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The Cheap List

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Gelato at Piattini Ristorante.  

Prime Meats
465 Court St., at Luquer St., Carroll Gardens; 718-254-0327
The chef-owners behind Frankies Spuntino have gradually unveiled their newest project, a comfortable barroom with wooden booths, old-fashioned cocktails, and a Teutonic slant to the menu. For a place that’s nominally (and spiritually) a steakhouse, Prime Meats takes particular pride in wholesome salads like red cabbage and walnuts dressed with balsamic vinegar and walnut oil, or a crunchy toss of celery, celeriac, radish, and parsley ($8). In a refreshing break from the Italian salumi and formaggi hegemony, the cured meats are Mitteleuropean (with names like kassler, landjäger, and cervelat) and the cheeses, procured from Saxelby Cheesemongers, are exclusively American. Of the larger plates, the 36-day-dry-aged bone-in rib eye is priced at $1.70 an ounce and supplied by Pat La Frieda, as is the excellent Creekstone Farms grass-fed Black Angus burger ($13). But when in Bavaria-by-way-of-Brooklyn, we’re partial to the tangy beef sauerbraten, with a hot pretzel on the side.

Salumeria Rosi
283 Amsterdam Ave., nr. 73rd St.; 212-877-4800
True, Italian small plates are a dime a dozen these days, but Salumeria Rosi defies the competition with Cesare Casella’s quirky menu, a delightful hodgepodge of his greatest hits, shrunk down to match the tiny tables, along with some new concoctions. Everything is good, but we’re especially fond of the miniature lasagne ($8) that looks like it’s been flattened in a panini press, the little bowl of honeycomb tripe alla parmigiana ($7), and the sometime special porchetta sandwich swiped with a spicy Calabrese sauce. The room, like the plates, is small (just 32 seats), and half of it given over to an old-fashioned salumi counter where, among the encyclopedic selection of Italian pork products, you’ll find some excellent prosciutto di Parma: On regular trips to Emilia-Romagna, Casella handpicks them.

Sel de Mer
374 Graham Ave., nr. Conselyea St., Williamsburg; 718-387-4181
With its curtained façade, simple décor, and affordable menu, Sel de Mer reminds us of another cash-only Brooklyn seafood bistro: the original La Bouillabaisse during its Atlantic Avenue heyday. Like that crowd-pleasing spot, Sel de Mer is without wine and beer, for now. But that temporary drawback only helps keep tabs low for meals showcasing generous portions of fresh, imaginatively prepared seafood, like a recent halibut special served over coconut-milk-creamed spinach with crispy potatoes ($14), and a curried grouper ($15) that chef-owner Jeff Slagg dreamed up on a stroll down East 6th Street. There are three versions of moules-frites, and a selection of whole fish of the day. But the best deal might be the pair of so-called fish-cake sliders: two hefty hake burgers on toasted English muffins, served with a mound of cole slaw and the expectation that you’ll need a doggy bag ($12).

Sorella
95 Allen St., nr. Delancey St.; 212-274-9595
Pâté de fegato isn’t a dish you’ll find at your standard wine bar, but Sorella is far from standard. It’s stylish, refined, and devoted to smallish plates with big, rich flavors. Take that expectation-exceeding pâté, for instance: a square of duck-fat-enriched English-muffin bread, spread with airy chicken-liver mousse, crowned with a fried egg and sugared bacon bits ($8). Pastas are also a particular strength, from diminutive cheese-sauce-bathed gnocchi ($13) to tajarin, the Piedmontese egg pasta served here with a demure lamb ragù ($13). And the graceful layout of the space allows you to choose how you want to dine (or nibble): at the sleek, comfortable bar, for qualcosina (“a little something”), or in the tucked-away dining room, to savor a two-course prix fixe that changes weekly. Either way, you’ll want the bicerin for dessert—a dense, delicious chocolate pudding—and one of the best restaurant espressos we had this year.

Souen Noodle
326 E. 6th St., nr. First Ave. 212-388-1733
Until recently, vegetarians and vegans have been rudely excluded from the ramen hysteria that’s overtaken the city, with its fatty pork parts adrift in unctuous pork-bone broths. To the rescue comes Souen, the macrobiotic stalwart that’s spawned a noodle outpost on Curry Row in the East Village. Here amid the chicken tikka masala hawkers is a bright, cheerful oasis where the menu abstains not only from red meat, eggs, and dairy but also refined chemicals and preservatives. Seitan, they’ve got. Not to mention yuba, sesame tofu, spicy edamame hummus, and a steaming bowl of miso-based curry ramen ($14.50) crammed with slivered squash, kale, napa cabbage, and carrots that’s so satisfying the staunchest pork-bone partisan won’t feel (too) deprived.

Tasty Hand-Pulled Noodles Inc.
1 Doyer St., nr. Bowery; 212-791-1817
In and of itself, the opening of another hand-pulled-noodle joint isn’t exactly major news. But this humble little spot has several things going for it: an open kitchen, where the young noodle-slinger is on full, athletic view as he bangs, twirls, and separates the dough into discrete strands; an extremely friendly staff who proffer apologies when your order doesn’t materialize in the standard three minutes; and table garnishes, like fresh cilantro and pungent chile oil, that transform the soup. The noodles are springy and tender, the broth meaty but not heavy in the least. And should you feel like forgoing hot soup on some occasion, we recommend the knife-peel noodles, thickish shards pan-sautéed with cabbage and scallions and topped with the protein of your choice. At $7, the seafood medley is the priciest thing on the menu.


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