New York City is a paradise for foodies like us. Given that we spend all of our nights in New York City at or near the Broadway Theater District, many of the restaurants we eat are at or near the theaters, although we do sometimes venture out further. Here is an updated review of the best New York City restaurants that we love (and some to avoid).
New York City Delis
We have separated delis into its own category.
P.J. Bernstein’s, a deli on the Upper East Side which has become one of our favorite delis. We find their chopped liver and corned beef sandwiches to rival the now-closed Carnegie Deli. And they make chocolate egg cream too. It is always good and has enough fat and salt to hold us over till our next NTY trip.
2nd Avenue Deli (multiple locations). The chopped liver was delicious. Unfortunately, we didn’t feel that the corned beef was especially memorable. And we wish it was in a more convenient location for us
Ben’s Deli (multiple locations). We had read good reviews on Ben’s, so we ordered a pick-up and took our chances. The results? A mixed bay. The chopped liver was good, although a bit sweeter than that to which we are accustomed. We experimented with the corned beef, requesting “extra lean.” The result, which was probably not Ben’s fault, was meat that was a bit drier and with somewhat less taste than that to which we are used to eating. There was only one dish with which we had real problems: the kishke, which was dry and tasteless.
Pastrami Queen (multiple locations). Unfortunately, this deli does not make our repeat visit list. The chopped liver had a sweetish taste and the corned beef and derma were both dry and tasteless.
The Cecil. (210 W 118th St). This Harlem-based African/Asian restaurant was pretty good. The deviled eggs were nice and the mac and cheese was so rich that it would require multiple meals to consume. The best dish of the day was the fried calamari and fried okra in a chili/ginger sauce. The main dish, biscuits with chicken gravy, was good, but not especially inspiring. Drinks consisted of a glass of Gruner Veltliner and a house pineapple mimosa. Overall, a C.
Upper West Side/Lincoln Square
Boulud Sud (20 W 64th Street) is one of many Daniel Boulud restaurants. We went for the three-course pre-dinner menu where we had a flatbread with hen-of-the-woods mushrooms and grilled calamari with avocado and walnut courses for appetizers, a large smoked grilled pork chop, and scallops with a cream sauce for entrees. We topped our meal off with a tasting of three kinds of cheese and raspberry coulis with crème fraiche for dessert. Everything was delightful, including excellent service. On another visit, we enjoyed two appetizers (tuna carpaccio and octopus a la plancha), followed by seared yellowfin tuna and New York Cut sirloin steak entrees. In addition to the good food, the servers, sommelier, and helpers were all available, knowledgeable, and friendly—even when the restaurant became quite busy. It’s easy to see why this restaurant remains so popular.
Cucina 8 ½ (9 W 57th Street). We began with nice, house-made parmesan chips and progressed through three small dishes: burrata with caponata, basic and crispy, bacon-like speck, shrimp in a parsley-, oil- and vinegar-based sauce, followed by an egg ravioli with ricotta and black truffles. Although we found the burrata lacking in taste, we enjoyed the other dishes and the light, fruity, 2017 Sicilian Scipnniri Etna Rosa.
Lokal (473 Columbus Ave, 83rd St,) is a casual Mediterranean restaurant where we had lunch. The hummus (served interestingly with Italian bread rather than pita) was quite good. However, the cabbage rolls with lamb, beef, and rice in a tomato sauce with yogurt were not very tasty.
Red Farm (2170 Broadway) is a contemporary, innovative Chinese dim sum restaurant. We have visited their Upper West Side location several times. The Pac Man dumplings are fun to order. They are colored and shaped like Pac Man ghosts, even using small peppercorns as eyes. Each had a different filling: lobster, shrimp, mushroom, and crab, and served with squash tempura with a very un-Chinese (and even un-Mexican) guacamole. The pork and shrimp soup dumplings, with the deep, concentrated soup, were even better. An unusual and wonderful tuna salad comes with lightly poke-marinated tuna crispy noodles, jicama, tomato, edamame, corn chips, and grapes. The shrimp and truffle and the five flavor chicken dumplings are also good. But they have more than dumplings. On one visit they were featuring a very large, perfectly cooked and delicious deep-fried softshell crab with a perfectly matched meyer lemon yuzu sauce. We’ve also enjoyed meat dishes here. The best was a filet mignon tart, with a corn-based shell filled with peanut sauce, topped by a piece of grilled filet. The very well-spiced, spicy, crispy beef, double-fried corn starch-coated pieces of flank steak with a sauce of Grand Marnier and black vinegar was a bit too dry for our taste. The food pairs well with a Joel Gott 2014 Pinot Gris or a Domaine Pinson French Chablis. A solid “A” rating.
