I thought I should make a quick plug for an amazing little restaurant in New York City called Ayza Wine & Chocolate Bar. I know that my blog’s demographic probably isn’t going to go there, but there is no harm in highlighting some interesting restaurants in other places that do something worth trying here in the Midwest. As you might tell from the title, this is not your run of the mill wine bar. What I found when I visited is that it is also a fantastic tidy restaurant for certain types of occasions. I should first note that it is very small, even by Manhattan standards. It seems to be carved out of a storefront no more than 10 feet deep–I’m not exaggerating very much. Be sure to get your reservation in early. I used opentable to book a table. Ayza is serious about making sure that their tables don’t go empty and I did get a call the day of the reservation to make sure that I was really going to show up. The day that I visited it was pouring rain but they gamely set up tents on the sidewalk and kept the food moving. We were lucky in that we got one of the coveted inside tables.
The Food. Years ago it used to be that you could hardly go wrong eating out in Manhattan. That is most definitely not the case any longer. You have to be selective. For one thing, the chains have been buying up all the old delis and a lot of the other restaurants seem to have given themselves over to servicing the tourist trade. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Ayza offered a great meal along with two of my favorite things, cocktails and chocolate. In fact, many of their cocktails have both! Now we’re talking! Prices are in a totally different territory for somebody used to Midwestern prices. Chocolate Cocktails are between $12-$14 each. I tried a signature drink, the Espresso Martini, which comes in at $15. Interestingly, the entrees are very reasonable. I ordered Medallions of Filet Mignon for only $22. Try to find that in Des Moines. They were perfectly cooked and was served with arugula salad and sprinkled with a port reduction. Meals are served with little chocolates.
Ambiance. The ambiance is what I’d call sophisticated/casual. Given the “wine bar” attributes, it is not surprising that most of the tables were filled with ladies celebrating birthdays or just hanging out, but there were some couples. This atmosphere was perfect for my own evening where I wanted to take out a very special lady for a memorable dinner after a wonderful stage performance.
Location. Ayza is just two and one-half blocks south of the 34th Street/Herald Square subway station about one-half block east of Broadway on the south side of 31st. This is just south of Koreatown, which is where I usually end up when I visit New York City. This is not part of Manhattan that is a tourist destination, but the close subway connection makes it a cinch.
Ayza Wine and Chocolate Bar
11 West 31st Street
(Bet. 5th Ave. & Broadway)
New York, NY 10001 Phone: