DINING: 'Manhattan' restaurant's desserts worth the trip

November 10, 2008

The vibe may be different at night, when well-dressed diners nosh while serenaded by live jazz or big band music, but a late lunch at Clearwater Crossing's new Manhattan (3902 E. 82nd St., 576-9669) lacked any hint of big city hustle and bustle.

We showed up a little after 1 p.m. on a Friday to find just one other table occupied and a single server taking a leisurely approach to customer care. Good thing we didn't have to rush back to the office.

Unlike the dinner menu, which offers an eclectic selection of grub from New York City neighborhoods — Little Italy, China Town and Hell's Kitchen, to be specific — the lunch options are a fairly standard array of soup, salad and sandwiches, with a few pasta options thrown in to spice things up.

We asked our server for help and ended up with the South Bronx Baked Rigatoni ($10.99) and the Brooklyn Bomber ($8.99), a fancified chicken sandwich. We're glad we listened.

The enormous bowl of Rigatoni was impressive, combining the tube-shaped pasta with Italian sausage, recognizable cloves of roasted garlic and chopped onions, all tossed in a thick tomato cream sauce and topped with three cheeses. Simply sublime.

Our Brooklyn Bomber also was tasty, if not quite as memorable. Served on French bread instead of sourdough like all the other sandwiches, the seasoned grilled chicken was topped with mayo, smoked bacon, alfalfa sprouts and avocado (well, more like guacamole) packing flavor into every moist bite.

All sandwiches come with a choice of steak fries, coleslaw, fresh potato chips or onion rings — at no additional charge, which is unusual these days. Suckers for bargains and deep-fried food, we chose the rings without regret. The fries that arrived first (and in error) also were good.

Our off-handed inquiry about dessert proved ingenious — and elevated our opinion of the restaurant. We liked the main courses, but we loved what followed: a Double Chocolate Mousse and Crushed Almond Cookie Parfait ($6.99) and Manhattan's Own New York Style Cheesecake ($7.99), both offering creamy goodness and sweet satisfaction that came from the kitchen and not a box. Apparently, when it comes to dessert, Manhattan could make it anywhere but, instead, it makes it here.


Second in a month-long series of across-the-USA restaurant reviews

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