Peanut-butter-cookie sandwich (Photographs: Caroline Voagen Nelson)
Typically, we don't buy into restaurants that run on gimmicks, and at first, the Meatball Shop certainly seemed like one of them. Offering a mix-and-match selection of meatballs (such as spicy pork and beef), sauces (two types of tomato), sides (fluffy polenta, mashed potatoes) and treatments (as a hero? in a slider?) presented on a dim-sum-style menu that requires check marks to order...it just seemed too cute. Boy, were we mistaken. The subway-tiled eatery is much more attractive than it has to be, the hoagie is a classic, and the place is run with a sense of humor that makes it irresistible. But perhaps the best thing on offer isn't even a meatball—it's the peanut-butter-cookie sandwich, a melty delight with rich caramel ice cream. The Meatball Shop84 Stanton St at Allen St (212-982-8895)
For traditional Thai cuisine in East Harlem, look no further than Malii. Adventurous diners will find plenty to try here, from a coconut seafood casserole ($15.95) to creamy tom yum noodles with shrimp, fish balls and ground pork in a lemongrass broth ($10.95). Some favorites, like the crispy pork belly ($12.95) come in a variety of preparations: sauteed with Chinese broccoli in a garlic sauce, cooked with string beans, carrots and basil in curry paste or served with scallion, red onion, mint and ground toasted rice in a spicy lime dressing. Other staples will be more familiar to takeout connoisseurs, like shrimp pad thai ($11.95), red curry with eggplant and chicken ($10.95), spring rolls ($4.95) and chicken satay skewers ($6.95). Don’t forget dessert: You’ll want to order up the fried banana with homemade coconut ice cream ($6.95) or mango sticky rice ($7.95).
Venue says: “$8.50 lunch special w/ free app. & salad. Happy hour 4-7 - $4 beer, $5 wine, sake, cocktail, appetizer. Mention Time Out & get 10% off.”