hot stones and Hot restaurants

| 12 Jun 2019 | 10:15

    Staying stone — A new kind of stone is replacing the stones that were sold at the little jewelry shop that was located opposite Ruppert Park on East 90th Street, just west of Second Avenue. Don’t remember its exact name — something like East Asian III. Its window was invariably filled with all manner of stone, from diamonds and emeralds to rubies and sapphires to estate antiques to tchotchkes with a Russian flair. Within at least a day of closing, the shop was broom clean, painted, and the new tenant was busy moving in and ready to do business the next day.

    Couldn’t wait to find out what was coming. The flyers they hand out say “Body Work — 1 Hour $50 — 11:00 AM — 10:30 PM.” Included in the body work is a stone massage where small black rocks, aka hot stones, are used with aromatic oils. Each massage room has a curtained door. Seems that the small neighborhood businesses coming to the UES are trending to coffee cafes, doggy day care, nail spas. Stones not so much. Need a new nomenclature for small businesses. Calling them moms-and-pops just doesn’t tell the story.

    Lesson learned — Have to say that Starbucks, at least the one at the corner of East 87th Street and Lexington Avenue, has taken seriously the failure of a Philadelphia Starbucks’s to allow a non-customer (one who doesn’t make a purchase) to use the bathroom. The 87th Street location has the code number allowing access to anyone — customer or not — taped to the door of its bathroom. Under the old system, the code number was on the receipt you got when you made a purchase. Good for Starbucks.

    Restaurant redux — It’s New York, restaurants come, restaurants go. In one instance, at least, the same restaurant did both. It left so the landlord could demolish the building (yes, this is NY, happens every day) and replace it with a hotel, and came back when the hotel was built and ready to open in the old location. So it was with Ben & Jack’s steakhouse on East 44th Street between Second and Third Avenues.

    Initially opened in 2005 by the Sinanaj brothers — Ben and Jack (there’s also Harry, Jeff and Russ; all own the Empire Steakhouse restaurants) — with a 15-year lease that would terminate in 2020. Sometime in 2012 the Ben & Jack’s landlord notified them that the building was being demolished and a hotel would be built. Keeping the well-run, high caliber restaurant was an imperative for the landlord, and it fell to brother Jeff to cut a deal with the landlord that would bring Ben & Jack’s back to its old home. And five years later, in 2017, it happened. The brothers, who are veterans of the venerable Peter Luger’s, as are a contingent of cousins, reopened in the Even Hotel (owned by Intercontinental) in a new space at the old location with the same great steaks and cocktails and impeccable service. Great when a landlord and a tenant can cut a deal that keeps a business in business. In steak parlance — that’s rare and well-done.

    Restaurant redo - Tandoor Oven on East 84th Street, just west of Third Avenue on the north side of the street, was at the same location with the same owner for 30 years. That changed in August of 2018 when Tandoor Oven changed hands and the new owners upgraded the menu and interior and replaced the old street canopy with a spiffier, more elegant one. The new ownership includes Nimma Reddy, a chef who owns restaurants in New Jersey and Connecticut. The new menu focuses on regional but authentic Indian dishes which are popular across the country. On the new appetizer menu, there’s Cauliflower Manchurian, a popular north Indian street food inspired from Asian cuisine, and Kale Sprouts (definitely au courant). Prices are 21st century — Chicken Saag (then spelled Shaag) was $8.50. Currently, spelled Saag, at $16.95. Looking forward to at least another 30 years of the terrific Tandoor Oven tradition at the same location. Priceless.