913 Broadway
New York, NY 10010
(212) 673-6333

Punch was one of those places that I always walked past but never went to. It wasn't really until Hottydoc suggested it this past Spring as a place I'd like that I finally got a chance to check it out. And ever since, I'd wanted to return. Punch has a certain cool flair that I think will make it one of my go-to places for a relaxed, hip dinner that doesn't break the bank and will surround me with the professional, yet unpretentious types that I like being surrounded by. I could comfortably eat here in a tie or jeans and finding the kind of place that successfully straddles that middle ground is hard to come by.

My return trips to Punch involved first Mr. Dogz and Speeds, and then M a week or so later.

Trip One: I initially did not have plans to meet Mr. Dogz or Speeds for dinner. As luck would have it, they were out already and I was asked if I was busy. I kinda was, but they waited patiently and hungrily. A brisk walk from Midtown to Madison Square Park later, we were en route to Punch. It was close, we were hungry, I had it on my list.

Punch has two dining areas, separated by the bar. In the back is the regular restaurant which will take a reservation and will fill up if you don't have one. In the front, by the window that's left open like a humongous door in the Summer is first-come-first-served. There was a table in the front and we grabbed it. I actually prefer sitting here. It's more laid back. Wicker chairs and small round tables give it a European bistro flair. Along the southern wall is placed twisted vines that ladder their way to the ceiling. Add the plants and sitting here almost (but not quite) gives the illusion that you're in one of the rear patios that so many Brooklyn restaurants have. Also, upstairs is their wine bar, Wined Up. One day I'll go, but I haven't yet.

We started with drinks. A beer for Dogz, a sangria for Speeds, and a 7&7 for me. It wasn't until the important part was out of the way that we looked at the menu. Dogz wasn't as famished as the rest of us, so he skipped an appetizer. Not to worry though, since Speeds didn't want half of hers and donated it to him. What she chose was the Maine Crab and Avocado Spring Rolls. They came with a tuna sashimi which you're supposed to eat together with the rolls, and having tried a sample of her appetizer the way it was meant to be, I can attest that it's pretty good. But this is the thing. Other than shrimp, Speeds doesn't like fish (note to self: see if she considers Arthur Treacher's "fish".) Beyond not liking fish, she most certainly doesn't like sushi or it's carb-free cousin, sashimi. Dogz does. Notwithstanding the fact that it was meant to be eaten with the rolls, he felt it was pretty tasteless. I agreed, but it was supposed to be eaten with the rolls after all. I went for what I feel I've been ordering like it's going out of style, the Crispy Long Island Duck Leg Confit. It was very good. It was also not very different from the others I've had of late. Crispy duck leg served over a small but yummy salad. It was actually pretty large and could have been a good lunch or maybe an entree for an aspiring Calvin Klein model. Speeds felt the urge to order a basket of Sweet Potato Fries, too. They were very good.

Having just had crispy duck, and not wanting to too radically alter my palatte, I chose the Crispy Skin Half Chicken for my entree, which came with a water chestnut and romaine salad. It's hard to go wrong with a roast chicken dish. So many restaurants make it for people like me who don't want to pay very much or think very hard, and so few botch it that it's a natural choice for one's first meal. I can't really think of much to say about this entree other than that that Punch didn't botch it. It wasn't too salty or dry and was overall very satisfying. Of course, I was into my second cocktail at this point. So you should go there and test it for yourself.

Dogz, keepin' it cheap, got the Punch Burger, no cheese. And Speeds (I groan as I write this) chose the Ceasar Salad... with nothing. Like, literally telling the waitress to have it made with half the ingredients it normally would come with. "So you want lettuce with dressing." I said to a dirty look.

We sat until the place was virtually deserted shot the breeze. Our meals, which included three entrees, a side dish, two appetizers, and I forget how many drinks, came to $130, including tax and tip.

Trip Two: I arrived at Punch on time, but M, forgetting the time, was still in Brooklyn. So I had some time to kill. I killed it with a Bass Ale and a crossword puzzle. Punch was packed. Luckily for me, there was a table of eight or nine people in the first-come-first-served section and they had stolen a chair from a nearby table. Almost no one eats alone, so I grabbed the table with the lonely seat and a waitress and waited patiently. Eventually some of the party left and I recovered the missing chair. By the way, large kudos go out to Punch for not telling me to order more than a beer or leave. I sat there for almost an hour by myself nursing that Bass and no one gave me so much as a dirty look. They even kept refilling my water glass. Many other places would not have been so good. I, naturally, would keep you in the loop as to their douche-bagginess... not to be crude.

When M finally showed up, we started with the Roasted Grilled Corn and Polenta Hush Puppies. This was an appetizer I could have done without. Very dry and pretty tasteless. I'm not much of a hush puppy person to begin with, but these were sadly pretty bad. M had read on MenuPages the reviews of customers who really liked the hush puppies and that was why she picked them out. "Maybe they came on a good night," she postulated.

One thing about Punch this day, contrary to my previous excursion here. It was loud. Not normal loud, but clubbing loud. "Hey can you hear me" loud. "Say that again" loud. "Eh, what" loud. "Look at my lips when I'm talking" loud. The waitress couldn't hear me. I thought she wanted to know if I wanted a bottle of red; she was asking if I wanted a basket of bread. Speaking of which, the bread was pretty good and came with a large slab of peppered butter.

M's a vegetarian who eats fish. A pescatarian, to use a term I learned from one of M's vegetarian-but-not-really friends. So she ordered the Seared Scallops with Summer Farro Risotto. I hate scallops, so I'd never order them. Luckily for y'all, I know people who do. She wiped these out. Loved 'em. I wanted to order something she could try, and ordered the Roasted Chatham Cod. Punch's menu, it should be noted, is very fish heavy. This is good if you like fish, and less good if you don't. I do. Generally. I didn't, in this case, particularly care much for my cod. Cod's kinda bland to begin with, and this was far from the exception. The truffled potato puree (or as I like to call it, mashed potatoes) and browned radishes that it rested on, were very good, but in the end, it was a boring entree.

I paid for our last meal out, so it was M's turn. Two entrees, an appetizer, and three beers totalled $70.99, tax included, plus tip. Ginger candy came with the bill.

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