Goings On About Town: Food & Drink
Refinery Hotel: The Refinery Rooftop has “a stunningly gorgeous view of the Empire State Building,” while, downstairs, Winnie’s Lobby Bar is “uncrowded, friendly, and soothing—qualities that midtown office workers have learned not to hope for—and the absurd drinks on offer turn out to be terrific.”
Little Lamb: “The menu offers a handful of excellent things that arrive ready to eat—perfectly flaky scallion pancakes; cumin-rubbed, lusciously fatty lamb ribs ‘grilled until the tasty come out’—but none are quite as satisfying as what comes out of the pot.”
Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club: “Cocktails are named for legends of the game—the Earl Ball is made with Old Forester bourbon, fresh pineapple and lemon juice, ginger, and black-pepper syrup, and is as sweet as can be; the Jim Allen includes Herradura tequila, orange liqueur, and mezcal.”
Telepan Local: Amelia Lester on the Tribeca restaurant: “It’s hard to know how much ironic distance was intended from TGI Fridays when Bill Telepan, the Upper West Side’s undisputed king of the greenmarket, put together the menu for his downtown venture, but you might wish there’d been more.”
Narcissa: “There’s nothing remotely rustic about the crowd, many of whom seem to be V.I.P.s, chatting matter-of-factly about meetings at the Vatican and photo shoots in Qatar ... But when it comes to the food, the grange concept rings true.”
Contra: Amelia Lester on the Lower East Side restaurant: “Wines with nicknames are a sure sign that you’re dealing with the cool kids, and that’s exactly how eating at Contra feels: sometimes it’s too clever by half, but sometimes it’s thrilling.”
William Barnacle Tavern: Nearly two dozen varieties of absinthe, the bar’s featured drink, are served in the traditional manner: “icy water is poured over a torched sugar cube, dissolving it in a reservoir of the verdant liquor.”
All'Onda: “Who can resist arancini? The rice in the fried bite-size spheres at All’Onda is mixed not with the classic Fontina cheese but with jet-black squid ink. They are garnished with scoops of fresh uni, resulting in a rapid progression of sensations—creamy, crunchy, oozy—and then they’re gone.”
Beast of Bourbon: “There are more than forty beers on tap and two hundred-plus whiskeys, ryes, and bourbons—from Catdaddy corn whiskey, which tastes like bubblegum cough syrup, to James E. Pepper 1776 fifteen-year-old bourbon, reminiscent of oak and toasted caramel.”
Foragers City Table: “For those city-dwellers who live in apartments without kitchen counter space, it’s the highest compliment to say that you would like to eat at a particular restaurant every Tuesday night. Foragers Table is such a place.”
Betony: “If you live for people-watching, and for floor-length mink coats, and for lines like ‘I don’t want to be on the family dole,’ you’ll be in Heaven at Betony. If you disdain those things, you’ll have no trouble tuning them out, thanks to the spectacular new-American food, distinctive cocktails, and impeccable service.”
Elixir Lounge: Marilyn Sulay and Lidia Jimenez, the trans women owners of this L.G.B.T. bar in Astoria, “rehash the dark boudoir décor of Manhattan and Brooklyn speakeasies, and then heap on the frills: high-backed tufted banquettes, laser lights, and TVs playing music videos that are out of synch, by decades, with the d.j.’s Beyoncé and dancified Lana Del Rey.”
Saul: Amelia Lester on the new-American restaurant situated in the back of the Brooklyn Museum: “Maybe it’s the square dinner plates, or their tableau-like composition, but there’s a generic, business-class quality to the eating experience. When the strawberry-balsamic ice cream and the baked Alaska arrive, the sense of being in a Ritz-Carlton in the late nineteen-nineties is fully realized.”
Fung Tu: Hannah Goldfield on the Lower East Side Chinese restaurant: “Intention versus outcome is a problem across the menu at Fung Tu. But the dishes that work—like those duck-stuﬀed dates, and a plate of impossibly silky roasted beet slices daubed with salty fermented tofu—really work, and Wu’s ideas could go a long way toward redefining American Chinese food.”
Rotisserie Georgette -- Amelia Lester on the Upper East Side restaurant: “Diverging from the restaurant’s signature dish is not encouraged by the waitstaff, many of whom are French and have strong and abundant opinions on how the meal should proceed. It’s easiest to sink into one of the red banquettes, or a high-backed carriage chair up front, and surrender to the subtle opulence of the experience.”
