Thomas Nesler told the neighborhood he was going to put a cool new bar/tapas restaurant/neighborhood hangout in a run-down space on 15th Street -- in a building that was a firehouse back in 1879, then a grocery store, then a saloon for fifty years, most recently the Highland Bar -- but no one envisioned how very cool his Forest Room 5 would be. The chic tavern is a fitting gateway to the newly hip Highland neighborhood, full of big TVs, artsy patrons and lots of attitude.


Forest Room 5
Thomas Nesler told the neighborhood he was going to put a cool new bar/tapas restaurant/neighborhood hangout in a run-down space on 15th Street -- in a building that was a firehouse back in 1879, then a grocery store, then a saloon for fifty years, most recently the Highland Bar -- but no one envisioned how very cool his Forest Room 5 would be. The chic tavern is a fitting gateway to the newly hip Highland neighborhood, full of big TVs, artsy patrons and lots of attitude.
It was a noble experiment, what Pat Perry tried to do with her Highland's Garden Cafe: turn it into a mostly private dining facility, available for parties and, occasionally, dinners open to the public. But all the public could remember was how much they loved eating at Highland's Garden -- loved eating there, and hated having to remember when they could. Fortunately, Perry took pity on foodies and reopened the restaurant to everyone in the evening, as well as at Friday lunch. So now you never have to wait more than a few hours before you're sitting down in an elegant Victorian-era dining room, or perhaps Highland's exquisite garden patio, with one of Perry's interesting, innovative dishes sitting before you. Welcome back.


It was a noble experiment, what Pat Perry tried to do with her Highland's Garden Cafe: turn it into a mostly private dining facility, available for parties and, occasionally, dinners open to the public. But all the public could remember was how much they loved eating at Highland's Garden -- loved eating there, and hated having to remember when they could. Fortunately, Perry took pity on foodies and reopened the restaurant to everyone in the evening, as well as at Friday lunch. So now you never have to wait more than a few hours before you're sitting down in an elegant Victorian-era dining room, or perhaps Highland's exquisite garden patio, with one of Perry's interesting, innovative dishes sitting before you. Welcome back.
There's nothing that Clair de Lune doesn't do well, but the one thing Sean Kelly's place does better than anyone else in town is appetizers. Picture the plateau de fruits de mer -- one of the few mainstays on a menu that changes according to the whims of the chef and the winds of commerce -- with its spiced shrimp, half a lobster and immaculately fresh Littleneck clams and Malpeque oysters lying like knobby gems on a bed of ice. Or the antipasti misti -- a wildflower sketched in food with bright-orange persimmon, powerful house-cured sardines, roasted red peppers, caper berries, black olives, tiny cubes of marinated chèvre, homemade bracciole and crisp-fried baby artichokes drizzled with basil aioli. Yes, Clair de Lune puts out some wonderful dinner plates. Yes, it does great desserts. But in his starters, Kelly is painting a picture. To every diner who sees one of these plates in front of him, he's carefully explaining, in the best way he knows how, what that diner can expect from the rest of his meal: excellence, and nothing less.


There's nothing that Clair de Lune doesn't do well, but the one thing Sean Kelly's place does better than anyone else in town is appetizers. Picture the plateau de fruits de mer -- one of the few mainstays on a menu that changes according to the whims of the chef and the winds of commerce -- with its spiced shrimp, half a lobster and immaculately fresh Littleneck clams and Malpeque oysters lying like knobby gems on a bed of ice. Or the antipasti misti -- a wildflower sketched in food with bright-orange persimmon, powerful house-cured sardines, roasted red peppers, caper berries, black olives, tiny cubes of marinated chèvre, homemade bracciole and crisp-fried baby artichokes drizzled with basil aioli. Yes, Clair de Lune puts out some wonderful dinner plates. Yes, it does great desserts. But in his starters, Kelly is painting a picture. To every diner who sees one of these plates in front of him, he's carefully explaining, in the best way he knows how, what that diner can expect from the rest of his meal: excellence, and nothing less.
Triana warmed our hearts -- and stomachs -- with its molten chocolate cupcake. It's just what it sounds like: a spongy, dark-chocolate cupcake, dusted with confectioners' sugar, with milky chocolate lava inside that oozes out to mix with sweet macerated strawberries, vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of thick caramel sauce. While it may take a while for your cupcake to reach the table (the menu suggests you order it before your entrees so that it will be ready when you're done with dinner), it's so good, so devilishly decadent, that we'll never again look at the cellophane-wrapped Hostess variety with anything but pity.


Triana warmed our hearts -- and stomachs -- with its molten chocolate cupcake. It's just what it sounds like: a spongy, dark-chocolate cupcake, dusted with confectioners' sugar, with milky chocolate lava inside that oozes out to mix with sweet macerated strawberries, vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of thick caramel sauce. While it may take a while for your cupcake to reach the table (the menu suggests you order it before your entrees so that it will be ready when you're done with dinner), it's so good, so devilishly decadent, that we'll never again look at the cellophane-wrapped Hostess variety with anything but pity.
Who says there's no place left for the classics? At the Fourth Story, pastry chef Syd Berkowitz blows us away with his towering, spongy, cream-cheese-frosted and achingly sweet carrot cake with coconut-rice-pudding ice cream and warm bourbon-raisin sauce. The first time we tried it, it made us want to get up, make new reservations and eat a second meal just so that we could taste its goodness all over again.


Who says there's no place left for the classics? At the Fourth Story, pastry chef Syd Berkowitz blows us away with his towering, spongy, cream-cheese-frosted and achingly sweet carrot cake with coconut-rice-pudding ice cream and warm bourbon-raisin sauce. The first time we tried it, it made us want to get up, make new reservations and eat a second meal just so that we could taste its goodness all over again.

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