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New York 2005

Pre-Theater: The Dining Must Go On

Sunday, April 17, 2005; Page P06

There's nothing more embarrassing than having your stomach grumble louder than the actor's monologue. For a quick meal before the curtain rises, swing into a spot near the Theater District, where the staff is overly familiar with the query, "Can we eat and be out by 7:45?" Our assessments of five convenient eateries near the Great White Way:

Blue Fin. We knew this splashy new seafood restaurant in the W Times Square hotel was cool, but we didn't realize that meant literally: An overactive air-conditioning vent kept us windblown and distracted throughout our meal. Oh well. Blue Fin is perfectly situated for a dash to the theater, and the two-story nautical-themed space is stunning, with a floating staircase lined with votive candles, wavy sculpted wall and live jazz upstairs. Whimsical touches abound -- our bread basket was arranged to resemble a sailboat, and the bittersweet chocolate cake arrived with a giant fin. There's much for fish lovers to feast on, including pan-seared black bass with gulf shrimp and edamame risotto ($26) and organic Scottish salmon with braised green lentils, parsnips and spinach ($26). Maybe if the atmosphere had been less breezy, the $200 tab for three people would have gone down a little easier.

Diners often linger over Marseille's meals, despite having a show to catch. (Helayne Seidman For The Washington Post)

_____New York 2005_____
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NYC Dining Legends
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1567 Broadway at 47th Street, 212-918-1400, www.brguestrestaurants.com. Entrees average $24.

Pierre au Tunnel. It's the kind of family-owned place that becomes a standard for theater-going New Yorkers and out-of-towners alike (diners at a nearby table recalled first hearing about it through Margaret Truman Daniels). The brick-outlined arches with china wall displays signal that this is a bistro, and the choices are classic French. Five of us ordered the prix-fixe dinner ($37) and started with tarte a l'oignon and mussels, baked oysters and varied hors d'oeuvres before the tender salmon, steak au poivre and coq au vin. The cold potatoes and carrots were chalked up to a momentary lapse in concentration. Otherwise, the delivery of drinks, appetizers, entrees, coffee and dessert (oh the pear tarte!) and out-the-door-in-time-for-the-show was relaxed and well-orchestrated.

250 W. 47th St. between Broadway and Eighth Avenue, 212-575-1220, www.pierreautunnel.com. Entrees $24 to $27.

Marseille. By the time the pomegranate cocktails arrived at our cozy table on the banquette, every table was taken with folks eager to make a show. Yet you'd never know it. Perhaps it was Bebel Gilberto's seductive bossa nova or the Mediterranean spirit that guides the bistro, but no one -- from the designer jean-clad tattooed hipsters at the bar to a nattily dressed older couple sharing a romantic moment -- seemed eager to rush off. One taste of the farro and roasted beet salad ($4) and the three huge sea scallops served with cream, fava beans and a smashing hint of lime ($11.50), and neither were we. The creamy spring vegetable risotto ($15.75) came with a crunch, thanks to sugar snap peas, and toasted pistachios added an unexpected yet welcome taste to the roasted chicken, served on a bed of greens ($16.75). A leisurely cappuccino and then, as a new influx of diners came in, we sauntered off with plenty of time before curtain.

630 Ninth Ave. at 44th Street, 212-333-2323, www.marseillenyc.com. Entrees $14 to $25.

Molyvos. North of the heart of the theater district, this friendly Greek taverna near Carnegie Hall and City Center offers a selection of warm breads and htipiti, a marvelous red pepper and feta cheese dip. We feasted on the generous portion of crispy fried skate topping a mound of garlic-infused creamy potatoes and a signature marinated beet compote ($23) washed down with delicious, reasonable Greek wine. The $35 pre-theater menu, offered from 5:30 to 6:45 p.m., boasts a salad or soup option; roast chicken or grilled fish; and your pick of three desserts (we suggest the galaktoboureko, a phyllo-wrapped semolina custard).

871 Seventh Ave. between 55th and 56th streets, 212-582-7500, www.molyvos.com.

Osteria al Doge. The countdown begins from the moment theater-goers enter the Italian Midtown eatery. Waiters carefully time courses to make sure that each is consumed in time for opening curtain. Unfortunately, the food reflects that get-'em-in/get-'em-out attitude. If the risotto allo zafferano ($19.50) with Italian sausage risotto and saffron ever had a savory flavor, it died under the heat lamp. Thankfully, the sausages with herbs and spices escaped unscathed and saved the dish. While the brodetto alla veneta ($22) contained a generous helping of seafood, the stew managed to avoid offending palates too delicate for herbs and spice. The yellowfin tuna appetizer ($12) tasted watery, the poppy seed crust overpowering the paper-thin shavings of tuna. But all was forgiven when the mother of all Italian desserts, tiramisu ($8), arrived, with just the right balance of ladyfinger sponginess and chocolate goodness.

142 W. 44th St. between Sixth and Seventh avenues, 212-944-3643, www.osteria-doge.com. Entrees $14-27.50.

-- Michelle Garcia, Anne

McDonough, Don McDonough

and K.C. Summers

© 2005 The Washington Post Company


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