Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Why is every out-of-towner determined to patronize good ol' Joe's Shanghai?  Sure, they have good soup dumplings (although a perfunctory Google search shows Nice Green Bo's to be better, and I think I personally prefer Grand Sichuan for their thinner skins).  The rest of their menu is definitely serviceable, but no grand jetes better than many other joints in Chinatown- lo, even your own neighborhood.  That said, I followed my L.A. friends (no chef of name or rapport would pave my route to this Pell Street dive.  I'm in no way wincing in regret, but not overtly enthusiastic either.  It's solid Chinese to sate the craving, but nothing that's gonna catalpult you.)

But Joe's has a somewhat festive conviviality about it.  Much of this stems from the no-reservation policy, so a dense throng of hungry dumpling-seekers chronically mob the entrance, providing that wait-worthy desirability effect.  We are given a number, this time #4 (a foreboding number in Chinese, sounding almost exactly like the word for "death" and superstitiously unlucky).  So with the 45 minute prospected wait time, we ducked across the street to see about foot massages to pass the time, but by the time there were empty salon chairs, our wait time had reduced itself to ten minutes, and we forewent the foot-rubs for our coveted table.  I guess four is only unlucky if you are actually Chinese.  Joe's waitstaff has the reputation of being surly and curt, but I find it to be more a smugness in the knowledge that they have what you want, and are probably profiting marvelously off of it, given the absolutely NO frills digs and service (they don't even have fortune cookies... yeah, I KNOW fortune cookies aren't authentic, but that doesn't make them any less fun.)  So we bark out our orders, always far too much food that somehow practically always all gets consumed regardless.  This time, I got to try crab dumplings, which taste almost exactly like the pork  (and seem to BE mostly pork),but with a subtle hint of ocean.
Pork is the classic, though, and one steamer basket holds eight, big, plush ones.  Two per person of any variety definitely tamp excessive appetite.  The charred green beans are a classic, slick with oil and a hint of sweet, salty soy.  They're great, but this time we went for a seasonal special of bok choy, a brothy saute of greens and garlic, leaves tender and stalks that remained gently crisp and juicy.

There are all the classics and then some, the menu extensive on both the Chinese-American and authentic Chinese offerings.  The food isn't off the charts, but I've never had a truly bad dish here, either.  We got lucky with a splendid mushroom dish: gravy slicked, meaty black mushrooms (like behemoth shiitakes) that got snatched up before I could snap a photo.  Vegetable chow mein is a saucy toss of an ingredient bonanza, and if the noodles taste a little too "spaghetti", the soy-rich sauce and bamboo shoots will put you back, if not to Shanghai proper, at least to Pell Street.  There are all sorts of stir-fries, noodles, rice-based dishes, vegetables and categories of proteins.  Orange chicken are the standard sugary nuggets- not my kind of dish to be sure, but another that of which no leftovers remained.  And that's about the bottom line of Joe's: it's got something for everyone, capable cooks, and is a NYC tourist's delight.  Now if they would only start providing fortune cookies.

9 Pell Street

Phone: 212-233-8888 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

WESTVILLE: Why Wasn't I Here Before?

Westville is four blocks from my house.  It is cheap (relatively), market-driven, lively, popular, friendly and cute.  So I ask me: why haven't I ever been here before??

Regardless, I was here last night, and it evokes a "finally" type qualifier.  Westville is not fine dining, certainly not faultless, but it's good, solid, fresh seasonal food that as long as you're in the mood for that, is really tough to have a problem with.  The lines outside for brunch (and a packed house on the night I visited), illustrate this.  Anyways, on probably the last night of the year where dining outside would be an option, we plunked down at a prime two-top on a full-moon moonlit evening, still balmy of residual summer but fall making some headway into the hyper-seasonal menu.  We took a LONG time deciding what to order.  The regular menu is long; the seasonal market daily special's menu is the same length.  Sidelong glances to our neighbor's dinners dictated that we wouldn't be ordering separate apps, mains and sides: these portions are BIG.  There are a few salads, none of which scream ingenuity, so we started off with a pile of roasted beets (given the option of walnuts vs. goat cheese, we chose fromage), steaming on a porcelain white plate, just screaming for the cheese to warm up and ease it's way between the chunks of pristine root.  Far as I could tell, they were virgin, so I who love beets, relished their inherent beetness, but the herb-flecked goat cheese rescued them from monotony.

