Luna Sur Latin Bistro Takes Diners through Latin America, With Great Drinks and Expert Cuisine

Luna Sur 1

Luna Sur is located at 802 Ninth Avenue between 53rd and 54th Streets, (212) 262-1299,, and is open for lunch Mon-Fri from noon to 4PM. Dinner is served Sun-Mon from 4PM-11PM, Tues-Sat 4 PM-midnight and brunch, Saturday and Sunday from 11AM-4PM. Stay tuned for pre-fixe menu for pre-theater dining coming soon.  

There’s an indisputable connection between sun and fun that is clearly reflected in the food and culture of Latin America. Mario Zarate (owner of the very popular Cuban restaurants Guantanamera in the Theatre District and Amor Cubano in Harlem) has teamed up with Chef Isaias Ortiz (also of Guantanamera) at Luna Sur (Southern Moon) in Hell’s Kitchen to take guests on a tour of Peru, Mexico, Argentina, Cuba and other Latin nations.  Inspired by people who are open to a range of experiences and flavors, Zarate has created a getaway, a Latin bistro where diners can indulge in a mix of Latin cultures, with Bold Flavors, Bright Colors and Brilliant Cocktails

luna Sangrita

You can feel the warmth from the moment you enter:  From the friendly servers who greet you dressed in brightly colored shirts, suspenders and matching converse sneakers, to a palette of bright orange, tangerine and lime on the painted wood paneled walls to the colorful placemats, and from the skylight that brightens the back dining room, as well as a floor-to-ceiling glass garage door that opens up in warm weather for service on the back patio, in addition to sidewalk seating.

The ideal meal begins with cocktails and tapas.  The restaurant has designed a cocktail menu that includes twists on classic Latin bebidas, using infused spirits and fresh fruit purees. You’ll find traditional Pisco Sours, as well as the Peruvian favorite made with pineapple, orange, or cinnamon-apple infused Pisco. The Watermelon Fresca is muddled fresh watermelon, fresh lime juice, and basil in a gin cocktail.  The famous Cuban rum cocktail, the Mojito, is served in classic mode, as well as in versions prepared with rum-infused with fresh fruit: guava, pineapple, raspberry, mango, coconut and passion fruit. In addition to a choice of fresh or frozen margaritas, and the option of fruit puree flavors, there is also the Pepino Picante Margarita, a spicy, refreshing margarita made with jalapeno-infused tequila, cucumbers, fresh lime and agave nectar. And for a real blend of cultures, try the Sangrita, a frozen margarita shot through with red Sangria. There is also a choice of beers by the bottle and on tap, white or red Sangria by the glass or pitcher, and a changing selection of wines from Argentina, Spain, Chile, the US and France, by the glass or bottle.

luna Ceviche

With drink in hand, diners are ready for a selection of small plates for sharing such as Pulpo Al Oliva, tender slices of octopus paired with a creamy, thick Kalamata olive sauce and Chorizo al Vino, slices of savory Spanish sausage marinated in Spanish red wine. Also not to be missed is the Cauza Limena, a traditional dish from Lima, Peru, wonderfully subtle, composed of smooth, delicate mashed potato layered with avocado and crab, or the addictive Luna Llena, avocado blended with Manzana, apple-strawberry-cinnamon sauce, served in the avocado shell and topped with grilled shrimp.

Larger plates include Pechuga Rellena con Salsa de Pina y Guayaba, crispy breaded chicken stuffed with ham and cheese, paired with a luscious guava sauce and served with flavorful, well-seasoned black beans and white rice.  Salmon Salcero is a wonderful well-balanced mixture of sweet and savory, grilled salmon with roasted sweet plantains and tender spinach, and Tropical Mahi Mahi, garlic marinated with mango, pineapple and papaya pico de gallo, and yellow rice.  But perhaps the stars of the show are the classic entrees—Lechoncito, completely tender suckling pig roasted for eight hours, served with garlicky mojo sauce and cassava; Arroz Con Mariscos, saffron-flavored rice abundant with shellfish (mussels, clams, shrimp, octopus, squid, scallops), the famous pressed Cuban Sandwich with roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese and pickles, and the National Dish of Argentina, El Gaucho Churrasco, fire-grilled skirt steak served with Luna Sur’s signature chimi-churri sauce.

