. 

And, come on, you already know that we ordered two more bowls of this deliciousness...

Dan Dan NoodlesAs if I hadn't already gorged on enough starch, the next item to arrive was the Fried Rice

Moist, yet dotted with crunchy kernels, the buttery rice was chock-full of Chinese sausage and sauteed green onions.

Fried RiceFor our "vegetable course," we received some sort of bitter green and baked squash/gourd. 

I found the greens to have an overwhelmingly unpleasant rotten-fish taste.  But my friends absolutely loved them and could not stop raving!

The baked squash/gourd, in my opinion, felt more like an afterthought. 

I give this course an overall "meh."

Bitter, fishy greensBaked squash/gourdAnd......drumroll please......the Roast Pig

The seven of us were initially (read "initially") presented with two roasted pork-topped plates; one for each side of the table.  Since I'm not big on gristle and/or spitting fatty bits in to my napkin, I didn't eat too much of the swine.  However, I did enjoy a couple of bites.  The rest of the table, on the other hand, went "hog wild" and ordered more plates.

Just when I was about to relieve the top button of my jeans, Julie gasped, "OMG you guys! (cough, point, cough) Gael Greene just walked in!" 

...You bet your ass we got a picture with her!

Hollywood, Jules, Gael, me, and MarysaAlthough a bit startled by our approach, Ms. Greene was gracious and seemed like a very nice woman.  She even handed us 'post cards' advertising her newest books, which she claimed were "very similar to 50 Shades of Grey."  Meowwww!

Just when we thought our night could not get any sweeter, dessert was served:  Nectarine Financier topped with Pork Ice Cream

Buttery, mildly sweet, dense, yet moist at the exact same time, the financier was divine.  I wanted another, in fact. 

Prior to taking my first hesitant spoonful, the pork ice cream was very intimidating.  However, it revealed that it was only kissed by the slightest pork-y essense (smoky and earthy).  Nothing offensive or overwhelming in the least.

Nectarine Financier, Pork Ice CreamWhat a fun, affordable, delicious, and star-studded evening we enjoyed together at Wong!  Hey, if it's good enough for Gael Greene...

...

Wong

7 Cornelia Street, NYC 10014

Ph: 212-989-3399

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

Wednesday
Aug292012

Lucy + Henry's doggie brunch date at Vero

*NOTE: This restaurant has since closed.*
  • Restaurant  Vero
  • Cuisine  American, wine bar
  • Location  1004 2nd Avenue (at 53rd Street), Manhattan
  • Phone  212-935-3530
  • Directions  Hopstop
  • Atmosphere  indoor/outdoor seating, dim, casual
  • Attire  asual
  • Ideal for  small group dining, 1x1
  • Price  affordable - moderate

You know, I'm still getting used to this whole 'having a dog' thing.  Especially when it comes to dining out with Lucy in tow...

As packed as my work and social schedule may be, I try to include Miss Lucy (my 4.5 lb. Maltese puppy) in as many of my outings as possible.  While she can't exactly tag along to the office or the gym, I'm always in search of restaurants and bars that are "dog friendly."  But, even in a city that's as pet-forward as NYC, you'd be surprised by how many establishments - *with* outdoor dining space, mind you - do not allow dogs and/or make it nearly impossible to have your pooch in tow.  Take, for example, last Sunday, when I was trying to find a spot for an impromptu brunch with my girlfriends.  Of course, there was the option to not include Lucy and Henry (Nicole's puppy) in our plans, but we wanted them around; plus, they had not yet met!  Once that detail was decided upon, it was time to find a restaurant.  With outdoor dining.  That was dog-friendly.  Trust me, folks, it's a lot harder than it sounds...

You'd think that an amazing resource like Menupages would have a search filter, you know, among random crap like "fireplace" and "raw bar," for something as important as "dog friendly."  Nope, they don't.  And, if you do a quick Google search for "dog friendly dining nyc," not too many familiar sites are returned.  So, just as I did in the pre-Menupages days, I got on the phone:  "Hi, I see that you have outdoor dining.  Do you allow leashed dogs on your patio?"  Of the five restaurants I called, three were quick to say "no."  That left us with the choice of either Dos Caminos or La MangeoireWhat?  Nicole lives in Midtown East.  We chose the latter.

