Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Bits and Morsels goes to a tavern and a casa

The Black Label Burger at Minetta Tavern. A selection of prime dry-aged beef cuts with caramelized onions and pommes frites.
Boy, do I have a cure for those Sunday night blues. This past Sunday, I went to see Broadway's “Million Dollar Quartet”. It’s a fresh and upbeat show about the day in 1956 when Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins held a jam session at Sun Records in Memphis, TN.

Going to theater on Sunday nights is a pleasure. With hardly any traffic and an earlier curtain time, you have the luxury of a leisurely dinner following the show, rather than rushing through a pre-theatre dinner. After the show, we headed down to Minetta Tavern for dinner (named for Minetta Brook, which ran southwest from 23rd Street to the Hudson River).
Minetta Tavern originally opened in 1937. This past year, restaurateur Keith McNally renovated it and reopened it. Like his other restaurants, it’s quite a scene and reservations are usually tough to get on short notice, so call in advance.

The bar area is in the front, and the dining room in the back. We arrived at 9PM even though our reservation wasn't until 9:30. They were wholly accommodating, and instead of being told to wait at the bar, they even set a table for us. A delightful surprise coming from a restaurant as popular as Minetta Tavern.
The bar area. The dining room is in back.
The dining area.
The food: you must order the seriously juicy Black Label hamburger, which is made with dry-aged Pat La Frieda beef. Yes, $26 is a bit pricey, but my dinner date said it was up there with the best burgers she has eaten. The burger comes with addictive fries (perfectly crisp) and caramelized onions. For dessert: order the (un-common menu item) coconut cake. You should tell your waiter in advance that you want it, because when they run out, you're out of luck (we scored the last piece). A night that starts with a show and ends with a coconut cake on Minetta Lane should pretty much cure even the worst Sunday night blues.

Million Dollar Quartet
Nederlander Theatre
208 West 41st Street
Minetta Tavern
113 Macdougal Street

For a more detailed look at the Black Label Burger, click here.
A bottle of Mas De Gourgonnier from Les Baux de Provence.
The Black Label Burger. A selection of prime dry-aged beef cuts with caramelized onions and pommes frites.
Side of spinach
Clockwise from above: Cheese plate; Halibut with mushrooms and herbs; Coconut layer cake.
If you have not been to Casa Lever, take my advice and go. Casa Lever was recently opened by the team that runs Sant Ambroeus. Located in the landmarked modernist Lever House (built in 1951), the space is stunning. The service is nearly ebullient, making you feel welcome from the minute you walk in. The modern Italian fare is fresh and assertive, from the pastas to the vegetables to the fish (the Dover sole in particular).

When the check arrives, so does a plate of cookies, always a thoughtful touch. Its Midtown location helps makes it a power lunch scene. At night, as you would suspect, it’s slightly more low-key. Aside from the food, the real fun lies in the atmosphere. The private dining room overlooks the main dining room (which is decorated with 19 Andy Warhol silk screens), accommodating about 20 people. One of my favorite Warhols is that of Giorgio Armani. There is a also a harmonious outdoor space adjacent to the restaurant, intended for outdoor dining in the summer months.

Casa Lever
390 Park Avenue

Casa Lever entrance.
Lever House courtyard: "Hello Kitty" by artist Tom Sachs.
Lever House signage. Table setting/menu.
The bar.
The dining room.
Someone was celebrating a birthday in the private room, accompanied by Warhol's Giorgio Armani, 1981 and Dennis Hopper, 1971.
Aretha Franklin, 1986.
L. to r.: Rudolph Nureyev, 1975; Sylvester Stallone, 1980; Bob Colacello, 1980.
Spring salad.
Pasta arrabiata.
Artichoke salad. Bone in strip steak.
Sea bass.
Dover sole with mustard sauce.
Veal Milanese. The diner at the next table said it's his favorite veal milanese in the city. A must — a cappuccino.
Hazelnut sponge, hazelnut wafer, and gianduia.
One of the many ways to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Earth Day is to go to Il Buco for lunch. From April 19-21, they will be offering a 15% discount and donating the equivalent amount to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Il Buco
47 Bond Street

Sabra, whose product line includes dips, appetizers and spreads, is moving from Queens to Richmond, VA. I’m a fan of their hummus and it’s always on hand in my fridge as a dip, especially for vegetables. They are the largest hummus manufacturer in the world, and they have simply outgrown their space in Queens. 154 employees will be affected by the move. [Crain's]

While I do love New York's sidewalk cafes
and dining al fresco, it is not always the best option. Yes, it’s great to soak up the sun and watch the passing parade, but smelly garbage and incessant construction ain't worth it. [NY Post]

If you are interested in what New York Senator Chuck Schumer eats, check out this article. “The Schumwich” is made of roast beef, peppers and extra pickles. He is hyper-sensitive about the "extra" pickles, to the point that he even questions his employees on the subject. [NY Post]

Until we eat again,
Jordana Z.

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