Written by Hulda Lawrence
with M.J. Boyer

Past Reviews

La Prima DonnaNewly ensconced at 163 West 47th Street, between 6th and 7th Avenues (212) 398-3400 is La Prima Donna. It is truly an Italian ristorante, with an emphasis on Carnival in Venice. Because of its relationship to the Quality Hotel, the day begins with breakfast from 7 to 10:30 a.m.; lunch is 11:30 to 3:30 p.m. and dinner is 5 p.m. to midnight. One enters the bar where light food as well as assorted libations are served. On the left is a quiet nook where the bar menu of pizza, panini and a raw seafood assortment can be ordered.

As diners enter the restaurant proper the very large room is graced with huge paintings and photographs of beautiful women in costume from different historical periods as well as art deco sculptures evoking an excitement that something good will happen. And it does. The food is fine and the service is good and there is a friendly atmosphere.

We began with our usual aperitifs, a Negroni for my companion and a Cosmopolitan for me. Although there is a daily prix fixe menu both for lunch and dinner, we opted for choices from the full menu. We began with one of the most delicious salads in my memory, Chanti Clair. Ingredients were baby field greens tossed with oven-dried cranberries and pine nuts, with raspberry vinaigrette and ricotta salata. We also shared an appetizer of Carpaccio di Manzo, the thinnest of sliced raw beef tenderloin topped with arugula and shaved Parmigiana. Dressed with lemon and olive oil, it was a treat.

Other appetizers include Eggplant Rollatini, Funghi Fritti, Calamari Fritta and Gambierie Fagioli, Shrimp sautéed with Cannellini beans and fresh tomato. Other salads are Cesare, Tricolore di Caprese of mozzarella, tomato and basil, and di Peppe of pear, endive, walnuts and Pecorino cheese.

For our entrees, we shared en excellent Fegato alla Veneziana, that great dish of calves liver sautéed with caramelized onions and a splash of balsamic vinegar, accompanied by grilled polenta. Our other entrée was Shrimp Fra Diavolo sautéed in spicy tomato sauce and served over linguine. With these substantial dishes we had Pinot Grigio and Montepulciano wines.

Chicken entrees include Pollo Scapariello, chunks of chicken on the bone sautéed with sweet sausage, mushrooms, onions, potatoes and red peppers; Spiedino di Pollo, marinated chicken kebobs; Pollo Boscaiola, chicken breast grilled and topped with oven-dried tomatoes, mushrooms and asparagus tips with Madeira sauce; Roasted Baby Guinea Hen; and Pollo Piccata, chicken breast pounded and sautéed with lemon, capers and white wine.

In addition to the fine fegato, there is Veal Parmigiana, Veal Scaloppine with shallots and baby artichokes, Baby Rack of Lamb, and Beefsteak Fiorentina. There is a variety of fish dishes such as seared Salmon Filet, Sauteed Filet of Red Snapper and often Cioppino, that famous fish stew of clams, calamari, mussels, scallops, shrimp and lobster in a light tomato broth.

For dessert, we enjoyed Crème Caramel with Fresh Strawberries and Torta di Cioccolato, a divine warm Chocolate Cake filled with hazelnut praline and topped with vanilla ice ream. Desserts also were biscotti, tartufo, tiramisu and New York Cheesecake as well as Gelato.

There is a large variety of pasta, including Rigatoni alla Donna with sausage; Farfalle with chicken, oven dried tomatoes, mushrooms, asparagus and a Madeira sauce; Spaghetti con Mamma Claudia with homemade meatballs; Capellacci Ripieni con Granchio, pasta filled with jumbo lump crabmeat and ricotta; Penne alla Puttanesca with mushrooms, capers, and olives in tomato sauce; Linguine con Tonno e Piselli with fresh tuna, fresh peas and Farfalle con Salmone, smoked salmon and sweet peas and fresh tomatoes.

The three course prix-fixe menu at lunch $18.95 provides a choice of Mixed Salad, Insalata di Peppe, Arugula and Sliced Pear or Rigatoni alla Donna with sausage. Next is a choice of Salmon Filet, Marinated Chicken Breast or Fegato alla Veneziano with a dessert of Tiramisu. At dinner the prix fixe is $23.95.

At lunch, appetizers are $5 to $9, including salads. Pizzas are $9 and $10. Pasta at lunch is $10 to $14 and entrees re $11 to $18. At dinner entrees are $14 to $25 for Florentina Beefsteak.

There is a private Carnival in Venice Room for parties and groups. Mohamed Choayra, the general manager, has a right to be proud of his new endeavor. He has been with Coco Pazzo and really knows what it takes to create a fine ristorante.

Hours: Breakfast: 7 to 10:30 a.m. Lunch: 11:30 to 3:30 p.m.
Dinner 5 p.m. to midnight
Credit Cards: All major
Dress: Casual
Wheelchair accessibility: Yes
Price: $$$

Jubilee 51Jubilee 51, located at 329 West 51st Street, between 8th and 9th Avenues (212) 265-2525, is less than a year old, but already those who enjoy French bistro food have found it and are enjoying both the good and the friendly atmosphere. One enters from the street level; it is rather like a visit to a quiet spot in Paris where the music is background chanteuses and the emphasis is on a simple but diverse menu. It looks like Paris and the airy room evokes charm.

