A perfect romantic evening with great food and wine has finally forced us to cut through the haze of laziness and spread the word about Ayza wine and chocolate bar. I do realize that most reviews on this blog tend to be positive. This, dear reader, is not because we are generous in judging but because we do extensive research before going out, cross-checking the reviews from a couple of sites so chances of us going to a shabby place are low. However, positive reviews we read about Ayza wine bar still did not prepare us for the wonderful evening we had. Ayza is perfect for a cozy romantic date.

We were seated in a corner table for 2 from where we could look out at the rain soaked world outside. The place is dimly lit with lamps hanging down from a high ceiling – very clean straight lines define the decor. We started with wine (Syrah for the foodie and Sauvignon Blanc for the photographer) and ordered a cheese plate for starters. Our bucheron and gruyere were accompanied with crisply toasted plain and raisin bread and the cured beef was perfectly salted. We had the Azya panini and the stuffed chicken paillard for entrees. The panini was a clear winner with the sausage and the sauce perfectly complimenting each other. Chicken was stuffed with sun dried tomatoes and mozarella and was good too but it is the panini that will make me go back to the place. We did try a few of the Jacques Torres chocolate truffles for dessert, which were ok, nothing phenomenal.

Service was great – very friendly, unpretentious and unobtrusive. All in all we had a great evening and we will be definitely going here again. We paid about $40 per person.

Food:  8/10

Service:   9/10

Ambience: 8/10


It always amazes me how restauranteurs use even the tiniest of places in Manhattan to open shop. Barrio Chino was as basic as it could get – brick walls (what else?!), tables roughly jammed in, menu written with markers on a piece of cardboard which seemed it had been torn out of the fruit carton that arrived that morning. All for the sake of some authentic mexican food. We were lucky to get a table for 6 almost immediately given the crowd  outside the place. We started with the famous drinks – caipirinhas and mojitos. Apart from the dark rum mojito which had a nice woody taste to it, the rest of the drinks broadly tasted the same. Good, but the same. Appetizers were definitely the highlight of the evening – the fresh guacamole and the spicy red sauce that accompanied the nachos were polished off almost immediately. I would also highly recommend the pollo taco appetizer and would even consider ordering it as my entree. It was shredded chicken marinated in some delicious mix of spices, sauteed on top of a taco with a hint of lemon – out of the world! After the starters, we were looking forward to the entrees but we were in for a disappointment. Apart from Camarones Borrachos (shrimp sauteed in tequilla), nothing was inspiring including the chicken dish which proclaimed to be chef’s mother’s recipe. The foodie dared to be different and ordered Chile en Nogada which was pablano chile stuffed with pork, apples and pears topped with creamy walnut sauce. She learnt the lesson to never order anything which she cant imagine the taste of.

The service was unobstrusive and quick and overall we had a nice evening over drinks catching up with friends. However, good company and alcohol can also be accompanied by good food in a lot of other places in the city and Barrio Chino will definitely not be on our recommended list.

Barrio Chino

Food: 6/10

Service: 8/10

Ambience: 7/10

Manhattan transforms into a cultural mecca in the summer with free music and dance performances everywhere when un-artsy people like the foodie can pretend to enjoy jazz music while sitting on grass and sipping on wine. The best part about one such performance last Wednesday was that it was in Madison Square park, adjacent to our favourite burger place – Shake Shack.

We duly waited in line one hour before the performance and pondered over if we would be able to polish off the chocolate avalanche after our burger. We decided it was wise to not be greedy and wait in a separate dessert line after our meal in case we still had the chocolate craving. We all ordered the shack burger very aptly described as wonderfully artery clogging by 60newthings. The foodie has to admit that she is not a big burger fan or specifically not a big cheeseburger fan (she loves the aloo tikki burger you get back home in India!). But in spite she loves the shack burger. The meat just melts in your mouth and the flavour is lent by the secret shack sauce. Topped with cheese, lettuce, tomato and dipped in tomato sauce, whats not to like! Go to Shake shack on a nice summer evening with cool breeze and you won’t feel like getting up at all.

After our meal, we ambled over to listen to the Brazilian jazz performance. The music provided the perfect background to the weather, the conversation and people watching.

