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CITY HALL, NEW YORK CITY, N.Y. City Hall, a year-and-a-half old traditional American steakhouse on TriBeCa’s Duane Street, is a well-appointed eatery that has quite a few shining moments. The proximity to both TriBeCa and New York’s City Hall and court buildings allows the restaurant to draw a varied type of customer. During lunch hours, the restaurant is home to attorneys and judges grabbing a break from court; at night the clientele shifts to reflect the neighborhood’s eclectic mix of artists, professionals, business types and the occasional minor celebrity. The restaurant’s fa�ade is reminiscent of Parisian bistros, but the interior has a uniquely American ambiance. The brown leather and honey-colored wood lend the dining room an aura of contemporary clubbiness, and is both inviting and relaxing. Despite the high ceilings and raucous laughter in this airy space, the noise doesn’t prevent conversation. Backlit black and white photos are a little studied, but have an Old New York feel. The food at City Hall is an upscaled version of basic American fare. It’s largely steak and seafood, with very few vegetarian options — hard-core veggies, go elsewhere. Dinner began with fresh crudite — celery, carrots, pickled tomatoes, and light and tasty dip. Warm rolls, including a garlicky poppy, glazed kind, arrived at our table promptly, and were delicious. One of City Hall’s unique attributes is the heating station between the kitchen and the tables, which keep the rolls moist and warm. We started with the combination light fry, which included golden brown calamari, oysters and shrimp, which wasn’t too greasy or heavy, and tender, not tough or stringy. There were three sauces: the ubiquitous cocktail sauce, which had the perfect amount of tart tanginess; a tartar sauce, which wasn’t overwhelmingly creamy; and a pesto, which nonplussed us at first but went nicely with the oysters. The arugula and shaved Parmesan salad topped with tangy lemon vinaigrette was another excellent choice from an assortment of appetizers that included chicken soup with matzo balls and grilled portobello mushrooms on garlic toast with truffle oil. Our entr�es included a medium rare Delmonico steak, which arrived perfectly: a deep pink (not red!), unlike other restaurants where a similar order results in a raw steak. The Delmonico was seasoned impeccably, juicy, and tender, with a shmear of Maytag blue cheese on top. Another entr�e, the medium filet mignon, was disappointing. Though well seasoned, it was tougher than one would expect from such a choice cut of meat. Other tempting entrees were the grilled lamb, the roasted chicken with rosemary and shallots, and an intriguing structure known as the Empire High Rise. This creation includes three “stories” of seafood, and feeds seven. We ordered three sides to accompany our meal, with mixed results. The charbroiled asparagus with mustard hollandaise was excellent; the mustard added just a dash of spice to the rich subtle flavor of the hollandaise. The smashed dill potatoes were noticeably better, just the right consistency of creamy and buttery, and didn’t have an overpowering amount of dill. The creamed spinach was more watery than creamy, with little pizzazz. The dessert selection was varied, and we ordered the chocolate brioche pudding with maltball ice cream and chocolate sauce, which, while it didn’t live up to the waitress’s hype, was enjoyable nonetheless. We also couldn’t pass up the cr�me brulee, though we should have, because it was mediocre. It didn’t have the usual creamy sweetness one looks forward to, and the caramelizing of the top only succeeded in curdling the cream. However, the dessert wine our waitperson recommended, a sweet, Hungarian concoction, complemented the brulee well. The overall experience elicited different opinions. The meal was expensive. Had the meal been better, the price would have been more acceptable. The appetizers and side dishes range between $7-$11 and the desserts are $8-$10. Steak is around $32. Other entr�es are priced anywhere from $20 to more than $60 for the surf and turf; the Empire high rise was $98. Dinner for two, tip included, cost us a whopping $165 — and that was without a bottle of wine! The food wasn’t that impressive, though the atmosphere, waitstaff and service were excellent. New York has many excellent steakhouses, so the competition is stiff. Keep this in mind: A trip over the Williamsburg Bridge to Peter Luger’s (178 Broadway, Williamsburg) gets you an excellent steak, or a quick cab ride to Sammy’s Roumanian Jewish Steakhouse (157 Chrystie Street , New York) could get you a fabulous steak and a bottle of vodka frozen into a chunk of ice — and the total cost would be similar. Another excellent bet is the Knickerbocker Bar & Grill (33 University Pl, New York). But if you are near the courts, and hungry for steak or some excellent seafood, then City Hall is a good choice. RESTAURANT: City Hall LOCATION: 131 Duane Street, New York City, N.Y. HOURS: Monday-Friday: Noon-11pm, Saturday 5:30-midnight RESERVATIONS: Recommended. PHONE: (212)-227-7777. PRICE RANGE: High. DRESS CODE: No formal dress code, but professional dress is appropriate. CREDIT CARDS: Visa, MasterCard, American Express. DRINKS: Full bar, extensive wine list. WEB-SITE: http://www.cityhallnyc.com

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