Next up, we chose from a head-spinningly long list of market sides for a four-option plate ($14.00) and shared an entree of whole roasted trout with sweet potato fries and salad.  We followed our server's suggestion with the brussels sprouts and artichokes (which were my choices anyways) plus roasted cauliflower dijonaise (sic), and sauteed mushrooms with leeks.  The mushrooms were the best by far, a perfectly hodgepodge of woodland funghi, salty and fragrant of earth and umami.  Next, I guess I had to love the brussels sprouts, even if they were slightly underdone in their middles.   (The smaller ones were perfectly tender and nutty like a good sprout should be.)  A fugitive hunk of cauliflower from a prior diner's fumble remained on the sidewalk underneath our table, and it almost looked good enough to overhaul the Five Second rule.  So it made the cut for our #3 choice.  Alas, in reality the cauliflower was also unevenly cooked: small florets softened ideally but the bigger ones left with a little too much raw bite in the centers.  But the roasty edges hinted of pungent mustard with a nudge of sweet and the richness of a touch a mayonnaise, perhaps?  The most disappointing were the artichokes, though.  Obviously not fresh-plucked specimens, they actually tasted like canned (which are probably THE best canned vegetable there is along with corn, but still), with a bit of saline tang, quartered and haphazardly matted with parmesan.  Nothing of the rich, nutty, earthy thistle that I was expecting, especially since they had come recommended as a favorite by our waitress.  But vegephiles unite: you could easily call this plate alone dinner, especially if you opted for some of the heartier, protein-studded selections like the marinated tofu or seared plantains with cotija.   We stuck it out for a real main course, though, with the whole grilled trout, which was a big fish, this guy, sporting char marks that were no joke- the smoky, toasty flavor of fire permeated the delicate flesh to great effect, conjuring up recollections of a fresh caught rainbow cooked over open coals at a dusky campfire I may or may not have ever experienced.  Sweet potato fries were the perfect foil for it, crispy and tender with a rich, vegetal sweetness.  Good as the trout was, though, I couldn't keep my eyes off the chicken shawarma adjacent to us, which was a an overloaded platter heaped with chunks of fire-grilled chicken with a yogurty salad and stacks of pliant flatbread.  That plate could've fed two hungries alone.  A seafood burger on a Portuguese roll, a steak salad... a lot of stuff on this menu looked tempting.

We (unfortunately) skipped dessert... I looked at the daily specials listing pumpkin pie as the dessert option, which I'm not quite ready to accept in a surrender of summer.  That completely overlooked the farm-friendly pies, cobblers and sundaes on the regular menu that totally should've been explored.

I didn't follow any chef here.  (They don't even list a chef on their website.  There are three Westville locations, so probably whoever has their thumb on the menu just scripts all of them.)  If anything, I followed the farmer, or at least his dirt candy.  And I'll come back again, too, to see what these cooks can do with what the season has to offer.

246 W18th Street, New York, NY 10011
Between 7th & 8th Avenues
Phone: 212-924-2223

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Diversion: Bklyn/DUMONT

The summer weekend MTA schedules threw our transportation options a pretty giant curve by eliminating L train service, so the half-mile trek from the F to DuMont might have contributed somewhat to my experience.  My #'s 2 and 3 of dining companions arrived 45 minutes post-reservation, which (opposed to myself) the accommodating staff had nary an issue with.  When they finally got there, we were whisked off through a tiny white-washed barroom, on into a tented, heated garden with picnic tables and overgrown ivy creating a magical, unexpected treasure of a dining "room".  I almost expected to see fireflies gadding about, despite the onset of early fall.  There's nothing frou-frou here at DuMont: any frivolity is probably handed off to its sister restaurant, the formal, prix-fixe Dressler nearby.  Instead, the vibe, the food, and the service here is neighborhood-friendly, and as undemanding of your palate as it is on your wallet.

I can't remember why none of us ordered the corn soup... it smelled ethereal, smoky and spiked with jalapeno, and was recommended by the charming couple who babysat me at the bar while I waited for my guests.  But instead two of us ordered the beet salad, which was a decent starter I suppose: the beets were prime specimens for their own sake, but a cold, hard puck of pointless goat cheese rolled in chopped walnuts quite overwhelmed the little dears.  They would've been just fine on their own, buried underneath a nest of arugula and sided with juicy, mild sections of grapefruit atop a thick smear of unctuous yogurt.  Kick that crottin by the wayside (or wrap it in a napkin and filch it for a breakfast omelette tomorrow- it might perk up warmed) and enjoy the rest of the salad on its own.  Memorably better, in an I-wish-I-would've-ordered-this-but-at-least-he-let-me-try-a-bite fashion, were the fried artichokes.  Meaty at the heart and crisp at the edges, and earthy and vegetal as a good artichoke should be.  They're cribbed on a luscious bed of garlicky, lemony cream, perfectly complementing the salty, oily  thistle.  Ahh, to have ordered the artichokes....

