Almond

To be honest with you, I’m not even sure how I heard about Almond, a French restaurant located on 22nd Street in Flatiron. Its name may have materialized out of nowhere and landed in my brain, urging me to make a reservation for Friday night. As anyone else would do, I followed my brain’s command and clicked on a 7:30 pm reservation in OpenTable.

Almond grilled thick-cut bacon

grilled thick-cut bacon

MDP and I arrived around 7:10 to Almond. I had been standing outside for about 25 minutes, awaiting his arrival, and I was eager to get inside the restaurant since the polar vortex is once again upon us; I felt a bit cold. We walked through the thick curtain that separates the vestibule from the restaurant’s interior, and a gentleman wearing a V-neck sweater with a button-down shirt underneath stood beside a non-descript female hostess behind a computer. I informed them–since I wasn’t sure who to talk to–that we had a 7:30 reservation. The man with the preppy dress shot back, “Well, you’re early for your reservation.” This was the beginning of the end of Almond in my book. He proceeded to tell us to get a drink at the bar until he summoned us for our table. We stood idly next to a fake display of mollusks on ice for about two minutes, and then, upon noticing that we weren’t inclined to order a drink, he ushered us to our table.

The table itself was unsatisfactory, as well. We were seated against a short divider that separated the dining area from the bar folk and in the middle of a highly trafficked thoroughfare. At least the chairs were comfortable.

MDP considered ordering a bourbon. When the waiter finally came around to ask for our drink orders, he asked, “How much is the bourbon?” The waiter responded, “It’s about five ounces.” First of all, this estimate of drink volume is highly unlikely. Second, it was fairly obvious that MDP was asking for the price, which, after some back and forth, was discovered to be $14. MDP selected a beer off the back of the food menu instead. I ordered a glass of riesling, which is on tap, and it was decent.

almond le grand macaroni and cheese

“le grand” macaroni and cheese

When the waiter sauntered over to take our food order, we requested the grilled thick-cut bacon for an appetizer. I opted for the “le grand” macaroni and cheese and MDP asked for the croque madame for entrees.

Bread was brought over to our table, and we quickly devoured it. I have to say, the bread was excellent. And Almond’s food overall is very good. But, as you’re surely sensing, the service leaves something to be desired.

We waited about 30 minutes for our appetizer. The waiter assured us it was “on its way” and at least 10 minutes passed until it was presented to us. Two thick slabs of bacon sat beneath avocado, grilled red onions and a paprika white-bean stew. The bacon itself tasted fatty to me, but the combination of flavors from the avocado, onions and bean stew was delightful.

I lost track of time waiting for the entrees. The macaroni and cheese was delivered to me in a very hot dish, while MDP’s croque madame was situated in an oval-shaped cast iron pan. The macaroni and cheese is some of the best I’ve ever tried. The aroma of truffles wafted up from the dish and stimulated my taste buds before I even had the chance to take my first bite. Large bits of prosciutto dotted the dish, with the truffle flavor overpowering–in a good way–the entire experience.

The croque madame was okay, but Astoria Bake Shop still wins for best rendition. MDP also ordered french fries, and, as expected, they were very good. Crisp and delicious, the french fries were perfectly salted, as well.

almond french fries

french fries

I had already informed MDP that I wanted the chocolate pot de creme for dessert about an hour before the dessert menus were brought to us. Once the waiter reflexively asked us about dessert, fifteen minutes passed before we saw him again. I decided to pass on my beloved chocolate pot de creme. It was already past 9 pm.

MDP observed that Almond’s service may reflect its French roots. My response? We’re in America–and in New York City, no less. Get with the program and speed up the service, and be more accommodating while you’re at it. MDP also said that the somewhat expensive prices on Almond’s menus must be necessary to offset the lack of quick turnover of tables. I think he’s on to something.

Almond may have good food, but, if you’re looking to spend fewer than two hours on a meal, pass on this place.

Almond

12 E. 22nd Street (between Broadway and Park)

Flatiron, New York

Take the N/R to 23rd Street. Walk south one block and east on 22nd.

The Odeon

“Which neighborhood do you want to have dinner in?” asked my restaurant-savvy coworker as I pondered aloud about my Friday night plans.

I rattled off a few areas that might be convenient, considering MDP works in SoHo.

“What about The Odeon in TriBeCa?” she asked.

Together, we looked at the restaurant’s website and she continued to tell me all about the food and ambiance.

“Everything is good,” she explained. “And it’s got an old-time diner aesthetic. It’s a place where you can see beautiful people and feel very cool.”

It sounded like my kind of restaurant, so MDP and I decided to try it.

baby beet salad odeon

baby beet salad

When we arrived, the hostess informed us that there were several tables for “walk-ins” near the front. We mistakenly selected a table next to a pillar in the middle of the restaurant. Pro tip: Make a reservation at The Odeon if you’re interested in trying it, so that you can sit somewhere that’s not in the very center of a highly trafficked pathway.