For dessert, there are classic Latin sweets—creamy Flan with homemade caramel sauce, Tres Leches Cake (light sponge cake soaked in three milks), Cuban Rum Guava Bread Pudding, made from Cuban bread, with rum-infused guava, and the Torta de Chocolate, Mexican hot chocolate in a cake, flavored with cinnamon, chili and cayenne.

luna Cauza Limena

To add to the fun, there’s live music, three sets per evening, 6 nights a week (Monday-Saturday), beginning at 8:00 PM, featuring Salsa, Merengue and Latin Jazz with a changing roster of artists, including Xiomara Laugart, a Cuban singer who recently debuted off-Broadway, portraying the Latin music legend in “Celia: The Life and Music of Celia Cruz” as well as a live DJ for weekend brunch.  Wednesdays from 4 PM until closing, margaritas, sangria and mojitos, all flavors, frozen or regular are all just $6.   A bar menu to complement the cocktails will be introduced soon.

The Hell’s Kitchen location makes it a great spot pre- or post-theater. Downstairs there’s room for special events, cocktail parties, cooking classes, wine dinners, private dinners, or business meetings.

Great place with really friendly service. Absolutely one of the best bangs for the buck near the theater district.

Luna Sur 2

Copyright 2013 By Punchin International. All Rights Reserved.


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Chez Josephine Is Alive and Well, With Glamour, Music and Great Food

Chez Josephine 414 West 42nd Street New York, NY 10036 212-594-1925 Neighborhood: Theater District / Times Square Click Here For Reservations CHEZ JOSEPHINE and its ever-gracious host, Jean-Claude Baker offers live piano every evening starting at 6 p.m., and Saturdays are extra special with pianist Joseph Douglas, as well as Sarah McLawler (piano/vocals) performing with […]

Ember Room, Where The Scene Is Hot And The Food Is Excellent

Embers Room Int1

                             Ember Room

647 9th Avenue
Between 45th and 46th Streets


T 212.245.8880

With no big signage or neon signs, Ember Room is hidden in plain sight near the corner of West 45th St & Ninth Avenue. Suspended above the entrance are four thousand authentic handmade Thai temple bells, whose soothing and resonant tones are said to create a peaceful and meditative state. Designed by internationally renowned Thai chef Ian Chalermkitticha, Ember Room’s menu takes on an existing culinary trend in Bangkok: described as "progressive Thai comfort food", the menu is both firmly rooted in Thai tradition and seamlessly adapted to the selective integration of other culinary cultures. Signature dishes range from Italian-influenced Green Curry Lasagna, with fresh mozzarella and parmesan baked with a rich green curry Bolognese, to Chef Chalermkitticha’s signature Chocolate Baby Back Ribs grilled with surprising and irresistible BBQ Belgian chocolate glaze. They are fork-tender, absolutely delicious and a steal at $7(all of the carefully cooked dishes are fairly priced).

Ember Room is the latest venture of New York City-based restaurateurs Ace Watanasuparp and Chatchai Huadwattana, founders of Chace Restaurant Group, whose recent successes include Spot Dessert Bar, Obao, and Reserve wine Bar.

