Each week, I'm going to pick three places to check out. They're totally subjective, largely arbitrary and occasionally political, just like New York's dining scene.
I got the salmon atCoffeemania, and so should you. This Moscow chain just opened its first international location next to Bryant Park, and its name doesn’t do justice to what’s inside. It started in 2011 as an artisanal coffee shop — and it certainly perfected that, with physics-defying caffeinated treats like its signature Raf Coffee ($7), which makes an art of melted ice cream — and moved into the food world. The NYC menu is designed by Anissa and Morimoto alum Titus Wang, though the only theme to the food is “trendy,” which means anything from paper-thin wagyu carpaccio ($22) to borsch ($12), a Cuban sandwich ($18) and a showstopping seared duck ($32). Wang manages to tie it all together with the flavors of his Taiwanese background and French culinary training. There was not a bad dish in the bunch at a recent tasting dinner, but save room for dessert (coffee). You just don’t come across this kind of attention to detail in a prime Midtown location, with generous portion sizes at such reasonable prices.1065 Avenue of the Americas, Midtown
Food gimmicks have become a fact of restaurant life —times are tough. But this “Lady and the Tramp” pasta at the newly openedAllora Ristoranteis actually a classic dish that just happens to be crazy fun, too. Midtown's upscale Italian spot is the first in the city to serve Maccherino alla Mugnaia, a 30-foot-long(!) pasta dish made with a single, thick strand of spaghetto in a red meat sauce of lamb, beef and pork, topped with 30 miniature meatballs. The dish is $45 and serves up to four people, if that’s your romantic situation, and comes out on a wooden board with shears for easier eating.Bernic Hotel, 145 E. 47th St., Midtown East
Harlem’s celebrated restaurant The Cecil is now a private event space, but chef Joseph “JJ” Johnson is not without a kitchen. The owners also run the reincarnatedMinton’sjazz club next door, which now has a food menu to pair with its live music by renowned and up-and-coming artists. Johnson, who’s done much to put Harlem on the city's foodie map with his African fusion cooking, is bringing over some of the favorites from his old menu (the gumbo, oxtail dumplings), joined by new dishes like braised pork shank with coconut grits ($28) and short rib toast ($13). The vibe is a little more relaxed (no more white tablecloths) and the club is grooving five days a week instead of just weekends — Minton’s is now open Wednesday through Sunday, with no cover charge except for special performances.206 W. 118th St.