Il Punto

punto-logo

507 9th Ave (at W. 38th Street)

212-244-0088

http://www.ilpuntoristorante.com/

_____________________________________________________________

 

By Nancy Walman

DSC_0099

RED SNAPPER FILET IN PARCHMENT PAPER As Presented at Il Punto

Il Punto is a very high-end Italian restaurant on a very “happening” strip of  Ninth Avenue at West 38th Street. Owned by Tony Pecora  who has many businesses in the city, the executive chef is Michaela Orsini. Orsini  is one of the most versatile Italian chefs in New York. He makes everything in-house from the puffy focaccia  to his glorious desserts for which he is known.  

punto-apt2

Tuna Crudo with Ginger-Mustard Sauce

The name means “destination” and a destination it should be. You might walk by the unassuming facade, but  in good weather, the restaurant’s French doors open to sidewalk dining. Inside await three cozy, attractive rooms with terracotta floors, a burgundy color scheme and walls flanked with wine racks and hung with colorful pictures. The rooms are cleverly separated by silk-strands of curtains and the lighting is warm and inviting.

Start with an excellent  house cocktail or cool glass of wine at the welcoming bar with its large urn of flowers guarding one end and a Sicilian wine cart guarding the other. Food is authentically Italian. Many of the ingredients are imported from Italy. But what’s unique about this amazing ristorante is the chef’s range of culinary execution .

Orsini may have a strong presence in the restaurant, but you’ll know his heart is in the kitchen when he dazzles you with three versions of the incredibly delicious Crudo  (the Italian version of Sashimi}: Tuna with Ginger-Mustard Sauce, Raw Baby Squid with Frisse and Lemon Dressing and the star, Sliced Baby Octopus with Roasted Peppers and Marinated Eggplant.

Setting the tone with such a trendy beginning, chef Orsini then bows to a staple of Italian home cooking: SPONGY AND TENDER STRIPS OF HONEY COMB TRIPE, simmered in CARROTS, CELERY, ROSEMARY, SAGE, ONION, DICED TOMATO AND FRESH GREEN PEAS, a dish so pure that only a gentle sprinkling of Peperoncini (Italian peppers) is needed to bring you as close to Italian-heaven as you’ll get in a Manhattan Italian restaurant. DSC_0064

Pasta Perfect

Of course, what’s an Italian restaurant without pasta. You won’t be disappointed with TIMBALLO,  LAYERS OF WIDE RIBBONS PASTA, BECHAMEL SAUCE, MEAT RAGU, AND PARMIGIANO REGGIANO. A sort of fancy Lasagna, our table couldn’t get enough. Also marvelous, with one caveat (request it to the right of al dente, ours was a tad undercooked), PACCHERI AL SUGO DI GUANCIALE or LARGE RIGATONI WITH BEEF CHEEKS, FRESH GROUND TOMATOE AND SPICES was better than any pasta we sampled at  many venues that received accolades from the media.

There are other unusual pasta options including two we didn’t sample: CONCHIGLIE CON CAVOLFIORI, GAMBERI E BROCCOLI, TINY PASTA SHELLS, CAULIFLOWER, RED ONION, GARLIC, CAPERS, ANCHOVIES, OLIVES, SHRIMP AND BROCCOLI and SPAGHETTI AL PEPERONCINO E PESTO DI CARCIOFI, RED SPAGHETTI WITH ARTICHOKE OLIVE PESTO .

Italian restaurants to us mean antipasti, pasta or risotto, entree and cheese and/or dessert, so you can’t miss such main courses as the much abused  POLLO ASSUT ASSUT: CHICKEN PIECES ON THE BONE SAUTEED WITH GARLIC, ROSEMARY, LEMON JUICE AND A SPLASH OF WHITE WINE. Normally dubbed Chicken Scarpiello (perhaps he was the brother-in-law of Sr. Rossini), and prepared incorrectly (off the bone and bludgeoned with sauce),  chef Orsini gets it right. His LOMBATINA AL VINCOTTO or GILLED TENDER RIB VEAL CHOP, RED WINE REDUCTION, DRIZZELED WITH VINCOTTO, SPINKLED BLACK TRUFFLES, MASHED POTATOES AND SPINACH is elegant, while ORGANIC FED TURKEY OSSOBUCO, BRAISED IN FRESH TOMATOES, WHITE WINE AND HERBS SERVED WITH OLIVE LEAF SHAPED PASTA  is a deliciously healthy alternative.

Seafood lovers will enjoy both DENTICE AL CARTOCCIO, RED SNAPPER FILET IN PARCHMENT PAPER WITH FRESH HERBS, SNOW PEAS, ZUCCHINI, ROSEMARY, MUSHROOMS AND CHERRY TOMATOES and DSC_0139 CIOPPINO, a creation whose roots lie closer to San Francisco than Italy, but is fresh and delicious just the same with its mélange of RED SNAPPER, STRIPED BASS, MONK FISH,SHRIMPS, MUSSELS, CLAMS, SCALLOPS AND CALAMARI IN AN AROMATIC FISH BROTH.

