Postcard from Tom: New York

Sunday, February 5, 2006

Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema's monthly report from the road.

Here's what people are talking about -- and where foodies are flocking -- in the Big Apple these days:

COOKSHOP (156 10th Ave., 212-924-4440)

Dinner commences with a sermon from the server: Most of what you're about to eat is organic, in season and humanely raised. To experience the highs of this Chelsea hot spot, concentrate on entrees and desserts. Chile-braised short ribs, sturgeon teamed with Brussels sprouts and a pot pie bursting with root vegetables are sweetly followed by coconut flan with pineapple upside-down cake. A collection of Mason jars and a stack of firewood in front of the glassed-in kitchen underscore the newcomer's American comfort food theme. Entrees $20-$28.

JOVIA (135 E. 62nd St., 212-752-6000)

The fun starts on the ground floor, where diners navigate a chic bar and pass the busy open kitchen to reach their tables in one of two lovely dining rooms upstairs. The food in this East Side townhouse embraces Italy and the Mediterranean. Seek out risotto dressed with oysters and bacon, date-glazed duck on a nest of cabbage and just about any ending, my favorite of which is warm banana cake with mascarpone ice cream. Entrees $23-$39.

THOR (107 Rivington St., 212-796-8040)

The title refers not to the Norse god of thunder but to the restaurant's location in the Hotel on Rivington on the Lower East Side, where the epic menu runs from zippy lobster soup with celery ravioli to a "flight" of three desserts. Behind the flavors: Kurt Gutenbrunner, the originator of the lusty, Austrian-accented Wallse. Keep that in mind when ordering; his spaetzle tossed with sweetbreads and fried shallots is divine. Less appealing is the nightclub-noisy dining room. Entrees $24-$28.

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