The restaurant design, boldly envisioned by internationally acclaimed hospitality designer Roy Nachum, mixes rustic and contemporary through the use of rich colors, distressed wood, and brushed metals. Near the white-veined black Carrera marble bar, the Marble Poet’s Lounge is a floor-to-ceiling 25-foot wall of 200 year-old reclaimed wood, overlaid with oversized gold-leaf Chinese calligraphy-the characters point out that sharing food and company is the greatest form of wealth. Downstairs, the focal point is the Ivory Prince Terrace: a raised dining area with symmetrical walls of mirrored bronze, stacked with metal frames evoking authentic Asian lanterns, and lit with Edison light bulbs. The room unites around a striking original painting by Nachum of a child in a forest, protected by an elephant. Upstairs, an open Mezzanine overlooks both the Marble Poet’s Lounge as well as the restaurant’s floor-to ceiling façade, with its view of the lights and bustle of Ninth Avenue.


embers room int2

“EMBER’S GEMS” include such SMALL PLATES” as Koi Tuna Tartare, fresh tuna, roasted ground rice, crispy tortillas, chili-lime dressing ; “Yum Hoi” Pomelo Scallops, 
seared “diver” scallops, chili jam glaze, pomelo salad, roasted pepper-lime dressing; Terra Cotta Fish Cakes, crispy rice-crusted red chili paste fish cake, ember room sauce and the aforementioned Chocolate Ribs.

ember room menu1

Signature ENTRÉES offer Lobster Pad Thai, Bangkok street-style pad thai, herb-poached lobster;  a divine Red Chili-Glazed Sea Bass, freshly baked, sweet and spiced glaze, celery root puree, gailan and Heritage Pork Belly, chaing mai spiced braised pork belly, root vegetables, asian herbs, fresh ginger.

SMALL PLATES purport Grilled Japanese Eggplant,  smoked salt, cilantro, red miso glaze , Bamboo Chicken Curry Dip, pan-fried roti, chicken, green curry, bamboo shoot, eggplant ; Thai Tacos, shredded chicken, bean sprouts, chives, peanut, tofu, coconut,
sweet chili sauce; “Nam Prik Ong” Lettuce Wrap, northern thai-style bolognese, fresh vegetables, crispy eggplant and that Green Curry Lasagna with green curry bolognese, fresh mozzarella, parmesan, ground beef.

There are fun plays like the Thai Chili Mac & Cheese, thai chili jam, smoked bacon, onion, fresh mozzarella, parmesan, and house-made breadcrumbs and  a not-to-be-missed concoction called: Thai Pastrami Meatballs, ground pork, bacon, sweet tamarind glaze, chinese mustard’. The chef is a master of mussels and oysters, whether Steamed “Icy Blue” canadian mussels, lemongrass, spicy and sour bouillon, garlic bread or beautifully presented Half-Shell Fried Oysters, crispy fried oyster, sautéed bean sprout, garlic chive, and a zesty sriracha sauce.

For a twist, check out the fun Ember Original Lobster Roll,  with homemade sour cream, chili jam, celeriac, shallots, mango served with crispy 7-spice fries and mayonnaise.

Soups and salads are expectedly excellent and bigger appetites will love ENTRÉES
like the Had Yai Volcano Chicken (a mere $16) for oven-roasted turmeric-coconut marinated chicken, green chili sauce, brined for three days and served  flaming.

Service is surprisingly benevolent and there is is short and attractively priced list of wine, beer, sake and such.Cocktails are generous and well constructed, and the hose versions are fun.

Don’t miss the Thai iced tea (lavender tea is also terrific), nor fabulous desserts, including all homemade iced cream (the chocolate Grenache is to die for); a light and lovely Meyer lemon layered crepe cake; or  a rich and decadent caramelized coconut cheesecake.

Certainly the definitive choice for creative Thai food near the theater district, Ember Room is one of the best Thai restaurants in Manhattan. Rating A Major.


Copyright 2012 By Punchin International. All Rights Reserved.



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Arno Ristorante

arno main dining room

Just off the Great White Way, is a perfect option for pre-theater dining

Nestled between the theater and garment districts, Arno Ristorante offers Northern Italian cuisine in a traditional, upscale setting for over 20 years. Just steps from Madison Square Garden and Broadway theaters, you  can enjoy a delicious meal before or after the event.Or savor lighter fare at lunch time and mingle with business associates at the popular bar after work.

