restaurants
Toy
18 Ninth Avenue
212 660 6766

The enjoyable 125-seat Toy (at the Gansevoort Hotel) is proof that it's not all about the food. This Vegas meets Disney-esque spot has lots of slick black surfaces, waiters in neon touches, piped in 80s music and the requisite cutely-monikered drink menu. Dishes are the sort of food that would make truly authentic Chinese chefs cringe but which find fan favourites in any kind of shared situation. Shrimp toast cigars with a golden plum sauce, XO shrimp fried rice, tangerine filet mignon, and chicken salad with cripsy wontons and a sesame citrus vinaigrette. In short, batter-dipped, lightly fried, lots of sweet and sour or soy-ish sauces. But aside from a wonderful mahogany chicken with market vegetables (that incidentally tastes nothing like wood), the food is not out to win foodie awards (there's also sushi, but not the kind you find at craft-driven sushi spots); so what makes this spot so delightful? It could be nostalgia; the spot is part Surf Club, part Less Than Zero, and even the pop music is twinged with memories (Cradle of Love, Two of Hearts, I Can Dream About You, Danger Zone, We Are Young). It could be the drinks that smack of a good vacation; the Pink Lagoon is vodka with muddle berries, lemon, mint, yuzu and soda, or the Mangocello is rum, mango and proscecco. Even the "manly" drink, the Big Trouble with its Glenfiddich base, comes with a plastic monkey and bendy straw. But the formula we think is this place just doesn't take itself too seriously. The result is a crowd of notables (Penn Badgley, Solange Knowles, and Paz de la Huerta) partying it up happily with tourists (till 4am on weekends), in this decidely escapist spot.

$$$

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