Alta

64 W 10th StNew York, NY 10011 • (212) 505-7777 • altarestaurant.com
Finally, a newbie with rave reviews that actually lives up to them! Yes, Alta is Al that (and a bucket of chicken). Set in a somewhat odd location for a tapas joint, an old Amish home (pictured). But, hey, if it works, don’t knock it.

In terms of the tapas itself, the hit ratio was most admirable. Going 10 of 12 with not one thing being bad and only two mehs. So let’s do role call, from best to mehs:

Top of the list has to go to the ridiculous parker house rolls with dill butter. So good you’ll wanna open a vein. Also muy delicioso are the bacon wrapped dates and olives (granted you could wrap garbage in bacon and I’d probably eat it), the scallops are money, the Brussels sprouts with green apple are inventive and much lighter than so many other sprout dishes getting love these days, and two different desserts, the sundae and the lemon tart also rounded out the best of the best. But there is an MVP from the meal that I feel compelled to give a shout-out to, the wine. The Morgon Beaujolais is phenom. This is now the second time I’ve had it (first at Scarpetta) and it is right up there with Prisoner, for those who are fans.

Now back to the food. A notch down toward very good, I would list the buratta with black truffles, the short rib with beet parpadelle and horseradish slaw and lastly, the warm chocolate cake.

Bringing up the rear would be the fried goat cheese with lavender honey. It’s clearly trying to do the Italian ricotta and honey thing, but misses significantly. The other non-starter, get it? Is the agnolotti with yam, shroom and cheese. As I caveated above, it wasn’t bad, but with so many other hits, it was surrounded by tough competition.

Speaking of, Alta is, or should be, some major competition next time you are planning to go out, because chances are, the place you’re thinking of going to isn’t as good. The name says it all. Alta is tops.

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L’inizio

698 Saw Mill River Rd. Ardsley, NY 10502 • (914) 693-5400 •  liniziony.com

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After three different people recommended that I try this place, I knew it had to be at least a three knifer, but the true question was, is it four or five? Well, if parking were factored in, most certainly not, because it’s a major bitch. And you can forget all about that little lot over by the Thai House that’s always more jam-packed than a drug mule’s colon. So your best bet is across the street and down a touch, over by Star Bagel, since they’re closed for dinner and it’d be a shame to let all of that parking go to waste.

Speaking of space being at a premium, the restaurant itself is quite small as well, which wouldn’t normally be an issue for me, but it’s also pretty lacking in the personality department, making it a modicum nicer than the inside of a shoe box.

But the warmth that’s missing from the décor came from our server in spades, who was not only friendly, she was also spot on with the recommendations. Unfortunately, however, even as well intentioned as the staff was, the service itself is actually a bit spotty, getting both pepper and grated cheese in my wife’s water (so much so that it needed to be replaced) and forgetting to bring out our pasta course before the dessert menu.

In terms of the food, this is where L’inizio shined. Starting with a nice, moist focaccia and grassy olive oil to whet the palate. After that, we doubled down on bread opting for the ricotta with acacia honey, a simple, but wonderful Italian go-to that definitely hit the mark, but I have to say, the chef went a little stingy on the honey.

Next up came the charred endive salad with dates (or more accurately, date in singular form), which was excellent, but again, thin on the one ingredient that made it so interesting, the date.

The recommended octopus was also fantastic, sort of similar in preparation to the one at Charlie Bird in the city, only MUCH better, because there’s so much more going on. The heat from the peppers, the brightness and crunch from the celery. The creaminess of the humus. Even a slight note of sweetness. My only gripe being, you guessed it, a little too light on the octopus. A theme of the joint I suppose? Keep ‘em wanting more? Only I think the chef doesn’t truly get the intent of that saying.

As for pastas, the cavatelli was a bit of a snore compared to the much more flavorful parpadelle with lamb ragu, pine nuts and raisins. The anomaly of the night, because it was shockingly generous with the lamb.

We ended the evening with another great reco, the date cake with sweet mascarpone (pictured), sitting in a pool of caramel sweetness. It was divine. Which is a bit of a hoity-toity phrase for me, I gotta be honest. Almost feels like I should be typing it with a New England lockjaw. But it really was kickass. There. That’s better.

It’s no Cookery and there are many kinks still to work out, but there is not even a shadow of a doubt that this chef knows what he’s doing, even if he cheaps out a bit on the goodies. So my advice to you, go. My advice to the chef, let it go…LET IT GO! Let your yummy ingredients flow! (to be sung like Elsa from Frozen). Do that, and I’ll up you to four knives, because it’s holding you back from true greatness.

