Dining and Wine: 5 under $10
In response to widespread acclaim for Sam Sifton's recent review of Takashi, the editors of the Dining and Wine section have asked our reporters to fire up their four-foot bongs and hit the streets for more brain-scrambling grub:
Moonstruck Diner, 23rd St. and 9th Ave.: Gyro meat drips with savagery, in inchoate bark of anticolonial rage. Stuffed grape leaves are by no means nuanced; they are a polemic writ in olive oil, lemon, and too-soft rice, a predigested screed to be preached only to the converted. Fries are limp, ketchup salty.
Dil-e Punjab, 9th Avenue at 21st St.: Black-eyed peas, spinach, chickpeas – no matter, all are as acceptable as the rest. Cardamom tea is a transporting opiate, a shaded chaise on a raft floating down the Ganges, the afternoon rain held in swollen abeyance for a few more minutes of languid torpor until the cleansing monsoon gushes forth from the heavens. Carrot dessert is a bit sweet. Avoid the soya cutlet.
Roy Rogers, I-95 rest stop: Roast beef sandwiches with horsey sauce taste of fallen empire, photon storms lashing satellites that have long since depleted their transuranic reactor cores. Lettuce is no better, an untranslatable inscription on the side of an interstellar probe, the precious metals melted down for ammunition to fuel some planet-bound tribal war that has gone on for millennia.
Gray's Papaya, 23rd St. and 6th Ave.: Fuchsia planes tessellate and surround the point of consciousness. Crystalline automata bow and proceed on their appointed rounds. Somewhere, distant, the sounds that are one sound, a city alive but somehow rendered abstract. What is this "love" they speak about?
Rickshaw, 23rd St. between 6th and 7th Avenues: Dumplings, mumblings, three from the left and slide your tray to the right. Ever listen to Astral Weeks? For a moment, when you realize that Van is playing all the instruments, you realize that Van is playing the listener as well. Who's playing Van? That's what these dumplings are like, man. Just like that.