Written by Marilyn Hansen and Hulda Lawrence
Maritime, located at 1251 Avenue of the Americas AT 49th Street, (212) 354-1717, is devoted to presenting the freshest of seafood and fish in imaginative ways. That it is achieving its objective can be determined by the crowds in the art deco dining room. Tables are large and are placed with adequate space between them for private conversation. Although seafood is the main emphasis, there are several choices for those who prefer beef or chicken.
At noontime we entered and once seated ordered drinks. My choice was dry vermouth on the rocks and my companion had a Negroni. We requested a sample of the New England Clam Chowder with Smoked Corn. We found the soup was deliciously redolent of clams, but the cherrystones used were on the tough side. Other first courses we might have selected were Fennel Consomme with Marinated Tuna Ravioli; Mixed Field Greens; Yellowfin Tuna and Vine-Ripened Tomato Tartare; Traditional Caesar Salad; or Fried Calamari ($7 to $10). Of course, there is an extensive Raw Bar with oysters, clams, shrimp, crab claws and lobster. Platters of assorted seafood are available from $21 for an appetizer plate. A plate for two is $36 and a huge platter "Royale" is $48.
At lunch there are sandwiches of Grilled Tuna or Lobster & Crabmeat; Lobster Salad or New York Strip Steak ($14 to $17). We began our luncheon with "Ocean" Cobb Salad with Maine Lobster, Crab and Shrimp ($19); mixed with a good vinaigrette dressing it was an interesting dish.
We decided to share two main courses: Soft Shell Crabs ($25) and a vegetable dish: Pappardelle Pasta done with sun dried tomatoes, shiitake mushrooms, basil and Madeira ($16). This was very tasty. The crabs were nicely sauteed and then set on a ragout of peas, corn, fava beans and tomato with a bell-pepper vanilla sauce.
Other main courses at lunch ($15 to $26) include Grilled Seafood Salad; Smoked Salmon and Brook Trout; Pan Seared Atlantic Salmon; Chesapeake Bay Lump Crab Cake; Chatham Codfish; Wild Striped Bass and Grilled Yellowfin Tuna.
With our lunch we sipped glasses of Pierre Jean Merlot from France ($8) and Sauvignon Blanc from the Napa Valley ($8.50). There is a goodly number of wines available by the glass and quite a large inventory of wine in bottles. We also noticed that many men were happily consuming beer, always an excellent accompaniment to seafood.
At dinner the first courses ($14 to $16) also include Salmon and Brook Trout Salad; Sauteed Scallops; Hudson Valley Foie Gras; Maine Lobster Salad; and Prince Edward Island Mussels and Tiger Shrimp. Dinner entrees ($23 to $32) also include North Atlantic Salmon; Red Snapper; Portland Monkfish; Chesapeake Bay Striped Bass; Maine Lobster poached in butter; and Grilled Beef Tenderloin.
George Mendes, Chef de Cuisine, appeared when it was time for dessert. He described his desserts and soon a try of three was brought. The warm Valrhona chocolate Tarte with pistachio ice cream was a melting and wonderful dish. With a nod to his background, Chef Mendes presented Portuguese Rice Pudding with a delicious blend of red fruit and a divine fennel trifle. The Orange-Raisin Bread Pudding with orange marmalade and vanilla ice cream was another star. On our next visit we should try the Champagne Sabayon with poached oranges and raspberry sorbet. We will not overlook the Creme Brulee flavored with Tahitian Vanilla and Earl Grey Tea with Banana-Lime Bread Desserts ($8), with a "Symphony of Desserts" at $14.
For those who desire dessert wine, there are ports and sherries from many nations including Lindemans Macquarie Tawny Port from Australia ($9); Vidal Blanc, Ice Wine from Hunt Country Vineyards, Finger Lakes ($13); Vintner's Pride Finale, Pellegrini Vineyards, North Fork Long Island ($14), and Sherry, Emilo Lustau, Pedro Ximenez, Dan Emilio ($12).