Nicole and I, plus our dogs, were the first to arrive.  I handed over Lucy's leash and told her to watch the dogs while I inquired about a table.  "Sorry ma'am, nothing will be available for about 45-minutes," the snobby host said, as he simultaneously looked me up and down.  When I pointed to an empty two-top, suggesting that we could just pull up another chair for our third, he rolled his eyes, told me to hold on a sec, and ran over to ask his manager if that would be OK.  "No!  No ma'am.  Zat weel not wek.  Too small," barked the manager, in his strong French accent.  So, there we were, stranded on the corner of 2nd Avenue.  Famished.  Without a plan or destination. 

By the time Elena arrived, Nicole and I had already begun strategizing.  "I mean, we could walk over to Dos Caminos," she said.  "But what about this place?"  We were the first three customers to arrive at Vero on Sunday, around 12:15pm.  The hostess/server told us that we could sit wherever we'd like outdoors, and that the dogs were fine so long as they were on the outside of the fenced-in dining patio.  We chose a four-top that was further east of 2nd Avenue, so that the pups would not be in the midst of heavy foot traffic and congestion. 

I'm not gonna' lie:  Upon first impression, Vero just seemed like another yuppy, Preppie Killer-type of neighborhood bar.  That just so happened to serve food.  And brunch!  To be 100% honest, I was pretty frightened about the outcome of the meal.  I mean, what if it was the type of place where the chef cooked and smoked at the same time?  Would I catch some horrific bout of food poisoning?  Would there be a pube in my scrambled eggs?  OK, I'm being *really* dramatic, but I just wasn't thrilled about brunching here.  And, ya, I am a food snob.  So shut up.

My fears were slowly put to ease from the moment that I received my perfectly-executed margarita.  While perusing the surprisingly intriguing brunch offerings on Vero's menu. 

Chock-full of tart, fresh lime juice and rimmed with enough salt to cure a pork shoulder (just how I like it!), my cocktail was neither too potent or too sweet. 

Funny enough, the brunch entree that all three of us ordered was the Lobster Benedict.   

Served atop a long, rectangular plate were two lightly toasted English muffin halves, stacked with fresh, ripe slices of avocado - ample pieces of lobster claw meat - and a perfectly-poached egg crowned with a thin Hollandaise sauce.  Separating the two English muffin halves was a portion of chunky, lightly smashed breakfast potato "casserole." 

As if the sight of this dish, alone, weren't sexy enough, it tasted just as appealing.  First of all, I appreciated the fact that the English muffin halves weren't toasted to an annoying, un-cuttable crisp.  The avocado slices were at their peak of ripeness, evoking the most creamy, buttery texture and delicate flavor.  The lobster meat, combined with the poached egg and Hollandaise sauce, was quite the flavor trinity.  So rich and luxurious.  Sophisticated, yet so fresh and summery.  And, truth be told, I loved the potato casserole *almost* as much as the Benedict! 

From the dog-friendly environment and the affordability of the food/drink, to the friendly service and surprisingly tasty offerings, I was really pleased with my experience at Vero.  Now, would I go out of my way, from my hood in/around Chelsea, for a meal there?  No.  But if I were in the area again - with or without Lucy - I would certainly consider Vero for a yummy brunch.  And margarita(s)!

A big "thank you" to the staff for not being a-holes to my friends and our dogs.

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

Thursday
Aug232012

Press dinner at Mint

 *NOTE: This restaurant has since closed.* 

  • Restaurant  Mint
  • Cuisine  regional Indian
  • Location  150 E. 50th Street (between Lexington & 3rd Avenues), Manhattan
  • Phone  212-644-8888
  • Directions  Hopstop
  • Atmosphere  spacious, sophisticated, tastefully colorful
  • Attire  smart casual
  • Ideal for  small to medium-sized group dining, 1x1, happy hour, business lunches/dinners, private events
  • Price  moderate

Indian cuisine is definitely one of my "top 5 favorites."  I mean, what's not to love?  Each meal is centered around delicious breads and white rice.  And, for those of you who have been on this site for a while now, you are well aware of what a raging carb-o-holic I am.   So, you can imagine my elation when I was invited to attend a press dinner at Mint, a "regional Indian" in Midtown East.

I arrived at Mint just shy of our 7pm reservation.  Susan, the PR representative, and a gentleman from another media outlet were already seated at the bar - sipping on a glass of wine - awaiting my and the other three diner's arrivals. 

After I received my glass of Sancerre, we were led from the bar to our table in the dining room.

