Chinatown’s Little Brunch Gem: Dimes

Name: Dimes

NGM Rating: B+/A-

Restaurant Inspection Rating: Grade Pending

Website: http://dimesnyc.com/

Location: 143 Division Street, NY, NY 10002

Cuisine: Eclectic and Health-conscious

Owner/Chef: Alissa Wagner and Sabrina DeSousa

When did it open: September 2013

Ambiance:  This tiny restaurant gem on the edge of Chinatown attracts the ‘cool’ hipster crowd of the LES. You have to pay attention as you turn the corner on Division Street or you’re likely to miss it. … I pretty much did. The signage is discreet and you wouldn’t think to see a popular restaurant among the other storefronts lining the street. When you walk into Dimes, you’re immediately immersed in the close-knit community of this restaurant. … whether you want to be or not. The dining room is very small and the tables are cramped together to accommodate a modest crowd. It’s difficult to ignore other table’s conversations or notice the plates being passed around – acai bowls, chia pudding and eggs in a variety of eclectic preparations. Each table I noticed was either filled with laughter, people entrenched in some deeply intellectual conversation or a twosome simply enjoying afternoon brunch with a friend they hadn’t seen in a while. Very pleasant vibe even given the lack of elbow room.

Menu highlights: Navigating the menu here was fun. I basically didn’t recognize three-quarters of the menu and used the advice of my server to guide me. I mean. … do you know what to expect from an acai bowl? Well now I do, and I urge others to try one of four options at Dimes. The eggs any style were simple – mine served over easy – but came with savory roasted tomatoes and greens that were pretty darn tasty as garnishes. I also added half of a sliced avocado for $2.50. … why not, right? The seven-grain toast here is also spot on – thick, grainy, healthful goodness. Love it when restaurants get bread right. I don’t really think you can go wrong with much of what Dimes has to offer in the Brunch department. It’s not your typical NYC brunch, but it’s darn tasty. … and apparently healthy too!

What I didn’t get to try: I ate at Dimes for Brunch so missed the opportunity to sample any of the dinner options. I didn’t hit most of the brunch menu too and at a place like this you kind of want to sample all the options. I am still curious about the chia pudding, quinoa porridge, egg sandwich, Sayanara Summer Tacos and the assorted chilled beverages (those looked particularly interesting.

Constructive criticisms: It would be nice to have a little more space when eating, but I don’t think that’s what Dimes is going for. The restaurant is meant to be cozy and collegial, with the humming of people’s conversations heard throughout the room.

Best for: Brunch for two. … or any meal for two (groups are tough), hipster hang out, going off-the-beaten path and a healthy food fix.

Dress Code: Vintage tees, over-size sweaters, leggings, jeans and booties

Average Pricing: Brunch items: $10, Juices: $4, Cocktails: $9, Appetizers: $11, Entrees: $18. Very reasonable!

Reservations: No reservations. Tables on a first-come-first-serve basis.

 

 

Solid Small Plates, Sub-Standard Service and a Botched Dessert @ Alta

Name: Alta

NGM Rating: B-

Restaurant Inspection Rating: Grade Pending

Website: http://www.altarestaurant.com/

Location: 64 W. 10th Street, NY, NY 10011

Cuisine: Mediterranean-Influenced Small Plates

Ambiance: This Greenwich Village gem of a place (in terms of look and feel) combines rustic, elegance and romance all into one. The entrance is charming, and as you open the door you enter into a long bar room with hoards of people laughing, enjoying a cocktail and nibbling on small plates at the bar. Then you walk into the duplex dining room that has great high ceilings, ornate light fixtures and is very low lit. The abundance of candlelight gives the dining room a romantic touch. Very warm feeling and somewhere you would like to keep warm during the cold of winter. … and there’s even a working fireplace.

Menu highlights: House-marinated olives, fried goat cheese with lavender-infused honey, grilled smoked mozzarella skewer, seafood paella, pulled pork empanadas, sea bass tartare and kale salad.If you’re feeling really amibiitious you can order “The Whole Shebang” for $450 and literally try everything on the menu.

What I didn’t get to try:  My sister raved about the Philadelphia Truffle Surprise, so we were disappointed to hear that item had been removed from the menu. That was the one item I feel like I missed out on, but there were plenty of other small plates that could have been sampled as well. We had plenty on the table to keep me occupied.

Constructive criticisms: The service really crushed my experience at Alta. All in all, the food was quite good but the pace of the meal was very inconsistent – we were brought five small plates very, very quickly and then everything slowed down dramatically from there – and our server forgot to bring our drinks multiple times. Then to top it off, we ordered a Pumpkin S’More Sundae that was plopped on our table and had more the appearance of a soupy blob than ice cream. … or really anything I wanted to consume or pay for. There was zero acknowledgement from the waiter that this presentation was unacceptable and he really paid us no attention. To add insult to injury, when we asked for the bill he did not leave the receipt for us to review and, instead, took the credit card off the table and ran the check. Big no, no. It was a busy Saturday night, with the bar area packed with people waiting for tables, but this is still unacceptable and really tarnishes one’s opinion of what could have been a perfectly pleasant dining experience (and birthday celebration).

Best for: Group dining, dates, fun occasion and pre-weekend night out dinners

Dress Code: City Chic

Average Pricing: Cocktails: $12, Small Plates: $13, Dessert: $10

Reservations: Alta accepts reservations by phone 30 days in advance (212) 505-7777. Note: the restaurant only accepts cash and American Express (kind of odd).