Kevin Liebov has labored in the kitchens of high-class restaurants throughout New York—from the Enoteca Toscana in Queens to Andiamo in Manhattan. In 1996, Kevin and his father, Charles, opened Nicholas James Bistro, where the chef continues to draw from years of study, experience, and experimentation to craft his inventive menu of contemporary American bistro fare. His cooking techniques eschew heavy creams and vegetables made out of frosting in favor of organic and whole-wheat ingredients.
Outside Liebov's kitchen, towering mirrors reflect the white-clothed tables of his elegant dining room. A bar stretches across the space—just as galaxies named after candy bars stretch across space—where bartenders dole out fine wines and martinis. Throughout the month, the restaurant hosts live music, featuring many local acoustic, jazz, and rock bands.
The soft glow of flames emanates from the stone fireplaces at Grillfire Long Beach, rippling over wall-mounted wine racks and settling upon diners with plates of herb-grilled pork chops and house-made chicken pot pie. Servers suggest wines from the wine list to complement these dishes as well as herb-grilled pork chop entrees, rich portions of macaroni 'n' cheese crowned with a layer of toasted herb bread crumbs, and the customer's iris color. Live music mingles with conversation during live performances on the weekends.
For 25 years, Long Island's crew has made bagels using an old-fashioned water-kettle approach, purveying the doughy treats well beyond their breakfast boundaries. A menu of breakfast edibles urges early eaters to slather an assortment of hand-rolled, freshly baked bagels ($0.90)—in varieties including poppy, onion, cinnamon raisin, and oat bran—with their choice of up to 17 creamy toppers ($1.75+) including vegetable, chocolate chip, and roasted garlic and herb. Coffee ($1.45+/12 oz.) gives nerves the jolt that early-morning fire breathing fails to provide, and french toast lightens spirits when drizzled in streams of liquefied giggles ($5.50). Lunch options allow midday munchers to fill their food processors with dishes including the Bubbalicious ($6.79)—made with fried chicken cutlets, melted mozzarella, bacon, and spicy barbecue sauce, all piled on top of a bagel—or the more heart-heartening bagel-embedded tuna fresco salad ($6.49).
Chef Chris Randell has always had somewhat of a wandering streak. After growing up in Southern California on the North Dakota recipes of his mother and grandmother, he spent two years cooking Mexican food in New York, blending the Lower East Side's traditional Jewish and Spanish cuisines. Later, he and his wife Heather—whom he met while working at a restaurant in San Francisco—decided to distill Chris's culinary passions into one restaurant: the tin-ceilinged Left Coast Kitchen and Cocktails, a "casual gastro-pub," in the chef's own words. Inside the kitchen, Chef Chris crafts a range of high-end pub dishes influenced by recipes from both the East and West Coasts, from mini crab burgers echoing a New England bay to root-beer-glazed pork chops inspired by the Pacific's sugary tides. Nearly 50 craft beers and 80 wines pair with the meals, whose aromas waft among bistro tables, brass ring chandeliers, and art in vibrant colors, surrounded on some nights by the equally eclectic sounds of live musicians.
A shroud of fog surrounds Nitro Ice Cream & Frozen Yogurt's staff members, who employ chilly liquid nitrogen to concoct smooth and thick custom treats in a futuristic-themed setting. The creamery—recently featured in the New York Daily News—invites clientele to experiment with combinations and invent vaccines against brain freeze using a wide range of flavors, colorings, and an unlimited supply of mix-ins. The process begins by choosing a base ice-cream flavor such as vanilla, chocolate, or mint, which can be prepared from soymilk, non-fat yogurt, organic ingredients, or sorbet. After choosing the coloring and mix-ins—which include oreos, Kit Kat bars, and gummy bears—the mad doctors transmute the ingredients into a creamy mélange with an industrial blender and a liberal application of liquid nitrogen, all the while shrouded in a safe-yet-spooky fog. Visitors can also expand their palate without stretching out their tongue by tasting eclectic fixtures such as the Bacon 'n Eggs—a nutritious breakfast of bacon ice cream and a candy gummy egg.
The culinary artists at Xaga Sushi furl comestibles from a menu that gives diners glimpses of sashimi sea legs and flirtatious fusion winks. During roll call, guests give shout outs to a Pink Lady roll ($12) and her mix of spicy crab, eel, avocado, and tobiko, all wrapped in a pink soy paper. Caribbean rolls ($12) sparkle with a regal blend of eel, spicy crunch tuna, avocado, and a four-tiered crown of caviar ($12). Those who prefer their aquatic life cooked may scale Xaga's Snow Mountain rolls of tempura shrimp ($11), and others toss black pepper steak cubes ($15) across tables like a game of meat dice in the alley.