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Covina Brings Cozy California Touches to Murray Hill’s Park South Hotel

Sometimes, it is not the weight of a new opening that burdens a chef’s conscience, but rather the weight of a Ferrara pizza oven. At Covina (127 E. 27th Street; 212-204-0225), chef Tim Cushman’s freshly made pizzas aren’t the only thing on the menu, but they are integral to the chef’s goal of offering casual, shareable plates.

A Boston native whose love of music pushed him westward to California, Cushman tailors his menus to reflect his travels. Located in the Park South Hotel — the same building that houses the chef’s sushi hideaway, O Ya — guests are just as likely to find a Mediterranean-style hummus plate with seasonal crudité as they are to find gulf shrimp with smoked Oaxacan Pasilla chile sauce and cilantro. There’s even a station devoted to cranking out prosciutto for topping Cushman’s piping-hot pizzas. Paying homage to Murray Hill’s longtime Indian community, the restaurant will also offer a lamb shawarma sandwich during lunchtime.

“There’s a lot of iterations of American restaurants these days, but [Covina is] through a California set of eyes with Mediterranean influences,” says Cushman.

Co-owner Nancy Cushman explains how a West Coast sensibility has influenced Covina’s fare: “With this menu, we always use the word ‘crave-able.’ It’s kind of all dishes that we would want to eat for dinner — but all on one menu. I think California has a way of doing a mashup of different flavors and cuisines in a way that kind of makes sense, and that’s what we’re trying to do here.”

Those dishes include a wood-grilled, chopped-chicken salad, house-milled farro farfalle (all Covina’s pastas are handmade), and a selection of grilled meats including a 32-ounce, bone-in tomahawk ribeye served with dashi au jus.

So what differentiates Covina from other restaurants? “The way the menu is put together… and the different flavor combinations that you have access to,” chef Cushman explains, noting there are Israeli, Turkish, and Indian flavors found all over the menu. “Those flavor combinations work for me, so when I’m creating a menu, I make sure all those flavor combinations don’t clash.”

In addition to the main dining room — which provides guests with full view through the open kitchen — a café located just through the front door offers a selection of coffees and pastries. And should guests feel like they’re in a kind of hideaway — there’s good reason. The main dining room was converted from some of the hotel’s guest rooms — and the name Covina loosely translates to “cove.”

Get a first look at Covina, currently open for dinner service:

Prosciutto is sliced by hand on this machine.
Prosciutto is sliced by hand on this machine.
Hummus with seasonal crudite
Hummus with seasonal crudite
Pepperoni and soppressata pizza
Pepperoni and soppressata pizza
Chocolate Budino with cocoa nib crumble and coffee cream
Chocolate Budino with cocoa nib crumble and coffee cream
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A Full Roster of Super Bowl Events

The Super Bowl’s debut in the Big Apple has the city’s restaurant industry abuzz with offers. From fan friendly events to bars that have more TVs than Best Buy, there are plenty of reasons to skip the home made onion dip and head out into the wild blue yonder for the game. But before you do, here’s a useful guide for the best places to explore this coming week.

Astoria/Long Island City, Queens, Sunday
The Strand Smokehouse, 25-27 Broadway, Queens

A good party involves plenty of beer and professional cooking. This barbecue and craft beer roadhouse has taken care of that, plus it’s offering buy backs via a pre-paid card system: 50 percent added value for any card purchased (cards range from $50 to $200; purchase a $50 credit, for instance, and receive $75 worth of food and drink). Stuff your face on a menu full of turkey legs, ribs, and pulled pork; wine on tap, spicy cocktails, and beers with funny names round out the drinks list. The game will be broadcast on a large screen projector, so an early arrival is suggested to ensure you catch all of the action — or at least the Full House reunion commercial.

Central Park
Tailgate Around the 5 Boroughs, Whiskey Park, 100 Central Park South, Sunday

Five delis — including Zito’s from Brooklyn and Tino’s Deli on Arthur Avenue — will compete in a battle for best sandwich in the boroughs. Guests can choose from three heroes with a side salad for $15, and bartenders will mix up cocktails like the Pigksin, a bacon-infused bourbon with maple syrup and orange bitters. The sports friendly lounge also has a pool table and eight big screen TVs.

