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Apr 11, 2001 11:39 PM

seeking local hound's perspective re: nyc dining

  • g

I have some nice problems. I need to chose between Daniel, Cafe Boulud and Le Bernardin for a special occasion to be celebrated in Manhattan.

I have read all the recent postings on the Manhattan board and have searched past postings - my head is spinning! Now I know what visitors to SF must feel like in making dining decisions.

Any additional recommendations for fabulous food not to be missed besides 'white tablecloth' also would be greatly appreciated.

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  1. I have not tried Cafe Boulud, so I cant comment on that, but for the other two:
    In my eyes, it boils down to one factor: fish or not to fish. Le Bernardin is renowned for their fish dishes and it is excellent. I, however, am a meat person and prefer Daniel. But truthfully, you wont be disappointed in either. Since you're not asking for any other fine dining places, I wont go into that, but you cant miss either Carnegie or Stage Deli's sandwiches (I like Stage's a little better), their pastrami is incredible. I know there are better delis probably in NY, but these are easy to find (both on 7th) and they blow away anything we have here in SF. I have high hopes for the new East/West(name??) deli opening on Polk near Clay, but we'll see. Also, dont believe all the hype about Peter Luger - we took a cab out to Brooklyn and were not blown away - I liked Spark's better (and no huge cab ride).

    1. as a former new yorker (and believer that new york does indeed top san fran as a chowhound town), i can't resist throwing in my two cents, though i must warn that i haven't lived there in 2 years, so some of these places could have made a turn for the worse - though i doubt it.

      never went to cafe boulud, but was actually turned off by the snootiness of daniel when i went. i much prefer jean georges for amazing creative french fusion - or my favorite place in new york is grammercy tavern - for the most excellent service (friendly and informative and perfect) you may ever see, a wonderfully relaxed yet elegant setting, and superb food.

      as for delis, since it was mentioned in another post, carnegie is great (better than stage imho), but 2nd ave or katz's are better - katz's especially for the corned beef and pastrami, 2nd ave for divine chopped liver.

      other stuff i love - the best cookies in the world at levain bakery on the upper west side, amazing fries with endless sauce choices at Pommes Frites, a basic New York hot dog (perfection) at Greys Papaya (beats papaya king hands down), the gelato at Cones is worth a trip down to Bleecker St and is the best i've ever had in the US, lobster rolls and mussels at Pearl Oyster Bar (right near Cones as well as Murray's Cheese Shop!!!), I could go on and on.

      There are a few excellent vegetarian indian places - Madras Mahal and Pongal being two of my favorites - that are worth a visit as you won't find indian up to this level of quality and authenticity in most of the country.

      if you want to go to brooklyn, there is a place called La Bouillabaise which serves great, yes, bouillabaise and an AMAZING seafood curry. cute tiny little place with great food at great prices - bring your own wine.

      i could probably go on and on - but i'll stop at that - enjoy!!!

      1 Reply
      1. re: brad kaplan

        I just moved to CA from NY. I used to think SF was the best food town in the country until I moved to NY. I think NY is better for a lot of different cuisines but SF wins for freshness, produce, mexican. Now that I am back I'm looking forward to tasting the changes. I'm in LA now but hope to get to SF soon.
        Gramercy Tavern wins in my book, too.

      2. I lived in NYC for 5 years and have lived in SF for nearly 2 now. From an eating AND cooking perspective, I think San Francisco is a better food city but that's not the discussion we're getting into here.

        For that kind of high end dining, I don't know if you are looking for recommendations from the 3 that you named or if you may also be entertaining ideas. Hadn't been to Cafe Boulud but if I had to pick amongst the 3, I wouldn't do any of them. If you want French, I'd recommend Lespinasse or Jean-Georges. If you want fish, I love Oceana. Inside, you feel like you're in an old cruise liner and I liked that environment better than what I thought was a very stale business environment at Le Bernadin. Both have great fish but I just like Oceana better.

        One fabulous day I lived in New York started out with lunch at Gotham. They have a great $20 prix-fixe lunch that is absolutely fantastic. However, to get the stuff we loved we had to veer off from that. Next stop was Gramercy Tavern bar. Great place to have a bottle of wine with some cheese for a slow, decadent afternoon. Finally, we started to rev up a bit by going to Balthazar, having the seafood platter with cold champagne. Don't know if you're looking to live like that but it's a lot of fun!

        One other place that I have to hit when I return in a few weeks is Nha Trang in Chinatown. Great Vietnamese "dive" for almost no money. I haven't been able to find anything close in this city and boy, do I miss it!

        1 Reply
        1. re: Tida

          I haven't lived in NY for many years and have been in SF for over 20 but have been back for several eating and art trips in the last few years. The produce in SF is the best, but we can't touch NY for service and grand dining experiences. Splurge big and go for Daniel, not the cafe. The floral displays are incredible, not just a big vase ala Chez Panisse, but whole walls of fruit and flowers. When they gave our table to Larry King (we could tell, not everyone would have known) they served us an appetizer with full set up in the bar,comped our drinks and gave us champagne when we were seated.(And I wasn't dripping in jewels like the other diners). I've been kept waiting longer for my reservation in SF without even an apology.The food all three times over a five year period has always been perfect.
          I found everyone at Jean-George snotty. We were the only ones not a size 3 or under 30. The food was lovely but very architectural and the dining room is
          VERY austere. Don't spill and wear all black.
          Lespinasse is a beautiful room with very lovely European service. The food wasn't quite as inventive as the above two but wonderful none the less.You will know you are not in laid back SF.Heavy silver and napkins the size of a tablecloth.
          Le Bernadin was great for being close to the theatre but I was not as excited about it as the above 3.Aqua is just as good.
          Go for a BIG place that just isn't and probably can't be done in SF.

