Written by Hulda Lawrence
Very new to New York is L'ybane at 1136 First Avenue, between 62nd and 63rd streets, (212) 825-1111. The décor is quite modern, in white, black and silver with a handsome Crystal di Murano chandelier over the bar. The name is derived from the first name of owner Al Rineh's grandfather who also was a chef. This is an establishment which has resulted from the owner's years of work in restaurants in his hometown of Nice and the Middle East.
We began with a wonderful, special signature cocktail the "L'ybane," made with champagne, vodka and mango puree. It was delicious and not sweet. It is served in a charming Erlenmeyer flask with straws and with it were brought carrot strips and roasted pita chips with a sesame-yogurt sauce. Although the restaurant is billed as French-Middle Eastern, it is the Middle Eastern influence that is found in most of the chef's dishes.
We decided to order the Imperial Assortment, which is geared for two people and consists of ten different appetizers. We were not disappointed. There were hot chickpea fritters, vegetarian mousaka, eggplant, Greek salad with feta cheese, pita stuffed with meat, and skewers of chicken, beef and lamb. It was all very good and we enjoyed the many tastes. Although normally we would have wine with this cuisine, my choice was a second cocktail because I enjoyed the first one so much. There is hot pita and with it came hummus and tzatzikiall made on the premises.
For those who want more food, there are cutlets, filet mignon, hamburgers, vegetarian spaghetti, fried beef dumpling, filet de rougets or sea bass. The chef does not use butter in his cooking, but the oils and spices he does use have resulted in excellent marinades.
After our 10 dish Imperial Assortment we could eat little more. However, large profiteroles filled with chocolate ice cream and topped with chocolate sauce and pistachios were a delicious ending to our fine luncheon.
The appetizer assortments are $40 for the Imperial and $30 for the Royal, which has 14 dishes. Individual appetizers start at $7 for chickpea puree with olive oil and caviar of eggplant. Hot appetizers such as spiced chickpea fritters and pita stuffed with meat or cheese are priced at $8 each. The vegetarian spaghetti is $14. Salads are $9 for mixed greens, $14 for Salade Niçoise and $17 for Salade de Fruits de Mer.
If you prefer grilled meats, brochette of lamb are $16, of beef $17, while full-size filet mignon is $32. These meats on brochettes have been marinated for several days and are exceptionally tender.
Lunch is $11 for L'ybane Vegetarian, $12 for a skewer of minced beef, with chickpea puree, fried chickpea dumplings and fried beef dumpling. For $15 there is filet of red mullet, chickpea puree, moussaka and rice.
Tucked up at 230 East 44th Street, between Second and Third Avenues, is Fabio Piccolo Fiore, a relatively new restaurant devoted to fine Italian food under the aegis of Nick Nubile and Fabio Hakill. The name comes from the old Italian song "Piccolo Fiore" and is inspired by Chef Fabio and his love of the food of Central Italy. The restaurant is handsome, with huge replicas of the works of Raphael, Da Vinci and Bronzino. With a location not far from the UN, the space is divided into areas where people can dine and consult with privacy. The cuisine is full of delights from Abruzzi and Tuscany, and it you want something not on the menu, the chef will prepare it for you.
On our recent lunch time visit, we began with a Negroni for my companion and a concoction of champagne, Fragoli with wild strawberries for me made by Eddy, the bartender who is from Macedonia.
Although there is a daily lunch from Monday through Friday at $20, we also selected a few dishes from the regular menu. We started with a delicious crab cake which was made with no fillers and had a great flavor. We also sampled the Antipasto Piccolo Fiore of grilled Portobello, roasted peppers, asparagus, artichokes, scamorza and smoked salmon.
For our entrees we chose from the daily menu and ordered Lasagna and Veal Scaloppine. The lasagna was the best I had ever had. The flavor was outstanding and it was cooked just right. Other lunch choices are Penne alla Vodka. Fettuccine Alfredo, Farfalle Verdura with Pesto, Spaghetti Puttanesca with chopped calamari, Chicken Francese, Chicken Marsala, Roasted Salmon, Filet of Sole and a daily special. This Special Lunch is $20, with a few dollars more for the non-pasta entrees, is served Monday through Friday noon to 2:30 p.m.
There is an extensive wine list, but we had glasses of Montepulciano for me and Sauvignon Blanc for my companion at $10 each.
Our desserts were tastes of several sweets. The chef's Special Dessert if a tower of Fresh fruit and ice cream with Grand Marnier. Another delight is Cannoli alle Siciliana, and the Creme Bruleé was great.
From the long list of fancy coffees, which includes Amaretto Coffee, Irish Coffee, Bailey's Coffee and Italian Corretto with grappa, I chose Cappuccino which was a fine way to end his superior lunch.
In addition to the entrees mentioned there are Chilean Sea Bass, Grilled Branzino, Veal Toscano, Bistecca Fiorentina and Grilled Shrimp. Entrée prices start at $16 for pasta to $45 for a T-bone Steak.
Hours: Monday thru Thursday Noon to 10:30 p.m. Friday noon to 11 p.m. Saturday 4 p.m. to midnight and 4p.m. to 9 p.m. on Sundays
The dollar sign indicates the approximate cost of dining for two persons, excluding beverages, tax and gratuity.