The menu offers classic Italian offerings including Crostini di Mozzarella and Risotto ai Frutti de Mare. The flexible dining space and great location also make this a popular spot for private parties. Arno Ristorante’s decor features floor to ceiling windows, hung with Austrian shades that usher you into the comfortable bar/lounge area, where alabaster globe-lights cast a warm glow. The main dining room is more formal and separated by etched glass panels. Brass chandeliers with European-style shades hang from the ceiling and mirrored walls reflect the color scheme of burgundy and beige.

Arnos doesn’t go for culinary surprises, but pampers its happy customers with lightened interpretations of traditional Italian fare like assorted hot or cold antipasto, fresh shrimp cocktail or baked clams for starters. Then, terrific pasta, like angel hair with fresh garden vegetables or tortellini with a heavenly rich meat sauce. Meat lovers will adore the tender, quality steak, huge succulent veal chop or breaded veal chop parmigiana in a fragrant tomato sauce with melted cheese. Fish lovers need look no further than  the whole fish of the day, prepared mediterranean style or a luscious red snapper, sautéed with clams, shrimp, garlic, fresh tomato and white wine.Service is a real plus: smooth, dedicated and nurturing. The wine selection offers some good buys in Super Tuscans, as well as a full range of top-of-the-line Italian and international wines. There is also a terrific selection of wines by the glass, served in beautiful condition.

The dessert trolley offers enough temptations to make you forget you just started your diet.  Arno Ristorante is one of the last classic luxury Italian restaurants in New York that gets it right and is always a rewarding experience.


Copyright 2012 By Punchin International. All Rights Reserved.



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FIREBIRD Restaurant & Caviar Parlor: Food Fit For a Tzar

firebird ballroom

The Enchanting Ballroom, One Of Many Options For Dining

365 West 46th Street, Open seven days a week, from 5pm to 9pm Sunday through Tuesday, and 5pm to 11pm Wednesday through Saturday, with a pre-theatre prix-fixe menu available. Lunch is served Monday – Saturday from 11:45am–2:30pm. For more information,  call (212) 586-0244, visit their website at Website, Click Here, follow them on Twitter at @Firebirdnyc or Like FireBirdRestaurant on Facebook

FireBird, a Hell’s Kitchen mainstay, heralds a new era of Russian dining. The double-townhouse, vision of Baroness Irina von der Launitz, was conceived in opulence. Yearning for St. Petersburg, the Baroness implored her millionaire husband to recreate the magic of her homeland in a restaurant styled like a true Tzar’s manor, built around the theme of her beloved Russian Firebird ballet. From the imported furnishings to the walls of fine art and military portraits of the Baroness’ own family—and more than one baby grand piano—the manor transforms history into modern-day grandeur. Finished throughout with costumes and art from the 1910 Paris production of Firebird, it’s a resplendent celebration of culture—and cuisine—poised and polished for the next chapter.

firebird library

Our Favorite Room: The Civilized Library

It’s all led by Joe Valentine, just the Renaissance man to guide FireBird into its own rebirth. A true New Yorker, Joe’s life before food as a classically trained musician allowed him to see the world. When his family purchased FireBird, Joe returned to New York City with a vision to bring new sparkle to the family restaurant, and reawaken the classic space for a new generation of diners—while retaining the authentic beauty that made this a baroness’s dream realized. In his new role at the helm of FireBird, Joe has breathed new life into the celebrated space with vibrant new colors, patterns, upholstery, and of course, the menu.

firebird parlor

A Parlor Like No Other

Where else but in New York City can a few steps transport you to another world?

