Center Bar, a small plates cocktail lounge—complete with a piano player—on the fourth floor of the Time Warner Center screams, "Don't go there. It's meant for exhausted shoppers and tourists, not serious eaters."
But that assumption would be wrong. Way wrong. In fact, Center Bar turns out to serve a limited menu of some of the finest small plates I've had in a long time. They're certainly not cheap, the menu is certainly not consistent, and the overpriced cocktails don't help. But the kitchen, under the watchful eye of Porter House New York's Michael Lomonaco, is turning out food that at its best (about half the time) could easily be served at the front room at Gramercy Tavern. It's not Le Bernardin Lounge good, but it's also not Le Bernardin Lounge expensive. And if you skip the decent but mostly overpriced cocktails you can have three excellent courses (if you choose wisely) for about $40 before tax and tip.