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The Good Life

City Wine & Cigar Co., New York City

By Shandana A. Durrani | From Pierce Brosnan, Nov/Dec 97

Down a seemingly deserted street in Tribeca, a block from the Holland Tunnel, lies an oasis. The lower Manhattan building is large but inconspicuous. At first, you think someone gave you bad directions. But once you get your bearings and walk through a side entrance and are greeted by the friendly maître d', you know that you have come to the right place.

Opened in late 1996 by Drew Nieporent's Myriad Restaurant Group, City Wine & Cigar Co. has fast become a popular dining and watering hole for cigar smokers. On any given night, one can see stockbrokers puffing elbow to elbow with celebrities. In April, Consolidated Cigar Corp. launched the exclusive LeRoy Neiman Selection, one of the sizes that make up the Playboy by Don Diego line, at City Wine & Cigar. And this summer, fashion designer Donna Karan celebrated her birthday here.

For those seeking a soothing smoke or cocktail before dinner, you can choose the large, stylish bar in front, where comfortable silver banquettes await. The liquor and beer selections are extensive and fairly priced. A cozier alternative is the main cigar bar, where cigar smoking paraphernalia is on display and a large walk-in humidor beckons. Brands such as León Jimenes, Partagas and Macanudo are available at competitive cigar bar prices. The staff is knowledgeable on proper cigar etiquette and are more than willing to provide detailed information about particular smokes. In addition, the restaurant leases private wine and cigar lockers.

The main dining room, situated to the left of the cigar bar, is where the real action takes place. The interior is modern; its copper tabletops radiate a warmth and golden ambience that is much in keeping with the swanky cigar bar theme, without resorting to traditional leather and wood.

Once you are seated at one of the comfortable, curved velvet banquettes, the staff's attention is focused on you, while your attention is on the meal ahead. Chef Patricia Williams has created an eclectic mix of south-of-the-border-inspired cuisine that is sure to earn her many fans. With an ever-changing menu, it is difficult to pinpoint what to choose, since some selections won't be available the following week. However, the orange and jicama salad with arugula is a fixture. It combined quite a few flavors and textures without being dense. The jicama was crisp and fresh and was balanced by the bitterness of the arugula, the spiciness of the curry dressing and the pure summer sweetness of the orange slices.

City Wine & Cigar offers entrées ranging from fish to poultry to red meat. A recent menu featured red snapper with salsa on a bed of red rice. The fish was succulent and seasoned to perfection. The bell pepper salsa and Mexican rice added spice and a touch of pizazz. Another featured dish was a guava-glazed tuna with cucumber salad and pumpkin seed vinaigrette. The tuna lacked strong flavors and the guava was hard to detect. The cucumbers were julienned so thinly that they became rather limp. However, the pumpkin seed vinaigrette was mouthwatering.

Dessert was the highlight. We chose the Valrhona chocolate pudding cake with raspberries that's constructed like a mini volcano. Piercing the cake with a fork creates chocolate lava rivulets erupting over the crest. It will satisfy even the most diehard chocoholic.

Based on the restaurant's name, one would expect the wine list not to disappoint, and it doesn't. Sommelier Derek Bromley has obviously gone to great lengths to attain a wide-ranging selection, emphasizing wines from France, California and Italy. He even pairs particular sizes of cigars with particular types of wines. For example, we chose a medium-bodied Italian red, a 1994 Clerico Barbera. It was the perfect summer wine: fruity, with hints of sweet berries, yet rich and smooth. The selection was paired with lonsdales.

A block away from the Holland Tunnel may not seem the ideal location to enjoy a comfortable and stylish dining and smoking experience, but those who make the trip won't be disapppointed.

62 Laight Street
Phone (212)334-2274
Dinner About $50 per person, without wine

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