Sushi of Gari Columbus. (370 Columbus Ave). A hot Upper West Side sushi restaurant at which we had an okay meal. The eel sushi was very good as was the maguro and avocado (which was made by the wasabi/soy-based sauce). While the shrimp tempura was okay, we were disappointed by the steamed crab dumpling and the gyoza dumplings, both of which had more filler than they had protein. We were also very unpleasantly surprised by the expensive sake list. This said, we did enjoy a bottle of Raifuku Daiginjo Akiyama. At best, a “C”. Another one that we have no need to return.
Yakitori Totto (251 W 55th St). If you didn’t know about this casual, inexpensive skewer food bar-restaurant, you might walk right by it. The door leads to a dark stairwell. You go up to the second floor to another door that opens into a fairly small narrow restaurant. Once inside, we were reminded of the ubiquitous yakitori bars that line Tokyo’s subterranean network of walkways and are frequented by Japanese “salarymen”. We shared eight different chicken and pork part skewers along with edamame and unagi don (three skewers of eel atop a bowl of lightly seasoned rice). A tasty and inexpensive lunch at a very popular, small restaurant. No reservations and expect lines if you come t peak times.
Upper East Side
Carravagio. (23 E 74th St.) This is a lovely, albeit generally expensive, Italian restaurant. While it is generally expensive, but their two-course lunch is an exception and was very good lunch. We started with the Antipasto Italiano, a large plate of assorted charcuterie, cheeses, and marinated vegetables. For entrees, we had a pan-seared branding fillet with a light mustard sauce and a rolled veal loin stuffed with roasted chestnuts and sun-dried tomatoes. Both were lovely. While the meal was reasonable, watch out for the high cost of drinks. Still a very nice meal in a gracious room and nice service for a decent price.
Midtown West/Hells Kitchen/Hudson Yard/Central Park/Chelsea/Theater District
Ai Fiori. (400 5th Ave between 5th and 6th), 2nd Level). We had 2 dishes at this Michelin-star Italian restaurant: citrus butter-poached lobster with artichokes, chanterelles and leeks and a veal chop with root vegetables and veal Blanquette sauce. These with a nicely-paired 2014 Barbaresco the sommelier recommended. Both dishes were very good (albeit for the lobster’s somewhat overly citrusy butter) and the service was excellent.
An’nam (234 W 48th between 8th/7th)) is a Vietnamese/Japanese restaurant where we both had trouble narrowing our selections down to the amount of food that we might actually be able to eat. We began with a pork and shrimp spring roll. While it was okay, we’ll stick with summer rolls. Next was a plentiful dish of shrimp tempura which was tasty but and had too much breading for our tastes. Then we had a very good jumbo prawn dish (with an amazing amount of prawns) in a tasty basic sauce that blended a bit of sweetness with heat that complemented the abundant prawns and the vegetables. Our wine was a pleasant, inexpensive 2016 Stefan Bauer “Wagram” Gruner Veltliner.
A Voce. (10 Columbus Circle) We shared a roasted king trumpet mushroom appetizer and two entrees, a sautéed Branzino with spring onions and fennel in a vinaigrette, and a lamb dish with two large broiled lamb chops and lamb sausage with spring garlic. The dishes were very good and the service was prompt, knowledgeable, and professional.
Bobby Vans Steakhouse (135 W 50th between 6th/7th and multiple locations). As expected, this place specializes in all types of meat, but also offers a range of seafood. Tom’s huge veal chop was good, if not particularly memorable. Joyce’s soft shell crab, also huge, was overly breaded and not especially tasty. Well, they are a steakhouse after all.
Ci Siamo (440 West 33rd Street between 9th and 10th) is star restaurateur Danny Meyer’s stylish and immensely popular new Italian restaurant. Our wonderful meal began with a huge, very good focaccia with olive oil and tomato sauce. Then came a delicious agnolotti filled with ricotta, broccoli rabe, and lemon in brown butter sauce and a huge (roughly 12-inch diameter) pork milanese topped with caraway and served with bagna cauda aioli. We chose a light, fruity 2018 Barbara d’Alba from Caseina Fontana to compliment the food. A winner to which we will return.
Café China (59 W 37th Street). It doesn’t look like much, but the Sichuan food is memorable. We had two shellfish-based dishes: a nice wok-fried Kung Fu shrimp with peanuts, dried chilies, and peppercorns, and an especially good Sichuan-style sautéed lobster with gingers and scallions. Both with brown rice and an off-dry 2016 Scheurebe Spatlese Riesling with wild vine grapes.
Dafni Taverna (352 W 42nd St, between 7th/8th) This was a quick pick-up lunch. We began with an unexpectedly large and very good serving of saganaki, which we followed with gyros. The gyros were very good when slathered with the tasty, herb-laden tzatziki sauce. Without the sauce, the meat is quite dry.
