|Pair of 8s|
Cuisine: New American
Menu: View the Menu
For some of us, the so-called neighborhood restaurant means Subway or the corner coffee shop. But for many New Yorkers, the term has expanded to include a variety of eateries where one feels comfortable dropping in without reservations. For a segment of the Upper West Side, the newest joint is Pair of 8s, a stylish place with superior food. While it looks deceptively small from the street, there is a decent-sized back room that also doubles as a private party space. And the rather large bar is an ideal spot for single diners, who can choose from the restaurant’s entire menu.Review By: Brian Scott Lipton
Pair of 8s is also one of the new brand of neighborhood places where dropping three bills per person is far from unusual. And that tab can easily go up for oenophiles, thanks to the restaurant’s extremely extensive wine list, most of which are in the $40-$50 range. But even if you’re not a real expert, consider trying some of the house’s more unusual selections -- I particularly enjoyed a hearty Sancerre that I’d never sampled before -- or one of their interesting pre-selected flights (including at the moment, three wines that begin with X).
If you’re looking for a nibble while you sip – other than excellent, addictive bread basket – consider a plate of nicely fried artichoke hearts that gain some added zing from accompanying spicy mustard sauce and herbed aioli. If I had to choose one starter, it would be the beautifully smoked lamb tenderloin, sliced into almost bite-sized pieces, arranged prettily around a mound of watercress lightly dressed with a Stilton-laced vinaigrette. There was a nice smoky flavor to the otherwise uninspired grilled prawns, while an otherwise exemplary crab and scallop cake was slightly underseasoned.
When making entrée selections, consider pairing two and creating your own unusual version of surf-and-turf. My blue ribbon winners were the absolutely sublime diver sea scallops in a very gentle juniper sauce beside a mound of “champagne sauerkraut,” which gave me new appreciation for this German dish, and a pair of perfectly cooked venison chops served with a lovely sweet potato puree and braised red cabbage. A close second place belongs to the incredibly tender beer-braised short ribs, while an evening special’s of simply seared hake atop a bed of lentils was both virtuous and delicious.
As for desserts, a meyer lemon-topped cheesecake was moist and dense, while a mixed berry and a pineapple gratinee with a Grand Marnier-tinged sabayon was surprisingly fulfilling. But my fondest memory belongs to a super-moist warm chocolate and walnut brownie served with a scoop of mint chocolate chip ice cream. It was hellishly rich but absolutely heavenly – and the kind of winning pairing that will keep Pair of 8’s customers happy for years to come.
Neighborhood: West 80s
Entree Price: $20-25
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