3 teeth

Konsolos

Meşrutiyet Caddesi No:56, 34430 İstanbul (0212) 219 6530 • http://www.konsolosistanbul.com
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Believe it or not, we walked out on a reservation at Mikla, listed as #96 on Pellegrino’s Top 100 list in the world, just to eat at Konsolos (unranked) instead, solely based on vibe/decor. Call me shallow (which is fair), but I’d say it’s more a case of Pellegrino letting those bubbles go to the brain. The crowd is Disney-hotel-depressing, filled with patrons in their 90’s or 9’s, all oohing and ahhing over a glass enclosed view that comes a dime a dozen at almost every major city around the world. So, trying to coast on view alone, the décor feels dated and sad. Especially by comparison to the top of The George Hotel where we had just come from having a drink and Konsolos, which we popped in for a peek just before arriving at Mikla. Sure, the food might be good (although a fellow foodie told us later that we dodged a bullet), but to be in the top 100 in the world, shouldn’t you be firing on all cylinders?

But enough about Mikla, let’s talk about Konsolos, and its striking dining room, which drafts its grandeur off of its former tenant, the American Consulate, set in a dramatic space where visas were once issued, they have since decked the place out to look like a Victorian masterpiece had sex with a black light poster from Spencer Gifts. I know that doesn’t sound all that appealing as I write it, but I can assure you it’s unequivocally stunning. Dare I say one of the most impressive decors I’ve ever laid eyes on and unfortunately even the photo above doesn’t do it justice, but just trust me. Hell, it made us pass up Mikla, didn’t it?

But this looker’s also got skillz, serving up Italian classics with a twist. For example, the rustic Italian bread comes with a tomato sauce for dipping, made special by the addition of mustard seeds, giving it a little heat, a little crunch and a lotta damn that’s good. Skip the other spread though. It’s walnut and soy based and it’s no contest.

The artichoke trio, while also interesting by Italian standards was pretty basic by Turkish ones, done in typical meze style, only instead of being topped with carrots and peas marinated in olive oil, it was topped with arugula and parmesan crisps, which kinda fell short on either side of cuisine expectations.

After that came the pastas and I have to say, mama mia Konsolos has game! Both the parpadelle ragu and the lamb shank fettucini were moist and delicious. Granted I think the parpadelle was actually fettucini and the fettucini was more like short cut spaghetti. Also, the lamb pasta was a bit over salted, but I think that was more due to the salt garnish around the rim of the plate. If you avoid mixing your pasta into it, or sliding your fork through it, you should fair much better than I did on my first two bites before discovering the culprit.

For dessert, while the profiteroles get full marks for inventiveness, they get very few marks for awesomeness. which was kind of a shame because we were both sorta hoping for a more faithful representation. Nonetheless, what you do get is a presentation not to be forgotten. The waiter actually pours liquid nitrogen (aka dry ice) over the ice cream at the table to create a crumbled “astronaut ice cream” effect next to the four different cream filled pastries. The pistachio cream was the best of the lot, followed by lemon and chocolate, with strawberry in the rear. But the pastries were too bready and the cream was too sweet. And the ice cream, well, it’s novel. I can say that. What I can’t say is that the meal lives up to the décor quite yet, but give this newcomer some time and I firmly believe greatness awaits, especially once winter hits and it becomes more en vogue to dine indoors.

3 teeth

Obica

928 Broadway New York, NY 10010(212) 777-2754 • obica.com

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From the moment you set foot inside you realize you’re not in Stuzziccini anymore. Such an upgrade from the last tenant. Cool vibe. Contemporary, yet warm décor. Love the mozzarella bar idea. Service is surprisingly on point for such a newbie as well. Usually things are a bit more herky-jerky during the waking moments, but Obica manages to stick the landing.

And stick it they did, on a great wine list with terrific options south of a C-note. Rare in NYC. The other massive hit was the parpadelle with duck ragu and orange zest. Absolutely remarkable. Cooking perfectly al dente and the zest somehow managed to brighten the duck to a level where a normally heavy dish actually felt quite light. You need this. Trust me.

But Obica is not a runaway success either. I expected more from a place with it’s own, self-proclaimed Mozz Bar, but tragically the two biggest misses for me both involved mozzarella of all things.

The first miss being the caprese salad (pictured). I found the cheese to be a bit hard and flavorless. You can get much better, MUCH creamier mozz at Eataly up the street. And the tomatoes were in dire need of salt to bring them to life.

The second miss was the pizza, and while full of flavor, it was ruined by placing ice cold burata on a piping hot pie, creating a hot-cold oral quandary.

The pineapple carpaccio closer was also somewhat unimpressive, which is more our fault for ordering it I suppose, but we were full and wanted something light, so it checked the box. Just wish the lemon sorbet was creamier as opposed to icy. A theme brewing perhaps? Guess I’ll have to investigate further on my return visit.

