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BWW Reviews: URBO - A Haven of Food and Drink in Times Square

URBO, a new upscale (but not too fancy) establishment that opened in July at the frenetic intersection of West 42nd Street and Eighth Avenue, offers five food and retail choices and a welcome departure from the ubiquitous fast-food joints of Times Square.

Floor to ceiling windows offer an aquarium-like view of the schools of people streaming endlessly by outside. You can sit at one of the bar-height tables and chairs near the front doors and people-watch while sipping your tea or libation. Then take three steps down where you'll enter the domain of URBO Kitchens.

At 26,000 square feet, URBO is generously proportioned and handsomely designed with reclaimed and recycled wood from Connecticut barns. The walls display vibrant photographs of fruits and vegetables, a nod to its farm-to-table philosophy. There's a cozy, separate coffee shop in one corner, (URBO Grind) that serves Blue Bottle coffee, light bites and sweets. It even has its own entrance.

The first floor houses URBO Kitchens, where you'll find three separate open kitchens, a sushi bar and an eclectic modern American menu. Appetizers and entrées include ruby red shrimp chowder, goat cheese ravioli and a slow-cooked pulled pork sandwich. Other fare includes seared diver scallops and steamed Atlantic halibut. If you're in a sushi mood, you won't be disappointed.

A sliver of a retail shop, URBO Supply, offers artisanal food products and culinary-themed souvenirs, including Blue Bottle coffee. A large spiral staircase with an iron black banister leads to an upstairs restaurant and event space in addition to the finely constructed Bar URBO. You can also take a glass elevator if you'd rather not climb stairs. The bar offers a sophisticated cocktail selection created by bar director Jan Warren and live music.

First up in Bar URBO's new music series was "Lights Out on Broadway" and the series will continue every Monday at 8 p.m., featuring musicians from the Broadway community. From Nov. 4 and continuing weekly, Bar URBO will host the Grand Jam Sessions, featuring improv by Chris Rob's Vicious Keys band and Duke Jones. Rob is a pianist-keyboardist band leader. Jones is a veteran jazz trumpeter. Expect electro-funk, house and rock music.

You'll find craft beer on tap and an assortment of bar snacks (including Jeb's spicy nuts, white anchovies and miniature lamb burgers) focused on quick-bite finger food. Look for specialty cocktails like the Canadian daiquiri (bourbon, Campari, coffee, lime, maple and allspice), draft beer (Nut Brown Ale, Whit Beer and Prima Pils among them), and wine (Riesling, Touraine, Cabernet). You'll also find two greenhouses on this floor. One wall in the lounge is lined with furniture-sized wooden vintage radios.

Sharing the floor is URBO Loft, a high-end, market-driven, seasonal restaurant overseen by executive chef Michael Gibney.

URBO Loft has its own menu that includes charred octopus, veal cheek and swordfish belly. Pastry chef Jeb Breakell, formerly of Per Se, oversees URBO's sweet side.

URBO's farm-to-table philosophy embraces seasonal greens and fruits, alongside heartier meat-centric choices like hanger steak and beef filet tartar. URBO Kitchens offers a satisfying farm-fresh salad that is big enough to share. Among the lettuce varieties you'll find edamame, yellow tomatoes and jicama. The house dressing is light and tangy.

An appetizer suggested by Ryston, our diligent and knowledgeable server, was the bacon and slow-cooked egg garnished with celery and watercress. The egg was nicely cooked, complemented by the savory pork belly. Little potato squares dotted the dish. Another popular lunch favorite, said Ryston, is the goat cheese ravioli with fennel, portobello and eggplant ragout. The autumn vegetable bisque was a little on the sweet side, but otherwise delicious and ideal for a rainy, windy day.

The URBO burger with Vermont cheddar on a challah roll was a winner, served with a kosher pickle and hand-cut fries. The fries were served in a little paper bag which absorbed a lot of the oil.

A generously sized California roll with extra avocado and plenty of wasabi was thoroughly enjoyed. Then came another difficult decision: dessert. We were tempted by the chocolate peanut butter caramel tart, but ultimately decided on the apple cobbler. Dabbed with whipped cream and almond, it was just-right warm. The coffee and latte were delicious. Erhan made sure our water glasses were always filled.

URBO, with its warm ambiance, inventive décor, delicious food, friendly wait staff and greeters, is a gem.

Location, location, location.

URBO Grind is open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.; URBO Supply is open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; URBO Kitchens is open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. (dinner): URBO Loft is open Tuesday through Saturday, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. and Bar URBO is open 5 p.m. to midnight.

URBO is at the corner of West 42nd Street and Eighth Avenue in Manhattan's theater district. For more information call: 212-542-8950 or visit the website: www.UrboNYC.com.




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From This Author Naomi Serviss