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Week of October 28, 2002

the underground gourmet
Pushing the Manila Envelope
Even after the demise of Manila Garden, the Filipino enclave known as Little Manila around First Avenue and 14th Street endures. Krystal's Cafe, a bright, bare-bones offshoot of a bustling bakery in Woodside, Queens, heats up the lunch-buffet competition with a daily-changing $5.95 spread that's been drawing expat weekend crowds for pancit canton (stir-fried noodles with shrimp), bulalo (rich oxtail soup with a cabbage-laden broth), addictive egg fried rice, and the kitchen's idea of "American food" like moist chicken breast with a spinach mixture tucked under the skin. Lumpia, or vegetable-stuffed rolls, come two ways: "Shanghai-style" (fried like spring rolls) or fresh, oversize, and doused with sweet peanut sauce. On a cold afternoon, ginataang mais— a coconut-milk-sweetened mush of glutinous rice and corn kernels — makes the ideal dessert. Or peruse the pastry case: Alongside purple yam cakes and coconut buns are Italian cookies and napoleons from Corona's venerable Stasi bakery, which Krystal's owner bought two years ago — a handy acquisition when you're invading Veniero's and De Robertis's turf.— ROBIN RAISFELD
Krystal's Cafe
171 First Avenue

object of desire
Soup for Nuts
Bouillabaisse is a dish that obsessive foodies love to discuss almost as much as they love to devour: It must be made, purists say, within fishnet-tossing distance of the Mediterranean, with certain highly unattractive fish, and preferably by a Marseillais (beret and striped sweater optional). You might say, then, that Isobel chef Anthony Raggiri's version fulfills only one of the criteria, but it's so delicious you won't care. In authentic fashion, the Marseilles native cooks and serves his rendition ($35 per person, two-person minimum) in two stages: first the rich and complex soup that's ladled over croutons you dab with rouille and sprinkle with Gruyère; then the huge platter of market-variable seafood, possibly including red mullet, monkfish, and sea robin, filleted tableside, plus conger eel, mussels, clams, and crab. It's as close to the Riviera as you can get by crossing the Brooklyn Bridge. (Thursdays only or by advance reservation.)

60 Henry Street, Brooklyn Heights

new menu
Dutch Frites
As the stock market descends, budget-conscious prix fixe menus and family-style service are just two of the strategies besieged kitchens are using to lure diners; small plates for a pittance is another. NL has recently instituted a café menu full of Dutch-style tapas like smoked eel with wasabi mayo, shrimp croquettes, and spectacular meaty French fries to dip in mayo, priced between $4 and $7. And whereas the popular Dutch pancakes were formerly relegated to brunch, they're now available, in nearly a dozen permutations, all the time.

169 Sullivan Street

object of desire
Soft Sellers
Are gourmet marshmallows excessive, a bit like making your own all-natural ice-cream sprinkles? Well, not if you take your hot chocolate seriously. City Bakery's Maury Rubin started the trend a few years ago to properly adorn his creamy Valrhona concoction, and now pastry chefs are churning out the gooey morsels all over town, from midtown's Pershing Square to the Polka Dot Cake Studio in the West Village. Even Jacques Torres will be selling them from his Dumbo chocolate shop as part of a holiday hot-chocolate kit. Our current favorites, though, are the soft and sticky little clouds that accompany a cup of exquisitely rich, citrus-touched hot chocolate at Union Square Cafe. Its new pastry chef, Deborah Snyder, also squishes them into s'mores — with her homemade chocolate bars and graham crackers.
Union Square Cafe

21 East 16th Street


Ask Gael
What's new and subversive at the table?
Juicy baby pig at fustily faux-French Lespinasse strikes me as wonderfully devious. In the midst of chef Christian Delouvrier's usual haute global savoir-fare, the savory and sticky spare ribs of some well-bred young porker prove to be irresistible. And a trio of various peppers, variously stuffed, riding alongside, is fittingly earthy. We insisted on a half-portion for each of our foursome when we spotted the dish on the chef's $150 tasting dinner. But anyone can pig out now at a deep discount on the new $34 prix fixe lunch. Don't bring anyone boring or uptight. It's cozy to have a companion-in-pigginess, and this is one place you can actually talk. (212-339-6719.)
At the St. Regis, 2 East 55th Street

Bites & Buzz Archive

Week of October 21
Tony May's new fast-food PastaBreak; the 2003 Zagat Restaurant Survey; Royal Crown's new Piazza Mercato; Sam DeMarco introduces the back room at Merge; Pastry sharp Wayne Harley Brachman finds a new home
Week of October 14
The season's best truffles; beautiful tart shells; Cucina's new chef; good times at Layla
Week of October 7
Californian cookbooks; Aquavit's anniversary celebration; The Dining Room's delicious apple addition; Gael gives Britney a second chance

and more ...

Photos:Carina Salvi (1st & 2nd), Hector Sanchez (3rd & 4th), Kenneth Chen

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