When Eating On My Own
As far as I know, dates aren’t on the menu yet at Beyoglu, which is where I sneak off to dine on forbidden Turkish delicacies like sucuk (cured strips of beef rubbed in cumin and garlic), a strangely tangy garnish called esme (pomegranate syrup, minced tomatoes, peppers), and dissolving slices of halvah, flown in fresh from Istanbul. The pickings at Alias, down on Clinton Street, aren’t quite so extreme, although the menu includes bits of skate molded into fish cakes, and delicious lamb ribs, which taste like charred little lamb chops flavored with apple cider. After consuming several platters of these, I like to conclude the evening at Punch & Judy, up the street, with a bite of the formidable PLT (pancetta, lettuce, avocado, and tomato), which is constructed from hot, salty slices of the Italian ham and served between two great fluffy pieces of toasted brioche.
BB Sandwich Bar, on MacDougal Street, is another trendy choice among members of the chowhound cognoscenti, although the much-vaunted Philly-cheese-steak hybrid (for $4, the only item on the menu) tasted stale and oddly treacly when I sampled it, like something that had been whipped together several days before on a kitchen assembly line in Omaha, Nebraska. For quick infusions of caloric pleasure, I prefer Crif Dogs, on St. Marks Place, where the proprietors insist on deep-frying their wieners in great bubbling vats of oil. The result is a shiny, nearly glowing hot dog that bursts with rich flavor, which you can purchase for a few dollars in satisfying Philly-cheese-steak form (smothered in melted cheese and onions) or topped with slices of fresh avocado and bacon, like a BLT.
Speaking of pork products, the braised pork belly at Daniel (which you can order à la carte amid all the Hooray Harrys swilling their champagne in the bar area) remains the pinnacle of sinful gourmet dining, in this fat man’s view. The fine kitchen at Pico continues to produce the best rendition of traditional suckling pig in town, although when I don’t have time to sit through a lavish pork dinner, I purchase the portable sandwich version (with sautéed spinach, on a Portuguese roll) in the restaurant’s new front-room brasserie. Lunch is also prime grazing time at Lespinasse, when chef Christian Delouvrier rolls out his barbecued pork ribs, served with sweet cab-bage, applesauce, and a nodule of foie gras.
As for burgers, I like the bison burger served to all the fat cats at The Four Seasons when I have the urge for something sartorial, and, most recently, the trimmed-down retro model ($4.50 including an Arnold roll and butcher-paper wrapping) at the Burger Joint, in the Parker Meridian Hotel, when I don’t. For friendly compromise between these two extremes, it’s always a pleasure to plunk down $14.95 for David Ruggerio’s reasonable facsimile of the vaunted (and $29) DB Burger at Rouge. This decorous whopper is filled with sautéed portobello mushrooms instead of foie gras and comes with pommes frites instead of pommes soufflé. It requires two hands to grapple (Boulud’s takes only one), however, and when you take a bite, it deconstructs in a satisfyingly messy way, as all good burgers do.