Last week, someone I just met asked me to name my favorite restaurant. They had heard that I dined out a lot and that I was slightly obsessed with food. It stopped me in my tracks. After an awkward pause, I had to confess that I didn’t have one. I started thinking about why I couldn’t come up with an answer to a seemingly straightforward question. And what I came up with is that I don’t have a favorite because I rarely return to the same place twice. That’s probably a combination of FOODFOMO and a never-ending amount of curiosity. But after Friday night’s reservation, my restaurant fickleness may be coming to an end.
Niche Niche is the newest initiative of the sprightly Ariel Arce. I’ve enjoyed many nights at her champagne bar, Air’s Champagne Parlor and have eaten in her basement izakaya, Tokyo Record Bar a few times since it opened in July 2017. What I learned about Ariel is that the emphasis is always on the bubbles and fun and less on the food. But Niche Niche was billed as a dinner party. When I received an email inviting me to book before they opened up on RESY, I jumped at the chance. There were two nightly seatings at $40 per person with an additional wine pairing at $40 per person (you can’t do one without the other). Each night there is a “host,” a wine importer, that chooses the night’s wines. As Ariel welcomed us that night, she said: “Obviously none of you are New Yorkers because you’ve agreed to a dinner where you cannot make any choices about what you eat or drink.” Our host had a German catalog of wines, which probably drove the menu: Skate wing schnitzel with spaetzle and cabbage.
We had a reservation for the later seating at 8 pm. Tom and I were the oldest by decades. I’m pretty sure I saw a table of kids home for spring break. We are often on the older side due to the location (downtown) and the newness of the places we visit, but this was extreme. And when the dinner platter for two was placed on our table, I realized I was about to ruin a week of eating well and watching calories for fried fish with pasta. I was less than thrilled.
And then I read Frank Bruni’s article in the New York Times Sunday Review. And it all made sense. I’ve been eating out like a millennial or maybe even a GenZ’er. I need to let my 50-something flag fly. As Frank so wisely posits, “It’s not just sex and sleep that change as you age. It’s supper.” It’s not like I’m going to stop trying new places, but I’m going to slow down my RESY trigger finger and read a few more reviews before I book. And I’m going to allow myself to continue to return to the restaurants that have the potential to become my “favorite.” See my list below.
I’ve always wanted to speak French after studying in Paris in the summer of 1986. It’s taken this long to attempt that goal. I started a ten-week course on Tuesday at CouCou. It’s the cutest little school in a narrow three-floor building in Nolita. Learning a new language at 53 is not going to be easy. I even had homework – hopefully I don’t make a fool out of myself when I have to recite Chanson Automne in Tuesday’s class.
On Thursday night, I went with my son to see The Lehman Trilogy at the Park Avenue Armory. I didn’t let on that the play was over three hours long with two intermissions, but I was a little nervous he might leave before it ended. It was one of the most enjoyable and engaging theatrical experiences I’ve had in a long time. It’s a very limited run, but I encourage you to find tickets. It was that good. Hayden thought so too. We continued talking about it on Saturday at Yankee Stadium watching the Yankees lose to the worst team in baseball. But it was sunny and warm, so it wasn’t a complete disappointment.
So the answer to what’s my favorite restaurant is never going to be just one. Here are a few that might make my list:
Chinese: Wu’s Wonton King
Thai: Pinto Garden
Fast Casual: Mint Kitchen
Sushi Take Out: Ennju
Steak Frites: Raoul’s
If you have a favorite, please let me know!
Have fun. Be bold.