Hi friends, I hope you all made it through this weekend’s heat wave in good shape. (I ran straight to the beach.) I’m back with another edition of reader questions and, boy, do we have an interesting mix this month. There’s a visitor from the South searching for “decent Thai” — and we can do much better than decent. Another reader wants to know where to enjoy cozy Italian dining, minus the physical closeness to other diners. And finally, someone seeking bistro lunchtime options near the Metropolitan Museum of Art for a gossip session.
As always, please send along your own reader questions (or responses) to email@example.com, and you may see it featured here. Thanks!
A Thai food tour
Our South Carolina friends and I will be in N.Y.C. in early October and will be visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Not having a decent Thai restaurant anywhere in S.C., we are longing to dine at one when there. Would you recommend one for us to enjoy and truly savor? — Michael B.
Because you’ll be on the Upper East Side, I’ll recommend Up Thai, near 72nd Street and Second Avenue. They have a really fun cocktail menu and better-than-decent Thai. But consider branching out: For world-class Isan (or Northern Thai), you should go to Elmhurst, Queens, or Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and visit Zaab Zaab. Goong pow, or sausage-size prawns, anyone? If you want Thai food that will make you cry because it’s so good (and so spicy), head to Ugly Baby, in Carroll Gardens — get whatever panang curry is available at the moment. And for excellent Thai in Manhattan, I highly recommend Somtum Der on Avenue A. If I knew tomorrow would be my last day on Earth, I’d have their pad se eiw nue as one of my last meals.
Give me some room
I love eating in the city, but I become uncomfortable sitting too close to strangers. The coziest-hole-in-the-wall restaurants are a favorite, and as a vegetarian, I tend toward Italian for those easy-to-predict pasta dishes. I am inevitably sat so close to the next group that my bum almost sweeps their meal off their table when I rise to use the restroom. Asking for spacious but cozy is a hard ask. Is it possible to get romantic and cozy without bumping elbows with couples on both sides? — Dave and Valerie
Love a niche question. I’ll start with this: If you want space, dine out early or late. I’ve had entire restaurants to myself at 5:30 or 6 in the evening. Now my recommendations: Jupiter, which has the square footage benefit of being in Rockefeller Center, has relatively private velvet booths that are a feast for the eyes. Consume as many zucchini fries as possible before getting the tortellini with butter and Parm. Alternatively, try Altro Paradiso on the SoHo-Hudson Square border, one of the more airy Italian restaurants in the city. As I said two weeks back, the tomato crop is glorious this year, so go for the spaghetti pomodoro.
Lunchtime debrief near the Met
Can you recommend a good bistro or restaurant in walking distance from the Metropolitan Museum of Art? Going to the Lagerfeld fashion exhibit with three friends and we’ll have plenty to discuss over a tasty lunch. Thank you! — Joanne M.
Plenty to discuss? OK, tea! In another life, I would have recommended the nearby Café Sabarsky, but it’s closed through the end of August. So, I’ll recommend a restaurant that is near and dear to my sister, a longtime resident of the Upper East Side: Café D’Alsace. We’ve gone there a few times for brunch and ordered the burger d’alsace with caramelized onions (and Alsatian Munster, if you so please), as well as the schnitzel.
In Other News …
An update: Last week, I shared that the East Village restaurant Claud would temporarily become a daytime bakery because of issues with its liquor license. Those issues have since been resolved and, as of Sunday, Claud is operating as a full-service restaurant.
This week, Pete Wells reviews Artesano, where the chef Rodrigo Fernandini serves “intelligently assembled” takes on ceviches, tiraditos and other Peruvian dishes.
Openings: Akram Nassir, a pilot and an owner of Yemen Café on Atlantic Avenue, has opened a third location on Staten Island; Regina’s Grocery, a Lower East Side staple, has a new branch on South Third Street and Wythe Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn; and starting Aug. 14, dine on a 105-foot schooner in the New York Harbor with Marea at Sea.
Ella Quittner took a survey of the latest dining aesthetic: restaurants lit entirely in the color red, like a darkroom.
Marnie Hanel writes about the rebranding of Diamond Crystal kosher salt, a longtime favorite of professional chefs, as a more approachable ingredient for “the aspiring home chef.”