Destination: New York
This Latin-fusion sister restaurant to the famed farm-to-table ABC Kitchen was one of the hottest and most-anticipated openings of 2013. It would seem Michelin-star chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten has done it again, delivering a sophisticated, elegant and seasonal take on a traditional tapas restaurant, housed within ABC Carpet & Home. Like at ABC Kitchen, should you fall in love with the eclectic décor – glass chandeliers, industrial-chic fuchsia chairs – all the furnishings are available for purchase.
But on a recent visit, despite the month-long waiting list for a reservation and the outpouring of applause, I was slightly underwhelmed. I had been eagerly anticipating the dinner since the restaurant opened and had nearly memorized the menu and knew exactly what I was going to order, so I may have set my expectations too high. The basil jalapeño margarita was spectacular (despite my feelings about the food, the cocktails do not disappoint) and the spring-pea guacamole is fresh, surprisingly delicate and rightfully deserves the attention it has received. But the savory glazed short rib tacos were good, but not outstanding. The succulent beef tenderloin “burnt ends” with chimichurri sauce was tender and delightful, but the portion was too meager to warrant the $18 price tag. From the “golden & crispy” subsection of the menu came satisfying peekytoe crab and corn fritters.
My companion loved the experience and thought the food was exquisite, so my lofty expectations may have slightly tainted my opinion that the food was hit or miss. Nonetheless, I will return; I cannot abandon a Jean-Gorges endeavor after one meal, the cocktails are fabulous, the guacamole was enough to warrant a return visit, and I am curious to try the arroz con pollo with crackling and lemon zest.
Abe & Arthur's
This swanky hot spot in the Meatpacking District checks off all the right boxes when it comes to showing visitors a New York scene or organizing a fun girls night out.
If you didn’t know Acme was a hot new restaurant, you’d walk right past the blue and red awning detailing the “authentic southern and Cajun cookin’” served within. The sign, however, is a relic from the former tenant of the same name; Acme is now a New American/Nordic restaurant, specializing in interesting seasonal dishes like hay-roasted sunchokes topped with Gruyére foam. While the storefront doesn’t look like much, the worn-in bistro is usually teeming with beautiful people and artfully constructed dishes. There is a cocktail bar, guarded by an oft-pushy doorman, in the basement.
Best-known for being the LT in the uber-successful BLT outposts, Laurent Tourondel’s Upper East Side Arlington Club (in the old Payard space) opened in conjunction with Tao’s owners in late 2012, and features a menu of steak and sushi.
A midtown venture by ex-Eleven Madison Park chef Bryce Shuman, Betony wows with its relaxed approach to fine dining. Elements of Shuman’s previous mentor, chef Daniel Humm, come through in delightful, elevated dishes, and the à la carte menu makes Betony enjoyably casual. The cuisine and cocktails are spectacular, but the two-story interior is where Betony stalls. Few changes were made when the previous tenant vacated, and oddly gaudy touches (ornate paneling) remain, in complete disconnect with the sleek food.
Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone are at it again, reinventing the New York Italian restaurants in a nostalgic but innovative way. Carbone offers the old-school white tablecloth of Italian restaurants of decades long past.
When the owners’ apartment-based supper club started attracting too many people, they took the concept to the streets; Cómodo (which means “comfortable” in Spanish) opened its doors on a quiet stretch in SoHo in July 2012. Chef Donnelly stays true to his Central and South American influences serving a pan-Latin cuisine—the lamb sliders on Brazilian pão de queijo cheesy bread have garnered a cult following. A rustic and relaxed dining room looks into the open kitchen and its picture windows swing out over the sidewalk, drawing in neighbors and passersby. Every night at Cómodo feels like being at your coolest friend’s dinner party; it’s the epitome of comfort.
Chef Hooni Kim’s restaurant Danji, the first (and only) Korean restaurant in the U.S. to be awarded a Michelin star, opened Hanjan (Korean for “cup” or “glass”) in late 2012. Chef Kim newest venture features casual Korean fare traditionally found in his native country’s street markets.
Don’t be fooled… This fifties-style mom-and-pop joint fronting as a grocery store is actually a hip eatery, little sister to West Village hotspot Joseph Leonard. If you make it through the 45-minute wait and snag one of a few coveted tables, you will be pleasantly surprised by the scrumptious seasonal fare. The menu changes weekly.
