Thursday, September 18, 2008

Going To Giando

I can pretty much guarantee you this isn't a place you are just going to happen to walk by, decide it looks inviting and drop in for lunch.


In the first place, it doesn't really look all that inviting. In the second place, the odds of you just walking by it are about zero. It is on Kent Avenue between Broadway and South 8th Street, within spitting distance of the Williamsburg bridge. You might drive by the place, but walk by, unlikely.

However, if you like to have a view while you dine, you might want to check it out. The views are quite spectacular.

The View Of The Williamsburg Bridge

The Mysterious Chinese Woman decided to have a glass of wine before our lunch and you can see the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges behind her. You have nice views all the way around.

Bridges A Bit Too Far

I had my usual Bombay Martini, up with a twist and you can see from the background that our little corner was kind of cozy and cute.


Looking the other way though you can kind of see that this is both a restaurant and a catering hall. It definitely has that look about it.

Nice Place For A Party

Nothing really off-putting though. If I ever, somehow, miraculously, found myself in the neighborhood again I might consider having a drink at the bar and watch the passing traffic.

River Traffic, That Is

We started out with Gamberi Alla Giando (Shrimp with Lemon, Garlic and Oil Sauce) and it was very good.

Gamberi Alla Giando

Sadly, it was far and away the best thing we had. Everything else was quite ordinary, and nothing tasted like it was made with fresh ingredients. Maybe that explained why it was relatively empty at prime lunch time. And at least a couple of tables were occupied by tourists. No telling how they found out about the place. They probably asked a cabbie.

The Mysterious Chinese Woman ordered the Linguine Alla Giando (Clams, Scallops, Shrimp) and the pasta was way over-done, like it had been soaking in hot water after being cooked. The clams, scallops and shrimp all had that flavorless pre-cooked taste as well. In fact it all tasted like it came out of cans. After the nice big shrimp we got in the appetizer it was disheartening to see the little shrimp in this dish. Given that this was their signature pasta dish, well, it was sad.

Linguine Alla Giando

And, I might add, that isn't even linquini.

I didn't fare any better with my Scaloppina di Vitello Piccata (Veal with Lemon Sauce). The veal was, well, pale and overdone and pretty much without flavor. The vegetables were overcooked and limp. The lemon sauce was way too thick and starting to congeal.

Scaloppina di Vitello Piccata

Maybe the food at night is better. It is pretty obvious that most of the money made here is from the catering hall side. The views are dynamite and there is a very nice outdoor area one floor down with an outside bar (not open) and great views. Anyway, I came here with high expectations and they were largely met all the way through the appetizer. My drink was well built and the service was friendly if not overly fast. The meal itself was the big let-down.

Giando on the Water on Urbanspoon

We didn't want to take a chance on having a bad desert so we headed back to the bus stop and, as luck would have it (not really, I knew it was there) passed by Peter Luger.

The Justifiably Famous Peter Luger

The views aren't as good from here, but the steaks are great. Next time I am in the neighborhood this is where I eat. Today I just popped in for a post-lunch beer at the bar. I see they have bar stools now. Maybe they just take them out at night because the last time I was here you had to stand up to drink.

My Desert

I really like Peter Luger's so I decided it would be fun to include a copy of a post I made way back in 2005 when I made it bar number 966 on my march towards 1000 bars in a single year.

966) Peter Luger’s

Later in the evening I met a bunch of friends at Peter Luger’s in Brooklyn, right across the Williamsburg Bridge. It is located at 178 Broadway, just a few blocks from the F Train subway stop. It is kind of fun to go there by subway too because the train goes across the Williamsburg Bridge and you get a nice view. A lot of people already know about Peter Luger’s reputation because it is possibly the best steakhouse in the world. At least many people think so and I can say that I have never been to a better one. There is also a pretty decent old bar in a separate room but it is standing only and no foot rest or rail. You have to be tough to drink in here. I don’t think it is really a neighborhood bar, more of a holding area for the people who are going to eat here. And, if you are going to eat here for anything but lunch you will need to make your reservations well in advance.

There is a T shaped beer station on the bar with five spigots and it is surrounded by little bottles of Pellegrino. Three are old wooden shelves, cabinets, and sagging wine racks behind the bar with tiered shelves of liquor sitting on top and glass shelves holding glasses. Behind these are three large mirrors festooned with fir tree boughs and wreaths with red bows and gold pine cones. Hanging over the bar are old fashioned chandeliers that look like they could have once held candles but now hold candle-like light bulbs.

The wall opposite the bar has dark wainscoting going up about halfway and vanilla colored painted patterned tin above. The wall is plastered with Zagat’s Survey awards rating Peter Luger’s Top Steakhouse and various other articles proclaiming its virtues. Apparently the late Johnny Carson once said “The best meal of my entire life was at Peter Luger’s.” Well, as I said earlier, they have the best steak I have ever had in a restaurant and I am about to have part of one tonight (they serve huge porterhouse steaks big enough for several people) once I finish my beer and the rest of my group arrives.

Eat your heart out, this is me and my friends tucking in to our meal. In addition to the steak, which was great we also had shrimp and bacon appetizers and creamed spinach and fried potatoes with the meal. It was finished off with a great slice of pecan pie.

Bar Man And Friends Tucking In (posing, actually)

My friend Ben was pouting because a tuft of my hair covered up his nose in the group photo. Sheesh, the things I have to put up with.

Ben And His Nose Pouting

At least Ben didn't send me back a retouched picture that toned down a shiny forehead like the Mysterious Black Woman did.

I had a draft Brooklyn Lager at the bar and a couple of Maker's Mark Manhattans with the meal along with a wee bit of red wine.