Eataly. (200 5th Ave) This is not a restaurant but more an experience. The huge Herald Square site is a celebration of Italian cuisine. It combines a retail store (all types of Italian foods and ingredients), with fresh fish, meat, and vegetable market and half a dozen informal specialty restaurants (one dedicated to seafood, one to pasta, one to pizza, one to vegetables, one to sandwiches and so forth). We ate at one that focused on salumi and cheese, sharing a large combination plate that combined four of each, and a couple of glasses of wine. Although some people may be reluctant to dine in such as perpetually packed, almost frenetic environment, it did not seem to bother the hundreds of people who seemed happy to wait for 30 to 45 minutes for a table. Nor did it bother us. We enjoyed the spectacle, the activity, the food, and the service.
Estiatorio Milos (125 West 55th Street between 6th/7th). This is a wonderful upscale Greek seafood restaurant with a selection of fresh Mediterranean seafood selection that more than matched anything we found in Greece. We were encouraged to go to their huge fresh fish display to pick out our dinner. The resident fish guru patiently and thoroughly explained the texture and tastes of the many fishes with which we weren’t familiar. We choose a 2 ¼-lb, Red Rescasse (a tender, white-meat, sweet Mediterranean rockfish). It was perfectly grilled and served plain with lemon. Absolutely delicious. Unfortunately, it was so large that we were unable to partake of any of the equally interesting, equally fresh appetizers such as octopus, uni, sardines, and softshell crab. Luckily, the taste of the Rescasse combined with a bottle of crisp., minerally Santorini assyrtiko (a Canava Chrissou Old Vine) made us feel like we were back on Santorini. Quite pricy, but very good.
Estiatorio Milos Wine Bar. (20 Hudson Yards) Estiatorio Milos has a second location with a wine bar in Hudson Yard. As it had an interesting small plates menu, we decided to try it. The good news is that it has an extensive list of Greek wines by the glass and the bottle. The bad news is that the staff of the newly opened (2021) operation is not particularly well versed in the wines, the food is less interesting than the menu, and the wine and food prices are on the steep side. Our food experience was mixed. We enjoyed the taramosalata (fish roe dip) with pita and raw vegetables and the saganaki. We found tuna tartare and especially the salmon tartare to be pleasant, but overly salted. A lamb chop (with nice crispy french fries) was quite good, at least after we returned the first attempt which was way overcooked. While the wine bar concept is nice, we will stick to the restaurant.
Five Napkin Burgers (multiple locations) Our concierge said it had the best burgers in the Theater District. The BBLT was indeed good: rich and flavorful with a nice bun (although we would have preferred the bacon more fully cooked). The onion rings also met expectations. The only disappointment was the spiced lamb/beef Kofta burger, which was dry. but, the service was good and we were out in enough time to make it to the theater.
Gabriel Kreuther (41 W 42nd St). Our meal began with an interesting, but not especially exciting four-piece, beer-themed amuse-bouche. We then each had two savory dishes. Joyce a very nice foie gras terrine crusted with black truffle praline (with muscat gelee and grain toast), followed by another very good entrée of roasted Hawaiian seabass with almond crumble, coconut, and a subtle lemon verbena what gave the dish a subtle tinge of citrus. Tom had two entrees that were somewhat smaller than traditional-size entrees, but certainly sufficient. The Nova Scotia halibut (with celery root salsify, topped with hen-of-the-wood mushrooms and with a Riesling-cockle sauce) was slightly overdone and almost sour. (If we weren’t pressed for time, he probably would have returned it.). The roasted French quail with baby artichokes, marinated spelt and ginger jus was certainly better, although the ginger was a bit strong for his tastes. These were followed by three small dessert bites (coconut, chocolate, and mint). Overall, it was pretty good, but not as memorable as we had expected based on reviews.
Gotham West Market (600 11th Ave between 44th/45th) is a very popular upscale fast-food anchor of this rapidly gentrifying Manhattan neighborhood. The market contains a varied selection of about eight casual restaurants at which you order at a counter and sit at communal tables. Although the food is brought to you on metal trays, it is served in porcelain plates and bowls, eaten with silverware and drinks served in real glasses. We had dishes from three shops: Shoyu from Ivan Ramen, an Ahi burger from Genuine, and two tapas (fried lamb meatballs and bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with almonds. One could also order from a bar that had a selection of more than 50 bottled and draft beers and was manned by a staff that really seems to know their offerings. Three of the dishes (Ahi burger, dates, and Shoyu) were good, although the meatballs were dry, with the only flavor coming from the sauce. Overall, the market would be a nice addition to almost any city neighborhood.
Indian Accent. (123 W 56th). We chose the a la carte option at the bar, over the prix-fixed menus at the tables at this Indian restaurant. The amuse bouche (blue cheese-filled naan followed by a small cup of a heated, creamy pumpkin and coconut drink), crab claws, and cauliflower with butter/pepper/garlic sauce were very good. We were disappointed with smoked bacon-crusted naan and both of our main dishes, which had reasonably tasty sauces, but whose protein (softshell crab with dried shrimp and baked seas bass with curry butter and berry sauce) were overcooked.
