Houston’s/Hillstone

Houston’s is one of those places where you are made to feel like family. Located on the bottom floor of the Citigroup Center, one almost misses this gem. The first few (I hate to say it) years that we walked by, we opted not to enter because all we could see was the bar. However, tucked inside the dark grotto are plush, crimson booths where families laugh and relax together. The wait staff is attentive, bright, and welcoming. Plates are brought and taken away so surreptitiously that one doesn’t even realize that the waiters had been to the table at all. We will always regret not trying it sooner.

The food is home food, dressed up only to be pleasing to the eye. It’s food that you think, “oh, yes, this reminds me of the dish my mom made…” but because of their special touches, you choose to return for more rather than make it yourself. Anything- and really anything- is good. The rib eye is thick and juicy with a sweet-spicy marinade that takes well to vegetables and rice (their rice and beans are to die for) alike. The crab cakes are the only crab cakes that we’ve ever had that are all crab with a light crust, rather than all crust with a dusting of crab. The fresh fish is simple, light, and elegant, served with a hint of lemon to awaken the pallet. Their “Famous French Dip” sandwich is tender prime rib on home-baked french bread, and when combined with the horseradish and au jus (for dipping, but we like to drink it as a soup), it’s divine. The french fries are paper thin, crisp, and just salty enough- far and away the best fries ever. The balsamic braised cabbage is balanced with tangy goat cheese, the spaghetti squash is both beautiful and delicate, with notes of maple, and, for dessert, the apple-walnut cobbler is perfect for fall or winter. The tender baked apples are topped with a pie-like crumble, caramelized walnuts, and vanilla bean ice cream for a heartwarming treat. Portion-wise- for us, we share, but we are tiny people. The food is so good, you might have no trouble on your own, and don’t be surprised if you find yourself going back week after week : )

xx,

F,L,B

Vatan

Vatan is an example of New York’s ability to integrate so many cultures into the everyday. We are originally from India, so we love Indian food. We rarely cook traditional Indian food at home though- our cuisine is more of a fusion of various cultures (Indian, American, Italian, Greek, etc.) Vatan is always a treat. It’s Gujarati food, which is vegetarian, but even the most die-hard carnivore will be satisfied. We love our meat and fish, but Vatan makes us forget about such items with their perfectly crisp samosas and salty-sweet ┬ábatatavadas. And that’s just the appetizers. For a $30 prix-fixe, one gets 3 thalis: the first with appetizers, the second with entree items, and the third with dessert (fabulous chai tea and mango ice cream).

Now, the only warning is that while the entree thali is delicious, the appetizer and dessert thalis steal the show. Regardless, all the food is amazing. So, go prepared to eat and spend time with the ones you loved.

xx

F, L, B