3 teeth

The Libertine

38 E Washington St. Indianapolis, IN 46204(317) 631-3333libertineindy.com
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Ya gotta love low expectations. They never cease to amaze. Sure, call my skepticism snobbery, I’ll admit it. But c’mon, it’s Indianapolis. It’s not exactly runneth over with culinary cred. However, cred is definitely something Libertine doeth haveth.

From the moment you set foot in the bar-ish restaurant, you know you’re not in Kansas anymore. Or Indianapolis. Same diff. A bit on the narrow side, but made up for in spades with healthy does of cool. Feels like a mod version of something out of Sweeney Todd, granted that could’ve been partly due to our server’s attire.

Speaking of service, that was one of my major nits. First, she missed placing not one, but two different orders and then, to make matters worse, she brought a dish that we didn’t even ask for. Which would’ve been fine if it were awesome, but sadly it failed on my other major nit- too many over-cooked dishes. Three to be precise: the burger (which we didn’t order), the brisket and the parpadelle. The flavors in all, however, where very nice, they just need to learn when to take it off the heat.

Wait a second. This review isn’t going as intended. I actually loved this place. So, as Chris Martin would say, go back to the start, with the cocktail… The Rose Anonymous. Well, Rose is about to get famous, because it deserves nothing but accolades and exclamation points. Made with 4 Roses Bourbon, rosemary, lemon and ginger beer. It’s drinks like these that make cabs a necessity.

Then, right on the heels of my cocktail came the trio of bacon- pork, jowl and lamb. Accompanied with harissa, sweet apple and cherry mustard. Definitive proof that three is a magic number.

Keeping pace, were the heavenly deviled eggs. Groan away, but just make sure you get them, because they are ultimate worthy. Topped with whitefish and two types of caviar. Which equals three types of awesome.

And like the Beatles, the hits just keep coming. The lamb ribs were so moist a saucy it was ridic! If my tongue could marry these ribs I would be happy attend that wedding.

Even the Scotch egg was mighty fine. Done with a slightly thicker crust than usual, but it held up nonetheless. Crispy on the outside, gooey and yolky on the innards. And yummy-ass-yummy all over.

On the mortal side, the bok choy was also very good. Refreshing amidst the see of decadence on the table, with it’s bright hit of vinegar.

The mussels were also good, but compared to the waves of bliss before them, it was hard to get out of my chair for yet another standing ovation.

And naturally there were a few misses as well. The toast with chorizo is a big blah. And both desserts (there were only two options) were very unsatisfying. A beer, not of the root variety, float and a shortcake with blueberry compote. Both were so lacking that it both literally and figuratively left a bad taste in my mouth after such an awesome meal. A crime almost punishable by three knives- but considering how many hits there were, I’m squeaking out four… but barely.

4 teeth

Lincoln

Lincoln Center 142 W 65th St. New York, NY 10023(212) 359-6500 •  lincolnristorante.com

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Apparently someone resurrected Frank Lloyd Wright and made him design a restaurant in Lincoln Center. The lines in the place are truly THAT stunning (as you can see from the photo above).

And the food doesn’t disappoint either. First, the wine list. A solid array of Italian. And one of the larger and fairer priced Amarone selections I’ve seen. Usually restaurants like these jack them up over two hundy to start.

Next, the bread. LOVE the wonderfully salty focaccia, but be careful. You’ll want to save room. I know, I sound like your mother…

For apps, the burrata starter is just killer. So creamy you’ll almost want to order another portion on the spot.

The Parpadelle with truffles, however, was a bit of let down I have to say. Mostly because the portion is SO small and SO expensive. And while good, it’s not as incredible as the price tag. The veal app is also a bit on the blah side. So I recommend sticking with the burrata. Or, upon my second visit I discovered a foie gras terrine that brings its own creamy game to the party.

As for entrees, there is a spicy pasta that I stole a taste of, which was very good, but unfortunately I can’t recall the name because I was too enraptured by my own main, the lamb shank. The lamb is fall off the bone moist, served over creamy polenta- need I say more? Plus, with the wine = cielo (heaven).

Also, as a side, we shared the eggplant parm– and as good as some of the other things were, this might have been the best thing of the night. Masterfully prepared on every level. A contrast of textures from the soft, gooey middle to the crispy caramelized skin. So thin. So good. So you better get it.

And yes, we still had room for dessert. And also yes, I could stand to show a little more self restraint. But the way I see it, if you’re gonna eat at a place like this, go big or go home.

So, back to dessert… the clear winner (we tried 3) was the pear tarte. Trust me, it’s all you need to know. It’s the perfecting ending to a great meal.

Oh, and last but not least, a shout out to the cocktails. Love the giant bowling ball of ice that came with my Michters. A class act top to bottom, Lincoln is. But what else would you expect from Lincoln Center than a show-stopping performance?

4 teeth