A Potpourri of Restaurant Reviews
Written by Bwog Staff
For the last minute planner, Bwog correspondent George Olive offers a well-educated selection of options for the elite diner in search of a romantic night out.
Though unconventional, a top churrascaria may be the perfect place to take your lover. At Porcão and similar establishments, diners pay a fixed price and then sit back as well-dressed waiters canvass the dining room with everything from bacon-wrapped filets to pork sausage to prime rib. The meat at Porcão is clearly the main attraction, and it delivers. The space itself is wholly recessed—as if you designed a dining room and then pushed all the walls back.
Each diner is given a circular card—green for go, red for stop—that signals waiters to come by or pass by. Turn the “button” to red and the service will pause—turn back to green and you will be presented with fresh selections in seconds. Furthermore, turning both buttons to red guarantees an uninterrupted moment, conversation, or cross-table smooch, presaging the “Do Not Disturb” sign (or sock) that will hopefully adorn your door afterwards. A word to the wise? In this case, take Mom’s no-swimming-after-lunch advice and run with it—give yourself a few hours before you try anything heroic.
Porcão is located at Park and 25th. Lunch is $35, and Dinner is $60.
Reservations accepted, (212)252-7080
This Vietnamese restaurant, located just So of Ho at 6th Avenue, is another great place to consider for Valentine’s Day. The meal I had here was unpretentious and subtle, rewarding the discerning palate without beating you over the head.. In other words, this restaurant is more at home in San Francisco than New York.
Dinner began at the bar. The bartender was beautiful and handled my order (stirred, dry Sapphire martini with a twist, thanks) with aplomb and cultivated downtown disinterest. We moved to a table in the front room, which was full of beautiful people. It was also noticeably awash in stranger-to-stranger eye contact.
The fried dumplings are a standout first course. They had the surface texture of a perfectly cooked Tostino’s Pizza Roll—and I mean that in the best possible way. Inside, they were stuffed with pork, clear noodles, and mushrooms. The accompanying chutney set off the pork perfectly. Both main courses we tried were excellent, with special mention going to the Striped Bass. It was courageously seasoned with ginger and chili, and it was simply sensational.
Mekong is located at King and 6th. Our dinner was $110, including 4 drinks.
Reservations accepted, (212)343-8169
Bars and Coffee Shops
This place is almost too easy, but sometimes that’s okay. Café Lalo is a little pastry shop at 83rd and Amsterdam. It’s small and manic and absolutely packed full of wobbly chairs, cases of cakes and pies, hanging copper pots, French and Italian posters, and, on weekends, people. Café Lalo is famous for its use in “You’ve Got Mail,” a charming little chick-flick that niftily manages to both bemoan the extermination of independent American bookstores by Evil Corporate Greed® AND feature in-title product placement for America Online. Be sure to buy her a Super Shake (White Russian ice cream, Bailey’s, Cognac, Espresso, and cream) or a Hum Dinger (Vanilla ice cream, Kahlua, and light rum), or both. Unfortunately, Lalo’s pastries aren’t especially exceptional, so stick to strong flavors—dark chocolate cake or a lemon tart, for instance. The coffee, on the other hand, is quite good, so grab a cappuccino. One last note: at Café Lalo the worse the weather, the greater the romance. Snow is absolutely jackpot.
You know that hot cousin you have, with whom you’ve always had an unsettling amount of chemistry? Do NOT take this person to Shalel Lounge, or you will make out. Shalel Lounge is a secret, cavernous, underground, Moroccan lounge on the Upper West Side. Imagine Bruce Wayne’s Casbah Rouge.
Stand on the northeast corner of 70th and Columbus. Take 10 steps east. You’ll see an unmarked metal stairway leading to an open-air corridor parallel to the street. Proceed down this hallway, step through the door, part the curtains, and enter the grotto. Imagine circular pounded-copper tables, low-slung loveseats, and candles everywhere. There is a moss-covered cascade in the back. Shalel is a small labyrinth of small, private rooms, most of which seem to be permanently reserved.
It’s best to “accidentally” wander in—end up on a date in the neighborhood, and coyly investigate the strange subterranean passageway.
Café La Fortuna
A friend took me here, and as we opened the door he casually mentioned that his father had proposed in this café—and that it was a big mistake. It becomes obvious immediately that Café La Fortuna is the kind of place that might encourage fools to rush in. To dispense with the flowery language: Café La Fortuna gets it right. Take someone you love here, and tell them so.
On my visit, I gazed at the pastry counter and started to point at something. “No, you’ll like this better,” the warm Italian matriarch behind the counter told me as she pointed to the almond biscotti. I asked her to recommend something else. She smiled and immediately pointed at the iced lemon cookies. “Try these,” she said. I grabbed two, ordered two cappuccinos, and sat down. The biscotto was superb, to be sure, but the lemon cookie was one of the best things I’ve ever tasted. I bought four more and took them home. The coffee, by the way, was perfect. I left Café La Fortuna completely enamored. (69 W. 71st St.)