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Travel and Dining
Best Restaurants in New York City
Some of these restaurants are award-winning, and some are unknown gems tucked away in the bowels of Manhattan. Whatever your fancy, or your budget, there is a restaurant in this list for everyone. Bon Appetit!
Chef Thomas Keller, whose French Laundry, in Yountville, California, is one of the best restaurants in the United States, has opened his newest establishment far from the bucolic Napa Valley. The $12 million Per Se, with a sleek wood-and-glass design by Adam Tihany and views of Columbus Circle, is on the fourth floor of the galleria of shops in the new Time Warner complex, near Central Park. Not only is the food superb (try the sensational rack of baby lamb), it's also fun: miniature ice-cream cones filled with salmon tartare, "Jurassic" salt that's 30 million years old, tiny panna cotta made with cauliflower and topped with an oyster glaze and a dollop of osetra caviar. Don’t miss the exotic desserts like poached Asian pear-Spanish almond tart and the perfect crème brûlée topped with a paper-thin sheet of glazed sugar. The service is amazing, unparalleled except perhaps by that at French Laundry. Per Se is grand luxe without the pretention: "Here's coffee and a doughnut," said the waiter, setting down a semifreddo in a cup frothed like a cappuccino alongside a small hot beignet shaped like a ring with a ball on top.
Celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten's prix-fixe restaurant near Central Park is a true culinary destination. The main dining room is dressed in neutral colors, with beige banquettes and minimal decoration. Vongerichten's Asian-accented French cooking shows a like-minded restraint, with some unusual combinations: sea scallops in caper-raisin emulsion with caramelized cauliflower is an outstanding example. Two seven-course tasting menus are available; the Jean-Georges menu of signature dishes, and a seasonal menu highlighting fresh produce, each $148. Elegant desserts, exceedingly personalized service, and a well-selected wine list contribute to the overall experience. The Nougatine serves a more moderate à la carte menu in the front area, with a view of the open kitchen.
If you can put down a few hundred for a dinner for two, and you are looking for one of New York's most expensive and refined restaurants, with jackets required and flawless, old-school service, this is the place for you. The impeccable French service is the best in the city and the food is superb. Don’t miss the fluke seviche; sea urchin; whole red snapper baked in a rosemary-and-thyme crust; and wild striped bass in bouillabaisse broth.
Daniel Boulud’s namesake restaurant features contemporary, seasonal French cuisine in a setting that combines striking neoclassical architecture with elegant modern furnishings. The sophisticated bar and lounge are a welcoming spot for before and after dinner drinks. Not only is the food fantastic, the space is beautiful and the service is out of this world. You must try the Paupiette of sea bass in a crisp potato shell or the braised short ribs. They also have a separate vegetarian menu.
Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten oversees this chic subterranean power-bar, lounge and restaurant in the heart of SoHo's. The dining area extends to the turn-of-century brick walls and out under the sidewalk vault so guests below can watch foot traffic walking across the roof through glass bubbles in the floor-ceiling. The Kumquat Mojitos and the White Chocolate Martinis are to die for. The toppings on the brick-oven pizzas — raw tuna and wasabi; pear and pistachio; black truffle and Fontina — are bold and flavorful.
Downtown chic meets midtown. Who knew 57th St could have such a find? Opia's dramatic and expansive 4,000 square foot interior space is truly spectacular, with 6 beautiful arched windows and 11 foot high ceilings. Dine al fresco on one of their expanded terraces overlooking the bustling street. The space is separated into four distinct areas, each with a unique personality. The Main Lounge and Bar - casually elegant - is the most social area in the space. Just a few steps up from the bar is the Den, a semi-private section with low couches, padded walls and lush fabric, perfect for small dinner parties or cocktails for up to 15 guests. Opia is a great place to go with friends or on a date, and the comfy couch areas are great to get a little "closer" with the one you’re with. It’s trendy, cozy and romantic without overdoing it. In addition to their delicious regular menu, they also offer an extensive lounge and sushi menu.
Some call it the Bad Boy Steak House. I call it carnivore heaven. Peter Lugar has been in the steak business since 1887, and they give new meaning (and taste) to perfect, glorious, butter-tender porterhouse steak. Every steak is hand-picked and dry-aged onsite, then prepared to perfection and served by amiable waiters who aren't anywhere near as gruff as some claim. (Unless you order your steak well done.) You can’t go wrong with the popular starter of thick slices of tomatoes served with Peter Lugar’s famous signature sauce. And don’t forget to try their sizzling bacon appetizer. Extra thick sliced bacon that literally melts in your mouth. Add the creamed spinach, onion rings and German fried potatoes to your steak order, and get ready for the meal of the century. Still hungry? Their New York cheesecake is delish.
