In restaurants, as in life, my wife and I often have opposite, though complementary, tastes. She is slim, decorous, and discerning; I'm hefty, unkempt, and omnivorous. No wonder her choice for a neighborhood gourmet dinner is usually Annisa, on Barrow Street, where Anita Lo continues to serve mysterious fusion creations lacquered squab with tea-smoked foie gras and candied walnuts; Shanghai soup dumplings, garnished with even more foie gras in a graceful dining space roughly the size of a commodious suburban garage.
When my austere Tyrolean mother-in-law comes to town, we reserve a table at Wallsé, Kurt Gutenbrunner's industrious little fiefdom on 11th Street, in the far West Village. There, the ladies can gaze at the spare, Adolph Loos-inspired interior, sip inventive cocktails with names like Forbidden Fig (Maker's Mark, fig purée, fig-infused balsamic vinegar), and nibble on savory strudels stuffed with mushrooms or fresh codfish. Recently, my wife's also been going bonkers for the blinilike potato-and-Gruyère dumplings (with crème fraîche and scallions for dipping) at Jane, on Houston Street. Aside from serving a roster of salads and three tasty varieties of eggs Benedict for brunch, this sleek new establishment is also conveniently named (we like to think) in honor of our 2-year-old daughter.
For exotic, big-budget occasions, we visit Jewel Bako, the precious, jewel-box sushiya on East 5th Street, in a former video store. Here, we dine on glittery slivers of toro and Jack mackerel dusted with citrus and ginger, Nobulike mounds of tuna tartare, and delicate after-dinner scoops of sake sorbet. Le Périgord on Sutton Place is her choice for a modest, Francophile dinner; for a gourmet three-course luncheon (preferably at one of the sunlit window tables), her favorite destination is Fleur de Sel, on lower Fifth Avenue. On a recent visit to this appealing establishment, $20 purchased a pillow of chestnut-and-white-truffle ravioli swimming in parsnip soup, a crisp sautéed country poussin in a sweet, pinkish foie gras sauce, and for dessert, an artfully constructed raspberry feuilleté, roughly the size of a commemorative postage stamp.