Iris Restaurant (1740 Broadway between 7th/8th,) is a very good, and relatively expensive Greek restaurant with very innovative and interestingly spiced preparations and a very interesting Greek and Turkish-centered wine list. We returned here in 2022 with some friends which allowed us to taste more dishes.
We started with hummus with pita and spiced lamb flatbread (with chili, sumac, and cilantro). next up was a grilled octopus (with candied citrus and chili), grilled quail kebab (with grilled tomato, mint, sage butter, pepper, and greens) and swordfish kebab (grilled broccolini and caper-hazelnut butter). We finished off with rice pudding with raspberries, rhubarb, and cinnamon. We enjoyed all the dishes although the squid was the less compelling and the only one we would not reorder.
In 2021, we enjoyed the cured fluke with peppers, almonds, and a wonderfully complimentary ginger reduction; grilled octopus that was nicely complemented by candied kumquats, chili, and orange zest, and quail kebob with sage butter, pepper, and greens. The pistachio baklava was fine but less than inspiring (although we did enjoy the vanilla ice cream with Greek brandy ice cream that was served with it). With our server’s assistance, we ended up with a 2020 Ktima Spiropoulus PDO Mantinia (a white wine made from the Mosehofilero grape). We were impressed by the food and most of the service. However, we were disappointed by what we perceived as an effort to speed our meal before we even began, not to speak of their serving two hot, rather spicy mid-course dishes before the delicate preliminary course of fluke, which made it difficult to fully appreciate the delicate fish.
Le Bernardin One of our favorite seafood palaces, ruled over by chef Eric Ripert is not for those on a budget. We both had three-course meals. The amuse bouche was a generous-sized bowl filled with a delicious mixture of poached and smoked salmon for spreading on toast. Appetizers consisted of a nice raw langoustine and sea urchin with nori slices and apple vinaigrette and an even better (especially for Tom) Peekytoe crab with cauliflower slices and a mustard emulsion. These dishes were followed by poached skate wing which Joyce stupidly decided to have with a brown butter sauce, rather than the chef’s recommended preparation and the best dish of the meal, lightly pan-seared lobster tail with chestnut mousseline, celeriac cannelloni, and a subtle Persian lime sauce. We both finished the meal with Le Bernardin’s version of praline: flourless hazelnut cake with Giandura mouse, orange curd, and praline ice cream. The sommelier recommended pairing these with a well-chosen 2013 Borruel Lynch Cote de Rhone (primarily viognier, finished with Roussane) that had a refreshing mineral nose and a creamy finished that particularly complimented the lobster. And it had the additional benefit of being one of the least expensive wines on a very pricy wine list. A wonderful meal, but it does come at a cost! We still give our experience an A.
Le Bernardin Lounge (155 W 51st St). Le Bernardin also has a less formal, less expensive lounge. We each choose the three-course meals. Joyce began with medallions of marinated sea scallop carpaccio with sweet and sour grapes and extra virgin olive oil with Yuzu vinaigrette and I with sautéed shrimp with mache salad and balsamic vinaigrette. We both had poached skate wing for our entree, with pickled shallots, sea beans, cucumbers, and a sherry emulsion. We diverged again on desserts, with Joyce having a selection of four house-made ice creams (vanilla, chocolate, coffee, and a very interesting black sesame) and Tom had a dark chocolate cremeaux with kirsch sauce and Belgian beer sorbet. The food, atmosphere, and service were all classic La Bernadin for a much lower price.
Legacy Records (517 West 38) is a Chelsea hotspot. The charcoal-grilled quail (with watercress and peach) was very good, albeit pretty limited given the price. We had no such reservations with our two pasta dishes: ravioli with pumpkin, smoked leeks, and lobster mushrooms, and torchio pasta with surf clam, saffron, and lemon balm. Our wine was a Chianti Classico from Laola e Olana.
Marea (240 Central Park S. between 7th/8th) We have had dinners here but often go for their 2-course pre-fix lunch. enjoyed many lunches and dinners here. Our first courses have included: Astice with lobster, burrata, eggplant, and basil; a Granchio with lump crab, artichoke, capers, and mint; three crudos (Ono, Big Eye Tuna and our favorite, a Red Snapper); and grilled octopus. They all have been great. Second courses have included: Spaccatelli pasta with lump crab, uni, basil and chiles; Capesante, which consists of sea scallops, mussels, fava beans, fennel, and marcona almonds; a wonderful grilled Branzino with fava beans, agnolotti, morels, and ramp salsa verde;, and a somewhat less successful seared sea scallops with pear and green apple in a pork broth. The sea scallops were somewhat overlooked and the broth did not really complement the delicate scallops. Overall, we are always pleased with both the food and the service.