Alas, I was somewhat redressed (on paper) with the entrees, which proffered up that favorite skate of mine, and brussels sprouts on the list of sides, to boot.  And the skate was ace, tender in its ropey way and crispy golden on the edges- not so different from those exquisite artichokes.  The dumptruck of mashed potatoes underneath, however, was not only disturbing in proportion, but garnished with a handful of misfit olives and two juicy chunks of warmed tomatoes- delicious in their own right but poorly matched with the spuds.  And the brussels sprouts "roasted with pancetta" not only weren't roasted, they had been steamed to just-crisp emerald green...  ideal if you are a haricot-verts, perhaps  (and even this is ebbing out of fashion: see Ned Ludd), but insufficient if you are a crucifer.  Instead, the oily sprouts were just short of tender, hinting of a sulfuric bitterness and riddled with morsels of bacon which, while abundant, were insufficient to mask the inadequate cooking.  They were what I might accidentally cook at home if I was short on time, whisking them off the stove prematurely, but deeming them edible in a sort of feed-focused adequacy, all the time wishing I had left 'em another minute and a half on the heat. Unsatisfactory at home, but unacceptable at any reputable restaurant. And not roasted.  At all.  You will not, however, be disappointed with the portion sizes:  the kitchen dishes out generously.  I made off with a good cup and a half of potato puree from my skate, which sauteed up nicely into little pancakes the next day.  Too bad I didn't hang onto that chevre: I could've had two meals from one.

We also received a special-of-the-day gnocchi with porcinis... that we didn't order.  Instead of graciously leaving the dish for the three of us to nibble as a mid-course, our waiter snatched it away and there was that awkward wait while our two correctly delivered dishes chilled and stagnated, and we were haunted by the heavenly perfume of the absconded porcini dish.  In the interim, we nibbled at the exceptional fries that accompanied a good, solid no-frills burger.  Big juicy patty just barely pinkish in the middle atop a toasted brioche bun, there wasn't much to complain about.  In time, entree #3 arrived, which was a special of the day: hake, baked tasty, but the appetite that had spawned awaiting its arrival obfuscated my intent to photograph it and my memory of its accoutrements.  We think it had roasted squash and broccoli romanesco, piled again atop a heap of pommes purees (don't get me wrong, they do them well enough, but doubled-up with both fishes and the sheer excess of quantity might raise a brow or two).

Now at this point, dessert was in no way necessary.  And  the food up until this point hadn't really whipped me into a frenzy of desire for what else the chef could proffer, but at the same time, my friends were from out of town, and we WERE all the way out in Brooklyn, for Heaven's sake.  We might as well see as much as it had to offer as possible, right?  And a warm berry buckle seemed fitting on an unusually cool and drizzle-threatening late summer evening.  And it was lovely, this little treasure, ripe with jammy fruit and a buttery crumb topping, lubed up by a nice scoop of traditional vanilla.  The chef amusingly adorned the ice cream with two sugary roasted pecans, giving it a somewhat fly-like animation, but none the less tasty for it.   So underneath the strings of party lights and protective tent, surrounded by a convivial din of laughter and clinking forks, DuMont really is a pretty good little neighborhood bistro.  But if you don't live in the neighborhood (regardless of the MTA's track work schedule), it's not much worth the hike out there, for food as good as you can find at a number of similar places, probably just blocks from Wherever You Live, NYC.

432 Union Avenue

Monday, October 3, 2011


If Sifty can give it a deuce, I thought it worth a trek to the Upper West Side.  More than that, though, Daniel Boulud isn't one to lead me astray, and though the expansion of his increasingly vast empire doesn't have him slinging hash much himself in any of his eponymous restaurants, he actually WAS there the night I visited.  Boulud Sud opened recently in the space Boulud originally desired for Cafe Boulud, but the deal fell through last minute.  So he opened Cafe around the corner, and when the address finally again became available, he snatched it up.  Conveniently located just south of Bar Boulud (thus, the Sud, and also a nod to the south Mediterranean influence on the menu), Boulud Sud has hit the ground running, and I have to admit my sky-high expectations based on the reviews I heard might have contributed to a heightened criticalness.

