After cutting his teeth on French fare at Bliss Bistro, owner Alim Maruf expands the European menu at his latest culinary project, Tapenade Bistro. Beneath its glowing yellow sign, chefs churn out tablefuls of escargots, duck confit, and steaks drizzled with wine and peppercorn sauces. Maruf invites diners to bring their own alcoholic beverages to supplement their meals, charging no corking fee and giving fermented treats a chance to catch a deep breath of air in glasses.
The smell of sizzling meat fills Sofra Cafe. But chefs don't use just one cooking method to achieve the right flavor for their meat dishes. They roast gyro meat on a rotating spit and char-grill cuts of lamb and chicken with vegetables on skewers until they're tender and juicy. But there are also plenty of unique dishes that set Sofra apart. Among the stand-outs is a dish of sauteed cubes of liver and a whole grilled bronzini fish served with a squeeze of lemon and capers. But like birthday gifts from a butcher friend, not everything has meat in it. One vegetarian favorite, the cigar borek, has chefs rolling phyllo dough into tubes that are filled with a blend of feta, tomatoes, and parsley.
L'Artiste Restaurant’s executive chef Luis Santos transplants French culinary style from across the pond to his warmly lit American dining room. He often kicks off meals with complimentary amuse bouches before presenting plates loaded with tender, finely cooked cuts of meat, such as filet mignon, lamb, or salmon. After a course or two of Mr. Santos’s savories, the talents of pastry chef Hicham Lamzaouri take over to treat tongues to a passionfruit parfait with blueberry confit or a passion fig tart beneath a dollop of crème fraîche.
L'Artiste’s intimate dining space ensconces diners in warm, yellow walls dotted with the glowing orbs of round light fixtures. A massive polished wooden bar dominates the center of the room, backed by crosshatched shelves capable of holding dozens of bottles of wine or an entire clan of meerkats in its ample cubbyholes.
Pomme Cafe unites a menu of rich, sauce-slathered French cuisine with a sprawling wine list amid an elegant wood-paneled atmosphere. Hungry Francophiles can revel in the decadence of the duck confit, which swims in caramelized pears and garlic and is accoutered with braised port shallots over a tsoureki bread pudding ($19). The ragôut au taglietelle— a scrumptious mélange of slowly stewed beef, turkey, pork, and liberty— tastily truncates hungerdom ($14). Guests can sate thirst pangs with a signature mixed drink, such as the ginger-peach-and-lime Canton Julep ($10), or with an imported wine, such as a 2007 pinot blanc from Alsace, France ($9). Or pair a dish of béarnaise-infused hanger-steak frites ($16) with a Jenlain amber, which, like Jacques Cousteau, was born and brewed in France ($8).
At Winegasm Bar & Eatery, patrons poke fun at New York's smoking ban with cigars made of cheese. The menu’s housemade ricotta and feta sticks contribute delicious class to the venue's already-elegant setting: a long dining room replete with wooden shelving that features individual niches for wine bottles. At one end of the space, metal grating spirals into a curlicued design to decorate a tall archway, and the other end ensconces tables in a small alcove of exposed brick topped with a wide mirror. But it's the centerpiece of the room—a sprawling table with more than 12 chairs—that most embodies the eatery's aim of enabling shared stories, hosting communal bites, and encouraging angry juries to really consider all the evidence.
Time Out New York mentions the "sexy little winecentric spot" as an ideal place for splitting small plates. Its Mediterranean-style tapas include bacon-wrapped prunes and steamed mussels, savory openers for burgers or paninis. Also on the roster are platters of prosciutto and gruyere, specialty pizzetas, and fondue—both cheese and chocolate. Given the restaurant's name, however, many guests immediately dive into the wine list for libations from Europe and beyond, using a legend to discern if bottles are organic, made locally, or prepped sustainably. Diners can also sip cocktails and beers as well as reds and whites, tuning in to live music from area artists on Thursdays.
Though paninis are often a precursor to a selection of entrees on most menus, at La Bottega Astoria, they’re the main focus. The menu buckles under the weight of more than 60 different panini, which are categorized according to the type of meat (or lack thereof) grilled inside. The options are diverse: the Pescara is a savory heap of roasted turkey, broccoli rabe, Gaeta olives, and spicy artichoke sauce, and the Sienna is a light, caprese-type concoction with mozzarella, tomato, basil, and olive oil. There are also 25 different gourmet salads, including a bistecca e farro with roasted Angus steak, bacon, and barley. Of course, there is a succinct selection of chef’s specialty entrees, such as linguine with fresh clams and pan-seared salmon in a creamy mustard sauce.