Finish with the best Tiramisu in town, each layer distinct and light, an outstanding Tartufo Gelato, Italian Cheese cake with strawberries culis, the luscious Miniature Cannolis  or the fabulous home-made ice creams.

Service is guiding and solicitous and the wine list is user-friendly and well priced.with inexpensive carafes countered by such winners as Cerreto’s sprightly Albarino (priced in the mid-$40s). Don’t expect an empty restaurant.  Il Punto, has a loyal local clientele peppered with knowledgeable out-of-towners,in search of a good deal near the theater and Madison Square Garden.(There is a “$30+”  Pre and Post Theater Dinner Menu.) Il Punto also happens to be one of Manhattan’s most gratifying Italian restaurants! 

  DSC_0052

The Succulent Veal Chop

Copyright 2010 By Punch In International. All Rights Reserved.

Disclosure

Continue reading

Advertisements

New Year’s Travel Bytes

Technorati Tags: ,,

Take a moment to enjoy the good life in 2010. Peruse Cartier jewelry from Liz and Princess Grace at Taj Campton Place, sit fireside for the big game in Taj Boston tailgate suites, celebrate the high-art lifestyle of Beijing at the Opposite House, and venture behind the Golden Door for Naples Grande’s Spa Til Dawn. Read on…

CARTIER AND CAMPTON PLACE

Celebrating Cartier’s 100 years in the U.S., the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco has on display over 200 Cartier objects including jewelry from celebrities such as Elizabeth Taylor and Princess Grace of Monaco. Taj Campton Place San Francisco, the official hotel of the Cartier and America exhibit, is offering its JEWELS AND THE CROWN PACKAGE which includes two nights in a deluxe room, breakfast and comp tickets for two starting at $498. The exhibit runs from now through April 18, 2010, at the Legion of Honor, Lincoln Park, SF. To book call 415-781-5555 or email reservations.campton@tajhotels.com.

 HIGH-END TAILGATING FOR THE SPORTS-LOVING JET-SET

Taj Boston’s Fireside Tailgate offer is perfect for a Superbowl weekend tailgating experience, minus the wind-chill and car exhaust. In fact, it comes with your own fireplace butler, luxury suite, tailgate cuisine and 42-Inch flat screen. Watch all your favorite teams by the fire (choice of Birch, Cherry, Oak, Maple or Taj blend) until April 1 with chef-prepared New England faves like clam chowder, crab cakes, chicken pot pie, Kobe beef burger with house-fries, Taj Boston Cream Pie and full bar. A Fireside Dining event planner can custom arrange large fireside events in a residential-style townhouse-inspired space. Rates for a Fireside Tailgate Suite begin at $480. Call Taj Boston at 617-536-5700 or 877-482-5267 (877-4-TAJ BOS).

 CELEBRATE NUVEAU BEIJING AT THE OPPOSITE HOUSE

Beijing’s newest darling is The Opposite House, a designer hotel from Swire Hotels and architect Kengo Kuma. It features the city’s largest rooms in the cosmo Sanlitun district and provocative architecture. The new mystique of the Orient awaits with Celebrate at The House, a weekend getaway complete with chilled bottle of bubbly on arrival, round trip Maserati transfers, and a limited edition oppositehouse vol 1 CD, a collection of soundtracks by some of China’s most prolific young musicians. Rates start at $335 USD per night (RMB 2,288) for a Studio 45 room. Includes breakfast, comp mini-bar and wifi, workout, pool and guided walks through Old Beijing. Offer valid through February 28, 2010. For more information: www.theoppositehouse.com

SPA TIL DAWN BEHIND THE GOLDEN DOOR AT NAPLES GRANDE

Naples Grande Beach Resort’s ‘Spa Til Dawn’ package at Golden Door is an unprecedented overnight stay in a private Spa Villa with custom couples treatments, chef’s tasting dinner, exclusive after-hours spa access and more. Experience the ultimate romantic getaway at this Southwest Florida, eco-smart beach retreat on 23 waterfront acres. The Golden Door, an indoor/outdoor spa village with Zen-inspired treatment pavilions, harbors the Spa Villa within its garden. This glass and teak pavilion with Asian platform bed, generous soaking tub, indoor treatment and lounge areas and outdoor sundeck and patio is now available on a limited basis. Stay includes custom spa services at sunset, dinner by moonlight adjoining candy cane waterfalls and exclusive after-hours access to the spa’s outdoor whirlpools, sauna, steam chambers and signature meditation labyrinth. Priced at $3,999. Visit www.naplesgranderesort.com/golden-door-spa/