East Village
Bar None, 98 Third Avenue, Sunday

Darts, cheap brews, and super friendly bartenders make this East Village party pad a go-to for Saints and Vikings fans during season. But since those teams aren’t in it anymore, everyone is welcome to take advantage of the bar’s generous drink specials. Cheap Bud and Bud Light are a mainstay here. Add in plenty of cheap grub like This Little Piggy Had Roast Beef nearby.

Gowanus/Park Slope
The Bell House, 149 Seventh Avenue, Brooklyn

This indie venue is mostly known for its live musical and comedy shows like Point Break Live, but come Sunday, all eyes will be on the television. This free event is breaking out the beer cheese to go with $4 Sixpoint Brews starting at 5:30 p.m. Look for complimentary chili and wings at halftime.

Hell’s Kitchen
Friday Night Lights, Hudson Hotel, 356 West 58th Street, Friday

Sometimes big events aren’t just about the game — they’re about the cool people that come out to make appearances. Hosted by Rick Ross along with DJ Khaled and featuring NFL legends Warren Sapp and NY Giant Hakeem Nicks, this Friday night party celebrates Def Jam’s 30th anniversary with an evening of dance moves fitting enough for the end zone. MICK will be on hand to pump up the crowd Richard Sherman style, while Miller Lite will dole out its latest beer offerings. Tickets are $40 and can be purchased on the party’s website.

Madison Square Garden/Chelsea
The 50 Yard Lounge, One Penn Plaza, Wednesday through Sunday

The Super Bowl is bringing some unique events to the city, and it’s also transforming a commuter’s nightmare into an armchair quarterback’s paradise. From January 29 through Sunday, February 2, a collection of NFL greats like Cris Carter and Joe Theismann will join celebrity chefs like New York’s own Marc Forgione, Michael White, and Alex Guarnaschelli for tasting events like a burger bowl. There will also be a “Jets House” fan center as well as live musical performances throughout the experience. A full line up of chefs, football personalities, and ticket information can be found on the 50 Yard Lounge’s web site.

Midtown
Stella 34, 151 West 34th Street, Sunday

If you find yourself at Macy’s on Super Bowl Sunday after an all day shopping affair (perhaps you’re being forced to compromise with your better half?) head immediately to Stella 34 Trattoria and relax with some rice balls. The restaurant overlooks the Empire State Building and “Super Bowl Boulevard”, while the Italian feast for $80 provides you unlimited food and drink. Snack on pizzas, calamari, and Super Bowl team themed sandwiches all night long. Craft beer, cocktails, and plenty of vino are also available in the package, which can be reserved through the restaurant’s website.

Midtown East
The Stag’s Head, 252 East 51st Street, Wednesday and Sunday

Starting the party early is completely fine during the week leading up to the Super Bowl. Head over to this craft beer cave where you’ll find a Seattle-Denver brewery showdown featuring ex-Buttermilk Channel chef Bruce Dillon grilling up Jersey Italian hot dogs. Additional tailgate treats like disco fries and mini franks in a blanket are also on the menu; they’re complimentary from 6 to 8 p.m. Representatives from both breweries will be on hand to guide tastings, flights, and discuss each beer. On Sunday, the bar will offer $2 Checker Cab Blonde mugs and half price wings as well. Reservations can be made in advance by contacting the bar directly.

Murray Hill/Kips Bay
Bottomzup Bar & Grill, 344 Third Avenue, Sunday

Let’s face it, if you’re under 25, enjoy polo shirts, and are out on Super Bowl weekend, you’re probably stumbling around this neighborhood — and not for the chicken curry. Instead of bar hopping, we suggest heading straight over to this tech savvy bar to charge up your iPhone, grab a portable radio, and watch the game on one of 45 flat screen TVs. The kitchen here specializes in regional tailgate foods like Juicy Lucy sliders and buffalo chicken empanadas, and it will be adding food and drink specials to represent Denver and Seattle. Additionally, the venue will host a raffle with prizes given out at the end of each quarter — you have the chance to win a flatscreen HDTV.