Mar (Hudson Yards) This full-service seafood restaurant is one section of Jose Andres’s Mercado Little Spain, a 35,000 square-foot food hall that features a wide range of Spanish-inspired food in NYC’s latest attraction Hudson Yards. Other primarily kiosk-based spots include those focused on wood-fired meats, charcuterie and cheeses, desserts and tapas, as well as bars. Our dinner consisted of a number of small dishes. We began with raw Spanish Bluefin tuna with olive oil and piparra pepper. We then had almond soup with baby shrimp and then garlic-sauteed shrimp and baby squid stuffed with soprasada on a bed of potato slices. We selected a bottle of 2016 Belondrade Lurton “Quibta Apollonia” verdejo. Overall, good service and a decent, albeit less than an inspired meal that we found to be somewhat overpriced—especially the unconscionable $32 for three tiny (about 1.5 inches) baby squid. They are still working on a “draft menu”, so we expect things will be changing.
Molyvos (871 7th Ave, @56th). We had three quite nice dishes at this Greek restaurant: Halloumi cheese flamed in Ouzo; pan-fried softshell crab; and grilled baby lamb ribs.
Osamil (5 West 31st Street between 5th/6th) At this popular Korean barbeque, we began with a dozen Happy Hour $1 Blue Point oysters. We followed up with two good, but less than exciting main dishes. These were Colorado lamb chops marinated in a sweetened-garlic soy sauce with bacon and yuzo on a bed of barley with burnt sunchoke, along with soy-marinated pork ribs with horseradish, pistachio, and scallion salad with watermelon radish. We enjoyed them with a bottle of 2013 Beronia Rioja Reserva. While this was OK, it will not be on our repeat list.
Per Se Salon. (10 Columbus Circle) Per Se is well known as a palace of three-star gastronomy, and price tags to match. But, while it is not mentioned on the restaurant’s Web site or in most reviews, Per Se also offers another option for sampling some of its masterpieces in a much less formal, much less expensive way. This does not suggest that an evening at the Salon is inexpensive and it is hard to get out for less than $250 to $300, we have absolutely no complaints with the value. Although we enjoyed the roasted quail (in an artichoke butter puree), we both ordered and both found the poached lobster with pumpkin puree to be pure heaven. We were regaled with complimentary extras including gougeres, salmon cornets with crème fraiche, housemade chocolates, and thyme shortbread to take home. The service, meanwhile, was flawless—knowledgeable, attentive, and friendly without being obsequious and with no hint of condescension for ordering only four dishes and one of the least expensive wines (a lovely Anthill Farms Pinot Noir) on the list. We look forward to returning.
Print (653 11th Ave between 47th/48th) Although we have read good things about this place, we were disappointed. Tom’s quail was pretty good, but it was not, as explained in the menu, stuffed with prosciutto and sage. It was not, in fact, stuffed with anything, The vegetables with which it was served were fine, but not at all distinct. Joyce had Red Snapper with fingerling potatoes, littleneck clams, chorizo, and fennel that was served in a broth that overwhelmed the taste of the fish. As for the service, no one ever came back to ask how the meal was and, despite servers standing all around, we had to pour much of our own wine.
Sakagura (211 E 43rd). We had a decent, fast lunch sharing grilled edamame, a selection of five sashimi (Bluefin tuna, salmon, fluke, amberjack, and scallop), and shrimp tempura.
Sen Sakana (28 West 44th) is a Peruvian/Japanese hybrid that brings back remembrances of some of the food we so enjoyed on our trip to Peru. We have eaten here multiple times. For a light meal, we started with edamame, followed by a very good shrimp appetizer wrapped in potato threads with passion fruit vinaigrette and a disappointingly tasteless shrimp and crab gyoza with lime ponzu. Then onto three types of sashimi: maguro, unagi, and madai (sea bream). Our sake was a pleasant, if not especially complex Soto Junmai. On another visit, a more substantial meal started with several small plates: shrimp and crab gyoza; Jalea (a combination of tempura shrimp, calamari, yucca, and a selection of sauces); and pork belly-wrapped mushroom yakitori. All were pretty good, but we found none to be particularly exciting. This all changed when our shared main dish arrived. Yaki Soba Saltado de Marisca is a delicious seafood-laden (shrimp, clams, calamari, mussels) delight with soba noodles in a bit of broth, with a combination of steamed vegetables—wonderful. So too was a bottle of Tedoriyawa Junmai Daijingo “Kinsho”—slightly fruity with savory notes and a smooth finish. Delightful on its own and with our dinner.
Txikito (240 9th Ave beween24th/25th) This Basque tapas restaurant has a limited, but adequate menu. The excellent octopus carpaccio had a very generous serving of paper-thin tentacle rounds with olive oil, lemon, marjoram, and pimento. The Navarran white beans with mussels and white wine, green asparagus with baby shitakes, cauliflower puree and soft poached egg and gratin of artichoke with Roncal cheese and ham was also good. The following were enjoyable but less than memorable dishes. These were deviled crab on toast, lamb meatballs in mint broth, and Iberico ham and shrimp gnocchi with squid ink mushrooms and herbs. We had one pintxo that we found to be disappointing: tiny grilled cheese sandwiches filled with a thin paste of cheese and porcini mushroom spread.