If I am not up for traveling to Brooklyn, BLT Steak is a really great steakhouse bliss option. Sit down and start with their delicious signature popovers. Their tuna tartare appetizer is amazing and you’ll still have plenty of room for their delicious steaks. You can’t go wrong with their porterhouse, rib eye or New York strip. But for great taste and a terrific price, try the hanger steak. All their steaks come with a side selection of sauces, ranging from béarnaise to blue cheese, and paired with decadent sides such as parmesan flavored gnocchi and oversized onion rings. Order a side of roasted brussels sprouts with bacon, and some good ole fries and you’ll become a regular. If that doesn’t do the trick, top the meal off with their profiteroles and/or the banana butterscotch sundae and you’ll see why the BLT Restaurants have such a great rep.
Tao’s is hot. The 12,000 square feet of dining levels come complete with reflecting pool, Zen garden, and a sky high Buddha. This is where the beautiful young people come to drink Sake and mingle with the rich and famous.Use your time at the bar efficiently - the social scene is as impressive as the food. The Mongolian spicy beef is fabulous, and you can’t go wrong with any of the sushi offerings. Try the Squab lettuce wraps or the fabulous Peking duck. For dessert splurge and order the giant chocolate-filled fortune cookies. If you're from out of town Tao is worth a visit - just make sure to dress chic, talk loud and bring your wallet.
200 5th Ave
Mario Batali and Lidia and Joe Bastianich have created a food experience that will delight from beginning to end. It’s a grocery store, bakery, food court, wine bar, meat market, cheese outlet, fresh pasta center, seafood shop, brewery,deli, book store, wine cellar, pastry shop, and restaurant row, all rolled into one beautiful food showroom and is thelargest artisanal Italian food and wine marketplace in the world. During the summer they have a great roof deck beer garden with a selection of delicious food as well. The place is a mad house, but worth every ounce of patience and time you spend there. The best thing to do is buy a big glass of wine as soon as you walk in the door. Then you can just walk around and explore the offerings around the store.
You'll find everything from a gelateria, produce section, meats and seafood and at least 3 aisles devoted exclusively to pasta. In addition to the most amazing fruits and vegetables, there is actually a vegetable butcher who will cut and clean any vegetable you want for free.
Local seafood like scallops, fluke, wild striped bass, bluefish and monkfish are just some of what you’ll find at Eataly. They also make delicous fresh seafood sausages and octopus and frutti di mare salads every day and will scale and clean any fish you want. And, don't miss their amazing raw clams and oysters as well as their fresh lobster salad made every day from their in house lobsters.
Now for the restaurants.
The dining establishments are organized around food groups (e.g., meat, fish, pasta, vegetables), and the best of them are staffed by handpicked Batali cooks, like the great seafood maestro Dave Pasternack and the former Babbo chef Michael Toscano, who runs the kitchen at Manzo. Eataly offers 7 sit down restaurants with both table and bar seats.
Manzo is Eataly’s more formal dining experience that celebrates meat from the United States. If you are a meateater, Manzo is a must stop. There you can taste an American version of Batali’s beloved razza Piemontese beef (from a ranch in Montana), served sushi-style in rosy strips or ground into a tartare with a quail egg on top. The mezzaluna stuffed with calves’brains and ricotta is worth a try, and the cinnamon-laced cotechino sausage is incredible. The delicious and plump veal chop is finished in burning hay. And if you order the beautifully marbled rib chop, it comes to the table with a little demitasse cup of beef jus and a side of perfectly formed and incredibly light, pommes soufflées. And nothing beats the beef-tasting menu.
At La Piazza you’ll find crowds of meat and cheese lovers hovering around row after row of marble-topped tables, throwing back drinks and stuffing themselves with plates like the Grande Piatto Misto di Formaggi. The fresh ricotta is creamy and light with a sweet taste. The blue cheese is mild with just the right amount of bite. The Parmesan is perfectly aged and needs no bread or accompaniments although the fresh bread is unlimited so just ask and they keep it coming. The fresh bread is unlimited, so just ask! The dried apricots and figs have a little chili pepper mixed in, giving it a great kick and pairs beautifully with the cheese. If you still have an appetite, you must try the fresh mozzarella.