In staying true to its name, the restaurant's interior space is accented with soft mint hues in the form of mood lighting, plus leather and fabric-upholstered banquettes and chairs.  Mahogany tables are illuminated by twinkling votive candles and overhead drum lamps wrapped in red, orange, and fuchsia-colored silk.

After the remaining three guests arrived and our party was complete, Susan introduced us to one another and explained that we would be dining "family style." 

Appetizer course

Vegetable Samosa  These crispy, golden turnovers - nearly bursting at the seam with smashed potatoes and peas - looked much sexier than they tasted.  While there was nothing fundamentally wrong with them, I found the fluffy potato interior to be under-seasoned.  Luckily, the samosa was accompanied by a duo of dipping sauces that cured its flavor-blues:  Sweet tamarind and coriander.

Chilly Fish  Strips of battered sea bass, plus fresh onions and bell peppers, came tossed in a spicy, red sweet and sour-type of sauce.  Style-wise, imagine a fiery version of American Chinese-style sweet and sour chicken.  This dish was a hit with the entire table, as the sea bass was incredibly fresh and flaky.  The sauce, while spicy, did not overwhelm.

Bombay Masala Pao  While the menu describes this as "A special blend of tomato, herbs and spices served on bread," the best way for me to explain this dish would simply be, "an Indian twist on pizza, sans cheese."  I'm not sure of the type of bread used as the foundation, but it was incredibly soft and light.  Almost to the point where I wondered how the dense tomato topping did not seep through.  It certainly was unique, flavorful, and delicious. 

Chicken Malai Kabab  Of every dish that we sampled over the course of the evening, this was probably my favorite.  Which says a lot, since I rarely order or even eat chicken!  Chunks of white breast meat - having marinated for hours in a mixture of yogurt (this promotes tenderness) and spices - were grilled to perfection and paired with a simple side salad and lemon wedge.

Aloo Methi Tikki  This dish embodies why I love Indian food so much.  Flavor, flavor, and more flavor!  Served atop a bed of Channa Masala (chickpeas cooked in a tomato and onion sauce) were, what I would describe as, "Indian hushpuppies," that were made from potato and fenugreek.  I loved how the "hushpuppies" paired, both in flavor and texture, with the Channa Masala.

Dinner Course

Fish Tikka Masala  This dish was another personal and table favorite.  Small filets of fresh, white seabass were basted with a fenugreek-flavored tomato sauce and grilled in the tandoori oven.  Having previously only sampled "Chicken Tikka Masala," I found this version to be brilliant and much more preferable.

Chicken Tikka Masala  Cooked in the same fenugreek-flavored tomato sauce as the Fish Tikka, the difference with this particular preparation was that the chunks of tandoori chicken were served *in* the gravy, as opposed to being basted - then grilled - with it (the sauce).  And, frankly, I felt like the chicken got lost in all of the sauce.  Plus, the meat was a bit tough, which I chalked up to the fact that it continued to cook in the warm, bland sauce. 

Saag Paneer, Dal Makhni  While I found the paneer in the saag to be rubbery and flavorless, I fell in love with the Dal Makni.  Black lentils, simmered overnight with onion and garlic (among many other ingredients), were finished with butter and cream.  The result?  A soupy-like slurry, if you will.

Naan  It would be hard to mess up homemade naan, at least in my eyes.  This fluffy, moist, and warm, pillowy flatbread proved the perfect measure of scooping up extra sauce and/or making "burritos" out of the proteins from our entrees. 

*Note* 

  • Basmati rice also accompanied our entree courses. 
  • I am missing a picture of the lamb dish that we were served but, like the Chicken Tikka Masala, I found the meat to be overcooked by the warm gravy in which it was served.

Dessert course

Gulab Jamun  Fried dough, made from milk solids + flour, arrived swimming in a fragrant syrup of sugar, rosewater, and cardamom.  This particular version was served warm, which I really enjoyed, as many have been chilled. 

There has rarely been an order of Gulab Jamun that I did not thoroughly enjoy.  Hello!  Sugar + fried dough?  Come on, y'all, I am from the South after all...

...

Overall, I found my experience at Mint to be very enjoyable.  While there were a couple of "misses," the majority of my meal contained "hits."  I would make a special return trip for the Fish Tikka Masala and the Chicken Malai Kabab.

So, if you find yourself in Midtown East - with a hankering for Indian - then I would absolutely recommend giving Mint a whirl.

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle