36 E. 22nd Street
City: New York, NY
Site: Visit the restaurant site
Area: Flatiron District
Entree Price: $10-15
“Kitchen 22 is my vision of the ideal neighborhood restaurant – a comfortable space and incredible food at a great value.” – Charlie Palmer
Kitchen 22 sits on one of New York's most celebrated culinary blocks, where its neighbors include Bolo, Tamarind, Beppe and, yes, Rocco's. But even when there are tables to be had at those other spots, a seat is scarce at Kitchen 22 -- even with its frustrating no-reservations policy. The reason is simple: exceptional food at exceptional value: a three-course dinner is always $25 (plus beverages, tax and tip). Charlie Palmer, the chef at Aureole, dreamed up this splendid idea (and then expanded it to the Upper West Side at Kitchen 82). Each night's menu offers five selections in each category, which change seasonally (if not more often). The choosing is hard, but rest assured, there are no losers on these menus. Portions are remarkably generous, so resist filling up on the warm bread accompanied by hummus, olives, and the especially addictive deep-fried garbanzo beans. On my most recent visit, I delighted in a bracing salmon tartare "napoleon" (taro chips substitute for the pastry) heady with citrus, while my companion indulged in a gorgeous beet "carpaccio" topped with walnuts and goat cheese. The house's roast chicken is touted on the menu as the city's best; that seems an overstatement. But it is quite good, with a lovely crust, and a fabulous red wine reduction chock full of bacon. The accompanying wild mushroom risotto was a tad too al dente, but still pleasing. A "ratatouille" of mussels, chorizo and zucchini was a delicious new take on comfort food. When my friend couldn't decide between two desserts – spiced cheesecake and butterscotch pudding -- our lovely waitress offered to give him some of each. He was thrilled: the pudding was sensational and the cheesecake unusual and wonderful. I was equally happy with my selection, a variation on frosted lemon poundcake. And to gild the lily, we were given some complimentary post-dessert cookies (lemon drop, chocolate chip and ginger snap) that made this sweet experience even sweeter.
Review By: Brian Scott Lipton