Don’t miss the opportunity to grab one of the tables and join the crowd. Tip: Scope out an occupied table and politely ask the people currently at the table if you can have it when they're done. Then stay close and guard the table with your life. Once you get a table the wait staff will bring you menus, plates, and cloth napkins.
Le Verdure is the most original dining space at Eataly, and on crowded evenings, it’s the easiest place to find a seat. What you’ll find there are elegant little bricks of lasagna, laced with béchamel and Ligurian pesto, crostini heaped with black garlic and sweet corn , and Vegetable Fritto Misto, a platter of crisp, tempura-like fritto misto piled with cauliflower, long beans, and fresh radish. And you can’t go wrong with their fish of the day.
If you’re in search of a little protein, wander over to Pasternack’s seafood restaurant, Il Pesce, where the menu includes excellent antipasti with slices of salty sturgeon “bacon,” silvery sardines over cool peppers and onions, a whole branzini, flash-fried and served over a layer of crunchy thin-cut potatoes. And don’t miss out on the sashimi and grilled squid. Every day, they offer a whole fish “al forno,” the chef’s choice roasted to perfection and a whole fish “alla piastra,” which is expertly pan seared. You can always indulge in a daily selection of oysters, as well as unbelievably fresh crudo offerings often seasoned with no more than Extra Virgin Olive Oil and sea salt.
La Pizza and La Pasta
The food at the chaotic La Pizza and La Pasta is worth the wait for a table. The best thing to do is to give the hostess your phone number and get a text when your table is ready. This way you can walk and drink your way through the wait. Creamy mozzarella, charred yet elastic crust and sweet San Marzano tomatoes make for a classic Neapolitan pizza.
Try the al dente spaghetti in the classic, Roman-style cacio e pepe or the Scisciana pizza layered with ribbons of Parma ham. Either one of the Vesuvio or Tagliatelle pasta dishes are delicious.
Rosticceria is the ultimate destination for meat lovers and offers a complete meal in one spot. Every day, they offer a different roasted meat from their butcher counter to either purchase by the pound or to enjoy immediately on a sandwich. Their rotisserie-roasted chickens are farm raised and fed a strict diet of corn, soy vitamins and minerals. You can also indulge in their succulent and juicy Prime Rib Sandwich every day made with 100% Black Angus Beef from a ranch in Kansas.
Birreria is a rooftop restaurant and brewery that offers the highest quality beer and food under the stars and skyline. The menu conjures the family style feasts of an Italy influenced by Austria and Germany. The focus on hearty fare feels convivial and comforting (deeply flavorful mushroom entrees, beer braised pork shoulder, house made sausages and grilled meats). Don't worry about the weather, their retractable roof and heaters keep them open in all seasons; rain, shine or snow!
It takes several visits to fully experience Eataly, so save the map they give you on how to navigate your way around the place and enjoy.
201 Park Avenue South (at 17th St)
(In the W Hotel at Union Square)
Telephone: (212) 353-8345
As you enter the restaurant through the trendy W Hotel, and are greeted by Olives' charming front desk hostess, you will feel as if you have arrived. When making reservations, if you are a party of four or more, ask for a curtained table in the back. Go for lunch and enjoy the sun pouring in from the open sky over Union Square. Chef Todd English’s menu is wonderful. Try the lamb spare ribs and you will undoubtedly agree. The tuna tartare and their flat bread pizzas are a culinary pleasure. If you are a traditionalist, you can’t go wrong with the simple but sumptuous herb-and-garlic-roasted chicken. And there's a copious, first-class wine list to compliment all the terrific food. And don’t forget to save room for dessert or cheese.
There is no other experience like this wondrous and original epicurean delight. The densely flavored sweet black cod marinated in miso is Nobu’s signature item and as one would expect, the sushi and sashimi are decadent. The food and presentation are so delightfully unique that you will hardly feel the sting of the hefty bill at the end of your meal.
This sexy, spicy scene in the middle of the meatpacking district is worth the long lines. Enjoy the Southeast Asian street food in this huge but beautiful locale.
An architectural wonder on two soaring levels, Megu is created around a 600-pound Bonsho, or Temple Bell, which is suspended over a stunning ice-carved Buddha. The 14-page menu offers distinct selections beyond your wildest culinary imagination. Megu specializes in meat, fish, and vegetables grilled over charcoal imported from Japan. Try their cold edamame soup, sake-steamed slices of grilled abalone or Panko-crusted pork tonkatsu. Or go all the way with one of their tasting menus or the Kobe beef. And if you have room for desert (and money left in your pocket) try Yuzu’s unforgettable dark chocolate soufflé.
