(note: the next two posts were to be on DC, but when I crave to write something else, I must do so quick, lest I forget. Will return to DC after this post
It started with a muffin, as it frequently does. “It” being the root of my food cravings. And so I hopped onto the bus at the corner of 43rd Street and Madison, the M4, book in hand. The ride was just over half an hour to 89th Street, where I stepped out and made way to Yura on Madison. The objective? A morning latte and zucchini muffin.
As I approached the front doors of Yura, my eye caught sight of Ciao Bella around the corner and I could not resist the urge, why not have gelato before breakfast? Abandoning the doors of Yura for Ciao Bella, I hopped over to 92nd Street, where I met yet another distraction: Yura’s Square Meal. Yura on Madison grew so popular over time that last year, owner Yura Mohr opened a restaurant around the corner, serving simple quality fare. The menu changes on a daily basis, with dishes such as Maryland Crab Cakes over Fresh Corn and a Grapefruit, Date, and Parmesan Salad appearing on Tuesday’s menu.
Completely forgetting about gelato, lattes, and muffins, I stepped down into the quiet enclave – they had just opened for lunch and I was the first customer. He seated me a table next to the lamp, perfect for lingering over the book, and brought by a trio of cheddar scones and butter. I’ve had my share of sweet scones, but am much less educated in the savoury territory. Though, with that said, it doesn’t take much to deem the Yura scones something akin to luscious, each a perfect three-biter with a delicate crust breaking into a truly-melt-in-your-mouth cheddar speckled crumb. It was hard to not eat all three, thus I did not find proper reason for not doing so
There was a rather extended delay between the scones and my entree – something I also noticed among other tables. But most of the people at lunch, three tables with two women each, one couple, and another group of six, did not appear to be in the slightest rush. I just found it to be a good excuse for reading beneath the soft lighted lamp. My order came out in due time, a plowman’s cheddar sandwich with a wonderful house chutney, sweet with plump raisins. But perhaps even better than the sandwich was the side of shredded cabbage-laced apple salad, refreshingly crisp on a summer day.
I made my way out soon after, still tempted by the possibility of a latte and zucchini muffin (gelato was but a fleeting desire). However, I was promptly reminded of dinner later that night and decided to hold back from unnecessary snacks.
Mortadella & Pistachio
Later in the evening I met Lauren at Otto. I’ve been visiting Otto more and more often during the past month, on weekend afternoons, for a weekday lunch escape, but more often than not, for dinner. We sit at the bar and I’ve been lucky enough to have Frank behind the bar at every single visit. Whether you go alone or with another, you’re bound to meet the most interesting people there who more often than not share a common enthusiasm for food. There was only a short wait for seats that night (an unusually quiet Tuesday), and we soon started our meal with the featured meat dish of the week, slices of mortadella with pistachios both pressed into the meat and speckled about in a deep fruity oil. The texture of the sausage was beyond wonderful, inducing content smiles upon consuming the supple slices marked by creamy lardons.
Next was a Heirloom Caprese for which this photo offers no justice in the slightest. A variety of tomatoes so sweet, so luscious, so simple and wonderful that the only way to understand is to eat it for yourself. Cubes of fresh mozzarella and a drizzle of oil olive finished the dish. The one element I clamored for was a light hand of Maldon – now that would have been bliss.
Summer Corn & Fregola
Then there was pizza, between glasses of prosecco, we went with the Romana this time around, to satiate her craving for tomatoes and mine for anchovies. Every time I come to Otto the meals get better and better. And that makes me worry. How can something continue to get better without going down in due time? With each visit, I must set myself up, okay, its okay if this visit isn’t as good as the last. But I’ve never been failed. And that’s the wonderful/scary thing about Otto.
The featured pasta of the week was yet another special we could not refuse (it’s far too easy to say yes, yes to food), the Spaghetti al Tonno, which, with lacings of whole tomatoes and savoury tuna, proved to be a high contender in my list of favourite Otto pastas. The Carbonara remains at the top.
Olive Oil Coppetta
For dessert, we tucked away the Olive Oil Coppetta, a luxurious creation layering olive oil gelato with lilikoi granita and strawberries. A streak of summer green basil syrup and sprinkles of Maldon sea salt was a fine end to the night.
But, oh, we did not stop there! Oh no, we had yet another. For there was a new Copetta on the menu, and that alone is reason enough to celebrate. The menu listed it as the Otto Spumoni on Tuesday. But when I checked back Wednesday, the menu had changed, and it was now called the Otto Neopolitan! Either way, Spumoni or Neopolitan, the trio of pistachio, dark chocolate and cherry rum gelati is not to be missed, especially when combined with chocolate crumbles, cherries, and whipped cream.
And so, perhaps it was better than my Ciao Bella gelato desires in the day were fleeting, for I’m sure it was Otto gelato I was meant to savour.
Yura’s Square Meal
30 East 92nd Street
New York, NY 10128
One Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10003