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Chris Kompanek

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On the Culture Front: Koi and Perro Salado

Posted: 08/11/11 08:00 PM ET

Hidden away in the Bryant Park Hotel, the swanky sushi resto Koi provides a tranquil counterpart to the bustle of midtown traffic outside its door. The cavernous space fills two levels with plush seating in muted colors, and provides ample space between tables that creates the illusion of private dining. The servers are unpretentious but helpful with sake suggestions and won't just steer you towards the most expensive bottle. The food is quite nice too. The kobe potstickers are one of chef Nick McCoy's specialties as is a foie gras and seared tuna dish. Both are, not surprisingly, very good, as is the baked lobster roll. Just about everything we had was tasty, especially the apple crepe we split for dessert. Portions can run on the small side, but with three rolls and a couple of appetizers we were full.

Three and a half hours north of the city in the iconic vacation spot of Newport, RI, portions couldn't be more generous at Perro Salado. A lobster quesadilla app is not only delicious but large enough to be a meal unto itself. The same could be said for the massive bowl of guacamole that comes with chips and fried plantains. Simple entrees like enchiladas and carnitas tacos go a long way towards satisfying the budget diner without sacrificing flavor. Andi Johnson's margaritas are a solid mix of tart and sweet and can be made with upmarket tequilas like Don Julio Blanco to minimize hangovers. The outdoor garden is a popular space in the summer but the Mexican village-meets-East Village vibe inside is hard to resist. The best thing to say about any place is that it leaves an impression, and I can say it'll be a long while before I forget that lobster quesadilla.