The room is subdued, verging on bland.  Ivory and taupe hues, plus glowy lighting somewhat soften the sterility of decor, but regardless there is a sense of elegance and luxury here.   There are white tablecloths in the dining room, but simple woven place mats top the bar and lounge tables.  It's just a hint shy of the poshness of Daniel, while more sophisticated than db Bistro Moderne; that said, all of Daniel's pricepoints fall within the "special occasion" category to me.

  The menu is divided into  De La Mer (fish, etc.) , Du Jardin (vegetable) and De La Ferme (meat & fowl).   Our waiter's enthusiasm for the Salade Tropezienne convinced me to start with that, but while it was a lovely tumble of crisp and juicy fennel, celery and artichoke, it obfuscated a sort of mild skordalia-esque cream bedding the vegetables that wasn't discovered until about 75% of the way through.  Without it, it was a simply dressed raw vegetable salad, but even with the addition of it didn't immediately become rave-worthy.  A saffron linguine with bottarga and razor clams proved more interesting, the spendy spice perfuming the pasta itself along with lemon, then simply tossed with the shellfish and a sprinkle of the mullet roe- but again, a solid dish without much fanfare.  

I was more impressed with the entrees, both selections from De La Mer.  Cedar grilled rouget absorbed its woody fragrance, then present on a flamboyant furl of parchment alongside baby fennel and shallots, with a spritz of piment d'espellette for kicks.   Even more flavorful was the pungent romanesco that pooled aside a slim filet of daurade cooked a la plancha upon a bed of every-so-slightly wilted arugula.
The flavor profiles here tend more robustly Mediterranean than at his other restaurants, which still hold a pretty tight French line.    A great example of this was a side of charred broccoli, stalks cooked tender and toasty topped with crispy, fried shallots, but seasoned with a peperoncini-spiked mix hinting of North Africa.
Desserts present quite the conundrum when it comes to ordering:  Tunisian-born Ghaya Oliviera might actually steal a little of Boulud's thunder with the sweets.  By far the most memorable course we had was  a peach concoction served in a highball: peak-season peaches nestled in a rich zabaglione, with rice pudding ice cream and a playful and pure retro aspic bulging with summery fruits and berries... even a gooseberry, plump and tart provided additional joy in an already exuberant pudding.  It was an appropriate finish to the evening.  The food, all of it, was good enough to make me want to return to try a greater variety.  It felt as if any disappointment was more a function of suboptimal ordering rather than culinary flaw, and inspired desire to poke around the menu to a much greater degree- to see what other treasures might be unearthed from those minimalist menu descriptions.  Which forces me to try and think what might constitute the next "special occasion"....

20 West 64th Street

tel.  1(212)595-1313



Variety is the spice of life.  And Simpson Wong pretty much rules when it comes to putting a little Asian flare out there.  Cafe Asean has been on my hit list, literally, for years.  But it's also the kind of place that has cemented itself into the infrastructure of the West Village, so I never felt any urgency to visit (just an omnipresent desire).  So when the opportunity finally presented itself (i.e.  if you want to try Tertulia, get there VERY late or VERY early...), I jumped at the chance.  I've peeked in dozens of times.  The tiny room boasts just five or so tables, a low ceiling hung with paper lanterns, and the funky perfumes of fermented fish, rich soy and steamed rice.    It doesn't take much to remove yourself from the historic streets of the Village and transplant yourself into an exotically rustic little bistro of the Mekong. 

Our server was chipper and full of smiles, if a little overwhelmed handling all the tables on his own.  But he nipped about the room taking orders and then, as defly as possible, providing steaming bowls and platters to a diverse assortment of guests.  It did take awhile, though, to get our orders in, and then for them to appear, but it sort of played into the whole lazy tropical vibe they have going on.  Also, it's no quick Chinese take-out joint; there is heart and soul in this food.

We started off with a couple of appetizers (a market special of stuffed zucchini blossoms had unfortunately already sold out.. this is another reason I like to eat earrrrly!):  a mountain of crispy calamari (the crust was exceptional, the squid a bit chewy) with a bracing dipping sauce redolent of lemongrass, vinegar and garlic, and a hearty canneloni-style dumpling filled with meaty wild mushrooms (we opted for pan-seared, but they were a touch too chewy and greasy: I'd recommend going for the steam).  