Sweep open the door and your eyes will go straight to the stately bar and its extraordinary array of crystalline vodka bottles—more than 200 types from around the world. You’ll then begin the tour of the manor: just as a St. Petersburg Tzar’s home would feature numerous rooms for all kinds of entertaining, each with a style all its own, FireBird, too, boasts an array of unique spaces. Head first for the opulent green-and-gold China Room, outfitted throughout with fine china and art. The Library Room lies beyond, centered around the golden apple tree of the Firebird fable, a focal point for dining in comfortable elegance.

firebird china room

The Opulent Green-and-Gold China Room

Ascend to the Parlor, where you’ll find impeccably refinished period furniture, a baby grand piano, and a cocktail, champagne and caviar lounge—just the place for an after-work cocktail or a post-theater bite. The Blue Room is bedecked in original 1910 Firebird ballet costumes won at a Sotheby’s auction, while the Ballroom sparkles in mirrors, crystal chandeliers and moonlight, streaming in from the skylight above.

firebird blue room

The Blue Room

Hold your most exclusive private events on the manor’s third floor, where you can dine under a portrait of Baroness Ivana herself in the richly decorated Red Room, or “Jewel of Russia” room, flooded in rosy light, or host in grand proportions in the LV Room—with access to a private roof garden with glittering city views.  FireBird will work with you to commission customized menus for each event— from à la carte to Russian family-style—live music, and even a private entrance with keys for your guests.

firebird caviar

You’ll Dine Like Modern Royalty, When You Start With FireBird’s Caviar Tasting

There’s no more refined Russian experience than a indulging in a flight of caviar, so begin with FireBird’s caviar tasting menu, ranging from classic to high luxury, served with traditional accoutrements: red onion, egg white, egg yolk and crème fraîche on mother-of-pearl spoons, and updated with buckwheat blini. Choose from selections like the Siberian Sturgeon, dark eggs with nutty, rich and grassy notes, or the rare Grinnel, a deep aubergine-colored roe with a fresh, citrus finish. To heighten the adventure, choose a Vodka Caviar Pairing, like the red or the black tasting.

The extensive vodka selection at FireBird—from rare imports to unparalleled housemade infusions—is a backbone of the manor’s destination-worthy status. Unique selections include an array of house-infused vodkas, such as the favorite Honey-Infused Vodka, opaque and golden with a long finish reminiscent of sweet herb and spice. Or sample rare imports like the Kazakhstani “Snow Queen”, or elite, small-batch Beluga Gold from Russia—all served in eye-catching spiral-cut frozen glass flutes.

firebird food1

And Now a New Chef Elevates The Kitchen To New Heights

Executive chef, Paul Joseph retained classic Russian recipes, but contemporizes them with modern riffs and quality ingredients. Never throwing the baby out with the bathwater, Chef Joseph maintains a steady hand with seasoning, presentation and a passion and care that is sure to bring Firebird to the forefront of the Manhattan dining scene, with one of the most serious kitchens in the theater district.

The modern Russian meal starts with zakuska, Russian for small plates, each an exquisite balance of lush and light. Start with Herring Under a Fur Coat, a beet-blushed tower of herring, carrots, potatoes and egg. An updated Olivier, a creation of Lucien Olivier of the 1860 French-influenced Hermitage in the center of Moscow, is a comfort-chic mélange of carrot, pickles, potato, and sausage, done decadently in mayonnaise.  Gravlax, house-cured with beets, is a striking red, and melts away under a drizzle of dill aioli.

FireBird reimagines Russian classic entrees like a Faberge-like rendition of Chicken Kiev, plated in a modern fashion and brought alive with ultra-tart cranberries and filled with butter, herbs and arugula purée, on a bed of kasha. Ours was part of an extensive tasting menu and was cleverly split in two, the shells brimming with glorious spring vegetables, displaying chef Joseph’s respect for lovers of the earth.

We also adored  Wild Black Bass, sided by  plump Marinated Prawns, Grilled Asparagus and a silky Parsnip Puree, sitting in a puddle of Roasted Pepper Sorrel Coulis. A new dish, Fennel Pollen Dusted Muscovy Duck Breast, in a Mashkitchiri, Honey Vodka Fondue was tender, moist and medium rare. The unctuous sauce was an incorporation of the house’s acclaimed Honey Vodka, a marriage made in Moscow.