After enjoying a Kir (that delicious aperitif of Crème de Cassis and dry white wine, named after its inventor the Bishop of Kir) for me, we perused the menu noting that mussels, the restaurants signature dish, were available in five ways. My companion's choice was White Cotes du Rhone.

We sampled two kinds of mussels: Curry, done with curry coconut milk, shallots and lemon grass; and Poulette, done with creamy chicken broth, mushrooms, chives and white truffle oil. Each was delicious. Next time I shall try the Marinieres, with white wine, shallots and parsley; Farcies a la Provencales, baked in a half shell with garlic and parsley butter; and Catalans, steamed with tomatoes and chorizo. The portions are generous and are $11; accompanied by french fries or green salad the price is $16.

In order to try other choices among the appetizers we ordered Cassolette d'Escargots au Beurre d'Ail, fine snails done with garlic and parsley butter. This, too, was cooked just right. Other appetizers include Soup du Jour; Petits Calamars Frits Sauce Tartar; Fried Calamari; Croustillant de Cabecou au Basilic; Tomate confite et Prosciutto, baked goat cheese with basil, sun dried tomatoes and prosciutto; Mousse de Foie de Volaille, chicken liver pate with port wine reduction; and Tartare de Thon et Salade d'algues au Sesame, yellowfin tuna tartar with sesame seaweed salad.

After our tantalizing first courses, it was no easy task to choose among the fascinating suggestions for our entrees. We selected Salade Nicoise au Thon Frais Grille salad nicoise with fresh grilled tuna for me and Steak Tartare with French Fries and Green Salad for my companion. Other luncheon entrees include Croque Monsieur Jubilee; Salade de Poulet Grille et Haricots Verts; Omelette au Champignons; Pasta du Jour; Saumon Mi-Fume cuit a la Plancha; Salade Tiede de Lentilles, sautéed lightly smoked salmon with warm lentil salad and red wine sauce; Poellee de Saint Jacques aux Vermicelles; Vinaigrette a l'Huile de Noix, seared sea scallops with wheat vermicelli, fried scallions and walnut vinaigrette; Supreme de Poulet Roti; Garniture Grand-Mere et Jus a L'Estragon, roasted chicken breast served with fingerling potatoes, mushrooms and bacon; Steak Frite Grille; Sauce au Poivre Vert, grille sirloin with French Fries and Green Peppercorn sauce and cotes d'Agneau grilles; Ratatouille Provencal et Ravioli Champignon. These entrees range from $14 for the omelette with French Fries and salad to $26 for the Steak Frite. Portions are generous. The Salade Nicoise is $17 and the Steak Tartare is $19.

There is a daily luncheon and pre-theatre prix-fixe. For $19.95 at lunch there is a choice between soup du jour and green field salad with entrees of a choice of mussels with green salad or French Fries or Atlantic Salmon lightly smoked with warm lentil salad or Roasted Breast of Chicken Grandmother's Style. The pre-theatre prix fixe is $24.95 served from 5 to 7 p.m. and coffee and dessert is included.

We received helpful advice from Ilda the lady in charge who suggested the wines: White Cotes du Rhone from Jean-Luc Columbo 2000 and Syrah, Maison Nicols 2001. Both by the glass.

Desserts include Jubilee Tarte Tatin with Crème Fraiche; Crème Brulee de Cointreau; Frasisses Fraises; Fratin de Poire du Vin Rouge; Moelleux au Chocolate et Glace Pistache plus a variety of Glaces and sorbets. Desserts are $6.50 to $8.

At dinner there are such additional entrees as Striped Bass, Couscous de Legumes; Bouillabaisse; Cote de Porc Sauteed; Feuillete d'Epinards et Carottes Glacees au Miel; Sauteed Pork Chop with Spinach Napoleon, honey glazed carrots and rosemary jus; and Carre d'Agneau Roti with Ratatouille Provencale. Dinner entrees are $19 to $27.

Chefs de Cuisine Pacal Petiteau and Stephane Boissel have created some tasty and delicious food. Jubilee 51 seats 65 and there is a private room that can accommodate up to 14. There is an outdoor dining terrace. The ambiance is very French and it is a joy to dine there.

Hours: Open seven days a week for dinner. Lunch Monday thru Friday There is a pre-theatre prix-fixe menu and Sunday brunch
Credit Cards: All major
Dress code: Very Casual
Wheelchair Accessibility: Street Level with a few steps
Price: $$

The Restaurant Revue Ratings

The dollar sign indicates the approximate cost of dining for two persons, excluding beverages, tax and gratuity.

$ Inexpensive $25
$$ Moderate $50
$$$ Expensive $100
$$$$ Very Expensive $150

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