Opened in 2013 by Andrew Carmellini, Josh Pickard and Luke Ostrom, masterminds behind The Dutch and Locanda Verde, Lafayette is a cavernous French brasserie in the heart of downtown Manhattan. Leather booths and tiled walls contribute to the fun atmosphere, where simple French classics excel. If you don’t have time for a meal, stop in at the bakery in the front of the restaurant for one of their delicious almond croissants.
Located just off Bleecker Street in the West Village, L’Artusi seems to be hiding just around the corner, unnoticeable unless one was looking for it. On a mostly residential block, L’Artusi’s blue and white awning juts out like a beacon calling serious foodies and swanky sophisticates. The discrete exterior opens up to a spacious, multi-level restaurant bustling with chic clientele and the occasional celebrity (rumor has it Cameron Diaz loves the mushrooms with pancetta and a fried egg).
With an extensive wine list and numerous cocktails, libations are carefully selected to complement the mostly Italian menu. Pastas are the specialty; and dishes might include semolina cavatelli with rabbit ragu with a side of corn with chorizo and pecorino.
Best-known for being the LT in the uber-successful BLT outposts, Laurent Tourondel is branching off on his own with the theater district–adjacent haute burger joint LT Burger.
Hot spot is often code for good scene, bad food, worse service. At Minetta, the servers are friendly, the atmosphere always fun and the food actually worth the wait, particularly if you splurge a week’s calorie count on the artery-busting bone marrow.
This dinner/drinks spot on Houston in Soho is owned by Serge Becker of La Esquina and Cafe Select. Instead of Mexican or French (respectively), this time Becker has gone tropical and put together a casual, diner-style restaurant and lounge with red leather booths, reggae music, red stripe bottles and delicious cod fritters (skip the ceviche). Wildly popular since opening in 2011, Miss Lily’s was recently the spot for Kanye West’s birthday in June of 2013. They don’t have a liquor license so don’t expect rum punches; instead they offer beer or sake and soju-based cocktails. Dancing is optional, but encouraged.
If you’ve heard of The NoMad, you’ve surely heard of its chicken for two, a dish that’s making its rounds as one of the hottest meals in New York City. Stuffed with brioche and foie gras, slathered in truffle oil and served alongside truffled potatoes, it starts to make sense. The rest of the menu is spectacular as well; bone marrow is an excellent start to the meal, and the asparagus bread salad is a good way to infuse veggies into your diet, and the cocktail menu is perfected by 11 Madison Park ex-mixologist Leo Robisschek.
From Gabe Stulman, the restaurateur behind such West Village gems as Joseph Leonard and Jeffrey’s comes this cozy Minetta Lane eatery, which has garnered much praise for its refined comfort food. Many dishes are for two, making this a great date spot when the weather starts to turn.
Surprisingly delicious global fusion fare. Menu highlights include the lentil salad appetizer and the lamb entree. Make sure to order two plates if you arrive hungry as portions are small. Request a table in the main bar room where the atmosphere is buzzing; if you get seated in the small wine cellar room with only two tables, your evening becomes heavily dependent on the demeanor of your neighbors. During summer months, call in advance for a table on the patio.
Despite opening in the 1970’s, Raoul’s is still pulsing with the city’s well-heeled any day of the week. The SoHo mainstay serves classic French bistro cuisine and an excellent steak au poivre. Patrons can choose between sitting in the main dining room, the covered garden or a cozy loft-like area. The bohemian spot also has a great bar scene.
Chef Michael White (of Marea and Ai Fiori fame) is in the works to open Ristorante Morini, which will serve classic Italian fare in the old Centolire space on Madison Avenue between 85th and 86th Streets.
Inspired by a Milanese restaurant, Sant Ambroeus has become the new hangout for the well-heeled intelligentsia and global tastemakers, who drop by in the mornings for a cappuccino and cornetti and in the evenings for the risotto ai carciofi. The staid but elegant dining room encapsulates the relaxed refinement of prewar Milan, but be prepared: today the bill for imitating the Ambrosiani is high.
Walking through the doors of Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Spice Market, a 2-story cathedral-like restaurant in NYC’s Meatpacking District, is a little like entering an ultra-hot club: the first few minutes can be a bit jarring. It’s crowded; the lighting is dim and the long, hanging silk lanterns and intricately carved teak statues, which designer Jacques Garcia had shipped over from Asia, make for a dramatic, some have even said borderline-bizarre, backdrop. Throw in a chic crowd (that includes the attractive staff) and the hype is, understandably, as high as the restaurant’s elevated ceilings.
