Wednesday, April 19, 2006

April 06 NYC Best Of: Leisurely Lunch

'wichcraft in Bryant Park

J's roast pork with coppa, pickled pepper relish, and fontina panini.

70 degree sunny spring day + green grass and budding trees + fabulous people watching + a yummy sandwich = outdoor lunch heaven. Having sampled the Shake Shack on our last NYC trip, this time we headed for Bryant Park instead, much closer to J's midtown office, and home to chef Tom Colicchio's 'wichcraft stands, hawking fancy sandwiches, salads and soups (there are also two seperate stands for coffee and ice cream). The salad/soup stand is seperate from the sandwich one, which means unless you're a dedicated "preview everything before I choose" kind of person, willing to make the rounds, you must limit your options. We went for sandwiches, where the menu is divided into warm and cool--most of the warm seem to be of the panini persuasion.

J had the roast pork, while I stuck with my favorite of all time--grilled cheese. This of course was a chichi-lala grilled cheese with gruyere and carmelized onions. Both were filling, but not too big, and much more flavorful than the turkey sandwich I usually pack for lunch. The stand also served a few sides--mixed greens and a chickpea salad, and had a mix of high-end sodas. Normally, it sells chips as well, but I heard the counter guy tell folks ahead of us that they'd be out of chips for a couple of weeks?! So much for a city where you can get anything, anytime!

Honorable Mention:
Pearl Oyster Bar and Grand Central Station's Oyster Bar

Pearl Oyster Bar
Who knew that you ever actually found a pearl in a restaurant oyster? Exactly that happened to my neighbor during lunch at this aptly named spot in the West Village. The bartender at this sunlit urban lobster shack graciously rinsed it and provided a container for the patron to take her treasure home.

Pearl’s had been at the top of my list for solo dining since reading about it in Amanda Hesser’s Cooking for Mr. Latte a few years back. This tiny place is primarily made up of a long, skinny bar, with a narrow side room packed with small tables. It serves lunch from 12-2 on weekdays, dinner later, and was fairly full when I visited around 1 on a Monday. The short menu features seafood simply prepared. I had the pan-fried cod sandwich served with shoestring fries. The huge piece of fish was ensconced in a crusty-on-the-outside, chewy-on-the-inside roll, and slathered with a homemade tarter sauce, dotted with diced cornichons. At my perch at the end of the bar, as a slowly savored my sandwich, I could watch the action in the kitchen, as chef Rebecca Charles (wo)manned the grill.

For wine, the woman sitting to my right recommended the Gruner Veltliner, and following her lead, I had two glasses. As she explained to me, she wasn’t heading back to work that afternoon, and of course, neither was I.

Oyster Bar at Grand Central Station
As you can see, I like my seafood. This was my last meal before catching the bus to the airport, and an appropriate NY send off. The cavernous, brick-lined space was full of a noisy mix of tourists, families, businessmen, and seemingly tryst-like lunches. The extensive menu covers all the seafood bases, printed up daily, highlighting what's fresh.

The restaurants eponymous platter--8 different oysters.

The main purpose of our visit--in season softshell crab.

Old school--four cold seafood salads. Shrimp with ginger sauce, crab ceasar, salmon with vert sauce, and squid with basil.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

'wichcraft was good -- the bread crusted up nicely, and I like shredded pork in any form -- but my best goes to the Grand Central Oyster Bar. Not only can I get to it from my office by walking through two other notable buildings, but the oysters were briny and ultra-meaty (as can be seen) and the soft shell crab was butteriffically sublime.

- J