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5th Anniversary - 4 nights in NYC

Hi Hounds,

We are two San Francisco chowhounds heading to New York to celebrate our 5th anniversary (first trip without the kids in 3.5 years!). Looking for great food and pleasant ambiance. We're willing to spend some money (250-350/dinner) for memorable dining experiences. Hoping to find a couple casual places with great menus as well as one or two more upscale, formal-but-romantic options. Our trip is planned for one month from now (May 3-8), so we're hopeful that we can still get reservations most places if we can just finalize our plans. We're staying at a friend's place in Chelsea (16th St & 7th Ave) but we're happy to explore other neighborhoods.After spending a lot of time searching through posts on this site, we've narrowed things down a bit but we still need some help making the final cut. Top four choices anyone?

The list:
Jean Georges
11 Madison
Gramercy Tavern
Sushi Yasuda
Momofuku Ssam
Le Zie (recommended by friend whose apt. we're using)

And of course, feel free to suggest other places we may have overlooked (as well as recommendations for where to get a cocktail before or after dinner!). Thanks all!

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  1. I've only been to Momofuku Ssam, Le Zie, and Hearth from your list. Momofuku Ssam is definitely worth a try, if only because it's different from the other places on your list. But the food is also great. For Italian in the area, I much prefer Crispo over Le Zie. I took a group of about 8 out of towners to Le Zie about a year ago and everyone was underwhelmed by the meal. Good for the neighborhood, but not worth going out of your way for (of course, you will be in the neighborhood!). I loved Hearth on my first trip, but my second trip wasn't as good (bad dessert, slow service, tiny portions of good, but not great, food). The second trip has kept me from rushing back.

    If you're looking for lunch/brunch in your area, I like Rocking Horse, Petite Abeille, good, Maroons, Tour, Tavern on Jane, and Bright Food Shop. Chelsea Market is worth a trip. If you're looking for sweets, La Bergamote is great for croissants, and Amy's, Billy's, and Little Pie Company are good for traditional desserts.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Lucia

      Momofuku Ssam is very unique...definately check it out when you're here.

      1. re: Lucia

        You got tiny portions at Hearth? I find that hard to imagine, considering the two meals I've had there. I found it quite hearty! Did you get a tasting menu or something?

        1. re: Pan

          Nope--regular menu. To be fair, it was only one main dish that was small, but it was really tiny. It was a sweetbread and perhaps foie gras dish. Each element of the dish was about 1-2 oz., and I'm a small woman with a small appetite.

      2. From those on your list, I've been to Eleven Madison, Gramercy Tavern, and Hearth.

        No question that I would put Eleven Madison at the top of any list. However, since you are San Franciscans, should we presume that you never had the opportunity to dine on Chef Humm's cuisine when he was at Campton Place? Of course, if you never did, then EMP is, in my view, a must!

        Until recently, I had taken Gramercy Tavern off our list of dining destinations because we never had a meal there that really thrilled us. However, we've been there once since new chef Michael Anthony took over and revamped all the menus. We ate in the more casual Tavern Room, and I thought the food was very good -- better than anything we had had during our previous visits. Though I have heard some mixed reports about the food in the more formal dining room, I'm still keeping it on my "go to" because I want to judge for myself.

        Our one visit to Hearth was somewhat marred by a problem with our main courses. However, the situation was handled superbly by our server and the manager, and overall, we thought the food was very good. It's a large place with decor that I would describe as "early warehouse," that is, very plain and sort of rough. But the perfect lighting saves it and helps give it a pleasant feel. We sat in the front room, which I found to be a little too noisy because that's where they seat all the big groups. From what I understand, the back room has mostly tables for two and is much quieter.

        You asked for additional suggestions. Mine would be Veritas, one of our favorites. Chef Scott Bryan's New American cuisine is delicious; the wine list is one of the most extraordinary in the city; service is pleasant and capable, and the small dining room has elegant contemporary decor.


        One more thing. I don't eat sushi, but my daughter and the boyfriend love it, and they rave about Yasuda. No surprise because I think most sushi-lovers agree it's one of the city's best.

        Happy 5th Anniversary! Hope you have a wonderful visit to NYC and Bon Appetit!

        4 Replies
        1. re: RGR

          RGR, what did order at the Tavern Room at Gramercy Tavern that you enjoyed? I can't seem to find it using search at the moment...