Tribeca/West Village

Celebrity Beach Bowl, Hudson River Park, Pier 40, Saturday, 10 a.m.

A little sand goes along way, especially when it’s February. Bringing together a trifecta of awesomeness — Hall of Famer Joe Montana, comedian Tracy Morgan, and model Chrissy Teigen — this free event is the epitome of an tailgater’s dream come true. The festivities include a concert by Paramore as well as a celebrity filled flag football game, with Food Network’s Andrew Zimmern hosting the halftime show.

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XMAS TRADITION

Not a fan of having the holidays with your own relatives? Let comedian Murray Hill and his downtown family of singers and performance artists adopt you at A Murray Little Christmas. Hill, with his snazzy suits and Rat Pack shtick, hosts a night of skits and holiday songs with alt-cabaret dynamo Bridget Everett, burlesque stars Mr. Gorgeous and Perle Noire, and Murray’s band, The Rimshots. Ring-a-ding-ding!

Sat., Dec. 14, 8 p.m., 2013

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Newly Opened Bottomzup Mixes Games, Gadgets, and Grub

Possibly the last thing you’d expect to see at a sports bar called Bottomzup (344 Third Avenue) is a raw bar, where sushi is rolled before it’s delivered promptly to tables. Barely dressed women hawking wings and beer seems more likely, but the only scantily clad thing here is the shellfish. The game and food are the focal point of Murray Hill’s newest spot, the sibling of a Long Island sports bar and a place that attempts to strike a balance between the food-sparse dude-filled dives and the fancy eateries that show games, where patrons might be more into their martinis than the ruling on the field.

Oysters and sushi? Not your typical Sunday fare.
Oysters and sushi? Not your typical Sunday fare.

Management also has a strong technology focus: You’ll find smartphone charging stations at each table, which give any fantasy football fan the chance to check up on a team without draining the battery. Portable wireless speakers allow you to switch to any game broadcast inside the bar, and a whopping 45 60-inch flat screen TVs line the walls, giving every seat in the house access to any game on the tube. The bar will even showcase pay-per-view events free of cover charge in an attempt to create a fan-friendly atmosphere. And if a member of your group doesn’t like sports, there’s a music video archive available that rivals most karaoke bars, allowing you to shuffle from Tom Brady to Tom Petty.

Is checking your fantasy score killing the battery? Charge it up at Bottomzup
Is checking your fantasy score killing the battery? Charge it up at Bottomzup

But back to the food.The restaurant’s menu reflects a huge tailgate party, and dishes channel America’s favorite game foods. Check out Minnesota’s Juicy Lucy sliders and Texan chili cheese fries. How do the sushi and raw bar come into play then? The same way the vegetarian options do: They’re meant to lure in health-conscious patrons that might normally avoid Sunday funday. Pair your meal to draft beers (you’ll find the usual big brewery suspects) or a cocktail that resembles dessert.

Oh, and you might have trouble tearing your eyes from the television, but make sure you check out the work of graphite pencil artist John D. Herz, which is prominently featured throughout the restaurant. You’ll also find photos of sports legends like Muhammad Ali and Wilt Chamberlain displaying iconic sports moments.

Bottomzup opens tonight. Take a look around the space on the next page.

Miami grilled corn, a dish even a Jets fan could love.
Miami grilled corn, a dish even a Jets fan could love.
Bottomzup offers plenty of seating and TVs for groups.
Bottomzup offers plenty of seating and TVs for groups.
The bar at Bottomzup
The bar at Bottomzup
An original drawing of Eli Manning by John D. Herz
An original drawing of Eli Manning by John D. Herz
Muhammad Ali stands tall in the background.
Muhammad Ali stands tall in the background.
An iconic photo of Wilt Chamberlain after his 100 point game (real life, not fantasy)
An iconic photo of Wilt Chamberlain after his 100 point game (real life, not fantasy)
Mariano Rivera reminds patrons to close out their tab before leaving.
Mariano Rivera reminds patrons to close out their tab before leaving.
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Fast Casual Indian Joint Paradise Biryani Pointe Expands Into Manhattan

Should you find yourself in Murray Hill craving Indian food, there’s not exactly a shortage of spots to sate your desire–the neighborhood didn’t earn the nickname “Curry Hill” for nothing. But that didn’t stop Paradise Biryani Pointe, the nation’s largest chain of Indian restaurants, from planting its first Manhattan outpost in the area.