Hours: Lunch Monday to Friday: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Pedestrians walking west of Broadway on 54th Street for the first time may be startled to see a huge iguana crawling up the side of a building at number 240, but those in the know recognize the location as that of the Iguana Restaurant which, for the past two years, has been delighting those who enjoy Tex-Mex Cuisine. In fact, 600 patrons at one time can be handled in the restaurant and in its lower level party room, complete with dance floor.
When we lunched there recently, we were intrigued by the waterfall behind the curving bar as well as the collection of fascinating lamps suspended from the ceiling. Food is served at the bar during lunchtime, but we opted for a table with a view of the street activity while enjoying the ambiance within.
We began with Margaritas in salt-rimmed glasses. Some come with an additional small glass of tequila, if desired, but I found the regular amount was potent enough. There are several kinds of Margaritas, including mango, available but the traditional was fine for me. Wine is also available by the glass. My dining companion had an Italian Pinot Grigio and I selected a California Merlot. Iguana has an extensive list of tequilas for those who prefer it to wine and, of course, a variety of excellent Mexican beers.
Carlos, our waiter, was most helpful and brought us several dishes so we could taste the antojitos, Mexican appetizers. We sampled ceviche and excellent broiled shrimp as our beginners. The nachos are made in house and are exceptional. We sipped and nibbled and felt at peace with the world. When next I visit Iguana, I will sample the Blue Crab Cakes with Avocado Corn Salsa, Quesadillas and Shrimp Stuffed Jalapenos.
Our Especiales de Casa were Southwestern Stuffed Chicken with a tasty stuffing of cilantro, chilies and cream cheese and honey chipotle sauce, accompanied by great mashed sweet potatoes. Our second main dish was Puerta Vajarta Striped Bass with an avocado mango sauce, mesquite grilled vegetables and vegetable rice. Both dishes were delicious and very filling and, although piquant were not overly hot.
Other popular main courses include Fajitas of either grilled chicken, steak or vegetables presented on a sizzling skillet with peppers and onions; Stacked Enchiladas; Tacos al Carbon; Soft Whole Wheat Tacos with rice and beans and Grilled Chicken, Steak or Vegetables; Mesquite Grilled Tuna, Salmon or Swordfish with proper accompaniments. Mesquite Grilled Chicken is marinated in tequila and fresh lime juice and is served with Papaya Relish and Vegetable Rice. Mesquite Grilled Prime Dry Aged New York Shell Steak with Poblano Hash Browns and Texas Toothpicks Onions is another popular entree. There are many tantalizing descriptions of dishes with which we were not familiar and I urge to you to get some guidance from your waiter.
There are, of course, special lunch tortas and omelets. The tortas include Mesquite Grilled Chicken Wrap, Sliced Steak with Peppers, Onions and Jack Cheese, Prime Burger, Grilled Tuna, and Grilled Vegetable Wrap. The tortas and omelets are served only at lunch and are $9 and $10.
Carlos brought us the dessert menu and we chose Kahlua Mousse and Fried Ice Cream, a house specialty of vanilla bean ice cream in a crisp cinnamon shell topped with hot fudge and whipped cream. After our sumptuous desserts we sipped Kahlua-spiked coffee and hated to leave our comfortable lunch for the hot weather outside.
Prices at Iguana are moderate with appetizers ranging from $7 to $10; one dollar additional at dinner. Main courses are $12 to $14 at lunch; at dinner prices are $1 to $3 more. Iguana is a fun place with good service and generous portions. Everything is under the watchful eyes of Abel Espinosa.
Iguana is located at 240 West 54th Street. Phone: (212) 765-5454
Hours: Lunch and dinner everyday 12 noon until 11 p.m.
-- Hulda Lawrence
The dollar sign indicates the approximate cost of dining for two persons, excluding beverages, tax and gratuity.