bars
Orient Express
325 West 11th Street
212 691 8845

Set up like a rail car from the legendary train (the luggage rack decor, little dining car style tables and mini- lamps, brandy- coloured wood panels), this spot from Osman Cakir of Turks and Frogs is doing retro but without attitude. Drinks- wise you might try the Agatha, a gin mix with lemon and home- made strawberry sage soda; The Leopold, a cognac, honey, lemon and Herbs du Provence; or our fave the Zaharoff, which is tequila, lime, honey grapefruit soda with Campari. There's three champagne cocktails - a really wonderfully simple Classic which is just a bitters soaked sugar cube and the two Benedictine options which offer just a hint of flavour without changing the bones of the drink. All are beautifully rendered by a staff that cares, but your libations don't come with the rules that so many spots try to pass off as atmosphere. The best on a menu of small plates and slightly larger mini skillets are chilled dill artichoke hearts with a topping of peas, potatoes and carrots; Hungarian sausage sliced over a warming hot slaw of cabbage, carrots, and raisins; and a very ratatouille- like vegetable stew with a Turkish pepper paste base. Those after a creamier flavour will also like the tarama, with a hint of olive juice in the center, served up with surprisingly delicate pita bread. The winner though is the Turkish coffee creme brule; note, you may not want to share it. You can certainly make a meal out of the selection here - expect it to run about $100 for two as how many great lounges can serve up both superior cocktails and a tasty meal?

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