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Recession Specials

When my steak-mad friends can’t scrape together the funds for a taste of the côte de boeuf at Minetta Tavern, say, or the opulent, butter-soaked, $88 porterhouse cut available at Franklin Becker’s surprisingly accomplished new meatpacking-district operation, Abe & Arthur’s, they take a seat with the rest of the penurious, Europhile businessfolk at the new midtown outlet of the famous Parisian steakhouse Le Relais de Venise L’Entrecôte. The room looks like some Disney facsimile of a French cafeteria circa 1962, and the friendly waitresses sound less like residents of the 17th Arrondissement than like denizens of some distant neighborhood in the Bronx. But for the relatively modest price of $24, you get an entire dinner, beginning with a simple little salad and followed by a sirloin steak ceremoniously sliced tableside. The meat isn’t exceptional by this city’s lofty beefeater standards, but you won’t notice once you begin spooning it with the ruinously addictive, butter-and-herb-based secret sauce, which also goes well with mountains of the golden, salty, all-you-can-eat house frites.

If you don’t feel like paying $175 for a taste of the exotic new three-hour weekend luncheon menu at David Chang’s rarefied East Village food-geek temple Momofuku Ko, do what my daughters and I do on cold, rainy weekend afternoons and pop into the Japanese ramen joint Ippudo, where the sticky-sweet, pepper-smothered Hirata chicken wings are as compulsively delicious as many of the dishes in Chang’s increasingly expensive repertoire, and the $14 bowl of pork-rich shiro ramen is big enough for a family of three. The Platts’ default choice for fancy weekend dim sum these days is Susur Lee’s underrated Lower East Side fusion joint, Shang , on the second floor of the foreboding, Darth Vader–like Thompson Hotel, on Orchard Street. But for a more casual, reasonably priced Chinese feed, we go to Tasty Hand-Pulled Noodles Inc., on Doyers Street, where the girls like to watch the energetic noodle-makers crank out the five varieties of Northern Chinese noodles on the menu, while daddy wolfs down platter after platter of fragrant, freshly made pork-and-vegetable dumplings, which the genial waitstaff serve for $3.50 per ten pieces on clattering plastic plates.

The signature $5 “Baoguette” bánh mì at the new Christopher Street outlet of Michael Huynh’s ever-expanding cheap-eats empire, Baoguette/ Pho Sure, is my favorite Vietnamese sandwich in this bánh mì–mad town, but if pulled pork is your addiction, I suggest you get in line with the rest of the sandwich freaks at Num Pang , on 12th Street, where $7.50 buys the delectable Five Spice pulled-pork special, which the kitchen dresses with cucumber, cilantro, carrots, and sweet slivers of pear doused in just enough vinegar to cut all that pork fat. And if that doesn’t fill you up, then do what I do whenever I don’t feel like eating for the rest of the week, and waddle over to the new Third Avenue branch of the Red Hook chowhound mecca, Defonte’s of Brooklyn sandwich shop. None of the profoundly satisfying calorie bombs on the menu costs over $11, but if you want the maximum bang for your buck, fork over $9.95 for the grandiose Sinatra Special, which contains a mountain of tomato-smothered steak pizzaiola and enough melted mozzarella to feed my diminutive daughters for a month.


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