Financially stressed epicures in search of solace will find it at Bistro 25, a warm and stylish spot where nothing on the menu costs more than $19. On the well-edited wine list: 25 bottles at $25 apiece.
Chef Brian Shuren shows he cares by sending out spicy warm breadsticks arranged like stems in a paper-lined glass. It's easy to believe what follows will be good.
To swoon from: an appetizer of braised pork belly over a sweet (but not cloying) corn pudding. A sprightly arugula salad with shaved Parmesan and lemon vinaigrette is a good way to start, as is a bright, roasted beet salad with asparagus, pears, frisee, goat cheese and sherry vinaigrette.
Four of us make fast work of the rich, truffled mac and cheese. Also doing a quick disappearing act are crunchy fried oysters atop a refreshing cucumber salad.
Tender, roseate grilled lamb porterhouse is delectable, perfumed with rosemary, accompanied by lovely baby vegetables and garlic mashed potatoes. I'm sold, as well, on the juicy pork tenderloin au poivre, with a fragrant root vegetable puree.
Good, but not quite stellar, are monkfish medallions in a Champagne beurre blanc with fingerling potatoes and standout spinach.
Desserts are class acts: a carrot bread pudding with house-made cream cheese ice cream, a chocolate peanut-butter sundae with toffee and a tart, flaky blackberry lemon tarte Tatin.
Pedestrian whole-grain bread detracts from an otherwise fine sandwich of roast chicken with applewood bacon, tomato, avocado, cucumber and sprouts. And a condiment called tomato "bruschetta" must be picked off the risotto accompanying the scallops.
This winning place is nobody's secret, so don't even think about going without reservations.