When we moved to the UWS I was a little nervous about what I thought was the lack of a real foodie scene on the UWS. In the past few years the restaurant scene up here has EXPLODED and we have a ton of wonderful dining options. The most recent addition to the UWS dining scene is Five Napkin Burger, which I can see out the windows of my apartment and have vowed to try soon. However, what prompted this post is that we finally tried Eighty One this evening. And we loved it. The funny thing is that when we were reading the reviews online we almost talked ourselves out of going to Eighty One because some of the reviews were so poor, but I had a coupon from this wonderful site called BlackboardEats for a free glass of champagne and a free scallop ravioli appetizer so we decided to go ahead and try it. While a lot of reviewers seemed to prefer Dovetail (another UWS restaurant) to Eighty One, we thought that the worst component of our meal at Eighty One tonight was far better than anything we tried at Dovetail. By the way, that scallop ravioli appetizer (pictured above), which was on the $30.81 three course economy friendly menu was amazing. It was my favorite thing I have eaten at a restaurant in at least a month, which is saying a lot since I have eaten at quite a few restaurants recently. The yellow wine sauce that was served with the ravioli was amazingly buttery and savory, but so simple that it let the scallops really shine. I actually would have licked the bowl if I could have. As it was, I took a spoon to the remaining broth/foam. So I took a few pictures of our meal from Eighty One that I am posting here now with the caveat that the lighting was atrocious and I only had my little point and shoot Canon digital Elph with me to take the pictures. Oh well.
My top five on the UWS (in no particular order):
- Eighty One. I would go back here, even if I had only liked the scallop ravioli. That ravioli could have been right at home at Le Bernadin. That is how good it was. We also tried the Marinated Holland Leeks (with pink peppercorns, duck prosciutto, kalamata olive tapenade and herb pesto), the Organic Scottish Salmon (pictured above), the Roasted Baby Pig (also pictured above), and the Bittersweet Chocolate, Peanut Creme, Salted Caramel for dessert. Everything was really nice, although the scallop ravioli was far and away our favorite. The salmon was wonderful, as were the cockles, calamari, and baby shrimp in the vibrant, but delicate herb pesto served under the salmon. I can't wait to go back to try the more casual Grill 81 room for the Crispy Fried Clam Roll.
- B Cafe. We love B Cafe for a casual meal and a fantastic selection of Belgian beers. My favorite thing on the menu is the Croque Madame (a ham sandwich with bechamel, cheese and a fried egg with a runny yolk), but the merguez sausage sandwich and the mussels are both quite good too. Also, I firmly believe that they have some of the best fries on the UWS. This isn't exactly the type of restaurant you should go to when watching your weight, but it is delicious.
- Fatty Crab UWS. Since I feel like I talk about Fatty Crab all the time I'm not going to bother to list my favorite dishes. But I think it says a lot that we go back to Fatty Crab at least once a month, considering the vast assortment of great dining options up here.
- Mermaid Inn UWS. Mermaid Inn is just such a great neighborhood restaurant. Their food is simple and wonderful in its simplicity. While it's not the best lobster roll in the city (an honor I believe belongs to Luke's Lobster in the East Village), I really appreciate their blue plate special, which is a lobster roll, Old Bay french fries and a beer for $20. They also have a nice selection of raw oysters, with $1 oysters at the bar. The last time I went I tried the Whole Roasted Fish, which was a brook trout that evening. It was simple, but flavorful. And very fresh.
- Bar Bao. I'm not even sure if Bar Bao is still open because I heard some rumors about the space being for sale. But I loved it there. The Sizzling Cuttlefish and Daikon Duck Hash were fantastic. I didn't have a single meal there that disappointed. I thought it was such a great addition to the UWS, but maybe Michael Bao just overextended himself this year and the UWS lost out to all of his other restaurants downtown.
Runners Up: Kefi, Celeste, Cafe Frida, Shake Shack.