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Manhattan & NJ (Bergen County) Restaurant Reviews

Ian Hunter's Guide to Manhattan and Bergen County, NJ's Best Restaurants, Bars, and Gourmet Markets

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UPPER EAST SIDE   (59th- 96th; E of 5th)
 
Zebu Grill: Brazilian. 305 E 92nd @ 1-2nd; 22/16/$42; 426-7500; Brazilian Steak; Top-notch churrasco; Powerful drinks. More reasonable prices than others; Rio-level caipirinhas; Friendly neighborhood service and a fun option. Extremely popular;  Fairly intimate setting; Not the kind of place where they come with skewers of food – you order off the menu.   
 
Mole: Mexican. 1726 2nd Av @ 90th; 23/17/$34; 289-8226; Patrons rave the cooking at this mini-chain is as authentic Mexican as it gets; Friendly, speedy service and a huge menu make the experience worthwhile; Fish or crab tacos stand out; Memorable salsa; Giant portions;  Fun atmosphere. Tasty Margaritas; Laid back décor; Fun happy hour;  Table side Guac.
 
Parlor Steakhouse: Steakhouse. 1600 3rd Ave @ 90th; 22/21/$57; 423-5888; Female friendly steakhouse with a great bar scene; Extensive wine list; Extremely inexpensive for the genre; $35 prix fixe available; They have a Raw bar; Lobster Roll on the menu; Yellow fin Tuna, Short Ribs, Mac N Cheese side; Rib Eye, NY Strip, Filet Mignon and Porterhouse. Various sauces available.  Brunch offer includes $25 for 5 glasses of Bloody Mary or Mimosa & an entrée.  Lunch and dinner.  
 
Chef Ho’s Peking Duck: Chinese. 1720 2nd Av @ 89-90th; 23/15/$33; 348-9444; Asian at very affordable prices; The duck is indeed succulent. Service is sharp. Semi-upscale;  One of the better sit-down Chinese places. Signature dish might be the crispy orange beef after the duck; Endless menu; Mid-level Chinese at extremely affordable rates for the UES. Chicken Fried Rice heaven.
 
Café d’Alsace: French. 1695 2nd Av @ 88th; 23/18/$44; 722-5133;Feels like you are in Paris this energetic brasserie; 500 types of Beer- including a beer sommelier;  Outdoor seating; Tradition French cuisine. Large portions. Fun time in this laid back establishment; Best known for their epic Brunch which is 9am-4pm Sat/Sun; Weekday lunch menu amazing; Certainly worth a try – beer and apps for a light dinner.
 
Ithaka: Greek. 308 E 86th St @ 1-2nd Av; 21/18/$46; 628-9100;  Enjoy wonderful whole grilled fish in a setting reminiscent of Santorini complete with white walls; Older crowd; Neighborhood favorite; Extensive menu with all the classics; Whole marinated calamari, charbroiled with lemon and olive oil- perfect; Well spaced tables; Moderate pricing for the genre. Grilled calamari. Endless menu.

 
Giovanni Venti Cinque: Italian. 25 E 83rd @ 5th – Madison; 25/20/$68; 988-7300; Located right near the MET; Menu filled with classics, expensively priced in general; Absolutely wonderful, gracious service; Whole wheat pasta available (not for me!); Great wine list $40-$60 a bottle on average. Tuna tartare; Grilled Octopus;  Grilled Calamari; Burrata; Mozz di Bufala; Grilled sushi grade tuna; Veal Chop; Home made pasta dishes.  
 
Donguri: Japanese. 309 E 83rd @ 1-2nd; 27/15/$65; 737-5656; Small location (24 seats) but amazing food; No sushi, repeat, no sushi except for a sashimi platter; Japanese prepared meals. Service top notch; Specialize in soba and udon noodles. Melt in your mouth quality. Open Tues-Sunday for dinner;  Reservations highly suggested. Treat yourself to something different. Prepared Japanese food. Chilean Sea Bass.
 