        2. b
          Barry Kaufman

          I grew up in the food and liquor business in NYC - for what's it worth here is my list:
          Gotham Grill - my all time favorite
          Union Square Grill --- always good
          Tabla - new wonderful and creative french/indian ----- 55th and Madison
          La Zinc in Tribeca area - just wonderful
          Asia de Cuba - Cuban Chinese Food ---- excellent and cheap
          Happy Garden in Chinatown - best Cantonese food in NYC
          Also make sure you stop by Bridge Kitchenware on 52nd --- nothing like it SF - where all the top NY chefs shop

          Also check out Brooklyn ---- particularly the Carol Gardens area

          8 Replies
          1. re: Barry Kaufman

            "Also make sure you stop by Bridge Kitchenware on 52nd --- nothing like it SF - where all the top NY chefs shop"

            What do you make of Economy Restaurant Fixtures as compared with Bridge? It's a big warehouse full of restaurant/kitchen equipment where SF chefs shop. Details follow.

            It's been around since 1964; they give 20% discount to the general public, 30% off to food industry pros. Great fun to wander around on a weekend and play with the 5-ft. long whisks & pizza peels!

            Economy Restaurant Fixtures
            1200 Seventh St. (under I-280, way SOMA)

            Deb H.

            1. re: Deb H.
              Barry Kaufman

              Economy is great - I often shop there --- BUT you cannot beat the quality of kitchenware at Bridge ---- lots of French and Italian imports ----- I urge you to send for their catalog ---- you'll see what I mean.

              1. re: Barry Kaufman

                Now I'm curious! I'll send for the catalog. I've poked around on their web page before, but the catalog'll probably give a better feel for the place overall. I've got a copy of a book the owner of Bridge Kitchenware wrote (think it's called The Well Equipped Kitchen) that is an outstanding reference with a clear voice/opinion; next time I'm in New York I'll seek Bridge out as a pilgrimage. (not sarcastic!)

                Deb H.


                1. re: Deb H.

                  If you're looking for French-made equipment, check out Dehillerin on-line. The website doesn't have much on it, but the store is chockful of stuff if you make a specific inquiry. I shipped a copper paella pan home last year, and even after shipping, saved almost 50% over US prices.


                  1. re: Melanie Wong
                    Barry Kaufman

                    I leave Thursday for a two weel stay in Paris --Dehillerin is on my list.

                    1. re: Barry Kaufman

                      The staff are competent but obnoxious. Just ignore the attitude and go for the bargains (by US standards). I had lunch at Willi's wine bar then walked not too far to the store.

                      Bon journe'e!

                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                        I'm so happy to get this info. I'm woefully ignorant about the internet and just don't think to try for web sites of places like Dehillerin's. We loved shopping there, got some wonderful buys, including a fabulous copper fish poacher (in 1985 when the dollar was strong it was a steal) and the staff was gracious and fun. They didn't want to admit that they spoke english, so let us stumble along with our fractured French until we overheard them speaking Eng. over the phone. Ah Ha! We all got a good laugh from that as they sheepishly admitted that they are embarrassed to reveal how "inadequate" their French is. (They would rather we'd be revealed as inadequate linguists.) Of course that scenario plays itself out all over France.

                        Just how much they understand English was revealed when my husband, who had just spotted the picture of Julia Child on the wall, exclaimed, "Oh look! There is J.C.!" Two nuns in habits looked around in alarm, and he quickly corrected, "I meant Julia Child."

                        I can't wait to peruse the copper to shop for a wedding present I have to get. Thank you, thank you.

                        1. re: Ann Leneave

                          I'm glad you had a better experience with the staff. I couldn't get 'em to stop tailing me around the shop. Then I was scolded for talking to more than one person. Apparently they're on commission.

                          Here's the info I got from somewhere and stored on my Visor last year for the visit to Paris:
                          "E. Dehillerin, 18-20 Rue Coquillière: We were warned that
                          salesmen in this shop carrying professional cooking equipment could be
                          brusque. Well, it's no wonder. The premises are spacious but the aisles
                          are narrow, the shelves and racks full of equipment from floor to
                          ceiling. I insisted that, yes, I really did want that size of French knife
                          and found another item on my list, a melon scoop of tiny proportions, all
                          by myself. Noisy, clattery and wonderful, this shop is Valhalla for the
                          serious cook."

          2. Thank you all for the suggestions (including Bridge Kitchenware!). I will have notes in hand when we depart. I think I was lucky to get the reservations I did as we are there during Beard Awards - Babbo, Cafe Boulud and Balthazar. We will have 4 days and nights to check out other recommended places as well.