Indian Accent: I suppose I was lucky to walk into Indian Accent two days before Pete Wells’ review came out. Intrigued by the idea, I’d gone to check out the pastrami-stuffed naan, and stayed for a three-course meal. Priced at $75, it allows you to pick any combination of dishes, large or small, including more than one of the small main courses if you’re so inclined. The room is handsome and mercifully quiet, and small booths, nicely padded, are routinely granted to solo diners. While we’ve had many Indian restaurants reflecting the cosmopolitan style of Mumbai, Calcutta, Chennai, and Hyderabad, this is the first that I know of to showcase the creative upscale food of India’s capital, New Delhi, where the original Indian Accent was founded in 2009.
The cocktails have goofy names like Goa Ahead, the Proper Copper, and Transcendental Medication, but I picked Mumbai’s the Word, a combination of rye, sherry, and brown sugar floating an orange peel that tasted a lot like an old fashioned. Two amuses followed, one, a pair of pillowy, finger-size flatbreads filled with blue cheese, the other a chaat featuring tiny cubes of veggies and fried vermicelli in a sweet tamarind dressing. The highlight of the meal was a fragrant and fibrous duck hash sandwiched between two tiny hoppers and surmounted by a slice of foie gras. The larger course consisted of a nut-brown tofu fritter in a pool of bottle gourd curry. There was a negligible amount of quinoa pullao in there somewhere. The first course had been great, too, a composed salad of sliced kohlrabi, sweet potatoes, and crisp slivers of okra piled high on the plate.
Oh, and the pastrami naan? It was like something from Katz’s. — Robert Sietsema
Pasquale Jones/Otto: A handful of casual Italian restaurants have opened in the past year and I keep trying these places, wondering if they'll be as good as or better than classic, reliable spots like Roberta's or Otto. After several failed attempts to walk in or snag a reservation on Resy (being on its waitlist feels like a game of whack-a-mole), I had all but given up on getting into Pasquale Jones — until I wandered in this past weekend and a single stool at the bar was available. It felt like kismet. At least until I ordered. My pizza (respectable crust, slightly sour sauce, sweet cheese) came out moments later, but though I was sitting in front of the hot line, my gnocchi took an additional 45 minutes to arrive. While I waited, I watched the servers milling around the host stand, laughing and goofing off with regulars. Someone came over to clear my silverware and ask if I wanted to see the dessert menu — I was planning on ordering all of the desserts, but not until after I received my gnocchi. Service is included in the menu prices at Pasquale, so, as a diner, it's hard not to feel taken advantage of when the staff doesn't seem to be paying attention. I probably glared too hard at the manager; the server took the gnocchi off the bill. Two days later, I walked into Otto, sat at the bar (comfortable, spacious), ordered a pizza and a drink and immediately felt at home. My water glass was never empty; when I dropped my napkin a new one was presented before I had time to look up. I ordered two desserts (the rhubarb crumble is exceptional). I left a generous tip. I look forward to going back for years to come. — Daniela Galarza
Tacombi: I don't know how my friend and I lucked into this, but we nabbed a seat right by the open windows of Tacombi on Bleecker Street this week, a pretty ideal indoor/outdoor blend of seating for nice weather. (You get to feel like you're outside, but actually being indoors prevents flying napkins and cold food.) The place was swamped. The waiter told us that a pitcher of sangria had about four glasses, so we ordered it. It actually was way more than two people can reasonably finish in an hour on a weekday.
But it turned out to be okay. Despite the crowd, they didn't push us to finish faster at all. We snacked on guacamole, we caught up on our lives, and even after our (delicious) tacos were finished, we sat and talked and drank. By the end, that whole pitcher seemed like just enough, and a lovely way to spend a weeknight with an old friend. — Serena Dai
No. 7 North: Over the last year, this restaurant has morphed into one of my favorite places in the neighborhood. Tyler Kord takes fairly straightforward ingredients and arranges them into things that are aggressively tasty and always interesting. The double-decker broccoli taco with feta and crispy shallot is his "Stairway to Heaven," I think, and Mr. Kord also makes my favorite Brussels sprouts in town — a touch of acid, a little bit of char, and a good amount of heat. At around 3 p.m. on a Saturday, during brunch, there was a laptop DJ doing his thing over in one corner. — Morabito
Boulud Sud: I was the luckiest duck this past Wednesday night when a dear friend invited me out for dinner and the ballet. The only thing that rivaled Misty Copeland's performance in La fille mal gardée was the food at Boulud Sud, which has its pre-theater service down to a science. Appetizers — fried artichokes, garlicky shrimp, and a mezze platter — were perfectly executed, though portions were so generous it was a bit difficult to enjoy the tender sea bass and seared tuna that came out next for our main courses. Nevertheless, we soldiered on to dessert: A delicate strawberry cassata cake that mimicked the shape of a ballerina's tutu and tasted like early summer. Though I spend most of my time dining downtown, dining uptown reminds me that New York City's civilized side is en pointe. — Daniela Galarza
Houseman: One of my top five life skills is picking the perfect restaurants to take my parents to, either together or separately, when they visit from the San Francisco East Bay. A lot rides on these decisions; my parents like food a lot and New York City not at all, so my main strategy when it comes to convincing them I left the Best Coast for something equally great is planning a series of really good meals. One highlight from my dad’s visit this week was Houseman, whose chicken has been on my list for months. We ordered it, of course (in addition to the lamb meatballs and a cheesy/datey/nutty/prosciutto-y plate of miscellany) and weren’t disappointed: plumped raisins and the grilled croutons underneath to soak up drippings made for a very clean plate. The dessert special — an apricot crumble with sour cream ice cream — had my dad singing its praises the whole cab ride back to his hotel. He didn't even mention the squealing girls' night out 6-top in the corner (a weird venue for that, maybe) more than twice! Score one for New York? — Kendra Vaculin
Ganso Sushi: A friend called excitedly with the news that a menu of happy-hour specials had been implemented at Ganso Sushi, which lies adjacent to the larger Ganso Yaki in Downtown Brooklyn and shares a backyard. The specials are available from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. seven days, and include $3 pieces of sushi (tuna, salmon, yellowtail, and freshwater eel), a selection of $4 maki rolls, and a handful of appetizers. There are beer deals and sake deals, and a decent-size snack, including a draft beer, will set you back less than $20. Unavoidably, you might be tempted to grab an extra piece of sushi or two not on the discount list, or, as I did, a special of seared skipjack on a bed of cured onions ($12), which undermines your whole plan to eat good sushi as cheaply as possible.— Robert Sietsema
Marta: I will never get sick of the thin-crust pizza and the chicken meatballs smorthered in red sauce and ricotta cheese — pure comfort food. But every time I'm at Marta, I'm also impressed by the salads and desserts, which are executed with more care than many restaurants in the same general category as this place. The "Marta Mista" with romaine, celery, and red wine vinaigrette is so hearty that you could eat it as a main course and leave the table satisfied. And last Sunday, the pastry kitchen was also serving an airy chocolate cake with olive oil buttercream that was the perfectly light last note of an otherwise heavy meal. — Morabito