The Foundry Kitchen & Bar (270 W 43rd St). We didn’t expect much from this place in a Westin Hotel as it seemed more of a bar place than a food place. But we needed to squeeze in an early evening meal between our arrival in the city and an early play. So we tried it. Our meal was surprisingly good. Our dishes were two classic comfort foods—a blue cheeseburger and chicken pot pie, along with a 2015 Branccia “Tre” Super Tuscan.
Yakitori Totto (251 W 55th St. 2nd Fl.) If you didn’t know about this casual, inexpensive skewer food bar-restaurant, you might walk right by it. The door leads to a dark stairwell. You go up to the second floor to another door that opens into a fairly small narrow restaurant. Once inside, we were reminded of the ubiquitous yakitori bars that line Tokyo’s subterranean network of walkways and are frequented by Japanese “salarymen”. We shared eight different chicken and pork part skewers along with edamame and unagi don (three skewers of eel atop a bowl of lightly seasoned rice). A tasty and inexpensive lunch at a very popular, small restaurant. No reservations and expect lines if you come at peak times.
Midtown East/NoMad/Flat Iron/Gramercy/Murray Hill
ABCV (38 East 19th Street,) is a Jean-George vegetarian restaurant in the ABC store. We shared a small dinner beginning with dates stuffed with whipped coconut yogurt and mint followed by hazelnut fusilli pasta with tomato puree and toasted hazelnut. While both were good (although the yogurt was a bit sour for our tastes), the food was not exciting enough for us to rush back. We choose a Bride of the Fox junmai ginjo sake from the very limited wine list.
ABC Kitchen (35 E 18th St). We have eaten here several times. One time we loved it but that last time we were underwhelmed with our four small dishes; crab toast with lemon aioli, tuna sashimi marinated in ginger and mint, spinach, and ricotta omelet and buttermilk and cheddar biscuit.
Ai Fiori (400 5th Avenue 2nd Level) is a Michelin-starred Italian restaurant where we had two dishes: citrus butter-poached lobster with artichokes, chanterelles, and leeks and a veal chop with root vegetables and veal Blanquette sauce. Both dishes were very good (albeit for the lobster’s somewhat overly citrusy butter) and the service was excellent. Our wine was a nicely-paired 2014 Barbaresco.
Atoboy (43 E 28th St,) is a prix-fixe Korean restaurant from the chef of the two Michelin-starred Atomix. Diners select from a choice of three options for four courses, each of which had an interesting combination of tastes with a moderately (but not especially spicy) Korean flair. Our meal started with a standard amuse bouche-like item of rice flurry between two pieces of dried seaweed. Each of us chose different subsequent courses, all of which were very good. These included fried squash with a Korean-style dressing, squid stuffed with clam cream, halibut with king crab and leek, duck breast with beets, blueberry semifreddo with sesame crumble, and mocha. Our wine was a 2020 Keller Limestone Kabinett Riesling.
Catch NYC (21 9th @ 13th). This is the New York incarnation of the hit, casual LA restaurant. While its menu is small, we enjoyed both the grilled octopus with crispy potatoes and the grilled swordfish.
Cosme (35 E 21st St). This very popular Mexican restaurant has a tremendous bar business and offers a limited food menu. We began with the standard of blue corn chips and creamy guacamole and uni tostada with bone marrow salsa and cucumber, both of which were very good. These were followed by two larger dishes. The blue shrimp a la veracruzano (with garlic oil, olives, and avocado), had the ingredients of a traditional Veracruz preparation but were unexpectedly all served raw. We ended with softshell crab with corn and chile. The softshell crab itself was nice, but the sauce was surprisingly sour. After a very citrusy Margarita, we shifted to a bottle of Gruner Veltliner. While it was overall okay, but we won’t rush back.
Empellon (510 Madison). Tom found the crab nachos with sea urchin queso to be incredible: Joyce at least found them edible. She loved the king salmon tartar with gooseberry and trout roe salsa (as long as the serrano chiles were at least 18-inches from the plate as she does not like anything chili. Tom included the peppers and found it to be fine, but uninspired. Tom also enjoyed the Octopus Taco with salsa verde. Joyce reluctantly accepted pieces of the tentacle that had not been remotely contaminated by the salsa, even though it had virtually no heat. She, in fact, was so turned off by the food that she would not even accede to ordering guacamole which (as long as it has no onions or pepper) she normally loves. We enjoyed the Mezcal margarita but found the pomegranate version to be too fruity for our tastes. We both enjoyed the Gruner Veltliner we had by the glass but were disappointed in the Riesling.