Marfa’s BBQ Renaissance: Take Home a West Texas BBQ

The Jets may be out of the Super Bowl, but that wont stop New Yorkers from watching the big game.  As you eagerly prepare for the big game, Marfa NYC is preparing to keep you fed with a feast to enjoy right in your living room!  Available Sunday February 7th (Super Bowl Sunday), Marfa is offering its “Take Home a West Texas BBQ” to go special.  This titanic special is complete with mounds of chef Tony Cruz’s West Texas BBQ options, including:

Continue reading

Consistently Sweet and Delicious Wines From Quady

A Sweeter Valentine’s DayElysium07

Consistently Sweet and Delicious Wines –

Without the Guesswork

Along with chocolates and flowers, the upcoming Valentine’s Day is worthy of something special – perhaps a delicious dessert, perhaps delicious, sweet wines to go with that dessert.

Quady Winery (www.quadywinery.com) has been making delightful, very creative, award-winning sweet wines in Madera, CA since 1975, shipping their wines to connoisseurs in the U.S. and worldwide.

Quady wines are available at retail in all major markets in the U.S. In addition, Quady ships direct to many states; see www.quadywinery.com for more details.

 

Something Different – and Predictable – for a Change

And, unlike the uncertainly and guesswork we have all experienced opening a bottle of wine – only to find it has gone bad – these wines are consistently delicious and predictable.

Sweetness comes in many forms, perhaps as an aperitif before a great meal, wonderful as a sweet wine pairing with many desserts – and many people have not tasted excellent sweet wines.Essensia

There is Essensia, made from delicious Orange Muscat grapes (known in Italy as Orange Blossom Muscat), a delicious accompaniment to desserts, especially chocolate and those containing almonds, peaches, apples or apricots. With sparkling water, Essensia makes a refreshing spritzer; with sparking wine you have an Essensia Royale. Delicious.

Suggested retail price: $12 – $14 (375 ml), $24 (750 ml).

Disclosure

Continue reading

THE RUSSIAN TEA ROOM THROWS OPEN ITS DOORS

russian=tea-int-1

TREASURES FOR RESTAURANT WEEK

For Limited Time, Iconic New York Restaurant Will

Offer Guided Tours of Storied Facility

The Russian Tea Room, one of New York City’s most iconic and storied eating establishments, today announced that, for the first time ever, it will be offering exclusive guided tours of its celebrated four-story facility for dining guests and visitors during New York City Restaurant Week.

The floors on display will include the whimsical second-floor "Bear Lounge", which offers guests an enchanting visual experience, featuring a spectacular tree of Fabergé-inspired Venetian glass eggs and a 15-foot revolving bear aquarium replete with large, glimmering goldfish; the third floor "Bear Ballroom" with a stunning 25-ft ceiling decorated with etched mirrors of frolicking bears and three imperial bronze chandeliers adorned by playful brass bears; and on the top floor, "The Hearth Room" which features walls of inlaid decorative wood paneling, a fireplace and an active diorama of the Kremlin in every season.

Continue reading

AWARD-WINNING AUTHOR JOANNA PRUESS AT EMPIRE CITY CASINO

EMPIRE CITY LOGO

AWARD-WINNING AUTHOR JOANNA PRUESS AT EMPIRE CITY CASINO AT YONKERS RACEWAY FOR A TASTE OF MARDI GRAS ON THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 11, AT 7:00 PM; “CARNIVAL IN THE KITCHEN” FEATURES CHEF DEMONSTRATION, TASTING AND BOOK SIGNING FOR ELITE CLUB MEMBERS

RECIPES FROM “CAST IRON COOKING: DELICIOUS AND SIMPLE COMFORT FOOD” WILL BE DELIVERED IN EMPIRE CITY’S GOOD TIME ROOM; PRUESS WILL BE JOINED BY HER HUSBAND, FOOD COMMENTATOR BOB LAPEJOANNA PRUESS HEADSHOT

Call  February 11th “Fat Thursday” at Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway. As a prelude to the Mardi Gras celebration and “Fat Tuesday,” Joanna Pruess, the award-winning author of nine cookbooks, will prepare a Mardi Gras smorgasbord with recipes from her latest publication Cast Iron Cooking: Delicious and Simple Comfort Food” and deliver a chef demonstration exclusively for Elite Empire Club Members. “Carnival in the Kitchen” gets underway at 7:00 pm in Empire City’s “Good Time Room.”

Pruess, whose popular books also include Mod Mex and Seduced by Bacon, has had articles and recipes published in the New York Times Sunday Magazine, the Washington Post, Saveur, Food & Wine, and the Associated Press syndicate. A former Westchester County resident in Katonah and Mt. Kisco, Pruess now lives in the Bronx, New York with her husband, restaurant critic Bob Lape, who will join her for the 7:00 pm dinner, demo and book-signing.

