I stumbled upon the door to Reunion by chance in the middle of the afternoon, only because there was a delivery being made and the doors were open. Otherwise I do not believe most would recognize this as a stopping point for one amazing bar. I made a point to come back on a Saturday evening so that I could experience the positive energy that this bar transmits. I went into the building and descended the stairs and entered a tropical paradise. With appropriate music playing, classic and original island drinks being made, and a room filled with surf boards, bathing suits strung, a large fish tank and lots of happy people, I became an instant fan. And that was before I met Thomas Wilson, one of the delightful owners who told me a bit of the history of his bar. Paying homage to the magnificent French island, II de La Reunion, off the coast of Africa, in the Indian Ocean, the partners behind this subterranean bar have managed to capture the spirit of hanging out in the sun on a sandy beach no matter what the New York temperature is outside.
Located beneath a rental apartment building lies Gotham West Market, a space that is home to a variety of food vendors and a kitchen supply store. The restaurants offer a good variety ranging from American fare to Mexican, Spanish, Japanese, and, of course, a coffee shop.The interior is spacious with large windows flooding the concrete floors with light. Although only in their infant stages, crowds have already been seeking them out, where both on the weekends and after business hours the Market comes to life. I have enjoyed stopping by here both with friends on a bike ride, or while walking with the Manhattan Sideways interns. On one occasion, the students tried the albondigas (lamb meatballs) from El Colmado, a Spanish eatery, and watched, enthusiastically, as the chef prepared the bone marrow brulee at Cannibal for us to sample and photograph. This dish was certainly a first for Maria and Lauren, and they marveled at how the plate was so beautifully presented with the bone marrow served in the bone on a long plate with two pieces of toast and some greens on the side. They were giggling as they scooped the bone marrow onto the bread and topped it with the lettuce. And as we get ready to launch 45th Street, Choza Taqueria is getting ready to open. In 2017, we were able to return to sample their tacos and tamales.Gotham West Market has made Hell's Kitchen a dining destination, offering something suitable for every palette and time of day. The Market offers Hell's Kitchen residents – especially those living right upstairs – a great place to come together and enjoy some of New York's notable cuisine.
The wine list scrawled on the large chalkboard, the exposed wine cellar covering two floors, and the marble bar make Ardesia a beautiful place to while away the post-work hours. Damon, Ardesia's manager, says that while the place is sophisticated, "we also want people to feel comfortable, almost like they are in their living room." This atmosphere has allowed the bar to garner a group of loyal regulars, including local artists and actors and others who work and live in the neighborhood. The rotating wine list ensures they are never bored and, while the main attraction is certainly the broad selection of wines, Ardesia also has a solid menu of small plates.
Opened in 1992 and originally located on the Upper East Side, Oceana moved to 49th Street in 2009. The Livanos family sowed the seeds for the glorious Oceana long ago when they ran a diner and realized their ambitions to develop it into something more. Having worked hard to make their dreams a reality, Oceana continues to pride itself on the freshness of its food and makes a point to have direct relationships with the fish mongers and farmers. Although some have called Oceana the Mecca of seafood, the restaurant's menu is notably diverse. The executive chef, Ben Pollinger, takes to the broad reaches of American cuisine and mixes elements of different dishes together, often in an unexpected way. The Manhattan Sideways team eagerly sampled a few of the marvelous dishes, including the Copper River Sockeye Salmon Crudo, featuring pickled ramps, parsley oil, and Amagansett sea salt, and the Sea Scallops Ceviche that is topped with peaches, ginger, and cinnamon basil. I was pleasantly surprised by the incredible vegetarian dish that the chef also prepared - Summer Squash & Cranberry Bean Salad, consisting of zucchini, gold bar and pattypan squash, pignoli, purslane and drizzled in lemon vinaigrette. Absolutely delicious.The last member of the Oceana team that we were introduced to was their wine director, Pedro Goncalves. Pedro, who began working at Oceana in 2001, makes a concerted effort to develop drink pairings to accompany the delectable food menu. Standing near the white marble bar, he proudly told us that Oceana has 1100 wine listings and 600 spirits. He went on to report that with forty-seven different gins, Oceana has one of the largest selections of in the city. "There is something to fit every personality," Pedro said.
La Maison du Chocolat is a sophisticated example of a delectable chocolate shop. Everything sold inside its doors is made in Paris, with the exception of the ice cream that includes ingredients from France but is prepared on site. The day that Manhattan Sideways stopped by, we met Brigitte who has been working here since 2010. A knowledgeable chocolate connoisseur, Brigitte shared La Maison's history. We learned that Robert Linxe, the founder was originally from the French Basque Country, but acquired much of his craft while attending school in Switzerland. He went on to run a successful catering service in Paris for twenty years before deciding to pursue his true passion. At the time, chocolate was considered something to be saved strictly for special occasions; as Brigitte told us, people thought Linxe's enthusiasm for a shop devoted to chocolate was "crazy." Nevertheless, Linxe was able to find an auspicious space in Paris with a wine cellar, which he used to make the delicacies and protect them from the damaging effects of the weather. In 1977, Linxe opened the doors and welcomed Paris to his specialty boutique. Within three weeks, all of the chocolate had been sold and Linxe was dubbed the master of ganache. And in 1996, over twenty years later, Nicolas Cloiseau, the highly acclaimed chocolatier and pastry chef joined the business continuing La Maison's coveted reputation.Brigitte stressed that the discussion of chocolate is akin to that of wine; expertise comes from reading on the subject, perhaps taking a course, and most importantly, much experience. Moreover, chocolate and wine may be enjoyed together when paired consciously. Chocolate always goes well with "a nice red wine," Brigitte said. Quickly turning to the particulars, she added that milk chocolate is best paired with white wine and dark chocolate with port. Brigitte continued to enlighten us, saying with detectable fervor, "Good dark chocolate should not be bitter." It takes approximately ten days to dry cocoa beans. Rushing this process, a common crime of many chocolate companies, results in this bitter taste.Brigitte made a point of showing us how to taste chocolate: smell it first and then let it melt in your mouth. After this incredible offering of chocolate wisdom, Brigitte presented us with a plate of small pieces of chocolate arranged deliberately in a circle. Beginning at forty percent, each successive piece around the circle had an increased concentration of pure chocolate. We continued to climb past eighty and concluded with a piece of one hundred percent pure chocolate. At this point, a natural thickness set in and the pieces lost all association with candy. Suddenly, each of us agreed, it felt as though we were appreciating chocolate, not as a beloved dessert or comforting treat, but as a wonder of the earth.