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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

NYC Restaurant Review: Manhattan Restaurant and Wine Bar: Reserve


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Reserve
http://www.reservewinenyc.com/
* Thai, Wine Bar
* 407 3rd Ave, New York NY10016 40.742723 -73.980787
* (Btwn 28th & 29th St)

I was first introduced to this restaurant by a co-worker because they have a good lunch deal. One appetizer and one entree for a good price and beer or wine for $3 more. The food was good, fresh and creative. And I liked the fact that a Thai restaurant was doubling as a wine bar (unusual) and that I could get a Laotian beer there (something else I hadn't encountered).

I have been back for dinner. For drinks they have a happy hour with many beers and wines cheap. But for me and my family the food is the main draw.

The service is great. My son is very picky and will eat only a very few things. Rice is the only guaranteed thing he'll eat at an Asian restaurant. But here he asked if he could have plain, cold tofu and they opened a package fresh for him, cut it up and served it...for the price of extra bread or something. Very accommodating. And my son loved it.

My wife and I are far more adventurous. I will say that, though the lunch special and happy hour drinks are very reasonably priced for the neighborhood, their dinner menu is just a tad too pricey for the serving sizes. They could do a bit better on this, but it is a minor point given that the food is very good.

Some great suggestions:

APPETIZERS

Khao Thung: minced shrimp and chicken coconut relish on crispy jasmine rice crackers...again I would have liked more for the price, but it was delicious and unique. Recommended!

Gratong Tong: 3 golden tartlets with minced chicken, shrimp, corn and carrot. This is also one of the options for the lunch special appetizer. My first impression was that it was wonderful. I was very satisfied with it. But once I had had it a few times I lost interest. I definitely recommend it, but once the novelty wore off (and it took a few times!) I saw flaws in it. I think they could do a bit better, but I still order it from time to time.

Chicken Satay grilled marinated chicken skewers; served with peanut sauce and cucumber chutney...a basic Thai dish. Theirs is good, but not special. If you want an old standby this is good. My son liked the plain chicken without the sauce, so it can appeal to a kid as well. Sometimes Chicken Satay is dry. This was nice and moist for the most part. The sauce seemed standard, possibly mass produced, but decent.

Massaman Beef Sandwich braised angus beef curry with avocado on baguette and green salad on the side...an unusual take on this dish...kind of like Vietnamese sandwiches meet Thai food. I definitely like it...fresh and well prepared. But I feel it needs something more. Something else, perhaps a vegetable to add texture and flavor. But even without that I will definitely get it again.

PIZZA:

They have three pizzas, each for $9. They are small for the price. Personally I think they should make them a tad bigger. But other than that, they are delicious and an interesting mix of Thai and Western tastes. And they pick three of my favorite Thai dishes to adapt to a pizza format.

Green Curry * with green curry chicken and fontina...I think this is my favorite of the three pizzas...but I think I have to try all three again to make sure ; -)

Larb * with minced chicken, fresh mozzarella and mint mushrooms and peppers.

Tom Yum * with shrimp, lemongrass, galangal, mushrooms and peppers


ENTREES:

Gra-Praw * with fresh basil, string beans, onions, bell peppers, hot peppers, chili and garlic...a more standard dish, done freshly and very well

Pad Kee Mao * spicy sautéed flat noodles in gra-praw sauce with fresh basil leaves, crispy bell peppers, onions and string beans...another standard dish done well.


A note on the side dishes: my son loves rice. Plain and simple rice. The sticky rice at Reserve is a pleasure. It is among the best I have had. To Westerners this sounds silly. But having lived in Japan I know how important the rice can be, and here it is done perfectly.


The wine list is extensive, but I have to admit I have not had the chance to explore it. I have yet to jump to the idea of Thai food with red wine (which is my favored). They have good beers including a slightly sweet Laotian beer that reminds me just a tad of a Scottish beer I once had, oddly enough. The desserts sound wonderful, but I have yet to try them. There is a magnificent gelato place down the street that has tended to draw us, but one day I will have to try the Chocolate Lava Cake with ice cream and the Mango with sweet sticky rice, the two desserts that most attract me.

Overall a great restaurant well worth trying and coming back to to explore the menu. I would urge them to up their portion sizes a touch on the dinner menu, but it is still one of the places I like to go to.

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