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Week of June 17, 2002

Do the Clam
As local chefs whip themselves into a summertime frenzy of boiling lobsters and shucking corn, you don't need a Hamptons beach house or a week's vacation in Maine to indulge in the seaside ritual of the clambake. Book a table at any of these seasonal-minded spots, and the only thing missing will be the salt air -- and sand in your shoes.

Chef Daniel Orr's $24.95 Sunday-night clambake features corn or tomato soup, steamed Maine lobster with clams and potatoes, corn on the cob, and an ice-cream sundae. Dine on the terrace, and pity those homebound Hamptonites caught in bridge traffic above.
409 East 59th Street

Kitchenette Uptown
The owners of Kitchenette worked in Tribeca for so long, Morningside Heights probably feels like Down East to them. Maybe that's why they've instituted a Thursday-night New England shore dinner at their new uptown branch: For $32, you get a boiled lobster with eight steamers, corn on the cob, cole slaw, and -- the pièce de résistance, for anyone acquainted with this kitchen's cakes and pies -- blueberry cobbler.
1272 Amsterdam Avenue, near 123rd Street

Oyster Bar at the Plaza
For this summer's "I Can't Get to the Hamptons" festival, chef Antonio Cardosa confines himself to using fruit, vegetables, and seafood that is grown, raised, or caught on Long Island. The same local pride that governs dishes like clam chowder, broiled scallops, and a traditional clambake ($30) extends to the wine list, which offers Chardonnay, Merlot, and Pinot Noir from the North Fork's acclaimed Bedell Cellars.
768 Fifth Avenue, at 58th Street


the underground gourmet
No Pita for You!
The intense Orhan Yegen, chef-owner of Beyoglu, makes 55th Street's real-life Soup Nazi, Al Yeganeh, seem like he's got an inferiority complex. Roving the plush dining room of his second-floor Upper East Side kebab palace, Yegen, with piercing eyes and an almost menacing air of confidence, approaches diners to expound on Turkish cooking: that it's the world's finest cuisine, that there is probably only one real Turkish restaurant in the country (this one), that what passes for Turkish cuisine is mostly inedible, and that it's somewhat crude to ask about the absence of pita or any other flatbread you might associate with a Turkish meal at a posh place like this.

He serves only warm crusty loaves of sliced bread, which raises a bit of an etiquette problem when the meze arrive -- whether to dip or spread or just use a fork. However you choose to proceed, you'll be convinced that Yegen knows what he's talking about: Rich hummus was one of the best we've ever had, the grilled and mashed eggplant salad was smoky perfection, and salt-cooked sardines in olive oil and vinegar were superb. Unusually fresh and succulent doner kebab (the only entrée offered), thin slices of pressed lamb-and-beef shaved off a rotating spit, is served three ways: iskender-style, with a swirl of subtle tomato sauce, yogurt, and buttery croutons; with rice; or on a bed of creamy whipped eggplant. The dish of the night, however, was the superb yogurt soup, subtle, tangy, and redolent of fresh mint, which suggests that, similar surnames aside, maybe there's something to the Yegen-Yeganeh connection.
1431 Third Avenue, at 81st Street


object of desire
Drink a Peach
Think of the white-peach meisuinoka -- a refreshing chilled drink served in a small, slim plastic cup with a straw at Minamoto Kitchoan, the midtown Japanese confection shop -- as a Nipponese Bellini to go. It's cool, delicately sweet, and slightly gelatinous, like a sophisticated liquid Jell-O, and, since the list of ingredients includes an indetectable amount of wine, a surefire way to beat the heat and the open-container law.
Minamoto Kitchoan
608 Fifth Avenue, at 49th Street

Ask Gael
Has Naples become Manhattan's new Tuscany?
The city at Italy's ankle feels fresh again after decades of restoration. Perhaps that explains a growing pride of spots around town flaunting its cooking. Chef Vito Gnazzo lights up tiny Il Gattopardo and its ivy-draped garden with rustic classics from Naples and its surround -- cabbage-wrapped meatballs, homey artichoke parmigiana with smoked mozzarella, and his Neapolitan meat loaf encircling hard-boiled egg with olive mashed potatoes. An expat pal from Naples is shocked to find Gnazzo's braised baby escarole filled with minced black olive, anchovy, and pine nuts "better even than my mom's." Indeed, Vito's wife, Concetta, forms the tiny cavatelli herself (using her pinky). Paccheri is local dialect for wide bands of artisanal pasta, served here in an oniony meat sauce Naples calls Genovese (alas, the meat's too tough). Locals who know this Sette MoMA seedling come by Wednesdays for suckling pig with delicious broccoli rabe. The ricotta-and-wheat torta called pastiera is a rare find, but lemon sorbetto seems a saner choice after this feast.
Il Gattopardo
33 West 54th Street

Bites & Buzz Archive

Week of June 10
Brooklyn's Sardinian wine bar; Aquavit's Herring Week; strawberry fever; the Greek yogurt tycoon; Gael finds the perfect spot for tête-à-têtes.
Week of June 3
Supper Time; Blue Crab Festival; Godiva's new ice cream bar; Jimmy Rodriguez heats up 57th Street.
Week of May 27
A (blue) lobsterfest; Restaurant 222's $20 prix-fixe; summer restaurant week begins; Citymeals-on-Wheels salute; will Butter make Gael phat?

and more ...

Photos: From top to bottom- Deborah Ory; Patrik Rytikangas (second and fourth); Kenneth Chen.

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