Continue reading

AL BUSTAN

al-bustan-int1 

Technorati Tags: ,,

Photo credit: al Bustans

Al Bustan

319 East 53rd Street (Between 2nd & 3rd Avenues)

New York, NY 10022;

212-759-5933

Hours: Lunch & Dinner 7 Days a Week

http://www.albustanny.com/

 

                  ________________________

By Nancy Walman

Popular Lebanese Main Stay Takes Up New Residence in Bigger and Brighter Location

Al Bustan means "The Orchard" in Arabic and for roughly 20 years, the name Al Bustan went hand in hand with authentic Lebanese food and warm Lebanese hospitality to anyone living in or passing through New York City. With a quaint location on 3rd Avenue between 50th and 51st Streets,

Al Bustan became THE place to find the most elegant Lebanese cuisine. While the original closed last December it was due to Owner and Executive Chef Elias Ghafary wanting to expand his brand into an even larger and more beautiful space.

Thankfully for neighbors who have grown accustomed to their presence in the area, Ghafary found a gorgeous two-level space nearby and has reestablished the Al Bustan name back into Manhattan’s culinary landscape.

The clean inviting space is undeniably attractive with its THREE gorgeous fireplaces. With the temperatures continuing to fall and the wind continuing to whirl, perhaps it’s a good time to explore some of the restaurants around town that offer a cozy and warm solution to this nasty winter weather.  One fireplace is in the lounge so diners can quickly warm up as they come in from the cold and the other two are located in  the dining room so you can eat your Lebanese fare fireside at spacious tables, covered with sparkling white cloths,.

Giant wood ceiling beams, brick walls of red, white and stucco and pillars covered in white organdy (lit internally) add to the romantic setting, with its three chandeliers (one massive one leading down to a party room)  and shiny hard wood-floors.

al-bustan-int2

The Elegant Main Dining Room. Photo credit: al Bustans

Aromatic non-alcoholic drinks are a perfect way to start off any meal and will add tranquility to your experience. The Tamarind is a simple concoction of Tamarind syrup and water, while the Jellab is a perfumed drink scented by rose water, incense, carob molasses and floated with pine nuts. The wine list consists mainly of bottles from France, Spain and of course Lebanon, home to the first Middle Eastern winery, Ksara, which was built in 1857 (the red, a Bordeaux blend, is a delight at just $35 the bottle). There is also a full bar offering generous cocktails, poured in lovely glassware.

The stars of any Lebanese restaurant , Meze, wonderful hot and cold appetizers, designed to be shared, including smoky whipped eggplant or chickpeas, divine stuffed grape-leafs,  a choice of three tartars, including lamb with pine nuts and light as air falafel, elevated to new levels, and far from the street food you may have sampled  in lesser kitchens. Four people can order a choice of 18 of these luscious treats, and yummy Lebanese desserts (even the ubiquitous baklava is exceptional) for about $45 a person.

Before ordering, take note of the delicious house-made turnips, coarsely-julienned, marinated  48 hours in in vinegar, salt, garlic and beet juice, which imparts a lovely pink color.

al-bustan-food1

The Mouth watering Meze  Photo Credit Zandy Mangold

Ghafary has been with Al Bustan since the beginning and can actually take credit for introducing New York City to high end Lebanese food a couple of decades ago.  With a pedigree from France and having been #1 in his class at the Culinary School of Beirut, Ghafary is an expert on this bountiful cuisine and loves inviting people in to his “home” every night for some traditional Lebanese food such as Mouhamara, walnut, red pepper, garlic, chili pepper and pomegranate molasses (a personal favorite); Tabbouleh, parsley, tomato, onion and cracked wheat; and Moussakaa, eggplant simmered with tomato, garlic, onion and olive oil, as well as some unique dishes he has brought to this new location including Kibbeh Lakteen bill Saniya, baked pumpkin and cracked wheat stuffed with spinach and chickpea; Zaatar Salad, fresh wild oregano, onion, lemon juice and olive oil; and an updated take: Kibbeh Samak Nayeh, tuna tartare blended with jalapeno and onion.

Other outstanding offerings include classic Lamb Shawarma (paper thin slices of grilled lamb) to grilled Kafta. LabmehFoul Medamas, as well as elegant entrees such as Halibut.

__________________________________________________________________

al-bustan-food2 
Photo Credit Zandy Mangold

While Lebanese cuisine had made successful crossovers to cities including London and Paris, it wasn’t until Ghafary came to the US in 1988 and established himself as a restaurateur that this city finally came to know what true refined Lebanese cuisine meant. Service is not only efficient, but benevolent.

For a welcome change from the more familiar French or Italian cuisine, Al Bustan is a lovely restaurant and in the up-market Lebanese league, as good as it gets.

 

Copyright 2010 By Punch In International. All Rights Reserved

Disclosure

Continue reading