Shake Shack

Food: 9/10

Service: NA

Ambience: 10/10 :))

The door to famous Grimaldi's Pizzeria

The door to famous Grimaldi's Pizzeria

For a long time, we have been waiting to go to Grimaldi’s Pizzeria below the Brooklyn Bridge in Brooklyn. With 360 reviews on yelp and all talking about the smoky crust and famous long wait times, it seemed like the place to go in NYC. So we decided that we needed to have as much pizza as possible once we got there. We could feel slightly better about ourselves before stomaching a big pizza if we walked across the B’lyn Bridge there, so on one great New York summer evening, we decided to take the plunge (rather, take the walk) with 60newthings for company.

Grimaldi’s was apparently the first ever pizza restaurant in NYC, and to this day, cooks their pizza the same way. The chef from Grimaldi’s purportedly left with the recipe and opened his own restaurant, called Lombardi’s, which is also rather famous.

Grimaldi’s is rather easy to get to once you cross the bridge. You can see the the line from a block away. On a very nice, overcast Saturday evening, we spent an hour and half standing in line. The people behind us in the line had already been here once, on a rainy night and still stood in line. They swore that it was absolutely worth the wait for their amazing pizza. Given how used to we are standing in line for food in Manhattan (read our previous brunch posts), we did not totally balk the the wait here. We did see fairly large groups of 6 people being accomodated frequently, so this may be a place for group dining, if your group is fun to be with in a queue (like our friends were). A lot of people (including our friends) got ice-cream from the nearby Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory. This is a great idea because not only are their ice-creams really good, you also don’t have to stand in line there again, behind the pizza-devoured diners from Grimaldi’s who eventually will end up there for dessert.

The line outside Grimaldi's.

The line outside Grimaldi's.

The inside is a pretty no-frills, average sized pizza restaurant. The tables are cramped up right next to each other, but that is to be expected in a place as famous as this. You have a choice of either a small (16″) or a large (18″) pie. You can choose among a list of 15-odd toppings, which are fairly common. We had a small  pepperoni-mushroom and a small onion-olive pizza among 4 people. The service was quick and snappy.

The pizzas were most definitely very, very good. The crust is unlike any other pizza crust we have had before. It was soft with a distinctive smokey taste. The cheese was fresh and the meats and veggies generous without being overwhelming. So now for the title question- was the pizza worth the wait? I would have to say not really. We have had pizza from other spots in the city which have a coal oven and offer a little more creativity in their toppings or sauces (see our L’asso review). The problem with the smokey flavor, even at Grimaldi’s, is that it lasts only for a few minutes till the pizza is hot. By the time you munch through the last slice, it just tastes like any other pizza. An unusual choice of toppings can hold your interest till the last bite. In our opinion, if Grimaldi’s pizza is the gold standard of NYC pizza, then Angelo’s Pizza comes a very close silver. Plus you don’t have to wait. A tip for not waiting in line at Grimaldi’s- call them and order for takeout. Then show up after 10 minutes, and take your pizza to the water’s edge or in the park on a good day.

Inside Grimaldi's Pizzeria

Inside Grimaldi's Pizzeria

Of course, people re not there just for a pizza. Take a look at the walls full of photographs of famous people through the ages who have dined there. You also come to Grimaldi’s to experience a piece of history. We spent about 40 minutes devouring every last bit of our pizzas. If you haven’t had your ice-cream already, this would be a good time to walk over to the Brooklyn Ice-Cream factory for one of their delicious scoops. What about the pounds you say? Just walk back across the Brooklyn Bridge.

Grimaldi’s Pizzeria

Food: 9/10

Service: 7/10

Ambience: 6/10

florencia 13
We went to Florencia 13 to meet one of Foodie’s old high school friend who was in town. Reviews on the web were very split with people either loving it or hating it and some people commenting about the rude service. We were able to get a reservation for our group of 7 a few hours before dinnertime which is rare for us. One reason why we were able to was probably because the tight turnaround time that the folks at Florencia 13 have for their tables. It almost borders on rudeness! Our reservation for 7:30 and since everyone from our party wasn’t there by 7:40, the hostess told us that our reservation would be cancelled if they don’t show up in 5 mins. Everyone did turn up, about 15 minutes later, and we were given a big table at the back after a couple of minutes more.

The ambience is a little too dimly lit- one of those places where you have to strain to see the menu. Food was above average but not excellent. The foodie ordered chilli relenos which tasted alright, however, was doused in too much curry. She likes her chile relenos to be crisp. The photographer had the Santa Catalina fish tacos. The portions were good, but the fish was mediocre. Not close to the freshness that a Santa Catalina native would expect. The sangria was good. Also notable in their drinks menu was a Dos Equis and lemon combo in a salt-rimmed glass. It made for a very nice and cheap (not very creative, though) cocktail.