For entrees we sampled a good variety:  a meat, a chicken, a fish.  The first bite of Pai Koot (Singapore-braised spare ribs) encountered an unfortunate hunk of gristle which was initially off-putting... but a second bite (and third, fourth, fifth, ad infinitum...) proved it an anomoly.  The rest of the rack was rich, meaty and fall-off-the-bone tender, sided by a pillow of rice to sop the surplus of fragrant sauce, and smokily charred lettuce that held it's inner crunch while the edges of its leaves wilted into submission.  Of the chicken dishes, we opted for ayam panggang, which unfortunately was inhaled  by its orderer so I can only vouch for the fact that the meat was fork-tender and juicy, with a fragrant smoky char and looked sublime.  And the velocity with which is was consumed is going to have to speak for its tastiness.
Kekapis Dan Ikan filled the fish quotient: scallops and poor man's lobster (actually, I don't like that term: monkfish tastes nothing like lobster.  Crawdads should be poor man's lobster), and although it was a touch overcooked, the coconut curry, rife with trumpet mushrooms and bok choy, and  scented with ginger and saffron kept things lubricated.   Wok-fried Chinatown seasonal greens (a melange of Chinese water spinach and scapes) rounded things out vegetatively, which was similar to the post-prandial state of consciousness we were reaching.   With bellies full and a similarly replete agenda for the rest of the evening, we opted out of a real dessert in lieu of their classic Indonesian coffee, a strong, icy joe sweetened and lightened with cream.  Fortified with the hearty Asian fare and refreshed from the iced caffeine, I emerged from Cafe Asean feeling much like I had just landed back in New York after a brief vacation in the Orient: pleasantly reminded of the myriad flavors and nuances that are a little rarer in all the New American-locavore haunts that currently dominate the New York City restaurant scene.  It's nice, a little spice.

117 W. 10th St.
(Bet. 6th Ave. & Greenwich Ave.)
tel. (212) 633-0348

Friday, September 23, 2011

THE HIGHLINER (The Empire Diner)

It  would've been hard to improve upon The Empire Diner for it's sheer diner-ness.  Luckily, when the old queen lost her reign and a new hierarchy took the helm, its landmarked status preserved the shiny, chrome dining car and all its trimmings, so that all the energies on renovation and improvement went straight to the menu.  And its a good thing, too; now you can eat at The Empire and actually enjoy more than just the nostalgia.

Two chefs have come and gone, and the third appears to have settled in and brought a little pizzazz to some old diner standards.  The brunch menu holds all day, and dinner adds a few more options starting at 5pm.  I went for an early brunch, and noticed vast improvement from its prior incarnation.  Granted, the Empire would never have offered an $18.00 omelette, but then again it wouldn't have ever proffered creme fraiche and paddlefish roe, either.  It's a big omelette, fluffy, and generously sided with home fries and toast with raspberry jam.   Other omelette options include such fillings as goat cheese, bone marrow croutons and clothbound cheddar, although you could go simpler with eggs any style, biscuits and gravy or a Benedict with your choice of salmon, bacon or pork loin.  There's a lot to choose from here, even some ethnic options like Chilaquiles, which were good but could've been a tad saucier, although the wispy-cloudlike poached eggs atop were expertly done and lubed things up as they released their silky yolks.

The appetizer we ordered could easily have stood in as a light main course, as well. A raft of
buttery poached spears of asparagus braced another one of those whimsical poached eggs, the plate (although slightly oily) littered with crunchy little nuggets of minced bacon and flecked with chives.
I love a joint that offers veggies at breakfast as well, so we sampled both some sauteed greens (which turned out to be collards, more stewed than sauteed) and wild mushrooms (WAY sauteed, almost desiccated but still pretty delicious, in a greasy, salty, hang-over busting way). I didn't have a hangover, though, so I would've preferred them a little less frizzled.

All in all, I was pretty happy with The Highliner. The food is by no means destination-worthy alone, but along with the historic address, completely sufficient. I would not at all be opposed to returning for dinner, too, to sample some of their evening fare. (The steelhead and the fried chicken look appealing, as well as some of the desserts: a rootbeer float with sarsaparilla ice cream- and to find out just what in the heck is "whey meringue" on the lemon pie.) No guarantees, of course, but then again there never is. Except for that The Highliner will ALWAYS be The Empire, as long as that chrome facade gleams.