Paradise Biryani Pointe's chicken hyderabadi, a specialty
Paradise Biryani Pointe’s chicken hyderabadi, a specialty

The company specializes in Hyderabadi cuisine, which may seem like a niche concept until you consider Paradise Biryani Pointe’s 33 locations in fifteen different state–goat biryani, it seems, is primed for a takeover. And biryani, slow-cooked meats alongside basmati rice, is at the center of the menu: Founder Raj Gowlikar mixes the spices for this dish by hand and distributes it to his location, kind of like Colonel Sanders did in the early days of Kentucky Fried Chicken. “It has to go through my hands. I do it myself,” says Gowlikar on his thirty-spice blend, which has made his restaurant chain a huge hit.

With no formal culinary training, Gowlikar uses a family recipe along with lessons learned in his career as an IT professional to propel himself to the top of the food chain. Employing a strategy that focused on a smaller menu of the best-selling items, he grew the chain from its first outpost in New Jersey and created buzz, particularly within the IT community, for its authentic offerings.

I stopped by to check the new location out and opted for the house specialty chicken hyderabadi, which included coconut milk, clove, cardamon, and a signature spice blend. While I wasn’t familiar with all of the dishes on the list, I got a good perspective on why the restaurant is successful: It offers a combination of dishes with unique ingredients, plenty of vegetarian options, and healthy menu choices (anyone a lentil fan?). Most impressive? The fact that the lunch I ordered cost just over $16, which makes this an affordable and relaxing spot. With a clean look and attentive service, this is the farthest thing from a buffet where it’s every naan for itself.

And Gowlikar has no intention of slowing down his expansion: “With the right locations, you cannot go wrong,” he reflects. He’ll work first to distinguish the chain in Indian restaurant-rich neighborhoods like Murray Hill and Jackson Heights first and then work outward.

Gowlikar is fully confidant that biryani will become mainstream. After all, what fun is paradise if not everyone knows about it?

Want a side of naan with that chicken hyderabadi? Paradise Biryani Pointe has you covered
Want a side of naan with that chicken hyderabadi? Paradise Biryani Pointe has you covered
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Why I Love to Eat and Drink in Murray Hill … At Least Occasionally

If you’ve lived in New York for longer than five seconds, you’ve likely listened to someone (maybe even multiple someones) expounding upon the reasons to stay away from Murray Hill. That person probably offered the argument that the east Manhattan enclave lacks everything but frat boys and is a symbol of all that is unflattering about the New York bar scene.There’s little in the way of attractions or artistic endeavors, unless you count overhearing people talk nonsense on cell phones as entertainment.

So I’m just going to throw this out there and let you think about it for awhile: Murray Hill isn’t a bad place to hang your hat–ball cap or fedora–and there’s reason for it to hold a special place in your heart, even if you have no love for the yuppie brotherhood. With its ridiculous selection of restaurants, ease of access, and overwhelming feeling of safety–the only risk posed here is being peer-pressured to chug a Bud–the hate bestowed on Murray Hill isn’t justified. Here’s why:

Note: When we name restaurants here, we’re going on the real estate definition of the neighborhood, which extends about five blocks south of the historical boundaries between 34th and 42nd Streets.

The Joshua Tree, one of the many love/hate frat-tastic bars in Murray Hill
The Joshua Tree, one of the many love/hate frat-tastic bars in Murray Hill

It’s lively.

Despite its abundance of button-down-clad gentlemen, Murray Hill’s selection of bars like Joshua Tree and Wharf Bar and Grill does its part to offer something special each and every night, and people respond, packing into rooms shoulder-to-shoulder. And if you haven’t cracked a smile or felt good when Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” comes on the speakers, you probably have no idea what it means to party. And for those well beyond their college thesis years, the perpetually packed Cannibal provides one of the best beer and butchered meat selections throughout the city, proving that sausage parties are not always a total waste.

