Dinner and a…. [K-Town Chicken + Karaoke; Bar Boulud & “Dr. Atomic”]

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One subject everyone can relate to, regardless of where you live in the country, is the decision-making process one goes through when one plans a night on the town. Of course, there’s dinner but what to do after dinner? And how important is the after dinner activity when choosing where to eat dinner? If you eat dinner in an obscure part of town with nothing else to do, is the night ruined? Inversely, if you choose an awesome after dinner activity (let’s go rollerskating!) are your plans foiled when the only place to eat nearby is a 3rd rate pizza joint?

Happily, living in New York provides many opportunities for a fantastic dinner AND a fantastic after dinner activity. Allow me to share two such examples, after the jump.

Example 1: Korean Fried Chicken + Korean Karaoke

Last week was my friend Kirk’s birthday (check out the awesome movie site he works on, FilmCatcher.com) and like any smart birthday boy, Kirk laid out the plan for everyone: meet in K-town for fried chicken and then walk a few paces for Korean Karaoke.

The fried chicken was consumed at Restaurant Forte Baden Baden, which was lauded by Peter Meehan in The New York TImes two years ago. The restaurant is a bit difficult to find; the address is 28 West 32nd Street, 2nd floor—but would you think there’s a restaurant inside here if you were standing outside?

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Fortunately, Craig had been there before (with Kirk, in fact) so he led the way up. Once there, we sat at a large table of Kirk’s friends and ordered huge platters of fried chicken.

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There she is, all fried up and crunchy and covered with sub-par but still edible frozen onion rings.

This is food that goes well with beer and birthdays. The beer kept coming, as did the chicken, and whether or not I loved the chicken–(I was slightly disappointed; I found some of the meat cottony, and the seasoning lackluster)–mattered less than how much fun I was having.

And the star of the show, food wise, wasn’t chicken at all–it was this calamari platter:

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A spicy, savory blend of calamari and kimchi, and served on a bed of noodles, this was a knock-out and we ordered lots and lots of this, and more beer, and more fried chicken, and even some sake at the end. K-town brings out the beast in all of us. Luckily, we were redeemed with free fruit at the end:

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But this post isn’t about free fruit, it’s about dinner and after-dinner activities. So a few doors down from Restaurant Forte Baden Baden, is a karaoke joint: Toto Music (38 W. 32nd St. #5). There you get to experience a kind of karaoke I’ve never experienced: the kind where you go into a small room with all of your friends and just sing karaoke for each other.

I’m not a big karaoke fan, and I’m not sure I liked it more in a small room, but I have to admit it was fun to watch how much fun everyone else was having. Don’t you want to be up there singing with them too?

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And thus ends our first example of a great New York dinner + after-dinner activity. And now for example #2.

Example #2: Bar Boulud & Dr. Atomic

Before Monday, neither Craig nor I had ever been to an opera at the Met. Thus, I made the bold decision to buy us tickets for an opera that is anything but representative of the standard fare opera-audiences are used to; I bought tickets for “Dr. Atomic,” a new opera by John Adams about the Manhattan Project and the creation of the atom bomb.

Before the opera started, though, there was dinner. And it’s impossible to ignore the fact that right there, right across the street from the Met, is the one and only Bar Boulud, a casual off-shoot of the Daniel Boulud empire.

“I mean,” I said to Craig, feigning unrehearsedness, “we could go to Bar Boulud–it’s right across the street.”

Luckily, Craig was happy to comply.

Our pictures are lousy (I didn’t have my camera–I was scared to take it to the opera, so I used my phone) but the food was anything but. We started with the Pâté Grandmére: Fine Country Pâté made from Chicken LIver, Pork and Cognac.

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“This,” promised the waiter, “is a good, traditional example of Daniel’s charcuterie” and, indeed, it was. The pate was rich, clean-tasting, and substantial; perfect to balance on a toasted piece of bread with grainy mustard. We toasted our wine glasses (Craig had a glass of white, I had a glass of red–mine was light and a little too acidic, a Pinot Noir in the spirit of a Beaujolais (the waiter’s description, not mine!)) and sank into our appetizer.

The restaurant was really accommodating since we told them we had to make the opera by 8; our entrees came out promptly after the first course and boy, was I blown away by mine–behold my coq au vin.

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It doesn’t look like much in that terrible picture, but as an example of a classic French dish that I’d never had before, I can’t imagine another version getting much better. The sauce was a deep, profound red; the flavor was intense, the chicken wildly tender.

Craig had the scallops which he really enjoyed:

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(Sorry, that’s an even worse picture.)

Before we knew it, the bill arrived, we paid and we were off to the opera.

There are few New York moments that’ll ever compare to that first feeling of walking into the Met to see a performance. The chandelier is breathtaking, the audience enormously eclectic (we saw two men in matching tuxedos with matching white plastic glasses), and the architecture inviting and exquisite. We took our time getting up to our seats, and once there I couldn’t help snapping a few photos with my phone:

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Then I got yelled at by an usher.

