The new Café Boulud on East 63rd Street. Illustration: NaomiOtsu

Welcome to Grub Street’s rundown of restaurant recommendations that aims to answer the endlessly recurring question “Where should we go?” These are the spots that our food team thinks everyone should visit for any reason (a new chef, the arrival of an exciting dish, or maybe there’s an opening that has flown too far under the radar). This month: a nighttime café from the Rolo’s team, Daniel Boulud’s newest dining room, and a Nigerian BYOB restaurant in Clinton Hill.

Octo (Koreatown)
With its expansive bar and big red booths, K-Town’s Octo looks designed for date nights and Peking-duck dinners before a night of karaoke. But the right time to come is lunch, when the Korean Chinese restaurant offers a $28 set menu. There’s a more relaxed atmosphere than at dinnertime (the clubby playlist would’ve made Avicii proud, but the restaurant was half empty), and the service isn’t as scattered. The three-course Seoul Set starts with a cucumber-radish salad in garlic sauce, followed by a tangsuyuk with a cup of sweet-and-sour sauce on the side. Lunch ends with noodles: Jjamppong is the best option, and its spicy broth is a good foil to the tangsuyuk’s sweet sauce. If you want to blaze your own trail for lunch, frying seems to be a strong suit. The glazed orange prawns have a pleasingly P.F. Chang’s quality to them, but the crispy shrimp mini-sandwiches — the bread, a little sweet, fried until super-crunchy — are where it’s really at. —Chris Crowley

Radio Kwara (Clinton Hill)
Late last year, the Dept of Culture team opened a new Nigerian restaurant in a sliver of a space on Greene Avenue that was last home to the short-lived Brooklyn Hots. With just 20 seats, Ayo Balogun offers a more casual take on his lauded Bed-Stuy tasting-menu restaurant. Here, the star was undoubtedly the bread ati obe, which we ordered with a heaping portion of mushrooms on top, though you could also opt for goat meat. The bake was so buttery and flavorful that it wouldn’t really matter what the kitchen topped it with. We followed that with the octopus suya, which was perfectly charred, and an excellent black jollof rice. Its signature dish, the pepper soup, was admittedly a little hard to share, and this is a restaurant at which you’ll want to order and share widely from a small menu, which changes every couple months. It’s BYOB, and there is conveniently a wine shop next door. —Edward Hart 

Hellbender Nighttime Cafe (Ridgewood)
Hellbender is a new “nighttime café” that has sprung out of the Rolo’s universe. From the outside, on Forest Avenue, the shutters are drawn and the corner space doesn’t look like much. Inside, Hellbender is bathed in an appropriate red glow, lorded over by a “taxidermy jaguar” in a glass diorama. (That cat has its own drink, a blend of rum, Campari, passion fruit, honey, and mint.) The chef and partner is Yara Herrera, who cooked at Bushwick’s Sobre Masa and hosted a pop-up at Rolo’s before branching out here. A platter of “choriqueso” — chorizo in a cheese bath — would be a good booze sop (or hangover helper). I preferred a sprightly take on shrimp cocktail: thin slices of shrimp halved down their equators, and swimming in a Clamato broth, ready to be plucked out and dab-dried on tostadas. The largest and most expensive item on the menu are the $24 lamb carnitas, which come with an envelope of tortillas and a smoky salsa morita. Drinks follow the “revised classics” path: five takes on the margarita, and a Henny Colada, among them. —Matthew Schneier

Café Boulud (Upper East Side)
It’s been a couple of months since Daniel Boulud moved this restaurant a dozen or so blocks south. The look is brighter and airier, but the feel is the same. This is partly because his clients have followed: the wealthy women enjoying an early dinner together, the elderly couple who perk up when a rhubarb vacherin arrives at the next table, a family four-top that looks as though they drop in at least once a week, and is that Salman Rushdie waiting to check in at the host stand? (It is.) Fittingly, the linens are starched, and the service is agreeably stuffy. There’s no dress code, though everyone has made an effort. To eat, the timeless and increasingly rare appetizer-entrée-dessert format — imagine! — chosen from the sprawling menu of fussed-over French classics: soft sweetbreads in a smooth veal reduction atop a cross section of cauliflower, sea bass wrapped in an envelope of thinly sliced potato with bright red-wine sauce (a Boulud staple), a plank of foie-gras pâté decorated with rounds of kumquat. The bread basket is gratis, and the restaurant even does a little amuse-bouche. Remember how restaurants used to feel? Café Boulud does. It isn’t cheap, and if you are not one of the multimillionaire neighbors, you will leave the restaurant feeling quite a bit poorer. But you will also feel good — well taken care of and nicely pampered for a couple of hours. What more could you want from dinner? —Alan Sytsma 

L’Americana (Gramercy)
Upon being gently forced out of Martiny’s when we reached the 105-minute limit on our reservation, a friend and I wandered into L’Americana 200 feet away. This new Italian bar with Japanese flair is also under the helm of bartender Takuma Watanabe, but L’Americana is a lot more democratic, starting with the ample indoor and outdoor seating available at the corner space on 17th Street and Irving Place. There’s a menu of more than just bar snacks to match. You could make dinner out of spaghetti in an emulsified aglio e olio colored orange from peperoncini with an order of the mini polpette della nonna, or nibble on a stack of panelle batons. Above all, come for the cocktails, like the caper negroni and a yuzu-and-mustard sour that is not as weird as it sounds as well as the tomatini, on par with the caprese cocktail at Martiny’s, containing gin, tomato water, and cream cheese. —Tammie Teclemariam

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