Erminia: Italian. 250 E 83rd @ 2-3rd; 25/24/$65; 879-4284; Extremely Romantic spot; Family owned; For couples and anniversaries; Great service in a memorable setting, though slightly small in size; Ultimate date restaurant; Specialize in Seafood dishes;  Homemade Mozz is excellent; Seafood soup; Genius pasta dishes; Lobster Scampi Fra Diavolo is excellent. Grilled Calamari as well. Closed Sunday.
 
Firenze: Italian. 1594 2nd Av @ 82-3rd; 21/20/$54; 861-9368; Wonderful cuisine; Small place but infinitely romantic with a well decorated brick wall interior; Back garden in spring;  Homey feel with great ambiance; Relaxing, date-friendly dinner; Bruschetta is memorable; Mozz so fresh; Huge menu with endless pasta, seafood and chicken/ veal options; Giant Wine list.  Solid ‘hood option. Chilean Bass, Bronzino. They claim the largest wine list in upper east side.
 
Wa Jeal: Chinese. 1588 2nd Av @ 82nd; 24/16/$30; 396-3339; Nothing fancy but the food is outstanding; They clearly ‘try’ with every dish; So affordable for the area and even the genre outside of Chinatown; Ultra fresh and spicy food; Try their “Chili Oceanic” Diced Fish with crispy Tofu or Wok roasted Chili; Huge menu as with any Chinese restaurant.  Most dishes are spicy and the ones meant to be carry a punch. Steamed Shrimp Dumplings, Dan Dan Noodles. Tons of soup options (16).
 

Flex Mussels: Seafood. 174 E 82nd @ Lex-3rd; 23/17/$45; 717-7772; $20 all you can eat mussels, fries and a beer from 5:30-7pm at the bar daily; What a Fra Diavolo sauce; They feature a large multitude of sauces to have your mussels served in; Best non-mussels item on the menu is the Lobster Roll and Fish and Chips; The fries are excellent here. Inexpensive overall. Have location at 154 W 13th;  Not a fancy place – great for dinner before theatre or before hitting bars.

 

The Simone: French. 151 E 82nd @ Lex-3rd; 26/21/$75; 772-8861; Classy, formal French restaurant featuring spot-on friendly service;  About 8 appetizers and a dozen entrees – but the menu changes nearly daily; Rabbit, Duck, Lamb, Flounder, Sea Bass and Salmon Tartare are frequently seen; Closed Sunday;  Splurge and let the server pick wine for you on each course. 

 

Beyoglu: Turkish. 1431 3rd Av @ 81st; 22/17/$35; 650-0850; Outdoors seating; Meze’s- appetizers/ small dishes. Hummus, Kebabs amazing;  Crazier downstairs;  Fun time and unique food. Always packed and ultra popular – one of the best Turkish places in Manhattan; Hummus is a must; Even vegetarian platter good. No website. Can get cramp; Lively crowd.  

 

Yefsi Estiatorio: Greek. 1481 York @ 78th-79th; 24/17/$56; 535-0293;Warm and friendly service;  Charming garden to eat in summer; Absolutely high quality Greek fare; Try the grilled octopus & lemon potatoes; Lamb chops tender and delicious; Lightly pan fried calamari; Grilled diver scallops; Saganaki; Fresh cod & shrimp;  Greek spreads to die for;  Moussaka; Lavraki; Linguini with braised veal.

 

Sushi of Gari: Japanese. 402 E 78th @ 1st-York; 27/15/$75; 517-5340;Melt in your mouth fresh sushi; Absolutely straight from the sea; Unique combos; Order ‘off-menu’; Omakase- $~75. Sushi is served as works of art; Can order a la carte as well. Meticulously presented sushi, exquisitely plated, and of the highest freshness and quality. Teriyaki, tempura and noodle dishes available as well.  Closed Monday.  For $55 you can have Tuna of Gari – 8 pieces of Tuna sushi & a Tuna Roll.