Wise Men -- “The bar’s interior is retro L.E.S.: red-and-black, geometric, boozy, meaty, with lamps that resemble chess players in ‘Through the Looking Glass.’ ... On weekends, the regulars—editors, artists, locals—dance to records spun by AndrewAndrew, Jah Cousteau, or, recently, Nick Zinner, from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.”
Café Nadery: “It’s owned by a collective of some twenty Iranian-Americans, and pays homage to an Iranian landmark. The renowned Naderi Café, built in 1928 in Tehran, was the place where writers and philosophers went to hobnob in its mid-twentieth-century heyday.”
Hannah Goldfield on Aita: “It’s the ultimate neighborhood restaurant, the type of place where the food hits the sweet spot of being good (not to mention affordable) enough to warrant regular visits by locals but not so outstanding or in vogue that those locals find themselves vying for space with the destination-eating hordes.”
Grace: “As a counterpoint to the abiding masculinity of the pub scene, the owners named the place for Grace O’Malley, the sixteenth-century Irish pirate and folk hero, and commissioned the city’s fiercest female bartenders to design cocktails.”
Sushi Nakazawa: In this West Village sushi restaurant, “everyone gets the same thing: omakase. There is no soy sauce for dipping; only freshly pickled ginger and a wet cloth, so you can eat the traditional way, with your fingers. But this is not a hushed temple—Nakazawa starts cracking jokes before the first piece of salmon hits a granite slab.”
The King Cole: The menu at this St. Regis hotel bar “features six kinds of Bloody Mary, which the King Cole claims to have invented in the nineteen-thirties. They call the original the Red Snapper, and it’s spicy, irresistible, and strong.”
Bar Centrale: Amelia Lester reviews the hidden theatre-district bar: “Past heavy blue velvet curtains is a quiet drawing room, run with such discretion that you’ll likely never realize how many of the other drinkers are show-biz luminaries.”
The Lambs Club: A three-year-old bar and restaurant that feels like a shrine to things past: “What the Lambs Club does best befits its throwback vibe: the boozy business lunch ... Order the pastrami sandwich and you’ll find a small army of those dapper waiters at your service: one to present the glistening slab of almost baconlike Wagyu beef, one to carve it tableside, and one to assemble it on rye with your choice of condiments.”
The Leadbelly: “The cocktails are unfussy and topnotch, classier versions of classics ... Depending on the evening, you can sip them to the dulcet tones of a live bossa-nova trio or the punchy arrangements of a ragtime pianist.”
Charlie Bird: “The food is comforting, with some ingenious additions, like uni in a creamy duck-egg spaghetti, and mint and pistachios in a lemony farro salad. But Charlie Bird is expensive—paying less than a hundred dollars a person is difficult.”
In the early eighties, Johnny Cash and his wife, June, spent a quarter of their time in an apartment on Central Park South. Their youngest son, John Carter Cash, recalls their fondness for Carnegie Deli, where “they’d always order lox, cheese blintzes, and matzo-ball soup.” nyr.kr/18KgwWJ (Sketch by Jorge Colombo.)
Carbone: Nick Paumgarten on the Greenwich Village Italian restaurant: “The portions and the prices are as formidable as the pretense and the patter. The garlic bread is good, and you eat too much of it, so that the veal chop, served with a marsala sauce, is not so much ‘abracadabra’ as it is ‘my Lord.’”
Corvo Bianco: Amelia Lester on the modern Italian bar and restaurant: “Judging by the preponderance of women in halter tops and nervy solo guys checking their Blackberries, Corvo Bianco is a favorite choice for Match.com meet-ups, perhaps because it’s one of the few places in the neighborhood approximating the high-decibel, hostess-table experience of a downtown boîte.”
Amelia Lester dines at Atrium: “The menu doesn’t offer the kind of casual fare the residents of this restaurant-starved area might want to eat on a Tuesday night: there’s no burger, for instance, but there is a veal-chop special, served with pre-recession quantities of shaved truffle.”
Eleven Madison Park: John Colapinto writes about the legendary Flatiron restaurant: “When you step through Eleven Madison Park's revolving door, you see not a maître d' behind a lectern but a greeter, who shakes your hand as if welcoming you into his home. The casualness is illusory.” nyr.kr/18KhPF3 (Photo by Zach Gross.)
