Isabella's and Nha TrangIsabella's and Nha Trang

On Friday night, eleven of us ate at Isabella’s on the Upper West Side. I had never been there before, but I remember my father saying it was his favorite place in the city a decade ago when I visited for the first time.

It’s a lovely place with soft lighting and good music, and as far as I could tell, everyone enjoyed their food, from my 16-year-old brother to my 85-year-old great uncle. I started with the special salad of endives and gorgonzola with a bacon vinaigrette. I thought it was good, although it tasted very strongly of bacon and not at all of vinegar. For dinner I had the grilled organic salmon with a butternut squash-pancetta risotto, which I devoured. It’s hard to order at B.R. Guest restaurants, because everything on the menu is appealing. I was too full for dessert, so I had a ginger manhattan instead (which, because she left the shaker, turned into three ginger manhattans).

n8 had a goat cheese salad and the seared tuna. I found the crust of his tuna entirely too salty; he compared it to an everything bagel. Is that the intention of the chef, or was there extra seasoning to mask the flavor or non-flavor of the tuna? In any case, he was sated enough to skip dessert (opting instead for his own ginger manhattan). The 11 of us ate for about $700 I believe, and I think that’s well worth it for an upscale restaurant with good food.

Last night, my parents’ last in the city, we went to Nha Trang on Baxter Street at the recommendation of Sabena. Eh. It was fine and cheap, but I preferred the pho at Pho Bang. (Incidentally, am I allowed to eat pho for dinner? It wasn’t on the dinner menu here at all—only on the lunch menu. Did I break some ancient law?)

So, my week of eating out every night is over, and now I have to get ready for my party. Tonight, I am considering conquering my greatest fear: roasting a chicken. That’s right friends, I have never roasted a whole bird. My mom roasts at least two per week at home, and I’m afraid I’ll never even approach her always-perfect results. Any advice would be welcome.

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