A great shave, haircut and good company abound at family-owned and operated The Midtown Shave on E49th Street — where father-daughter duo Boris and Luda Mirzakandova draw on decades of barber experience that loyal clients call unparalleled.
“I’ve been going to Boris and Luda for twenty years,” said client Steve Elvin, in the chair on a sunny Monday morning for a quick haircut when we stopped by. “I wasn’t grey when I started going to them, but I don’t blame them for that!” he laughed. “I’ve followed them to every shop and I’m so thrilled Luda’s gotten to open her own place.”
Luda and Boris, who immigrated from Uzbekistan to the US in 1992, told Manhattan Sideways that it “only took us 30 years or so” to found their own storefront. Boris, a lifelong barber who originally learned the craft as an apprentice back in Uzbekistan — “there were no barber schools,” he explained — taught Luda the ways around a shaving kit before their family moved to New York.
Once there, Boris, and eventually Luda both worked at barbershops around town, where their reputations as thoughtful, precise barbers kept loyal customers coming back. One of the first employees hired by the Art of Shaving, Boris was deemed their first-ever Master Barber — something that Luda adds is due to his careful technique. “People come in and say, ‘your father has the lightest touch — like a feather,” she told us. “Clients are very loyal to him because once they’re found him, they stay — men don’t like change!”
When COVID-19 hit and many barber shops closed, Luda considered leaving the business altogether. “I would come home and call my dad and say, ‘I think it’s time to change my career,’” added Luda. “He said, ‘No, you can't — you’re too deep in it. You love it too much. Why don’t you start something on your own — I can help you!’ — and here I am today.”
Boris and Luda brought on one of their fellow barbers, Gabriel, and took over the space at New York Shave in East Midtown, a barbershop where Luda had worked previously before it shut down in the pandemic. “It took us about a year to get everything ready, but we’ve now been open since June 2022,” she told us, adding that a grateful flock of longtime customers had migrated with them. Gabriel agreed, recounting a recent day where a client wistfully mentioned their favorite barber. “He said to me, ‘You’re so good, and it reminds me of a guy I used to see on 46th Street and Lexington named Boris…’” said Gabriel, “And I said, ‘He’s right behind you!’”
After over 50 years in the game, Boris said he was happy to maintain these kinds of cherished relationships — and perhaps, along the way, change the culture of beard shaving in America. “In my country, everybody went out to get a shave,” he told us. “When I got here, nobody shaved!”
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.