THE HIGHLINER    210 10th Ave.     (between 22nd St & 23rd St) 

                                                               (212) 206-6206

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Ellabess opened in the Nolitan hotel a few months ago, situated amongst a notoriously tumultuous thoroughfare that seems to chronically house restaurants which suffer chef upheaval, dismal reviews, or the worst:  fruition of Eater's Death Watch.  Kenmare turned club, The Village Tart tanked, and Pulino's lost its celebrity chef (although I heard, perhaps, to its advantage).  So Ellabess has her work cut out for her, although when I visited, she showed glimmers of hope.

The room itself doesn't exactly glimmer.  Floor to (high) ceiling windows form the north and east wall looking out on to Kenmare and beyond, where a steady stream of footwear can be analyzed from your dining table, since eye level is ground level to the street.  On the night I visited, humongous grey storm clouds proved their potential by unleashing a torrential downpour: which made for great viewing from the tranquil dining room.  Big, glowy orbs struggle to illuminate, but there remains a bit of a dank, cement feel throughout the room.  Our server was incongruously bright and chipper, though, which softened the vibe substantially.

And I have to stay, things started off strong.  A creamy corn soup studded with enormous discs of summer truffle would prove to make everything else pale in comparison.  It was light in texture but rich in pure corn flavor.  And a market vegetable salad was leaps and bounds better than it should have, given its generic description.  If I hadn't have seen another table order it, I would've written it off as a tumble of standard mixed greens with a little cheese; instead arrived a gorgeous cornucopia of  leaves, flowers, and vegetables both dainty and hearty,  daubed with unctuous knobs of creamy ricotta.  Sauteed sea scallops toed that same line of excellence, three hulking specimens crusted golden atop a pile of Sicilian-style agrodolce of roasted little cauliflorettes and raisins.

Entrees demarcated a slide downhill, however.  Although this could have been poor ordering: one entree we selected was literally just disgusting.  The salmon cooked sous-vide with blueberries, shiitakes and juniper lamb jus sounded so novel I had to try it.  And be glad I did so you can stay as far away from it as possible.  It was so bad it may have unfairly polluted the rest of my experience, but its weird, gelatinous consistency and revolting appearance were at unfortunate harbingers of the insipid globule that lie on the plate, flecked with the incongruous pairing of tasteless blueberries and miniscule shiitakes.  The shrimp may, then, have been better than I recall, but the salmon disaster really tainted the whole evening.  Trying to rally, though, I plowed through it, and the shrimp were fine and the grits okay, fingers of okra killed with breading and not much to else to really salvage things at this point.  There were four other entree options available, though, and had we bypassed that salmon for the strip/pork/chicken or bass, the entire evening may have panned out differently.  So I wouldn't write off Ellabess entirely  just for that salmon catastrophe.  Hopefully it is even off the menu by now.

Desserts took a more positive turn, as sugar/fat/flour so often does.   The best was the waffle souffle: a sweet little pot of fluffy mapley goodness, studded with candied pecans for crunch and a scoop of maple ice cream aside.  This is the ultimate breakfast-for-dessert concoction, and for sweet tooths could even serve vice-versa, paired maybe with a nice fruit compote instead of ice cream.  The peach cobbler sundae was disappointingly not at a cobbler at all, but ginger roasted fruit in a cookie tuile.  And the tuile was a little too pliant, and its peaches  a bit starchy, but with a crumble of cornmeal streusel and served a la mode, it was still mostly tasty.  The dessert  that jumped out at me most from the menu, though, was the clafouti, strictly because of my rhubarb obsession.  And that compote of pie fruit stewed just long enough for the chunks to remain intact and a bit of signature pucker,  along with the sweet corn ice cream, was flawless.  The clafouti itself?  Eh.  I kind of picked out the chunks of rhubarb from the cakey crust, but much of  my pickiness had to do with having long past reached a decidedly sufficient level of fullness.

All in all, Ellabess shows a little more promise than have her cohorts nearby.  Only time will tell if she can supersede the jinx.  The name comes from an infantilized pronunciation of the street upon which she resides, but unless hotel guests provide a steady enough patronage, she's going to have to pull up her big girl pants to strengthen her virtues and out-grow the weaknesses.

153 Elizabeth Street (at Kenmare) 212.925.5559