Casellula Cheese & Wine Cafe is a great Midtown wine bar hidden off to the side of restaurant-heavy 9th Avenue, on 52nd Street. It's an easy place to return to because it falls into an all-purpose category: If you want a casual dinner, a menu of small and large plates makes it easy to achieve. Wine, cheese and/or appetizers? You'll find any and all of that here with good quality. If you're looking for a late night drop-in spot, Casellula is open until 2 a.m. everyday.
On this particular visit, my dining companion and I ordered light — the stuffed peppadew peppers with buffalo mozzarella and speck; white anchovies with fennel and pickled shallots; and a plate of three cheeses chosen by the restaurant. Salty, sour and sweet. The cheeses are each paired with an appropriate and fun accompaniment. We got a mild goat's milk cheese with an orange honey, a hard cow's milk cheese with sweet and sour onions, and a sharp sheep's milk cheese with prickly pear ketchup. A perfect warm-up spot for the evening.
A post-play late night snack of Bombay Spicy Chicken Biryani. This was unlike any biryani I've had in a restaurant. The rice itself was plainer; the sauces on top added the spice. The chicken was pretty good and there was a hard boiled egg in the center. It was similar to the chicken and rice dishes you get at other halal carts. It likely also makes good post-drinking food.
Brunch at Maialino
Maialino has been a popular spot and stamped by Danny Meyer's name and awarded two stars by The New York Times, it's easy to see why. I'd previously lucked out one Sunday in January and gotten in for a wonderful dinner. I eked out another lucky Sunday this weekend, but this time for the midday meal. Someone must have canceled just before I sought out a reservation because the time I wanted was the only time left on Opentable. Therefore, we took advantage and went all out.
We started with a basket of mixed pastries: a glazed croissant, an olive oil muffin, a citrus scone and a chocolate croissant (the last one, the server informed us!). All were incredibly fresh and surprisingly not too heavy. And each exuded the advertised flavors.
We decided to take one of our waitress's recommendations for a relatively new menu item — poached eggs with crispy suckling pig and lentils. It was a great choice. The pig was breaded in a panko-like crust that wasn't at all greasy and the pork inside was tender and meaty. It was in good company with smooth and lustrous eggs and the simple bed of lentils.