Birthday weekend of great food

As part of catching up, I wanted to at least briefly post about a great weekend of eating, starting on Feb. 2, my birthday, and extending to the 4th.

Dinner on the 2nd was at the original Patsy’s in East Harlem. What an evergreen! My brother flew in from California to help me celebrate and couldn’t fully understand why this East Village resident picked an uptown pizzeria for my birthday dinner until he had some pizza. Then he understood.

On the 3rd, my Japanese sister-in-law was able to get to town. I was treated to a fantastic dinner at Torishin. I’ve often read raves about the place on Chowhound but hadn’t been there, whereas we all love Yakitori Totto, and I’ve been there repeatedly (it’s quite a good value if you don’t order sake). Well, it’s a lot more expensive than Totto, but it’s also a couple of levels up. Everything was cooked perfectly except for a skewer of ginkgos that were slightly bitter from being a tad overcooked. The chicken liver was impressive, and my brother doesn’t usually like chicken gizzards, but after trying one from my skewer, he had to get his own. Torishin is a really fantastic place. It’s a good deal more fancy than Totto to match the price point. I look forward to treating my girlfriend to dinner there if I start making much more money on gigs (I’m a flutist).

On the 4th, we met cousins at the Metropolitan Museum. They hadn’t been free to join me on my birthday. We saw great art, especially the new (to me, anyway) little room of fantastic perspectival ancient Roman paintings. My brother consulted Yelp (sometimes a risky move in New York, but their track record has improved for us) to find a Turkish restaurant after that cuisine was requested. We went to the somewhat ironically named Agora, which is not at all a Greek restaurant but genuinely Turkish. It proved an excellent choice, as the food was very well cooked and unusually delicious for a Turkish restaurant in Manhattan in my experience, though on a Saturday night, it was unsurprisingly quite crowded, pretty cramped, and got cold often from people opening the door on a night when it was in the 20s. I would go back without hesitation, especially on a weeknight.

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Thanks for the tips, Pan. We belong to the MET and are always looking for spots to dine after our visits. Will try Agora…

We had a great meal at Torishin with some cousins last October. We chose Torishin because we could reserve. I was under the impression that one often has to stand in line at Totto.

It’s possible to reserve at Totto. I’ve done it when I was a member of a party of something like 6 people. They reserve for smaller parties, too, including 2 people, but only a limited number of reservations are taken. The last time I went, though, I think it was a Friday night, we were about 15th in line at opening time, gave a phone number and had drinks across the street at the Irish bar, then were texted about 20 minutes later.

Great weekend! Patsy’s pizza really can’t be beaten. I’m another big fan of yakitori totto. I also love sake bar hagi which has a good selection of yakitori and some great izakaya dishes at really reasonable prices, they recently opened a second location on 46th st too.
Agora sounds like a good find! That immediate area is tough for dinner under $$$$

Agora is on 2nd Av. You gotta go east to get less expensive food in the East 70s and 80s.

My post-birthday dinner was not at Totto; it was at Torishin, which as I said is a couple of levels better. Their yakitori was more tender and impeccably seasoned. I love Totto, but Torishin is greater.

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold