At Bar Majestic, live music can often be heard bouncing off the backdrop of darkly lit wood, shimmery walls, and wine racks so well stocked the place resembles a chateau wine cellar in the heart of Spain's countryside. Small, sharable portions of fresh tapas dance across tables and decorate the menu. Nibble decadent meats and cheeses, or bite bruschette such as spinach pesto, prosciutto, or mushroom tapenade ($3 each, $7 for three, $12 for five). Piping hot paninis pummel stubborn stomachs with comestibles including turkey breast, brie, romaine, and aioli ($8) or eggplant, fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and balsamic ($9).
One might assume Kurt Gutenbrunner’s wine bar is trying to hide something from the West Village residents who walk past its narrow storefront everyday. After all, The Upholstery Store is not actually an upholstery store. It’s something far more interesting: a cozy wine bar outfitted with rustic furnishings, framed Clifford Ross photographs, and—no surprise here—sheets of upholstery fabric draped across walls of exposed brick.
An Austrian native, Gutenbrunner didn’t have to look far from home when developing his idiosyncratic wine bar. He enlisted the services of an Austrian architect to design the space, and he was rewarded with a minimalist décor that makes the most of the slender real estate. The wine list is also heavily Austrian—a breath of fresh air in a city with so many French and Italian options—as is the menu, which conveys a refined sensibility with its cured meats, artisanal cheeses, and doilies dipped in hot sauce.
Lelabar earned a "critic's pick" from New York Magazine, bolstered by an extensive list of vintage wines such as a Bordeaux from 1970. Their sommeliers recommend selections from nearly 200 international wines, which are imported from the likes of Italy, France, and the moon. Patrons can also look to a central chalkboard, which details the daily wine and food specials. Food selections include meat plates, imported cheeses, and pressed sandwiches.
Aria Wine Bar is an unassuming drink spot that hits all the right notes, with an eclectic vino list that offers a wide array of vintages. Wood beams, exposed brick walls, vintage schoolhouse-style bar seats, a communal table of natural wood and a white-tile bar come together to create an atmosphere that is at once rustic and romantic. On the menu, seek out the Italian small plates, including gorgonzola-stuffed dates and assorted charcuterie, which pair perfectly with a glass of wine and a couple of friends. Their pastas include pappardelle osso buco and a classic Bolognese. Cocktail drinkers need not despair at Aria Wine Bar either; simply refer to the blackboard for a rotating list of classics.
AYZA Wine & Chocolate Bar uses cocoa like a magnet. Its 80% dark-chocolate ganache by Jacques Torres draws in connoisseurs while a cluster hazelnut by Xocolatti entices sweet teeth of all stripes. There's warm chocolate molten cake topped with ice cream to mix temperatures, Belgian chocolate-covered strawberries to mix sweets, and a raspberry-chocolate martini with Chambord and Kahlua to mix one indulgence with another.
Indulgence is the overarching theme at AYZA. More than 90 types of wine from Italy, Argentina, and Chile pair with chocolatey treats?wine coming by the glass or bottle; chocolate coming by the piece or as part of a cascading fondue fountain. For more tenacious hungers, imported cheeses pair with Mediterranean-style entrees of pan-roasted wild sea bass. To make these offerings even more romantic, the bar hosts a Sunday couples' night, when the staff sprinkles tables with rose petals instead of firmly platonic palm fronds.
Wine. Beer. Cupcakes. If you think one of those things doesn't belong, Marlo Scott is out to prove you wrong. At Sweet Revenge, she not only serves all three, she creates wine and beer pairings for her internationally inspired desserts. The idea's garnered plenty of attention, with Scott landing appearances on the cover of Entrepreneur magazine and on shows with Martha Stewart and Bobby Flay.
Although the cupcakes came first, customers can also imbibe the beers alongside unique savory varieties such as jamaican curry with chickpeas and ricotta or chorizo. These are complemented by a lineup of other brunch, lunch, and late-night dishes—which include red velvet Belgian waffles with whipped cream cheese or signature burgers with crispy rosemary potato haystack. An internationally-inspired dinner menu debuts in the fall of 2013. Dishes can be consumed on Sweet Revenge's rustic wood tables or along a sleek communal bar.