 

Uva: Italian. 1486 2nd Av @ 77-78th; 23/24/$46; 472-4552; Young, hip, great date spot; Just love the homey décor – so comfortable; Affordable entrees; Great back garden for dining in warm weather; Great specials. Terrific wine bar as well- with many reasonably priced selections. Ideal date or anniversary spot;  Weekend brunch (1 cocktail included);  Prosciutto & Buffalo Mozz;  Huge number of cheeses to enjoy with Wine;  Grilled Calamari;  Giant menu; Wine flights available; Hundreds of wines in house.

 

Lusardi’sItalian. 1494 2nd Av @ 77th-78th; 24/19/$63; 249-2020; Neighborhood Italian restaurant that provides a romantic and well serviced experience; Bit on the pricy side but some of the dishes are amazing; Northern Italian, older crowd; Grilled Calamari, Grilled Artichokes, Buffalo Mozz, Crabmeat cocktail all excellent appetizers; 10+ pasta dishes; Whole Med sea bass, Rabbit, creative dishes. Tuscan classics. More old school of a scene;  Bronzino. 

 

Maruzzella: Italian. 1483 1st Av @ 77-8th; 23/17/$46; 988-8877; Recent expansion improves an already good thing; Reliable & mouthwatering Italian selections with top service. Staff works hard to impress; They have a massive menu including all time favorites such as grilled calamari, Mozz di Bufala and Farfalle al Prosciutto di Parma; Everything under $23; Half portions available; Perfect for a family meal;  Nothing fancy – but always reliable. 

 
Cafe Boulud: French. 20 E 76th @ 5th – Mad; 27/24/$82; 772-2600;  Daniel Boulud at his best; NY Times 3-stars and Michelin 1-star rated masterwork in the Surrey Hotel;  Unforgettable French cuisine amidst a sophisticated, mature setting; Impeccable service; $39/$45 prix fixe lunch (2 or 3 courses); Adjoins a cocktail lounge called Bar Pleiades; There is an off-menu tasting menu; Seasonal & changing limited menu- see website.  Brunch menu – 3 courses $49. 
 
Atlantic Grill: Seafood. 1341 3rd Av @ 76th; 24/19/$53; 988-9200; Hopping Seafood standout; strong date spot; Fresh fish; Bar scene is decent. Dining room has a spacious, clean feel; Elegance & laid-back cool at same time;  The winner here is the fresh fish and large menu selections. Chilean sea bass & ice cream tower dessert. Have a wonderful brunch with included drink. Sushi & rolls as well. Raw bar. $49 prix fixe dinner option and $29 for lunch.
 
B. Café: Belgian. 240 E 75th @ 2nd-3rd Av; 23/20/$44; 249-3300; Belgian bistro with amazing beer selection; Intimate setting for Belgian fare; Moules frites is specialty; When you want a refreshing twist of classic Gaullic grub. Honestly – if you want mussels, you have to come here; There is an Upper West Side location; Brunch menu; Great looking Seafood Gratin; Grilled Calamari; Tuna Tartare; Fisherman Gratin. 
 
Sel et Poivre: French. 853 Lexington @ 64-65th; 21/18/$41; 517-5780; What a lovely, unpretentious bistro; Even serves pasta besides excellent, not overly spiced French cuisine; Brunch as well; Been around forever- reliable. Excellent menu and wonderful service. There is better French food in the city but this place is solid. Brunch (includes a drink) and lunch served.  Try the Risotto, Escargot, Frogs Legs, Duck a L’Orange; or Brook Trout.  
 
Maya: Mexican. 1191 1st Av @ 64-5; 22/20/$49; 585-1818; Upscale new Mexican; Gourmet food; Superior margaritas; Beautiful, young crowd with a good happy hour scene (5pm-close weekends, 3pm-8pm weekdays , $7 margaritas, wine);  Steak tacos; Seared scallops stand out; 85 tequilas. Guacamole made fresh;  Can get loud so not for romantics but overall a great Mexican experience. Bottomless brunch for $45 – includes unlimited small plates. 

