ABC Cocina

38 E 19th St. New York, NY 10003(212) 677-2233 abccocinanyc.com

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If you’ve ever been to ABC Kitchen then you’ve seen how great Jean-Georges is with décor. And I’m guessing he found it so nice he used it twice, Cocina is a dead ringer.

And speaking of the dead, the irony of Cocina is that it’s sitting atop the gravesite of another great tapas restaurant, Pipa. Not sure why it didn’t last, but my remorse dissipated after one bite of their guac with grapefruit salsa. Such a simple, brilliant twist to refresh a classic.

Another great spin on a tried and true was the beet salad with “smoky” goat. It gave layers of depth to the dish that made it seem as if I was trying it again for the first time.

But the dish that stole my corazón was the huevos rancheros. Easily the best I’ve ever had. Served in a skillet, sitting on a crisp tortilla bed. Nothing too inventive about it truthfully, so I’m guessing it was just a matter of quality ingredients and proportions.

The ham and cheese fritters are also worthy of your attention, described as “ooey-gooey,” as in “Oooo-weee are those friggin’ good!”

And while I didn’t actually try it, the fish sandwich got tons of praise form the other side of the table. That said, upon my return for dinner, I did try the the crispy fish tacos and holy contrasts Batman! The use of pickled cabbage is a beacon of brightness that balances out the fried fish, keeping it from feeling heavy. Just genius. And the habanero sauce they dress it with was so on point I didn’t need to add a drop extra, which is rare for me. Definitely adding this one to my Ultimates.

But Cocina is not perfecto. The much raved about short rib taco fell way short of the fishy glory that preceded it. And speaking of fish, the fluke ceviche was chewy and bland. Probably the worst dish we ordered and worst ceviche I’ve ever had. As for the octopus, it made my taste buds scoff, especially after having just had some killer pus at Mermaid Inn a few nights before. So the comparison did not bode well for Cocina.

Service was also a touch spotty during lunch. Not knowing when to clear dishes. Hostess tried to seat us inches from the front door with nothing between us and the frigid cold outside but a velvet curtain, even though we had a reservation. But for dinner we sat at the bar and our server/bartender couldn’t have been better. Partly due to his wonderful recommendation of that fish taco and also due to his suggestion of the blood orange margarita– deadly!

In the middle of the road, I would put the Red Hibiscus sangria, which was certainly good, packed with refreshing fruit, but unfortunately not quite as packed with awesome as the margarita.

And all four desserts also fell somewhere in the mids… The tres leche was solid, but I’ve most certainly had better. The flan was also pretty good, but it’s hard for me to get too excited about flan. I’m not the biggest fan. The vanilla fritters with Mexican chocolate was done well, but the flavors just didn’t wow. The best of the quatro being the rice pudding. It’s nothing incredible, but if you like rice pudding (which I do), it is done very well.

And well done is the main takeaway at Cocina. The hits definitely outweigh the misses enough that I feel obliged to round up to four knives.

4 teeth

Torrisi Italian Specialties

250 Mulberry St. New York, NY 10012(212) 965-0955torrisinyc.com

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Torrisi is what I love about New York. These small places that don’t get noticed by their grand facades, exorbitant prices and inflated reputation. They simply keep things modest, focused and excellent. And those three words pretty much sum up our experience, with a few minor transgressions- enough to cost it a knife, but 4 knives in my book ain’t too shabby.

So, first, the décor. The place is TINY. I guess it’s ironic that I made the word “tiny” big, but it was for emphasis. There are maybe eight tables total. Half of those being two-tops. So don’t even think of having a large party here. Also, with so few tables, you can imagine that even with a reservation, you will most likely have to wait for your table, like we did.

The service, while good, was a bit odd. Our waiter was great in helping us narrow down between two wines (the one we chose was superb “Latittia Domaine Reserve 2009 Pinot Noir”), but then, when it came to ordering a few extras off of the prix fixe, he became quit rigid, and almost pushy on the lobster dish. But, we were already doing the short rib special with sweet corn polenta, on top of the crazy food-a-palooza that was already coming. And in the end, we were glad we didn’t order the lobster- of which he was asking us to order four (one for each of us), which would’ve been a colossal waste of money, because we were stuffed going into dessert as is.

Which brings me to my only other gripe. Dessert was pretty lack luster. And they served four different ones! Not one of them was worth its salt, or should I say sugar? Must be something with this dynamic duo and sweets, because dessert sucked at Carbone as well.

Oh, and one of the appetizers was also a miss. The fluke ceviche. Way too fishy. Scallops were just “eh” as well.

But everything else, the fresh mozzarella with toast, the heirloom tomato salad, the veal wrapped in bacon with foie gras and peaches, the pasta Bolognese, and the short rib with sweet corn polenta were all outstanding.

Such a great place for an intimate date or a nice meal with good friends. Granted, probably no more than two friends or you’ll never get a table.

4 teeth