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. He blogs at Ben Cooks Everything.

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Quick sautee of zucchini with toasted almonds and pecorino. [Photos: Ben Fishner]

Entering The Red Cat last week, it did not feel like it was necessarily the best pick for this column, where I try to keep dinner under $15/person. Suits and gallery employees stood together at the bar, but no one seemed to be in search of a deal. We had to wait about 20 minutes for two seats at the bar, but we didn't mind since our bartender was friendly and helpful, saving two seats for us so we didn't have to elbow others out of our way or stand over diners like vultures.

When we did sit down, we were greeted warmly and given bread, olive oil, and radishes with salt to munch on. We got right to work with an order of the Razor Clam Ceviche ($14), six razor clams served topped with a bit of avocado, tomato and onion with plenty of cilantro. These were the perfect start to our meal, refreshing and delicious.

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Razor clam ceviche.

Next up was the Quick Saute of Zucchini ($10), a dish that belies its simple name. Here you have julienned zucchini, sautéed with toasted almonds for crunch, and topped with a thin slice of pecorino cheese. The zucchini is perfect, well seasoned and still crunchy without being underdone, while the almond adds more crunchiness. Meanwhile, the cheese just makes this dish—vaults it from a great vegetable side to a stellar appetizer. No disrespect to the humble zucchini, but I did not think that it'd be the star of my meal at Red Cat. (If the serving looks small pictured here, it's because the kitchen split our order onto two plates for us.)

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Tempura green beans.

We rounded out our light meal with an order of the Tempura of Green Beans ($9), a big plate of battered green beans served with a sweet hot mustard sauce for dipping. These were an exemplary example of a light batter that didn't overwhelm the flavor of the vegetable. They were also by far the best deal of the night—nine bucks gets you a huge pile of green beans that we could not finish.

I originally thought that the Red Cat was just out of the Apps Only price range; I expected it to be too expensive to eat for $15, but worth the splurge. But if you sit at the bar and order wisely, you can certainly eke out a meal for not much more than $15/head. The two of us spent only $33, and though it was a light meal, we were certainly full when we left, and more than satisfied. On top of the food, service was exemplary. Get to the bar at the Red Cat as soon as possible— the cocktails are quite good, too—and have yourself some dinner.

The Red Cat

227 10th Avenue, New York NY 10011 (map)
212-242-1122
redcatrestaurants.com

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