As we count down to New Year’s Eve, many of us are making our dinner plans by thumbing through the Zagat’s guide, where all the thousands of New York restaurants are conveniently listed for our perusal.
If you believe that, I hope you enjoyed your spiked egg nog with Santa on Christmas Eve.
The truth is, there are a sackful of great restaurants that are not listed in the Zagat’s survey. Why not? Officially, these are the less popular, thus less surveyed establishments. Unofficially? Hmm… Whatever the reason, New York Grittys deserve to know of their existence. Here are four worth considering:
1) Ichi Umi: This sprawling, 600 seat establishment (6 East 32nd Street) offers an impressive sushi and seafood buffet spread that extends for a city block. The 200+ items on the menu include extensive offerings of fresh sushi, sashimi, salads, soups and wide variety of hot foods. Raw clams and oysters are added choices at Friday lunch, while the dinner buffet offers unlimited jumbo shrimp and crab claws.
Lunch: $18.95; Dinner: $28.95 (children half-price)
2) La Caridad: A while back, I sat in this funky Cuban-Chinese neighborhood hangout (2199 Broadway/78th) beside a balding middle age man, his wife and family noisily passing around their favorite dishes. I couldn’t quite place the face. When I left I picked up the Sunday New York Times. Staring at me on the front page of the Arts section was the same guy–Larry David. Soon, the nation would know La Caridad, as Jerry and Elaine bickered about it on Seinfeld–but not the readers of Zagat. Hmm…
Anyway, I’d recommend the Cuban roast pork and moro rice (available on weekends) and the spicy stringbeans in black bean sauce.
3) New Wonton Garden: Why is Big Wong listed in Zagat’s, while New Wonton Garden directly across the street ( 56 Mott Street) isn’t? Is the former’s name more compelling? It sure isn’t the food or the ambiance. New Wonton Garden offers the best soups in Chinatown, while the beef stew with noodles, wontons and a side of soup is a steal for $7.95.
4) Bella Luna: A spacious neighborhood favorite (584 Columbus Ave/88th) known for its terrific antipasto. The assorted platter for two includes fresh, homemade mozzarella with tomatoes, olives, tuscan bean salad, roasted peppers and grilled zucchini. The black ravioli filled with lobster in a creamy vodka sauce is a great choice.
As I sat at the crowded bar with manager Guray Yuksel, he flipped open his laptop and showed me the link on OpenTable.com to the Zagat.com web site. On the latter, two notices about Bella Luna caught my eye:
1) “When this restaurant receives enough member reviews, our editors will consider it for a Zagat rating and review”, and
2) This property is closed.