>> 12/13/14

104-08 Metropolitan Avenue
Forest Hills, NY 11375
(718) 544-1624

Anyone who knows me even slightly knows that I love cocktails. I like making them and drinking them and finding good places to get them. For years now, the only place to go for decent cocktails has been Manhattan, the trendier parts of Brooklyn, and recently, Long Island City. But, as New York City with a Capital C is expanding, so expands the market for those willing to drop $14 on a well made negroni. Out into the previously uncool parts they go. And like it or not (since I live here, I'm in the "not" camp), Forest Hills has not been the coolest place to live in New York. Sad but true. When I moved here ten years ago, unless frum women were your kink and lousy diner food was your manna, then you'd spend a lot of your weekend elsewhere. Lately though, the place seems to have taken off with new wine bars and gastropubs and organic coffee. 

Once upon a time, I emailed Sasha Petrasky, of Milk and Honey fame, suggesting he venture beyond his deepest outpost, the Long Island city bar Dutch Kills. You can imagine how overjoyed I was when I learned that his friends and cohorts, the talent from Pegu Club, Maison Premiere, and Painkiller decided to open a cocktail/tiki bar down the block from Danny Brown, Queens' first Michelin star, on Metropolitan Avenue. 

Sitting down at the long, glossy, wooden bar, the first thing you'll notice is that this is not a Milk & Honey clone. Compared to the other cocktail joints I've been to, it's rather large and it's fairly bright inside. I'm dismayed that there are TVs on the wall. Thankfully, none were on. Even the bartender, one of the pros from Dutch Kills and Painkiller, told me that he wishes that they weren't there. So maybe they'll never be turned on. Here's to hoping. There are plenty of tables, lots of bar seats, and a big heavy pool table in the back. End of the Century Bar is designing itself as a place to go and hang out with friends where you can get a luxo-cocktail instead of a Bud Light. In fact, the bartender was telling me that while they will eventually have a beer menu, once they get it, "none of that crap".

Eventually, food will arrive, maybe even brunch. But that will be in the spring at the earliest. Spring brunch would be good, as there's a huge patio in the rear that, once renovated, will be awesome. When the food does come, "no cheapo bar food", I was told. They want small plates that will complement the drink menu. Speaking of drinks, here's what I ordered. Naturally, you need to try a classic because, if they don't do that well, then you just know that the original drinks are destined to taste like they came from a Skinnygirl bottle. An Old Fashioned. I wasn't disappointed. Dr. Funk, made with dark rum, absinthe, and house made grenadine. Sweet and tart and you could barely taste the absinthe but as an afterthought to add complexity. Lastly, I wanted one bartender's choice before heading to dinner. "Sweet, sour, or refreshing?" I was asked. I chose refreshing and was given a Queens Swizzle. I forgot what was in it, but it was like a tangy, rather than sour, mojito, with a few dashes of bitters too round it out.

In the meantime, I can't tell you how ecstatic I am to be able to walk (a long walk, I admit) to a real cocktail bar. Okay, elephant in the room. Yes, it's on Metropolitan Avenue, which is a bit of a schlep from the subway on Queens Boulevard. But you're a New Yorker, right? You're not some worthless tourist who God gave legs to, but all you use them for is getting from your house door to your car door, right? No? You are? Well there are a hundred green cabs right at the subway entrance, so you'll be back to sitting before you know it.

Cocktails (from the menu) are currently available for the exceedingly reasonable price of $10. Cash only.



>> 11/30/14

245 West 29th Street
New York, NY 10022
(646) 669-7879

When Speeds moved back to New York from Syracuse, she asked herself one thing. "Where can I live that has high rent and a dramatically high number of homeless people?" Then it hit her. Northern Chelsea. As usual, Speeds didn't want to dine too far from her apartment building, so we decided on OCabanon, a French wine bar just around the corner from her place on 29th Street. It was a Thursday night and while other spots that I called were telling me that we'd likely be waiting 45 minutes or more, OCabanon was far from full. Indeed, it was almost like this was the go-to spot for people who enjoy dining alone.

We walked in and were led to the far rear of the restaurant, where we were the first diners of the evening. First, I'm going to get this out of the way. I liked OCabanon, by and large. It was sorta cozy, it wasn't loud (actually, it was too quiet), and it isn't terribly expensive. It's just not better than that. It's kind of forgettable. The waiter was a really nice, smiling guy, but for a wine bar waiter, he seemed not to know much about wine. The food was good, but not better than good, and there was no energy to the place.

For her starter, Speeds chose the Cheese Plate, a chef's selection of five cheeses. It was good and you get a fair amount for the money, along with a sliced apple and some grapes, but the grapes were on their way out, and although we were told what cheeses would be arriving, the server never explained which cheese was which when they finally arrived. Furthermore, they were inartfully presented on the slate, and a little fig jam would have gone a long way. When I go to a French restaurant, it's virtually impossible for me to pass up ordering Escargot, so I didn't. OCabanon's traditional bistro style escargot could have used a little more garlic or some MSG or something. Don't get me wrong. I fully recognize that escargot merely exists so that I can have an excuse to dip my baguette in garlic butter, but even so, these didn't stand out from other garlic butter delivery proxies I've had in the past. They lacked oomph.

Speeds chose the wild mushroom Risotto for her entree. This was the best dish of the night and, if you go, you should get this. It was rich and heavy and cheesy and she couldn't finish it even with my help. My only complaint was that the chef sliced the leek the long way, instead of the short way. As someone who makes risotto at home, I have fallen into the same trap. The result is pulling out these long irritating leek strings when you dig your fork in. Very annoying. I ordered the Daube Provencale, a beef-in-red-wine stew, served with a small side salad and truffle mashed potatoes. I liked it a lot, though the mashed potatoes with a bit too dense. The stew is heavy. It may look like you get a small amount, but you aren't finishing it.

For dessert, Speeds and I split the Creme Brulee, another French classic. It was good. I'd get it again. In the end, I can recommend OCabanon if you're in the area and want a solid meal that won't break the bank. It's a cool place to chill out, have a few drinks, and not be bothered for a while. But it's not innovative and, tomorrow, you'll have forgotten that you ate there.

Like I said, OCabanon isn't bad, but it didn't provide much in the way of memorableness. I think that if I was a local, I'd stop by with friends on Sundays for their half-off bottles and nosh on their sliders while BSing for a spell. But if you're wondering if it's worth a trip out of your way, I'd have to go with no.

A bottle of wine, two appetizers, two entrees, a dessert, and a coffee, plus tax and tip cost us about $150.

Ocabanon on Urbanspoon


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