The opera itself, once it started, was challenging but riveting, nonetheless. It was a good first choice opera for us since it was modern, and therefore written for a modern audience. I think I’d prefer to see a classic next (on the subway home, we ran into a friend of Craig’s whose male companion suggested we see “La Traviata” next) but for a first time experience, “Dr. Atomic” definitely entertained us. And it was exciting to be there for the New York premiere of an important new opera.

So there you go: two evenings proscribed for New York residents–one casual and chummy, one formal and fancy.

What’s your favorite New York night out? And those not in New York: what do you like to do for an evening out? As the weekend approaches, inquiring minds would love to know.

14 comments

  1. Hi Adam — Do you mean “prescribed for New York residents”? My dictionary gives these definitions for “proscribe”:

    1 : to publish the name of as condemned to death with the property of the condemned forfeited to the state

    2 : to condemn or forbid as harmful or unlawful : prohibit

  2. I live in Pittsburgh now, but I was born on Long Island and raised in Greenwich Village, so I have many, many happy memories of going to the opera and the theater. My happiest memory of the opera is going with my dad to the Met when I was about 16 to see Turandot, which is and has always been my favourite opera. The set was designed by Franco Zeffirelli himself, and when the curtains opened at the beginning of the second act, the audience gave the palace a standing ovation before the performers could even come out. Even now, 11 years later, I’m getting goosebumps at the memory. It was magical.

    Speaking of West Village haunts, have you ever been to the Cowgirl Hall of Fame? I haven’t been there in over 15 years, but I have very fond memories of going there and getting big mugs of Sarsaparilla with little plastic horse-riding cowgirls on the sides (in place of cocktail monkeys). You should go there sometime! (But don’t give it a bad review! You will destroy my childhood if you do!)

  3. I just love a good meal out and a night at the theater! When you think about it, theater and a night at a nice restaurant like Bar Boulud are not all that different. The ceremony, the courteous public atmosphere, and the sense of having accomplished something more than just filling your stomach or watching TV make both excursions highly satisfying. Maybe there is a relationship between your love of theater and your love of eating out. Maybe.

  4. Perfect meal and entertainment combination? A stomach full of butterflies, follwed by a couple intense hours of playing roller derby and then ending the evening with Salt and Pepper Calamari at Cyber City in the Valley (Brisbane QLD Australia)!

  5. I agree, Verdi would be a good next choice–Traviata is great, but I think Rigoletto would be even better. Who’s the handsome guy on the left in the first pic?

  6. Oh Dr. Atomic! I would love to see it (saw the director on Charlie Rose a few weeks ago). If you liked that, Nixon in China would of course be a good bet, but if you’d like to get into classic opera than 19th century Italian or French is the way to go. Rigoletto was suggested, and it’s wonderful (saw it last weekend), as is La Traviata. But so is Puccini, or even Bizet. It depends on what you want in an opera. I once saw the Chicago Lyric do a surrealist version of the Barber of Seville, and it was magnificent.

    In Tucson, I don’t go out much. But in Lyon I loved cooking dinner with friends and then going for a drink either at my favorite bar (Escal’ine) in Vieux Lyon or on one of the peniches (barges, or other types of smaller boats).

  7. It’s funny how Korean food is served on the other side of the pond. I have never gotten onion rings with fried chicken. It always comes with some seasoned salt and cubed, pickled radish. You’ll have to come over to Korea at some point for the real thing.

    Seouleats

  8. Didn’t they give you some cubed radish to go with the chicken? They’re supposed to!!

    The calamari dish is called Nak ji bokkeum. SO delicious!!! I just posted a similar recipe on my blog, using squid. :)

    I find karaoke in a room with friends is much more forgivable than listening to strangers sing out of tune while drunk.

  9. I didn’t know Bar Boulud was so close to the Met; I always go to Cafe Fiorello, which has very nice Italian food and an amazing antipasto bar. i have to check it out.

    For your first “classical” opera, I would recommend La Boheme. The acts are short, the music is glorious and the story is timeless. I love, love, love Traviata, but I think Verdi can be a bit heavy for some “newbies”. Whenever I take someone to their first opera, I go for Boheme if possible, or Carmen as an alternative.

  10. i happen to think karaoke makes a splendid (if not low-brow) night out, so long as booze is involved. what is with asia’s and karaoke. i used to live in thailand, and karaoke machines are in like every single bar.

  11. Last night I went for BYOB Cuban food at Cafe Cortadita on East 3rd and then danced to Spanish and soul music at Barazzo and the Sunburnt Cow on Ave C. What a great mix! And the Cuban food hit the spot too…

  12. I agree with commenter Craig. Your friends are kinda hot. :o)

    But the real reason for this comment is to say:

    ADAM!!! You’d never had coq au vin!?!?!? That’s just plain heresy. Shame on you. Try Ina Garten’s recipe (once you get over your cold/flu).

    http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/coq-au-vin-recipe4/index.html

    It’s easy and it’s delicious. Her coq au vin and beef burgundy are our two fall/winter staples and we make each of them at least once a week when it gets cold outside.

    If (for shame) you don’t like Ina’s recipe, Cooks Illustrated has a fantastic one as well.

    Feel better!

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