Another heirloom recipe, the puff-pastry Salmon Kulebiaka, arrives as a luscious filet, baked with egg, sorrel spinach sauce and topped with a brilliantly flavorful citrus-fennel slaw.Our final entree was Armenian Lamb Rack & Filet Duo with a Potato Lardon Cake, Caramelized Root Vegetables and an intense Marchand de Vin Sauce. Perfectly grilled, no seasoning was required.

Naturally, the manor boasts an extensive wine cellar, with more than 200 bottles to choose from in the red cellar and over 100 whites. Wine selections draw from around the world, featuring both old and new world selections by the bottle and the glass. While big spenders can order the last bottle of a vintage Dom Per for about $1,200 bucks, value seekers will rejoice in the discovery of some pleasant Spanish bottles under $40 and the terrific presentation beer in grand chilled glasses.

Finish with a classic dessert performance: Bananas Foster bring a tableside show to the end of the night, flambéed to rich, caramel sweetness and served over ice cream. Or try FireBird’s reinvention of a favorite Russian candy, the Ptichva Moloko, or Bird’s Milk: think mallomars, served atop delicate almond cake.

Whatever you do, don’t miss a tall glass of piping hot Russian tea, accompanied by a pot of thick cherry jam.

Besides nightly dining and exclusive event rooms, Firebird will soon offer brunch service on Saturdays and Sundays, afternoon High Tea service, and guided weekend caviar tastings.

For an of evening class, civility, superb service and food worthy of the occasion, not to mention the delightful woman who greets you at the entrance and the hands-on management, Firebird is the Theater District’s Stravinsky of luxury dining.


Copyright 2012 By Punchin International. All Rights Reserved.


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Frankie & Johnnie’s Steakhouse, 45th Street, is Better Than Ever


  • 269 W 45th St, New York 10036
  • (Btwn Broadway & 8th Ave)
  • 212 997 0404
  • Website
  • Web Address
    Partners at 45th St. Peter Chimos, Van Panopoulos and Frank Zaravelis
    Head Waiter- Mario
    Waiter-Extraordinaire Spyro

Also Locations at:

32 W. 37th Street (Will Be Reviewed Soon)

77 Purchase St. Rye, NY
Vas and Jennifer Mylonas head the  Rye restaurant

                  Steak House Heaven


There’s nothing like a great NY steak house. A case in point is Frankie and Johnnie’s, the venerable former-speakeasy in the theater district. A renovation spruced things up, giving more space. There is a small, cunning bar and coat-check on the lower level. Thankfully, management retained the narrow staircase leading up to the Damon Runyon atmosphere of the main dining room, where walls are plastered with vintage-celebrity photos and Broadway memorabilia. The quarters, while still intimate, retain a  well-worn patina. The open kitchen remains and a small bar has been added.

Don’t be deceived by the laid back elegance. Here is one of the world’s best and most sophisticated steak restaurants. Service is by seasoned-professionals and is arguably the best in any New York steakhouse, thanks to Mario, the congenial manager. Our waiter, Spyro, was truly superlative and even busboys are standouts.

In the appetizer department, shrimp cocktail is fresh, not overcooked and minus iodine. A generous portion of fresh lump crabmeat is even better. And check out the house salad. It’s a minor miracle of chopped fresh ingredients (go for the blue cheese vinaigrette). The sirloin is juicy and cooked to a turn, the veal chop (perhaps the biggest and best in town) is eclipsed by double loin lamb chops that will blow you away in size, texture and taste.

Steaks are described intelligently by color and temperature (medium rare is red with a warm center: the way I like it). I’ll never know how they get the creamed spinach so green and (thank goodness) it’s well chopped and in a proper veloute. The Lyonaise potatoes are divine.

The wine list has some good choices, under $50 and has been expanded. Try the Petrocelli Petite Sirah and you will have the perfect steak wine.

If you have room for dessert, go for the cheese cake and terrific cappuccino. Frankie and Johnnie’s may be our current favorite New York steak house and rates a steak house A Major.

Copyright 2012 By Punchin International. All Rights Reserved.



Continue reading “Frankie & Johnnie’s Steakhouse, 45th Street, is Better Than Ever”