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Seeking out the best bites for under $15 a head.

Apps Only: Five Points in NoHo

Editor's note: In "Apps Only," Ben Fishner will be eating his way through New York's appetizer, bar, and lounge menus as your guide to fine dining on a budget.

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[Photos: Ben Fishner]

Five Points is a good NoHo standby, a restaurant that is casual yet classy—but with $20+ entrees out of this bargain seeker's budget. So I stopped by to see if it could stand up to the Apps Only method.

It was a freezing cold night, so we started with the Tuscan Style Bread Soup ($8, pictured above). This is the bargain of the appetizers, and the bread lends it a filling heartiness that's much appreciated by the Apps Only crowd. Roasted tomatoes and deliciously soggy bread make up the base of the soup, and spinach, sweet onions and a healthy amount of shaved Parmesan made for a complex bowl that filled us up much more than we thought possible. Old bread never tasted this good.

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On a friend's recommendation, we ordered the Wood Oven Pizzette ($14). A white pie, it comes topped with paper-thin slices of Yukon gold potatoes, sharp Fontina cheese, and a drizzle of white truffle oil. If you think that there's something strange about potatoes on pizza, you'll be quickly converted by this pie—a bit of a starch bomb, but incredibly tasty. The Fontina really jumps out on first bite, along with a pronounced flavor of garlic, but the butteriness of the potatoes lend the pie a smooth finish. The dough was crispy on the bottom, light and fluffy inside. Although it's a bit on the pricey side for an appetizer, this dish is an Apps Only dream: it's a meal in itself. You could easily have one of these and a glass of wine and be satisfied.

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Next up were the Roasted Mushroom Risotto Cakes ($9), fried balls of risotto that struck the perfect balance of crispy exterior and smooth interior. They're flavored with smoked mozzarella, topped with a sage-pistachio pesto and served with a small watercress and frisee salad. I was apprehensive about the pesto, but it gave the dish a complexity that it might have otherwise lacked. (Although, really, how bad can a fried ball of rice be?). All things being relative, I mean it as a compliment when I say that this was my least favorite dish of the night.

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Finally, we couldn't resist the House Cured Vermont Pork Belly ($10), two thick slices of irresistibly fatty melt-in-your-mouth pork belly served over sweet braised cabbage and topped with a handful of crispy fried onions. An elegant twist on a homey winter classic, this dish was also helped out by a healthy amount of chopped bacon sprinkled throughout the cabbage. Two pork products for every one vegetable: a perfect ratio, if you ask me.

The appetizers at Five Points are modestly priced for the quality, and there are a number of very hearty options sure to fill you up. Four dishes, three people, $41: we ate well for under $15 each. Which left us extra cash for a generous tip—our bartender hooked us up with a bread basket and pickled cabbage for the table. If you're planning to eat there on the Apps Only plan, bring a few friends. There are almost a dozen appealing items on the appetizer menu, all hovering around the $10 mark.

Five Points

31 Great Jones Street, New York NY 10012 (map)
212-253-5700
http://www.fivepointsrestaurant.com/

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