L’Amico (849 Avenue of the Americas). This popular, casual Italian-American brasserie from Laurent Tourondel is where we shared two appetizers, an entrée, and, of course, a bottle of wine. We began with prosciutto with pear and gorgonzola and veal/pork meatballs with tomato sauce, both of which were good. The entrée consisted of branzino fillets separated by a layer of porcini duxelles, in a Meyer lemon broth. All very good, as long as you didn’t have too much lemon with the fish. The wine was a light, fruity and good 2012 Morellino di Seansano, which is a Sangiovese-based blend from southern Tuscany. Our grade: about a C+. OK but no need to return.
Marta (29 E 29th St) is a very good Italian restaurant where we have eaten several times. It opens early and one can have a fast pre-theater meal. We enjoyed an appetizer of chicken meatballs in a thick, tasty tomato sauce with mounds of ricotta cheese. On a previous trip, the rabbit meatballs with black olives and ricotta and then Manila clams, mussels, smoked tomato growth, and grilled pizza bread were disappointing. But not disappointing are their pizza.. The soprosata, guanciale, pork sausage, mozzarella and Grana Padano was very good. Our wine was a light, fruity 2020 Clafino-Monte Dall’Ora Valpolicella.
Upland (345 Park Ave S). We had 3 dishes at this northern California-style restaurant.. The huge, whole, lightly-fried hen-of-the-woods mushroom on a bed of creamy cloumage cheese was a hit. The grilled Long Island duck breast with artichokes in a cherry sauce was good. However, the pappardelle with spicy sausage ragu with kale and parmigiano was underwhelming.
Zuma (261 Madison) This ultra-popular Upper East Side branch of an Asian chain is well worth the popularity and the price. The large, open space is beautifully designed. The menu, with everything from sushi to robata and tempura, offered something for everyone–from everyday standards to exotic house specialties. Our meal consisted of several small plates: prawn and black cod dumplings, sea bass sashimi with truffle oil, salmon roe, and yuzu; seafood and vegetable tempura; grilled Alaskan king crab with ponzu lime butter. For dessert, we had an amazing yuzu cheesecake with raspberry granita and black sesame. While the tempura was lightly fried, crisp, and good, it was relatively standard fare. Each of the other dishes had some distinguishing taste and/or texture that separated them from the ordinary and left lasting memories. The service was attentive, knowledgeable, and friendly and the sommelier guided us to a lovely inexpensive sake (Dasia 50) that complemented the meal and the experience.
Greenwich Village/Lower East Side/SoHo
Alta Restaurant (64th West 10th). We were disappointed in the rather dry and tasteless lamb meatballs with red pepper and brown butter labneh. Fortunately, we enjoyed three other dishes: grilled wild shrimp with chorizo, garlic, and sherry vinaigrette; a dessert of butterscotch budino with honeycomb, candied lemon, and chocolate ganache; and the favorite dish of the evening: braised rabbit loin with whipped lemon-parsnip and fried shallots. Our wine from the extensive, and relatively expensive Mediterranean-focused list, was a disappointingly fruitless Castillo di Nieve Barbaresco.
Estela (47 E Houston St,). We shared an amuse bouche of fried salt cod and potato fritters and three small plates: risotto dumplings with mushrooms and pecorino sardo; quail with chanterelles, mustard greens and croutons in a light broth; and lamb ribs with chermoula and honey. While the combinations were interesting, we found everything over-salted and the wine list very expensive. Overall, a disappointment.
Carbone’s (181 Thompson Street). This is a very fancy, very pricey, white tablecloth classic Italian restaurant with huge portions. We sat down to lovely plates of prosciutto, pecorino romano, and marinated cauliflower. Our dinners consisted of grilled basa with beans and a huge delicious medium-rare grilled veal chop in a very rich marsala sauce with two large bunches of grilled oyster mushrooms.
The Clam, (420 Hudson) This neighborhood seafood restaurant in the West Village does a splendid job. The steamed littlenecks in wine and lemon broth and the especially brioche sliders stuffed with lobster and fried belly clams, with a bit of chive mayo, were delicious. While we were greatly tempted by a few other dishes, including a scallop crudo and spaghetti with white clam sauce and shaved truffles that were highly recommended by our neighbors, we could not resist another taste of the sliders. The food, the service, and the bottle of Marsanne that we shared were all wonderful.
Madame Vo (212 E 10th St,) is a popular Greenwich Village Vietnamese restaurant where we lunch with a friend. We shared shrimp summer rolls with peanut sauce; Madame Pho with beef broth, rice noodles, brisket, eye round and meatballs; fried rice with prawns, sausage, onions, and fried garlic; and a Vietnamese crepe with prawns, pork belly, and fish sauce. We complimented lunch with a few Singha beers. All of the dishes were good.
Nomad. (78 Second Ave). We can rarely get a reservation here but we often can get in as a walk-in. And for the second time, we had a very good meal and very good service. Dinner consisted of a serving of gougère and two entrees: poached lobster with morels, snap peas, and lemongrass and suckling pig confit (with wonderfully crisped skin) with apricot, arugula, and bacon marmalade. This with a nice bottle of Cote de Nuit Pinot Noir.
