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Where to Eat 2003

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Mrs. Platt Recommends

After another twelve months dining out in the company of her unkempt, ox-size, omnivorous husband, my tidy, well-mannered, exceptionally discriminating wife wishes to commend the kitchen at Prune for its new desserts—in particular, the cardamom panna cotta with rum raisins—and to compliment chef Kurt Gutenbrunner of Wallsé for the fine zitronentorte (lemon tart) she enjoyed, along with legions of similar dainty souls, at his homage to fin de siècle Vienna, Café Sabarsky. The fusion cooking at Annisa is her choice for celebratory occasions. Prêt À Manger is where she rushes for a quick gourmet snack (the curried-coronation-chicken sandwich, usually, followed by a single regally wrapped corn-berry muffin), and Kai, in the Itoen tea boutique on Madison Avenue, is her favorite new place for a cup of decadent afternoon tea.

Despite the departure of Überchef Kazuo Yoshida, Jewel Bako is still where she goes for a precious downtown fix of tuna belly, although for cutting-edge sophistication, nothing—not even the aged, time-worn tricks at Nobu—beats the parade of omakase delicacies (tempura-fried ice cream, red snapper touched with vinegar jelly, bits of sesame-specked unagi set atop little surfboards of avocado) at Sushi of Gari on the Upper East Side. For an equally inspired and more economical fusion feast on the Lower East Side, she visits United Noodles and nibbles chastely on crackly little napoleons made of deep-fried wonton skins layered with slivers of shrimp and orange, and the many varieties of mushroom rolls (oyster, shiitake, portobello), set in pools of frothy peanut sauce.

For Italian food in a similarly tiny saltbox setting, there’s Patio Dining, where chef Sara Jenkins turns out meaty Tuscan haunches of pork, bombed with sage and an ever changing signature crostini, topped on our last visit with eggs, cheese, and shavings of the freshest white truffle. With its whitewashed communal tables and petite flower arrangements, Salt, in Soho, exudes a tidy, feminine charm. If you want to order just one dish, my wife recommends the spinach salad, which contains a generous portion of sautéed portobello mushrooms and chunks of chèvre, all tossed in a warm pancetta dressing, accompanied by a platter of fat California dates dipped in balsamic vinegar and honey and bundled in strips of sweetly smoked bacon.


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