Peter Luger Steak House on Urbanspoon

After my beer at the bar today (back to real-time) we hopped a bus for a fun ride home.

Should Have Been The Short Bus

I would like to tell you that we went right home after this, but of course that would have been much too easy. Next post, the quick last stop.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Makes You Wonder

Now I don't want this to become a political blog, but sometimes there are things that you just cannot let slip by. The other day Senator McCain said that the problems with the collapse of our large investment banks are primarily due to the fact that the regulations governing them were put in place in the 1930's and are now outdated.

Pardon me? He must have forgotten the Financial Modernization Act of 1999 that specifically undid many of the regulations put into place in 1933 after the Great Depression. That act basically broke down the barriers between banks, investment companies and other financial institutions.

Regardless of which political party may or may not be primarily responsible for our current mess, you should at least know the facts about what has contributed to it.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Soggy Sex In The City At Lumi

Before we went to the Gotham Girls Roller Derby last Friday we decided to go out for dinner. I am not too familiar with this Upper East Side neighborhood, but I figured there would have to be plenty of restaurants to choose from. Unfortunately, it was raining when we got off the subway so we didn't feel like walking very far to see what was available. Luckily, we didn't have to.

Lumi Loomed Up

I have to admit, however, that the postings in the window indicating that Lumni was used in either the Sex And The City TV show or the movie (I should have read it more closely) gave me a bit of a pause. I still remembered the bar I was in where the bartender started to furiously make Cosmopolitans for the Sex And The City bus tour that pulled up.

A Possible Red Flag

I probably would have opted to eat at Bella Blu just down the street. But, they didn't open until 5:00 PM and it was only 4:40 PM. Now this is one of the things that makes you scratch your head. The doors were open, there were waiters and a bartender and even a few people sitting at tables. If it was my restaurant I would say the kitchen wasn't open yet but you could come in and have a drink while you waited. But they didn't so back to Lumi we went. And it turned out just fine.

Lumi is a very nicely appointed restaurant. Windows looking out onto the street up front, warm and cozy which was really nice on a damp day.

A Very Pleasant Place

We started out with an appetizer of calamari and zuchini, just very lightly dusted with flour and fried to a nice golden crispness. It was served with a tasty nice chunky red sauce as well.

Calamarie E Zucchini Fritti

Given that the appetizer was so good we had no hesitation at all about eating our dinner here. This was not a place that was just capitalizing on whatever their connection was with Sex And The City.

The Mysterious Chinese Woman ordered the Capesante Dorate All'olio d'oliva, Carciofi Stufati, sea scallops sauteed in olive oil and lemon, with braised artichokes. Not only were they huge, the were both succulent and sweet. Easily some of the best I have ever had.

Well Developed Mussels, Er, I Mean Scallops

I ordered the Merluzzo al naturale, Salsa di Porri, cod fish filet broiled in its own juices, topped with asparagus, radish and fennel shavings, over a sweet red tomato sauce. I guess I was expecting a spicier sauce, more like a pasta sauce, over the cod. But, then, I should have read the menu a bit more closely. The cod was, indeed, served over a "sauce" of freshly chopped tomatoes. I now know that merluzzo means cod so I guess this dish is a naked cod.

Naked Cod

This dish was initially a bit bland for my taste, but there was no mistaking that the cod was fresh. Once I got my mind around the fact that this was a dish of fresh tastes, the cod, the peppers, the fennel, asparagus, and radish, it was quite delicious and the more of it I ate the more I appreciated it. By the time I was done I had already decided that I wouldn't mind coming back here to have it again.

Even though we were both kind of full we still had time to kill and it was raining outside, and it was warm and cozy in here, and the staff was pleasant, and, well, they had a desert menu.

More Than Enough For Two

This is their version of tiramusu, and it was delicious and unctuously rich. The ladyfingers soaked in espresso and a bit of brandy were buried deeply under the thick layer of marcapone cheese. It went perfectly with an espresso and a chilled glass of moscato, slightly sparkly and sweet enough to hold up to the tiramusu.

We took a quick peek at the upstairs dining area and decided that next time we come back it will be later in the evening and we will specifically request a table up there.

Quite Elegant

I am glad the Sex And The City sign didn't prevent me from having dinner here. I was very happy with not only the food but the service. There was nothing touristy going on here, just a nice neighborhood restaurant. Granted, it is an expensive neighborhood and this restaurant isn't cheap, but I also didn't think it was overly expensive for what you got.

Lumi on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 15, 2008

Quick Work By Bank Of America

Jeez, these guys work fast. I just heard this morning on the news that Bank Of America was buying out Merrill Lynch. Then, in the mail I receive a returned deposit that I had mailed last Tuesday because Bank Of America is closing the Merrill Lynch lock boxes.

I mailed my deposit in the envelope on top. It is a windowed envelope that I was provided by Merrill Lynch and the mailing address is pre-printed on the deposit slip.

You can see by the bottom envelope that Bank Of America pasted over the mailing window with a return to sender sticker.

Quick Work

May I humbly suggest that this might not have been the best public relations move in the world, returning a deposit with no real explanation of why or what to do with it.

I ended up calling my Merrill Lynch broker who also couldn't initially explain what had happened and wanted me to send him a copy of what I received. I did get called back in a few minutes though with the explanation that Bank Of America was closing the Merrill Lynch lock boxes and he gave me an alternative address to mail in my deposit.

Don't know why, but this whole thing didn't give me a real warm and cozy feeling about this takeover.

Some time ago Bank Of America merged or took over Quick And Reilly, where I had an account. Again, there was no advance notification and all of a sudden the cost of doing business escalated dramatically when they raised their brokerage fees. I guess we shall see what happens this time around.