 

JoJo: French. 160 E 64th @ Lex-3rd Av; 25/23/$67; 223-5656; From uber chef Jean-George Vongerichten; Classy bistro feel with nearly loving service; Duplex setting; $28 3-course lunch and brunch prix fixe; $68 dinner tasting menu; Tuna, Red Snapper, Rack of Lamb all stand out; Salmon, duck and veal also on the menu- which is seasonal. Not terribly expensive. 

 
Fatty Fish: Asian Fusion.  406 64th @ 1st-York; 22/16/$44; 813-9338; Enchanting back patio in otherwise Zen-like setting; Extremely affordable; Very fresh sushi selections; Dim Sum selections, entrée salads; Kobe beef Burger; Exciting cooked entrees and did I mention sushi? The special rolls are large in size and absolutely delicious. The menu is more Japanese focused. Sushi pizza. Lunch or dinner. 
 
Moti Mahal Delux: Indian. 1149 1st Av @ 63rd;  24/16/$36; 371-3535; Wonderful tandoor cooking; Signature dish is the butter chicken; Part of an international chain; Have a daily lunch buffet that’s unique – it’s all you can eat and dishes are brought to you as you select them from the kitchen;  Many claim this to be as authentic Indian there is in the city. Certainly worth a try – I’d suggest a nice dinner here. 
 
Fig & Olive: Mediterranean. 808 Lex @ 62-63rd; 22/20/$48; 207-4555; Very sleek and cool looking spot; Italian selections as well; Olive Oil infused selections rule; Cheese plates. Greek inspired small plates. Great wine list. Signature dish is the Beef Carpaccio; YellowFin Tuna Carpaccio available as well, almost as good; Becoming a chain somewhat with 5 area locations. Lunch, brunch available. Try the Crostini.

 

Sushi Seki: Japanese. 1143 1st @ 62nd; 26/14/$65; 371-0238; Exceptional; High quality, ultra fresh sushi. Omakase much more $$ - about $100 a person; Local favorite. Nobody dislikes this place; Open til 3am; Off the chart quality. However – very tight quarters, and portion size driven by your wallet at times;  I suggest trying the sushi or sashimi deluxe. Closed Sunday;  Cheapo Appetizers and Soups;  No special rolls. 

 

Cabana: New Latin/ Cuban. 1022 3rd Av @ 60-61st; 22/18/$36; 980-5678;  Part of a mini chain but the Cuban infused food is scrumptious; Amazing Mojitos; High energy and stylish; You will walk out full. Try the skirt steak with a fresh Mojitos (with actual sugar cane);  They focus on excellent service; Also have a long menu so something for everyone.  Excellent date scene but a cab away from nightlife after.

 

Blu on Park: Steakhouse/Seafood. 116 E 60th @ Park-Lex; 24/24/$82; 256-1929; 3-floor brownstone set-up; Female & date friendly, fancier steakhouse; First level is bar/lounge with DAILY 4-8pm Happy Hour and inexpensive bar selections;  Main dining room offers most of the usual cuts of steak, big Raw Bar selection and 1920s inspired cocktails;  Really a gorgeous space.  Lobster cocktail, Caprese Salad, Bronzino, Rare Yellowfin Tuna, Salmon Tartare, Burrata, Hamachi Crudo. 

 

Amali: Mediterranean. 115 E 60th @ Lex-Park; 25/22/$59; 339-8363; Farm to table; Near Bloomies; Amazing wine list; Stylish décor; Management who cares; Lunch, brunch or dinner;  Meat & Cheese plates; Buffalo Mozz; Octopus a la Plancha; Wild Shrimp Risotto; Whole Fish of the day; Braised Rabbit;  Nice desserts. Not a huge menu but high quality.