Sunday, January 17, 2010

NYC Low-Key Night-time Excursions

Friday and weekend nights can be a drag if you don't know where to go in NYC, so I wanted to talk about some neighborhood staples I've been to in the past and decided to revisit, all located in Soho. I'll probably touch upon different locations throughout the city from time to time. But for now...Soho...

My friend and I planned to meet up at Tomoe Sushi for dinner friday night. Tomoe is located on Thompson St. near Houston.  He was running about 20 minutes late so I decided to stop into Arturo's pizzaria on the corner of Thompson & Houston for a quick glass of wine. Since I was holding out for sushi  I propped myself at the end of the bar and only ordered a $7 house white. I subsequently ended up at Arturo's again on saturday night for actual dining.

Onto Tomoe Sushi. A note about Tomoe: if you get there before 6:30 you can avoid a line outside this place, although very non-descript on the outside and inside, Tomoe offers very fresh and delicious sushi and is considered the best in this location. It's so good the sashimi practically melts in your mouth. The staff is friendly and service is quick. We ordered Avocado salads, Shumai, Sashimi Regular Dinner (assortment of 12 pcs of sashimi, side of white rice), Tekka Avo Roll (tuna & avocado), and lastly Negi-Toro (fatty tuna & scallion). Of all the raw fish we had that night I think my favorite was the mackarel, which was exceptionally good. $66, before tip and not including saki.

We ended the night at a wine & beer bar called "The Room", located on Sullivan St. near Houston St. During the summer days the large grey metal framed doors and windows are opened up but on a cold winter night like Friday night you could walk right by this place and not notice it as the windows and doors are closed and heavily draped inside with thick dark velvet. It's got a long narrow bar as you walk in with a great selection of wines, the bartender is knowledgeable and helpful at picking out wines & beers if you tell him "surprise me". The space is surrounded by exposed brick, it's very dark illuminated only by votive candles and pendant lights here and there. There is additional plush velvet seating in the (also dark) adjacent lounge and the music genre is non-pop and very loud. We heard the following tunes among many in the time we were there:
One Chance (Modest Mouse)
Mama (Stephen Malkmus)
Missed the Boat (Modest Mouse)
That's When I Reached for My Revolver (Mission of Burma)
Mrs. Robinson (The Lemonheads)
Hearts of Oak (Ted Leo)
Moral Kiosk (R.E.M.)
Straight to Hell (The Clash)
Barbarism Begins At Home (The Smiths)

The crowd is described as business-casual. It's a great place to bring friends or to bring a date (if they don't mind having to talk over the noise of the music and chatter). An interesting note: while we were there, the party of 6 that was sitting next to us ordered a pizza pie from Arturo's nearby and it was delivered to them without any hassle from the bar's staff and they ate happliy in the darkness. Pretty cool I thought!

Saturday night with pizza on my mind from the night before, I returned to Arturo's. It is an italian pizzaria which has been around for years. It has a small bar in front and table service in the back. The decor is probably from the 70's (dark wood paneling and gold framed artwork on the walls) not much has changed. They are especially known for their coal oven pizza so when deciding on what type of italian fare to get it's best to order up a pizza pie that you can customize to your liking! They have a small jazz ensemble that plays nightly. We ordered a couple of beers, house salads, a small pie (8 small slices) topped with fresh mozzarella, sauce, fresh basil and meatballs. Total cost about $38. The pizza crust is thin and since the pies are cooked in a coal oven the edges of the crust get dark, crisp and slightly charred which adds to the flavor. The staff and bartender are friendly and talkative as are the locals who frequent the place. It's always busy so don't be surprised if you have to wait about 20 minutes for a table. It's most fun at night and the crowd ranges from NYU students to small families.

After our pizza we headed west on Houston and stopped at XR Bar. It's inviting with a chill, laid back atmosphere, cheap drinks and it welcomes a mixed crowd. Good for friends, not a date. It features a live fortune teller who reads your tarrot cards for a small fee. the bartenders are known to get a little drunk too. They play all sorts of music from 90's R&B, current and old pop to heavy metal, and really depends on what the staff is in the mood for. It's not loud and is conducive to conversation, doesn't get very crowded. Comfy seating towards the back. Overall a good neighborhood bar.

First photo: Arturo's bar
Second photo: entrance to Arturo's
Third photo: line forming outside of Tomoe Sushi
Fourth photo: overhead sign of The Room
Fifth photo: glass of beer and candlelight at XR Bar

A quick review of thursday nights outting...
It ended up being just 2 of us. We went to Bar Carrera on 2nd Ave. and 11th St. in the East Village. It turns out that Bar Carrera is right next door to Bar Veloce, it's sister bar which is a slightly more upscale wine bar I'd forgotten was there. Bar Carrera served spanish wines and a variety of tapas. A note: there are 2 doorways, one that looks like the main entrance to the dining area but is locked and the other to the right which is the actual entrance to the bar and dining space. You should use the doorway to the right, we found this out the hard way! My friend and I really enjoyed this bar. The staff was very helpful and nice. We each had 2 glasses of wine- I wanted a dry, crisp, not too fruity white wine and got (Fefinanes'07, an albarino white) and my friend got a red wine of which I don't recall. We ordered 3 types of tapas: Egg In a Blanket (truffled egg in a mini brioche with serrano ham & melted manchego cheese); Morcilla Bocadillos (traditional spanish blood sausage served with mushroom and yellow mustard); Plato Combinado (assorted spanish cured meats & cheeses, manzanilla olives and guava paste served with a mini baguette drizzled with olive oil.) We ended up asking for another mini baguette because there was more meat & cheese left which we wanted to gobble up. Overall price was a little over $100, including the wines, before tip.

We walked south on 2nd Ave and ended up walking through St. Mark's Place where we reminisced about how much it has gentrified since the NYU students have taken over. Trash & Vaudeville however is still there as is The Continental and we noticed that Sea Monsters is still on their performance list. We ended up at Cooper 35 Asian Pub, located at 35 Cooper Square. We had licheetinis (I ate both our lichee fruits). They were $4 each. We didn't want to stand at the bar so my friend asked one of the bus boys in spanish if we could sit at one of the tables and drink our licheetinis quickly, he said yes and we ended up scoring free yummy fried nachos with homemade salsa all because she spoke spanish to the bus boy! We didn't order any food and I've heard that the food there is average at best. We had a good time none-the-less! By the end of the night I couldn't remember what the name of the pub was :)