Wandered through Chelsea Market the other day, and had a wonderful clam chowder, courtesy of the Lobster Place, I love a good clam chowder, preferably New England, though given my blood pressure & cholesterol, I should eat Manhattan. But for whatever reason Manhattan clam chowder seems to be an excuse to leave out clams, and make a tomato-based potato soup. I've had some decent Manhattan chowders, but good ones are usually an exception. Lobster Place uses fresh clams, they're not over cooked and rubbery, and the soup is not over salted, another chowder pitfall. The broth had excellent mouth feel, creamy with clam undertones. After chowder, wandered into the Italian grocery store, where I got a nice big can of San Marzano tomatoes for 2 bucks. In fact, the Italian store has excellent prices on most of their foodstuffs. Then I went to the Red Witch bakery and had an excellent chocoate brownie, thin and moist. And I'm not a huge brownie fan.
A few days later, a friend had a birthday party at a Vatan, one of the few vegetarian restaurants I like. The place is along Little India in Manhattan, a few blocks along the East Side in the 20s. Vatan is prix fixe, about 24 bucks, and you get a ridiculous amount of food. Most of it was delicious, including an excellent version of a mango lassi, a delicious plum sauce, and excellent samosas. Highly recommended, but go hungry. I could not finish my dessert, an unheard of thing for me.
And recently I re-discovered a place I use to eat in years ago, and had forgotten: The Restaurant inside the Ukrainian National Home, right next to Veselka's on 2nd Avenue. Apparently under new management, the food was excellent, including a delicious beet-buttermilk soup, a great shnitzel with mashed potatoes and sauerkraut (Is that Ukrainian? I noticed weinershnitzel on the menu too). An excellent mushroom gravy could be had for the shnitzel. My friend ate blintzes that were heavenly. I'd have to say this was the best Eastern European meal I've eaten downtown in a long while.
I also stopped by another old haunt, the Odessa, and had a cup of the worst borsht I've ever eaten. It was so awful I was stunned. Odessa was never the home of haute cuisine, but the food was always palatable at decent prices. This soup was horrid, salty, bland, the beets blanched of all flavor. And I love beets! I didn't even know borsht could be this bad, since most of the Polish places in the East Village could at least give you decent bowl. But I guess not. Won't be going there again!