Bocca

I walk by Bocca at least once a week on my way to the Starbucks that’s down the block. It’s hard not to notice them – they have outdoor-sidewalk seating and a sign that advertises $9 lunch specials everyday. I filed that information in the back of my head for future use – perhaps I might step in for a quick lunch. The information came in handy when my coworker told me it was my turn to pick a place for lunch.

I quickly made reservations on OpenTable (I’ve been trying to stack points) and we were on our way. We were seated immediately upon arrival. Quick tip: for lunch you don’t really need reservations. There were several tables occupied – most men in suits having a business lunch. It wasn’t too loud in the restaurant and they knew to sit parties at least a table away from each other since they weren’t that busy anyways.

We both decided to go with their $9 lunch special – the pasta dishes sounded amazing. I went with their Pappardelle Al Ragú Di Agnello In Bianco, which featured house-made mint pasta tossed with white wine braised lamb shank and topped with fresh ricotta. The pasta was cooked perfectly – al dente – and had so much bounce in each bite. The lamb was very tender and almost melted in my mouth. The ricotta added a cheesey flavor to the dish that wasn’t too overpowering. The white wine based lamb sauce was definitely enough to bring a kick to the dish.

We decided not to go for dessert since each one was more expensive than our lunch specials, which I didn’t really appreciate. They did bring out some very warm and crunchy bread with marinara sauce while we waited for our entrees, which was a nice touch. Our service wasn’t anything to write home about but it wasn’t bad either. Overall, I liked my lunch at Bocca and would definitely return for their lunch special if I’m in the area.

Lady M Boutique

If I told anyone who knows me that I have a list of restaurants I want to go to, I don’t think they would be surprised. I actually have two – one for the fancy ones I’ll be able to afford after I’m not a broke college student and another for the places I can afford now. The second list is actually quite long because I spend so much time looking up food that every time I cross off one restaurant, I already have two more to replace it. The Boyfriend likes it though because every time we don’t know what to eat, we just look at the list and weigh our options.

Lady M Boutique, located in the Upper East Side, is very high up on the Try-List, as I like to call it. Everyone has been raving about their mille cakes for so long that I felt like I had to try it. I have had their Green Tea Mille Cake after dinner at Gyu Kaku before but have not tried any of their other flavors yet. After several blotched attempts to pay them a visit, the Boyfriend and I finally made our way over after work one day. We were lucky because when we arrived there was only one table open. We were seated and then offered their savory menu filled with sandwiches, salads, coffees and teas.

We decided to go with their Smoked Salmon Sandwich ($10.50), which features smoked salmon slices with a sour cream and cream cheese mixture as the spread. The sandwich was very good although a bit overpriced. I could probably get a bagel with lox at a local deli for a lot less. If you have the money to spend, go for it, but otherwise, it can be skipped.

We also ordered a Caprese Salad ($12.00), which had about 5 wedges of tomatoes and mozzarella cheese. It was drizzled with a nice olive oil, which was good. They cut the mozzarella slices into the same size as the tomato wedges so it fit perfectly together. I’ve definitely had better caprese elsewhere, so I’d say this can be skipped as well.

After my trip to Lady M Boutique, I’ve realized one thing – skip the savory and go straight for the sweet. After we finished our savory dishes, we ordered a piece of their Signature Mille Cake to share. Each slice will cost you around $8 but it’s definitely shareable. They don’t serve the Chocolate-Banana mille here, which was what I had wanted, but I’m definitely glad I went with the original. It was heaven! 20 layers of thin crepes with creamy custard in between each layer, it was amazing! I’m pretty sure it was the best piece of cake I’ve ever had in my life. The crepes were very soft and the custard only added to the texture. It felt like I was eating a cloud – so light and so soft!

I also ordered their Coconut Mille Cake to go so I could try it at home. It doesn’t matter if you get one slice or two slices, they package it in a nice sturdy box for you. But a quick tip, definitely only get it if you’re going to be near a fridge soon because the custard does melt after a while. Despite the slight melting, the crepe cake still tasted amazing.

I would love to make a visit to their secondary boutique in The Plaza Food Hall to try out their chocolate-banana mille. Our waiter told us that it was his least favorite, but I really want to see for myself. I don’t think anything can beat their Original Mille though. Even me, the green tea lover, would pick a slice of their classic mille cake over their green tea.

Norma’s

Brunch has always been one of my favorite meals – even though I don’t get to enjoy it as often as I’d like to. There’s just something about being able to wake up late and still be able to eat delicious breakfast foods that’s makes brunch appealing. I’ve been staring at Norma’s menu for as long as the Boyfriend and I have been dating and finally we got the chance to go. Located inside the Le Parker Meridien Hotel on the West side, Norma’s is one of the most sought after brunch spots in the city. It is also a bit on the pricey side for a normal college student but when the Boyfriend said he’d treat me to brunch there, I practically jumped at the chance.

We arrived around 10am on a Tuesday, which is right smack in the middle of their all day brunch service (from 7am to 3pm daily). The wait time for a table for two was only about 15 minutes, which isn’t bad at all considering how the Boyfriend once waited 30 minutes for a table for five. Norma’s has a huge menu of dishes – ranging from pancakes and waffles to crepes and egg dishes. But first, once you’re seated, you receive a complimentary shot of their smoothie of the day. Our smoothie of the day was strawberry-banana, which was nice. We decided to go with a French Press of tea for each of us, which was definitely more tea than one could ever finish in one sitting ($7.00).

After look around me and seeing the enormous portion sizes of the waffles, French toast and pancakes, I decided to go with a savory dish instead. There was no way I would be able to finish any of the sweet dishes. The Upstream Eggs Benedict, which featured smoked salmon with eggs benedict and fingerling potatoes, caught my eye ($23.00). Their Eggs Benedict dishes are served with a pancake bottom instead of English muffins, which was something I’ve never had before. It was definitely something new and refreshing. The usage of pancakes meant that I didn’t have to saw into the tougher dough of an English muffin. Now onto the eggs – it was poached to perfection. The outside had shape and once I burst the yoke, it oozed out onto my pancakes and salmon. The salmon was very fresh and there was more than enough to accompany my eggs.

The Boyfriend decided to go with their Flat-As-A-Pancake-Crab cakes ($24.00). Each order comes with two large crab cakes and a side salad tossed in a dill, yogurt and mustard sauce. The dipping sauce for the crab cakes comes inside a tempura fried onion, which we gobbled up. First, I must comment on the side salad – the dressing was delicious! I really love mustard based dressings because it has that hint of spice in each bite. The crab cakes were fresh and packed to the brim with crabmeat. They were perhaps the best crab cakes that I’ve ever had.

By the time we finished both our entrees, we were stuffed. I have no idea how the tables around us ordered bread service to go along with their entrees. We barely even finished our main dishes!

If you look on Yelp, Norma’s a bit of a hit or miss – most people aren’t comfortable with the prices. But here’s the reason why both the Boyfriend and I are okay with the prices at Norma’s – the quality of the food and the portion sizes definitely make up for the prices. Sure, $20+ is a lot to pay for just a brunch entrée – considering how Tartine offers tea, orange juice and an entrée for just $15. But the quality of the food and the portion size can’t be beat. You leave full and knowing you just ate something very delicious.

The service could’ve been better – we barely saw our waiter except when we ordered and when he brought us our meals. But it’s definitely not a deal breaker because I’ve had a lot worse. I will definitely return to Norma’s – but probably not for a while since the Boyfriend’s wallet has to recover first!