Babbo: In his profile of the restaurant’s co-owner Mario Batali, Bill Buford writes about the chef’s unique cooking style: “Batali is not thought of as a conventional cook, in the business of serving food for profit; he’s in the much murkier enterprise of stimulating outrageous appetites and satisfying them aggressively.” nyr.kr/18KgwpC (Photo by Ruven Afanador.)
Rubirosa: Porfirio Rubirosa was a midcentury playboy and rumored assassin who counted Doris Duke and Marilyn Monroe among his conquests. However, “Rubirosa is rather conspicuously lower on glamour than its namesake” with a menu that sticks to the basics.
Luksus: You’ll find New York’s only beer-tasting menu in this sparse Scandinavian setting in the heart of Polish Greenpoint. Daniel Burns, formerly of Momofuku’s R. & D. test kitchen and the renowned Copenhagen restaurant Noma, serves “unexpected and elegant” food and “fanciest bar snacks you’re likely to find” with adventurous beers to match.
Bistro Petit: True to its name, this South Williamsburg restaurant has only eleven counter seats and a few tables outside, weather permitting. The food is mostly French, though often tinged with the flavors of Korea: “A special of Beef Bourguignon Korean Style was comforting enough to evoke anyone’s grandmother, be she French, Korean, or neither.”
Uncle Boons: “A subterranean den of wood paneling and curated kitsch,” Uncle Boons offers what many Thai restaurants these days lack: creativity. Massaman curry is made with tender beef cheeks, and fried rice receives fresh crab. But, be warned: two innocent-looking dishes, a chicken-and-banana-blossom salad and the lamb laab “are designed to set your mouth on fire.”
Reynards: Ariel Levy reviews the restaurant inside Williamsburg’s Wythe Hotel: “In some ways, Reynards offers what one wishes a dining experience in Manhattan would be: kindness instead of attitude, inoffensive prices, glorious food, and aesthetic variety—the clientele is split roughly in half between the stylish and the schlumpy.”
Calliope: This “unabashedly retro” French bistro at the lower end of the East Village differentiates itself from the many pubs in its vicinity with its glamorous menu of terrines, tarts, tripe, and rabbit—“in other words, grownup food, which arrives as a whisper, not a shout.”
The Bowery Diner: “Though it doesn’t always succeed at either, the Bowery Diner’s menu aspires to satisfy adult cravings as well as childhood ones.” The grilled cheese, tuna tartare, and fried chicken fall short, but the milkshake (with peanut butter, maple syrup, and optional shots of alcohol) will “keep alive the elusive diner dream.”
Pig and Khao: Leah Cohen, a former “Top Chef” contestant, created the menu based on street food from Thailand and the Philippines. And while the concept harks back to David Chang’s Momofuku empire—the Asian fusion cuisine, the hip setting, the focus on animal fat—“the formula doesn’t work as smoothly.”
Aamanns-Copenhagen: Described as “Le Pain Quotidien with a Scandinavian makeover,” this American outpost of a Danish sandwich restaurant is owned by Adam Aamann, the man credited for popularizing traditional the Nordic open-faced sandwiches known as smørrebrød. Most sandwiches are served cold, but traditional toppings often give way to more artful ones, like “beef tartare studded with potato chips.”
Marco’s: Run by the people who opened Franny’s ten years ago, Marco’s is a fancier restaurant where “the pastas are the primi, rather than the main event.” Ingredients are carefully chosen and showcased simply, and most of the menu represents a new standard for Brooklyn.
Proletariat: This tiny beer-zealot hideaway “retains the coziness of a speakeasy—it has just eighteen stools and one table—though with its framed images of skulls, roses, and other vintage tattoos it brings to mind the rowdier end of St. Marks Place”
Chez José: Chez Jose is a “roving reservation-only restaurant,” and its chefs, José Ramírez-Ruiz and Pamela Yung, are the only employees—they serve dishes, pour wine, bus tables and prepare ten courses every Tuesday and Thursday night. For now, their elegant, vegetable-focussed tasting menu is served beneath a Dairy Queen-style menu board advertising “cheese fish” and “Western fries.”
The Breslin: Located in the Ace Hotel, April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman’s second venture is a “dark, boozy restaurant” that is arranged “purposely higgledy-piggledy. The idea is that, in a seductive room, you should not be able to see every seat from every other one.” Like at the Spotted Pig, the burgers are only made one way: this time with lamb and feta, instead of beef and Roquefort.