The scene, though, does not outshine the Thai/Malaysian/Vietnamese street food that’s been “reinterpreted” by Vongerichten and his business partner Chef Gray Kunz (of Café Gray and Grayz), the latter of whom grew up in Southeast Asia. Dishes such as the shaved tuna with tapioca balls and coconut sauce, the black-pepper shrimp with pineapple and the succulent cod with Malaysian chilli sauce are surprising but altogether wonderful. All come out piping hot too as the waiters deliver as soon as the chef is done (which leads to a few space issues on the table) and are served family-style with the plates placed in the center of the table. And despite Spice Market’s expansive space and the hustle and bustle when you first walk in, there are many cozy little tables and intimate nooks for the scene-phobes. While I was there the crowd was quite eclectic in a very New York way: As I sat down, an impossibly tall woman shimmered by in a long, flowing gown; to my left dined an elderly couple while on the right a grad-school type sat alone, reading a tattered paperback and munching on mushroom egg rolls.
First timers might want to get the tasting menu, which features all the highlights including the signature Thai Jewels dessert—sweet water chestnuts and tapioca dumplings served with coconut meat and papaya over a coconut sorbet—and which, at $59, is a bargain for a JGV venture. If you make a Saturday night reservations (even one for 9 p.m.) chances are there will be at least a twenty minute wait for your table, but having a drink at the bar (there’s a larger one downstairs too), where the scenery and people-watching is fantastic, is no tall order.
Chef Michael White (of Marea and Ai Fiori fame) opened The Butterfly in spring 2013, and it has quickly become one of the hottest spots in the city. With a supper club–like feel, and serving the Wisconsin-native chef’s favorites like artichoke dip, this spot is not to be missed, and the cocktails are to die for.
The upstairs dining area of this hot spot is modeled after an old-fashioned supper club. The food is a throwback–think pork shanks and rack of lamb–and is tasty, but patrons come for the atmosphere and the nightly Jazz performances. An ideal late-night spot, the restaurant doesn’t normally fill up until after 10:30pm and there is a downstairs club where you might spot such celebs as Leonardo DiCaprio.
Harold Dieterle knows his way around a duck. Go to any of his West Village restaurants and you will find the specialty involves said fowl. Perilla is known for its duck meatballs topped with a quail egg, Kin Shop perfects Thai cuisine with spicy duck laab, and to round out the trio, The Marrow’s star dish is a delicate duck schnitzel. Open since late 2012, The Marrow is Dieterle’s nod to his German/Italian heritage.
On a recent visit, a made-to-order mozzarella was a new addition to the menu; it came out warm, tender and bathed in olive oil, and ate every last bite. Having just come back from Italy where I subsisted solely on tomatoes and fresh-as-can-be mozzarella, to say this dish blew me away is to say a lot. While I passed on the schnitzel, I did incorporate some duck into my meal in the form of a homemade rigatoni with spicy duck sausage and tomato ragu. The chunks of duck scattered (a little too sparsely, in my opinion) throughout the pasta were cooked to perfection, leaving me wishing I’d just ordered a bowl of the stuff. Shame on us, however, for not ordering the legendary ginger stout cake; we were happily full, and knowing we would be back, decided to save dessert for another night.
The Standard Grill
The Standard Hotel’s restaurant and bar has quickly become a downtown institution. The classic black and white bar is packed with beautiful and fabulous of all ages, nearly every night; heels and suits tipping back Prosecco and gin cocktails. Casual but elegant red leather banquets line the perimeter of the dining room, where huddles of giddy revelers tip drinks, share oysters and slice steak. The classic steakhouse menu delivers consistent satisfaction. Warm weather expands the seating area to the sidewalk, and the adjacent Standard Beer Garden under the shade of the Highline is a loud raucous. Great for a business dinner or night out with friends. Reservations recommended, serves late-night.
The rooftop bar of this Williamsburg hotel boasts one of the most beautiful views of the Manhattan skyline. Hipsters from both sides of the East River have been flocking to the outdoor terrace since its opening in May 2012. After a cocktail like the Salty Dog (vodka, grapefruit juice and salt), those in the know head down to Reynards, which features a menu full of foodie favorites like radishes with toast and bone marrow butter.
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