We cannot say anything about the dessert. That’s because our waitress came by as our meal was finishing and told us she had another party coming in in 10 minutes and she needed the table. Oh well!

Food: 6/10

Service: 6/10

Ambience: 7/10

Florencia 13, 185 Sullivan St., New York, NY 10012

Long time no review? Our readers (yes, both of you) needn’t worry as we are still eating out, just not getting enough time to pen something interesting for this blog. Hope to clear the backlog this weekend so wish us luck. Btw does anyone else want to see the Pope in NYC tomorrow or is the photographer just weird? Anyway, here goes…

This review should have come sooner as this is fast becoming our favourite place for brunch with its convenient upper east location and super food. We have also never waited for more than half an hour for a table which stands out in stark contrast to 2-3 hour waits at the neighbouring Alice’s Tea Cup. Fig & Olive has a very chic decor with the bar lined up bottles of olive oil and a variety of gourmet freshly baked goodies. The cane chairs and the communal table (which seems like an idea picked up from Le Pain Quotidien) give it a very chic feel.

The food is very nicely presented and tastes as good. The poached and the scrambled eggs come atop a crisply baked bun along with salad drizzled with olive oil. Since the foodie can’t resist anything doused in truffle oil, her favourite is the poached eggs with asparagus and truffle oil. This dish also comes with yummy grilled peppers. One of Foodie’s friend also recommends the vegetable quiche. We have never gone there for dinner – a trip which is due to taste some their olive oils with bread.

The service is average. They have once mixed up our order and once told us ” we don’t keep ketchup” in a tone that smacked of upper east side snobbery. However, usually they are efficient, quick, not overtly friendly but get the job done. One of the foodie’s friends commented that crew cut and well-shaven seems to be a part of the uniform for all the waiters!! For brunch our bill is $20 per person including gratuity.

Food: 8/10
Service: 7/10
Ambience: 8/10

Fig & Olive: Bet 62 and 63rd on Lexington

The only reason the logo is worth putting up on this post is so that you know to avoid it when you see this logo near Times Square. The photographer has consistently had the worst experience in any bar/club in NYC at Tonic Times Square.

Tonic hosts an ‘Indian’ DJ and upstairs gets converted into an Indian dance party every Saturday. That was the reason why we first checked it out. Lets start at the experience at the door. The door policy, and cover are completely arbitrary. The doorman refused entry to a friend of ours on the reason that his ID was ‘hand written’ and therefore not valid. What was this ID you ask? It was an Indian passport. The ultimate identification document for any individual, one that contained a number of visas- including a US visa, one that is recognized by the strictest immigration standards, was not enough for a doorman of a B-grade club! You see the Republic of India isn’t as ‘advanced’ as the US of A yet. There are passport offices where the passports are still hand-written, and then signed and sealed by the authorities. It meets all the security and authenticating standards of every country in the world, except for the enlightened Tonic doorman. In any other setting, a refusal to acknowledge a country’s passport is treated as a national affront and may spark an international incident. It is also worthwhile to note that fake IDs, apparently so rampant amongst US youth, are almost always printed. Was it because the passport belonged to an elite wall-street investment bank employee who happened to be Indian (and clearly above 21)? The doorman would neither listen to reason, nor willing to take us (the lucky folk with printed IDs) to the manager to sort out this issue. Therefore to get into Tonic, you first have to convince a guy who is either hugely ignorant, or hugely racist.

The club upstairs is even more pitiful. It is a cramped, long hallway type area with a bar dominating one side. The acoustics are terrible with speakers crackling and hissing with every bhangra beat. The photographer had a prolonged feeling of Tinnitus after leaving this place. The drinks are watery and the ambiance is an afterthought. The crowd is best described as B-grade. There is no cover for women till 12am, so unsightly ladies who cannot get into any club (but apparently have printed IDs) cover every available square footage of Tonic. The men are no better. ‘Indian men have BO’ is not a racist stereotype- rather an apt description of the men at Tonic. In my opinion, the average Indian music is not worth the ordeal at Tonic. People looking for similar music, but a much better ambiance should look at Kemia Bar or Mehanata or Earth or SOBs.

Drinks: 4/10
Ambiance: 3/10
Service: are you kidding?

Tonic. 727 Seventh Ave., New York, NY .