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There is a hidden gem up the block from my apartment which doesn’t quite fit in Astoria. It’s dimly lit with candles, sporting rustic furnishing and oddly shaped ceramic jugs. It’s kind of like a shed in upstate New York, except that it serves excellent wines and tapas and is a perfect spot to bring a date. This is Rèst-âü-Ránt.
I love this little establishment because of its wide selection of wines and small plates. There is nothing more perfect than sharing a bottle of Pinot Noir and one of their meat/cheese platters. (I opt for the No Commitment, which is a combination of charcuterie, cheese, bread and roasted red pepper spread. A small is more than enough for two people.)
I really thought this place could do no wrong, until I found myself in a precarious situation the other night. Out for a little romance and atmosphere, JP and I found ourselves being annoyingly cute over a bottle of wine, complimenting each other in only the most sickening of ways. Almost on cue, our corner canoodling was interrupted by a man on a microphone announcing he had arrived to entertain us with some gentle comedy.
I have no problem with stand up comedy. In fact, I think taking a date to a comedy club is a sure fire way to score. However, if you are an intimate wine bar catering to couples who want to gaze longingly at one another and forget that they ever fight about anything, you really should not devote one night a week to profane jokes about awkward sexual encounters and male genitalia. It’s just not the right atmosphere. And when the restaurant seats less than 20, it’s just plain awkward. Plus, there is only one exit – and it just happens to be right where the comic stands, so making a graceful getaway is just not an option.
I love you Rèst-âü-Ránt, but I will not be back after 9:30 p.m. on a Tuesday night.
Rèst-âü-Ránt is on the corner of 35th Avenue and 30th Street in Astoria.
I do love me a New York date night. You know the place I mean. So dim that you have a tough time reading your menu (but it doesn’t matter what you order because everything is fantastic), bartenders in white serving up classic dirty martinis and gin fizzes, and Sinatra crooning in the background.
Fortunately for me I was at such a place last night: Minetta Tavern in the Village. But my date partner was less a romantic interest and more of just a good friend. We sat at the bar and talked about our first-world New York problems while sampling some delicious Pinot Noir.
Now folks, there is typically one reason why people first check out Minetta Tavern – the Black Label Burger. This $26-concoction of four types of prime aged beef (topped with caramelized onions) is a torrent of juices and flavors that pretty much drench your mouth as you bite into the tender, almost steak-like burger. (Hungry yet?) This burger is often billed as the best in New York, and maybe the best you will ever have. For $26, it better be.
But in my humble opinion, while this was absolutely out-of-this-world, it is hard to live up to the hype of “best xyz anywhere.” I still think that the grass-fed burger I had at Diner in Williamsburg on my birthday was the best burger I’ve ever had. But hey, I’ll settle for a really REALLY close second. The waiter, Freddy, may have been enough to knock the burger over the top. Mmm what a tasty dish.