Pastis (52 Gansevoort Street). We had a very nice lunch at this West Village bistro of moules frites and beef bourguignon.
Red Farm (529 Hudson). This is the original branch of this restaurant. The steamed lobster dumplings with mushrooms were good, but not quite as interesting as we had expected. The pork and crab soup dumplings were large and filled with far more, more concentrated, and better-tasting soup than we typically get in soup dumplings. Tom enjoyed the jumbo, sautéed shrimp, and vegetables in slightly spiced XO sauce (which was a bit too spicy for Joyce).
The Dutch. ( 131 Sullivan St, ) This is another winner. We began with ceviche and a quinoa and squash salad. The halibut with yuzu butter and tobiko;, smoked and roasted chicken; and striped bass with mussel-lemongrass curry were all good.
Veselka (144 2nd Avenue, at 9th St). We had two types of borscht at this Ukrainian restaurant, one vegetarian and the other a Ukrainian style with meat, cabbage rolls, cheese blintz, and five different types of pierogi. All were very good and very filling. The food is a bit heavy for a steady diet but very nice for an occasional Eastern European treat.
Via Carota (51 Grove) is a very popular (read packed) casual Italian eatery in West Greenwich Village where we’ve eaten several times. On our first meal, we had three wonderful dishes and a bottle of wine. We began with an appeaser of Tuscan beans with tomato and Italian sausage, followed by two main dishes of lightly fried rabbit with rosemary and roasted garlic and an only slightly less interesting pappardelle with wild boar ragu. Our wine was a 2016 Rocca di Montegrossa Chianti Classico. On our second visit , we had mixed reactions. The special was a very good pappardelle with lamb ragu. The mushrooms with lentils were good, except that the dish was swimming in butter. Our greatest disappointment was the dry, not very tasty lamb meatballs with tomato sauce.
Downtown (Chinatown to Bowery)
Batard. (239 W Broadway) We found the food here pretty good, but not especially memorable. This, however, was partially due to our tight schedule that forced us to move quickly through our meal. We began with two appetizers: ocean trout with cured cucumber, clams, sour cream, and salmon roe, and Canadian lobster with carrot fondue, roasted parsnip, and chervil. These were the best dishes of the evening. Our entrees were a bit of a letdown with branzino with butternut squash, grilled lettuce and pumpkin seed vinaigrette, and duck breast with duck au jus with port wine, persimmon purée, duck liver, and mushroom crepe. Although we had high expectations for the epoisses with mushroom vinaigrette, apricot, and grilled baguette dessert, the epoisses was not quite warm enough to unleash its wonderful taste. Service, however, was prompt and efficient and the wine list was reasonably priced.
Cookshop (156 10th Ave between 19th/20th) was a very good lunch stop. We began with a delicious roasted honeynut squash with toasted, spiced pumpkin seed crunch with chili and sea salt. We also enjoyed a pizza, a nicely crisped pie with pork sausage, mozzarella, red onions, and chili.
Dr. Clark (104 Bayard St) is a Hokkaido Grill where we shared a delicious multi-course northern Japanese meal with friends. We started with a smoked, Hokkaido version of Yellowtail sashimi. We progressed through a risotto omelet, an uni pasta, and culminating in the dish for which the restaurant is named and best known—a dish of thin-sliced lamb mixed with assorted vegetables and cooked on a tabletop grill. All were delicious with a bottle of Kunimari Giapu Junmai sake. The only very minor negative was the tasty, but somewhat tough lamb.
Ed’s Lobster Bar (222 Lafayette St,) We needed a light lunch after spending most of the day in the Whitney Museum. Ed’s, which is a block away from the museum, provided the answer: a healthy-sized lobster roll stuffed with large chunks, light on the mayo and absent fillers.
Frankie and Johnnie’s. (various locations). The large, juicy ribeye was good, if somewhat overly salted. For a steakhouse, Joyce’s grilled salmon was perfect. The “onion rings” on the menu, turned out to be onion strings. While tasty, the onion was imperceptible. The service was friendly and helpful.
Golden Unicorn (18 E Broadway). We’ve been to this highly rated dim sum restaurant several times and have never been disappointed. We enjoy their shrimp dumplings, shrimp shumai, chiu chao dumplings (filled with peanuts, garlic, chives, pork and mushrooms), a very nice combination steamer that included lobster, pork, shrimp, vegetable, and swan dumplings (minced seafood in a wheat wrapper) and an absolutely wonderful shrimp dumpling filled with mushrooms, water chestnuts, and chives in a chicken broth with chopped scallions. The egg rolls are also good. Our only disappointment has been their Xiao Long Bau (soup dumplings). When served, three of five whose wrappers were torn and had lost their soup.