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Postcard from Tom: New York

Sunday, October 3, 2004

My recent meals in New York City included something old, something new -- and something you'll want to try before you die.

ALTA (64 W. 10th St., 212-505-7777)

Diners can graze the night away at the cozy narrow bar or in the rustic comfort of a high-ceilinged room in the rear. Dozens of appetizer-size snacks on the menu make for difficult decisions in this West Village retreat; be sure to include in your game plan savory lamb meatballs, goat cheese-stuffed fried squash blossoms and manila clams tossed with chorizo and raisins. Small plates $3-$14.

PER SE (Time Warner Center, 10 Columbus Circle, 212-823-9335)

It's everything you'd expect from chef extraordinaire Thomas Keller, who routinely dazzles patrons at the celebrated French Laundry in Napa Valley and managed earlier this year to transfer much of that restaurant's magic to this inviting new dining room overlooking Central Park. Dishes like sabayon of oysters and caviar, and cauliflower panna cotta, are nothing short of supernal, and dinner's many flourishes include a silver tray lined with rows of exquisite house-made chocolates. The catch: Only reservations to a state dinner at the White House may be tougher to snare. Nine-course tasting menu $150.

SUSHI YASUDA (204 E. 43rd St., 212-972-1001)

The bustle of the city is left at the door of this serene Japanese restaurant, where blond wood walls, slim green-gray banquettes and thoughtful servers make for an uncommonly relaxed experience. The food, from sushi maestro Naomichi Yasuda, runs to the light, fresh and restorative. Purists will marvel at the quality and variety of fish, which embraces six kinds of prized fatty tuna. Sushi and sashimi $3-$7 apiece.

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