785 Ninth Ave., nr. 52nd St.; 646-289-3010
One recent night, we counted three birthday parties unfolding at Xing, the slick Chinese restaurant that’s upping Ninth Avenue’s elegance quotient one soup-spoon amuse-bouche at a time. No surprise: The celebratory mood is partly fueled by fruity cocktails and partly by a menu that, in the spirit of the much pricier 66 and Yumcha, takes pork dumplings and Peking duck out of their traditional context, repackaging them for jaded urban sensibilities. Braised-pork-belly salad deposits tasty nuggets of this year’s “It” meat over a light and refreshing citrus-scented cole slaw. Slices of chewy hanger steak steep in a Sichuan chili sauce that cries out for some of the spicier reds on a concise but savvy wine list. Half bottles of Louis Sipp Riesling are a welcome touch in any Chinese restaurant—and so is brown rice fluffy and flavorful enough to eat plain.
Zozo’s Juice & Grille
172 Orchard St., at Stanton St.; 212-228-0009
Gisele—whom we’ve considered a culinary kindred spirit ever since we saw her gulp down a Westville turkey burger like a lumberjack coming off a hunger strike—would love Zozo’s. It’s fast food, Brazilian style, inspired by the breezy beach huts of Rio, which, for all we know, may be the secret diet of tawny Brazilian supermodels. Simple but superior grilled chicken and steak sandwiches are the specialty of the house. Try the incendiary “spicy Brazilian cube steak” served on a soft Cuban-style roll, or even better, the blackened chicken breast with a nice smear of cajun mayo. Throw in some deep-fried green beans that come in a Chinese-takeout carton, and wash it all down with an avocado shake. Then end the meal, the way we imagine Gisele would, with the mini-doughnuts spackled with homemade ice cream.