Russian Vodka Room: “There is good reason to take to the bar, or a table in the back room, even if you don’t want to get sloshed, as the kitchen is turning out carefully cooked, generously portioned classics: hot borscht, smoked-trout salad, gravlax with potato pancakes.”
The Shanty: The in-house bar of New York Distilling Co., which makes gin and rye, was once a truck-transmission repair shop. “In a Martini, they use the company’s floral, slightly less intoxicating Dorothy Parker. Explaining the name, Potter said, ‘She struck us as the type of person you’d like to have a drink with.’”
Jean Georges: This is one of only ten restaurants in the United States to achieve a three-star Michelin rating. John Colapinto visited Jean Georges with an undercover Michelin inspector in 2009: “She asked the waiter to give her a minute and then leaned in to me. Inspectors love it when they ask a question and can tell that a waiter has made up an answer, she explained, adding, ‘That never happens here.’”
Whitman & Bloom Liquor Company: This two-and-a-half level enterprise is “speakeasy-meets-farmhouse chic,” with cocktails that err on the sweet side and Israeli-inspired dishes like lamb tartare, with olives, yogurt, and pine nuts, and chicken-liver pâté with caramelized-onion marmalade.
Hunan Manor: Hunan Manor, a Manhattan outpost of Hunan House, in Flushing, “may look like any other Chinese restaurant in the Grand Central Terminal vicinity—dark wood interior, deliveryman in fluorescent vest, fortune cookies with the check—and the menu has plenty of Americanized favorites, but there are few places outside of Queens that offer the food of Mao’s birthplace.”
Toro: This outpost of a Boston tapas restaurant offers an overwhelming selection of hot, cold, and grilled tapas, plus pinchos (smaller tapas) and paellas. But “in a city with so much great, affordable food, not to mention transcendent, expensive food, it’s a little hard to understand this uneven newcomer’s appeal.”
Glasserie: Go with a crowd because “the best thing on the menu is a rabbit feast, designed for sharing. … The rabbit is prepared three ways: as chewy kebab-style chunks, for drizzling with a tahini sauce; on a leg bone, well matched with lightly pickled vegetables; and in an umami-rich onion stew, the perfect excuse for eating more ‘flaky bread,’ essentially a paratha that leaves a satisfying film of grease on the fingers.”
City Grit: At this reservations-only “culinary salon,” owner Sarah Simmons hosts dinners made by different chefs several nights a week for a room full of strangers. The excitement is “genuine, and infectious, and you might just hear a story, at the table or in the food, that you wouldn’t have otherwise.”
Court Street Grocers: “If a deli is only as good as its egg-and-cheese, Court Street Grocers rules them all with the Mr. Victor: creamy scrambled eggs, melted white Cheddar, arugula, and a split hickory-smoked sausage, on a buttered roll.”
Glady's: A new restaurant in Crown Heights is elevating the sandwich “from a pedestrian fast food to something worth sitting down and waiting for,” with healthy choices like the Brocc’ Obama, featuring the trendy combination of broccoli and ricotta, to the Abra Kebabra, a flatbread stuffed with fatty porchetta, crunchy thrice-cooked French fries, caper mayo, and sweet chili.
Shalom Japan: The food at this Jewish-Japanese restaurant—opened by the husband and wife duo Aaron Israel and Sawako Okochi—is “fusion in the truest sense,” with Matzah Ball Ramen and miniature challahs made with yeast left over from sake brewing.
Umami Burger: Hannah Goldfield on the “supremely delicious” burgers at the first East Coast outpost of this popular California restaurant: “It’s a risky move, opening a burger joint in a burger town … It’s downright bold to open a burger joint that purports to blow them all out of the water.”
The Spotted Pig: At New York’s first gastropub, burgers are only served one way: char-grilled, on a brioche bun, topped with crumbled Roquefort. Only Lou Reed, who lived in the neighborhood, was allowed to have his burger with onions.
Momofuku Noodle Bar: When Chef David Chang rented the six-hundred-square-foot storefront in 2004, he asked some of his friends to come in on it with him. None of them did—thinking the venture would surely fail—and he opened the first Momofuku himself. A restaurant empire, and a New York obsession, was born.
Malagueta: Sophie Brickman joins Brazilian chef Alex Atala at Malagueta, where the owner “ushered Atala inside, then ran into the kitchen and quickly returned with a plate of acaraje, a cake of mashed black-eyed peas topped with dried shrimp and fish cream, and some grilled Brazilian sausage. The patrons, mostly Brazilian, looked on, eyes raised.”