After getting comfortable, we were greeted by a waiter who would prove to be extremely attentive and helpful over the course of the evening. He asked us for our drink orders, which were promptly delivered shortly thereafter, and what type of water we would like for the table. A few moments later, he brought us the tap water we had requested and asked if we would like some bread, which quickly came out of the kitchen.

The menu isn’t particularly large, but everything looks delicious. We ordered the baby beet salad as an appetizer to share. Before the salad was served, MDP inadvertently knocked the butter off the table. A staff member swooped in, picked up the butter and instantly brought us a replacement. In short, the service is impeccable at this restaurant.

croque monsieur odeon

croque “monsieur”

A table runner placed the baby beet salad—organized in a perfectly round circle on the plate—on the table and we dug in. It featured a bit of feta, fennel and arugula, but the best part about it was the blood orange vinaigrette that offered a citrusy essence to the salad. MDP and I were very pleased.

For entrees, we ordered off the “brasserie” section of the menu: MDP got the croque madame (it is a “croque monsieur” on the menu, but he requested the egg on top, which made it a true croque madame), while I opted for the moules frites. A slender looking sandwich, MDP’s dish was a delectable combination of prosciutto, ham, gruyere and Mornay sauce with a distinct kick to it. I greatly enjoyed his croque madame, which also came with a hearty portion of matchstick french fries that were superb. Now, I implore you to order the mussels when you go to The Odeon—even if you’re unsure about whether you like mussels—because they are easily the best mussels I’ve ever had in my life. Drenched in a beautiful saffron cream broth, they were covered with sautéed leeks and tomatoes, and were incredibly flavorful. I kept telling MDP, “These are the best mussels I’ve ever had. Even better than Belgian Beer Café.” I love leeks and don’t see them used enough when I dine out. I was delighted that The Odeon embraces the leek and puts it front and center in the moules frites—a fantastic decision. Obviously, my mussels were accompanied by fries, which I gladly inhaled.

sundae odeon

The Odeon sundae

My coworker had noted that the desserts were top notch at The Odeon. She highlighted the profiteroles, which I always love, but we decided to go for The Odeon sundae. With some of the best vanilla ice cream I’ve ever had, the sundae had a dollop of housemade whipped cream on top and a small container of hot fudge on the side. MDP drizzled the not-too-sweet hot fudge all over the ice cream and whipped cream, and I even used my spoon to scoop out the lining of fudge on the bottom of the container, allowing us to savor every last bite of it.

The Odeon is fantastic and served up some of the best fare I’ve had in recent months. Do go there.

The Odeon

145 West Broadway (at Thomas Street)

TriBeCa, New York

Take the 1/2/3 to Chambers Street and walk north on West Broadway to Thomas.

Sanfords

On Saturday morning, I had an appointment in Astoria, so we decided to try some place in the neighborhood for brunch. We scoured Yelp, looking for a suitable restaurant to serve our needs. Sanfords received rave reviews about their brunch, so we decided to give it a go. The moral of this story will be: Do not trust Yelp. (How many times do I have to say this?)

Located on Broadway by the subway station, Sanfords is essentially a glorified diner. They may have nicer menus and better furniture than diners typically have, but don’t be fooled by the aesthetics. The sprawling menu lists dishes such as croque madame, frittatas, omelettes, peanut butter pancakes and a handful of lunch items, including wraps and a burger. (Their menu is not on their website, which ticked me off before we even got to the place.)

They offer a prix fixe brunch deal for $14, which includes an alcoholic beverage (i.e. a bellini) and a coffee or tea, as well as a brunch entree. MDP and I both ordered mimosas and coffees, and MDP had a strong, negative reaction to the coffee. I thought it was okay, but it could have been the Splenda masking the poor quality of the coffee itself.

Our entrees arrived soon after we placed the order, and MDP was dismayed to find his croque madame sitting singularly on the plate. No fries, no salad. Nothing to accompany it. The sandwich also lacked the signature bechemel sauce, which is something even I know belongs on the croque madame, and my personal specialty is Italian food. He finished it, but he didn’t look happy.

My zucchini, tomato, ricotta and pesto frittata was served to me in a mini cast iron pan with cold home fries and toast on the side. The frittata was dry and had way too many competing flavors in it to be enjoyable. The pesto vied for my taste buds’ attention, while the smooth ricotta dollops dominated my sensory experience. The best thing about the meal was the toast, I swear.

I wouldn’t recommend Sanfords. MDP said, “If this place was in our neighborhood, maybe we’d go here.” And I stopped him. No, we wouldn’t. We have far better “diners” in Sunnyside.

Don’t listen to Yelp. Sanfords is not good. I wouldn’t even suggest going there and getting something that we didn’t order, just to see if it’s up to snuff. Try the Neptune Diner instead. At least Neptune owns up to its diner status.

And I don’t have any pictures of the crappy food because they sat us in the middle of the restaurant where there wasn’t much natural or ambient light.

Sanfords

30-13 Broadway

Astoria, New York

Take the N/Q to Broadway.