1270 Amsterdam Ave., nr. 123rd St.; 212-865-4745
Falafel might be its own major food group, at least among college students, which is why it was so smart to locate Turquoise Grill in Morningside Heights. So was hiring Israeli chef Michal Zilka, whose Middle Eastern– inspired food makes the casual spot (takeout counter up front, rough-hewn dining room in back) a destination for postgrads too. Zilka’s fava-and-chickpea falafel are herb-green and crisp-shelled, and a fine accompaniment to meze like crunchy cabbage-fennel salad and hummus as exquisite as you’d expect from a Hummus Place veteran. Zilka trained as a pastry chef, too, and her halvah parfait with pomegranate sauce is an essential post-falafel finale.
75 Ninth Ave., at 16th St.; 646-638-1173
If anyone’s up for the challenge of running a restaurant inside a boutique inside a market, it’s Annie Wayte. She’s already made the basement of midtown’s Nicole Farhi boutique a destination for ladies who lunch and shop, and now that Farhi has branched out with a cut-rate Chelsea Market outpost, so has Wayte. At 202, the English chef reprises her seasonal style, with its eclectic integration of Indian and Mediterranean flavors. Her vibrant garnishes almost steal the show—piquant tomato chutney slathered on the snapper sandwich, sweet-and-sour grape chutney that accompanies mildly spiced chicken curry, fresh fruit preserves served with tender muffins and flaky scones at tea. Bubble and squeak and baked beans are amusing reminders of Wayte’s nationality—as is the meaty, mushroomy full English breakfast at brunch.
76-04 Woodside Ave., Elmhurst; 718-458-1807
The Indonesian expats who congregate at this family-run establishment gravitate to the “nasi rames” section of the menu, where the rice-dominated combination plates are clustered. That might be the more filling, economical route, but we’d rather share a slew of vibrantly spiced dishes, starting with the peanut-sauced salad called gado-gado topped with crisp, free-form melinjo-nut crackers. The beef in the national dish of rendang padang is chewy and a tad tough, but ultimately redeemed by its addictively incendiary sauce. In comparison, toothsome ayam rendang—chicken on the bone lavishly rubbed with lemongrass-and-ginger-infused spice paste—seems tame. We’ve yet to determine whether es teler is drink or dessert, but with its crushed ice and tropical fruits, it works both ways. Thick, rich es pokat, though, a lethal blend of avocado and condensed milk, is a meal unto itself.
Vintage New York WineBar
60 Wooster St., nr. Broome St.; 212-226-9463
Now that the city’s only New York–dedicated wine shop has opened a restaurant next door, its clientele no longer need hunch over the shop’s popular tasting bar, comparing Schneider Cab Francs to Bedell Merlots. Now they can do it in the relative comfort of the café, where the small-plates menu, like the wine list, is devoted to New York products, and neatly folds over so that each dish is matched up with a suggested paired wine. The warm house-smoked salmon went nicely with the Lieb Pinot Blanc, and a floral Palmer Gewürztraminer made perfect spice- complementing sense with the Thai dipping sauce that accompanies moist Long Island–duck meatballs. But the biggest surprise was the Rivendell Cab, an unexpectedly perfect match for the gooey richness of the “chocolate fantasy,” an oversize take on the molten, flourless, soufflé-like staple of dessert lists everywhere.
Waldy’s Wood Fired
Pizza & Penne
800 Sixth Ave., nr. 27th St.; 212-213-5042
Just when we thought local pizzaiuoli had done everything in their power to piss off the Vera Pizza Napoletana—that irksome Italian trade group whose goal in life is to determine what can and cannot be called a pizza—along comes this pie joint from Beacon’s Waldy Malouf. With a veteran chef’s confident hand, he tops his oval pizzas with ingredients a lesser pieman and the VPN wouldn’t dream of: luscious braised lamb with roasted lemon and oregano. Arugula, garlic, and sunny-side-up eggs. Or clams, bread crumbs, and ricotta. There are salads and shamelessly rich baked pasta dishes to round out the menu, and some decent wine, not to mention an herb planter and scissors for do-it-yourself snipping and seasoning. And while some pizzerias are known as much for their cannoli or spumoni as for their pizza, Waldy’s might follow suit with its Valrhona-chocolate eclipse, an irresistible little concoction that tastes like a rehabilitated Hostess Ho Ho.
Waverly at IFC Center
327 Sixth Ave., nr. W. 3rd St.; 212-924-8866
Manhattan’s newest art-movie house doesn’t seem to be playing up its on-site restaurant, named for the theater that preceded it. The room is dark (the better to read the subtitles of whatever foreign flick’s playing on a suspended screen, perhaps) and the entrance inconspicuous, to say the least. But all the action’s happening in the kitchen, where husband-and-wife chef consultants Gerry Hayden and Claudia Fleming collaborated on an all-day menu that gives pub food a classy makeover. Salads are stocked with fresh seasonal ingredients like an asparagus, pea greens, and sugar-snap pea combo showered with ricotta salata and lemon vinaigrette. Hefty sandwiches incorporate first-rate meats like hand-carved turkey and Niman Ranch pork. And Fleming’s fruit crisp and Guinness-soaked gingerbread guarantee a happy ending.