It’s casual and accessible.

While having a legitimate ID is necessary for entry, one of the best things about bars here is that anyone can get in. Clothing, unlike certain clubs, will not make or break you. You neither need to be on the list nor pay a cover. In fact, the more polite you are, the better your chances of entry. What’s more, it’s accessible off the 6 line, and its central location means taxi fare to here is affordable no matter where you’re approaching from, which makes Murray Hill an easy place to find at any point during the night. The fact that it consistently ranks as one of the safest neighborhoods in New York is a testament to the civilized hordes of revelers continuing to patronize the space.

Dhaba is one of the many Indian restaurants you can find in Murray Hill
Dhaba is one of the many Indian restaurants you can find in Murray Hill

It has variety.

Any neighborhood that spins off its name to recognize an ethnic food contingency deserves your attention attention. See “Curry Hill,” which memorializes the slew of decent Indian options–favorites include Dhaba, Tiffin Wallah, and Bhojan–in the area. Other grub spots fly under the radar–see, for example, Ethos and an outpost of Zaitzeff (which just made our list of the 10 best burgers in NYC)–while still others, like Resto and an outlet of Blue Smoke, could even be considered destinations. Best yet, many of the spots in the neighborhood are affordable–which sets Murray Hill apart from a number of tonier parts of the city.

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AND THE WINNER IS…

Picture yourself attending the 85th Academy Awards: You’re rocking the finest clothing, photographers clamor for your 
attention, and, of course, you win a fabulous award. Make this fantasy a reality (with only a few minor differences) at the annual Murray Hill Oscar Party. Hosted by local comedian Murray Hill at downtown landmark Joe’s Pub, this party encourages guests 
to dress like celebrities and gossip about Hollywood, and, instead of an Oscar, fight to take home the coveted “Three Sheets to the Wind” award for the most intoxicated guest. Get in on Oscar ballots, trivia, audience Fashion Police, and themed drink specials as Murray offers his signature witty commentary during commercial breaks. A variety of comic guests will also join in, performing nominated film reenactments, 
recreating the best and worst acceptance speeches, and generally making fun of 
everything.

Sun., Feb. 24, 7:30 p.m., 2013

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Third Round of 2013 Choice Eats Participants Announced

The Village Voice and Fork in the Road are proud to announce the third round of restaurants, bakeries, and gastro-bars selected to participate in the sixth annual tasting festival. It takes place Tuesday, March 19, 2013 from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at the 69th Regiment Armory on lower Lexington Avenue in Murray Hill.

Further details available at the Choice Eats website.

V.I.P. tickets are already sold out, but there are still regular admission tickets available. Here’s the link.

And now, on to the latest additions to the Choice Eats roster:

Typical barbecue spread from Fletcher’s Brooklyn Barbecue

606 R&D

Brooklyn Cured

Del Posto

Ditch Plains

Fanny

Fletcher’s Brooklyn Barbecue

Jimmy’s No. 43

Nom Wah Tea Parlor

Ovenly

Yunnan Kitchen

Zucker Bakery

Fingerling potato and shishito pepper shao kao from Yunnan Kitchen

Check out the first and second round of participant announcements

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Murray Hill’s New Year’s Eve

Murray Hill’s New Year’s Eve brings together all your favorite downtown performance artists and burlesque stars, including Neal Medlyn, Dirty Martini, and Jenn Harris.

Mon., Dec. 31, 10:30 p.m., 2012

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Singapura Coming Soon to 106 Lexington Avenue

A stroll by 106 Lexington Avenue reveals that a restaurant called Singapura will open in the immediate future. Although still completely papered up, a sign notes that the restaurant will specialize in both Malaysian and Thai cuisine, and will also offer Hakka Chinese food. Although that sounds like quite the pan-Asian mash-up, Malaysia and Singapore actually have numerous restaurants serving Hakka cuisine due to the large Chinese diaspora in those countries. Not much else is known at this point, though an OpenTable page reveals a price point of $30 and under. Stay tuned for more in upcoming weeks.