The Sea Grill is one of New York City’s best seafood restaurants. While not on grand display, the restaurant boasts an impressive raw bar, usually featuring a half-dozen choices of clams and oysters, plus perfect jumbo shrimp for a divine shrimp cocktail. Winning appetizers include Sea Grill chowder with lobster, shrimp, and clams; and a wonderful cured salmon belly tartare with fresh dill and black salt. As good as the seafood can be, and as clever as many of the colorful presentations are, none of that really matters in winter, when the dining room overlooks New York’s most romantic and nostalgic scene — the skaters twirling about under the twinkling lights of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. For a major tourist destination, the dining room does not feel all that touristy, especially in the evening when the lights soften and the pace eases.
Casa La Femme North
Gauzy white tents, belly dancers, exotic plants, leather ceiling lamps. Egypt? No, it’s Casa La Femme North, one of New York City’s few Egyptian restaurants. Dine in a romantic tent - where only a $55 tasting dinner is served – and you won’t be sorry. Everything is made fresh and from scratch so it may take 40 minutes or so for your main course to come, but what’s the rush? The belly dancer and exotic music will help pass the time while you sample delicious appetizers from Arab wheat bread to Crab Kofta. The entrees are indeed fresh and the menu completely authentic. For fish lovers try the whole fish or the wood-grilled red snapper for two. And don’t forget to top it off with Turkish coffee (the only coffee served) and their amazing Baklava.
Walk into Stephen Hanson’s Dos Caminos and you feel like you’ve entered party central. Weave your way through the packed bar to your table, and be prepared to have fun. With 100 types of Tequila to choose from, as well as an impressive array of exotic drinks, Dos Caminos has "party time" written all over it. The restaurant is Hanson-fusion so don’t think Mexican food when you come here. Start with the delicious guacamole, made tableside with the freshest of ingredients. Try the baby back ribs, roast chicken or the sirloin steak – all are impressive. If you’re a fish eater try the big eye tuna ceviche with chile salsa. Too full for dessert? Indulge in a coffee with Kahlua and whipped cream. In a city with only average Mexican restaurants, Dos Caminos is a gem.
Blue Water Grill
If ever a restaurant was a New York City “scene” – this is it. The converted bank on Union Square, seats 500 on three levels, and includes outdoor seating. Dine in the lower level and enjoy the dimly lit romantic ambiance and fantastic jazz band. The fish - always fresh - is incredible, the sushi – divine. The Chilean sea bass is wonderful and if you like shellfish go all the way with the impressive seafood castle. Chocolate fondue is a must dessert, and the wine list is varied and reasonably priced. At the bar, it's cruising and hooking-up galore.
Antique musical instruments, throw pillows and oriental rugs fill this small, cozy and inexpensive East Village Afghan restaurant. The air is filled with spices, and the exotic laid-back destination and dining experience is memorable. Try their Pamir Sabzu - a delicious salad of mint, watercress and feta cheese. Try entrees like Quorma Sabz (lamb and scallions sautéed with spinach and coriander), or chopped beef patties with basmati rice and lots of hot spices. Or sample the spicy sauté of spinach and lamb, homemade noodles topped with mildly spiced meat and lentils, or eggplant slices served over a layer of mint yogurt. Top your meal off with Turkish coffee and their outstanding Baklava. Very authentic, very novel, very tasty.
Francisco’s Centro Vasco
Love lobster? This is my all time favorite restaurant for King Kong sized lobsters, but you can get any size you want. They also offer large and very delicious lobster tails. They have great Spanish food, but the lobster tails and/or whole lobsters are incredible and the value unbeatable. Great food, great prices.
Barbounia’s menu focuses on Mediterranean cuisine with evident inspirations from several European cultures. Hints of Greece are found in the traditional Mezze— tzatsiki and several other spreads, served with delicious flatbread—which has acquired a cult-like following. South of Italy shines through during lunch featuring a Mushroom & Asparagus Pizza topped with parmesan, fontina, & truffle oil, hot from the taboon; while the Mushroom Gnocchi is an Italian-inspired entrée for the evening. The Grass-fed hanger steak “au poivre” served during dinner and the Croque Madame sandwich served with sunny side up eggs during brunch has unmistakable ties to the South of France. Their brunch is excellent and they have the best champagne cocktail deal - unlimited champagne cocktails for an additional $14. They refill drinks super fast and you can change the kind of drink you get. If you just want to stop by for a quick drink, it is always packed with interesting and friendly people and the cocktails are awesome.
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