          1. re: kathryn

            I pulled out the receipt slip for our meal there, and looking at the current menu on the website, linked below, it's evident that there have been changes, which is not too surprising since we were there in January. Because it was later in the evening, I wanted to eat a little lighter, so I chose two dishes from the apps menu: butternut squash soup and a guinea hen salad. My husband started with a chopped salad and then had a regular main, a rabbit dish. For dessert, we shared a pecan tart. My husband had a glass of wine, and the total, before the tip was $73.16.

            Apps & Mains: http://www.gramercytavern.com/_media/...
            Desserts: http://www.gramercytavern.com/_media/...

            1. re: RGR

              Thanks, RGR! I was there tonight with a few friends and we were quite satisfied with our meal in the Tavern Room.

              I had the grilled scallops to start, which were delicious and tender, and flavorful although the cream based sauce was a little heavy. I didn't really get much of any impact from the cabbage and wished that it had been a stronger foil for the other components of the dishes. I did enjoy a single piece of fried prosciutto (I wanted more), and the presentation was very elegant because the prosciutto looked kind of like a piece of very thin bacon.

              My date ordered the portobello tart to start, which turned to be a large potion and looking more of a three-layered cake. The goat cheese was presented in a ball on the side so you could proportion it out more efficiently. The pastry was delicate and flaky, and overall, it was a wonderful blending of hearty, earthy flavors. I usually don't like mushrooms, and even I liked this. The arugula portion was a simply dressed salad on the side that provided a counterpoint to the tart's richness.

              My main was the stuffed meatball, which was presented already cut in half on the plate, on top of a bed of potato puree. The meat was crumbly and moist, and covered with strands of melted fontina. Hearty and comforting, and perfect for a brisk night. This dish was a big hit, and also a big portion, so I needed help finishing it. I was quite full at this point, and opted for a simple pot de creme for dessert. It was well executed but not a standout.

              My date's main was the pulled pork sandwich. Great bread, good, high quality, juicy pork. I've only had NC BBQ style pulled pork before so it's hard to compare this sandwich with other pulled pork experiences, but it was very delicious, just in a different way than I'm used to. My date polished it off in about ten minutes. Also, I loved the coleslaw on the side, which included savoy cabbage and apples. It wasn't excessively creamy and a good counterpoint to the sandwich.

              For dessert, he ordered the chocolate peanut butter cake with frozen milk. The cake was tasty, as the combination of peanut butter and chocolate usually is, but it really shone in combination for the frozen milk. The frozen milk came in a tiny glass with a tiny straw and was very impressive. It was somehow whipped and fluffy, and sweet, but not icy or like ice cream or frozen yogurt or sorbet. It's a mystery to me exactly how they make it!

              Overall, we spent about $45-50 per person, including tip and tax. We went early and were seated immediately by a window, and it was nice enjoying the natural light until the sun finished setting and the room got more crowded.

              1. re: kathryn

                An excellent, detailed report, kathryn! Glad you enjoyed the meal. The pulled pork sandwich and the meatball have been on the menu since Chef Anthony revamped things, so it looks as though they might become standards. We'll definitely have to get around to trying them. I think the pastry chef, who is also new and came to G.T. shortly before Chef Anthony arrived, is doing a bang up job because the pecan tart we had was truly delicious. Though you weren't too impressed with the pot de creme, your date's dessert sounds wonderful.

        2. Giorgio's of Gramercy is a really nice restaurant. The food is really good, the service is impeccable and friendly and on Sundays they give 15$ off bottles of wine. I went a couple of times and loved it. It is casual, but not too casual. You should try it!

          1 Reply
          1. re: cricri7

            While I like Giorgio's of Gramercy, I do not think the food is superior enough to warrant being placed on the list of a person visiting NYC for only a few days who has only a limited number of meals here. It's especially true when we're dealing with someone who is considering places like Jean Georges, Eleven Madison, and Yasuda, where the cuisine is some of the finest in the city. Giorgio's food is hardly on their level.

          2. I would add Craft and Babbo to this list. Happy Anniversary from a fellow (native) San Franciscan!!

            1. Hey GenghisJohn - I'm planning a similar trip (SF to NYC, 4 nights) and WD-50, Degustation, Sushi Yasuda, and Momofuku Ssam are on my list too. Note to help with planning - WD-50 and Degustation are dinner only. Momofuku, too, if you're going specifically for the late night menu.

              Of the others, I've been to Jean Georges, Gramercy Tavern, and Le Zie. I would definitely do Jean Georges for lunch. I would also add Le Bernardin (my favorite lunchtime tasting ever). My last meal at Gramercy was so many chefs ago I don't think my opinion would be very valid. I remember liking Le Zie, but if you're going to do one Italian meal in NYC, I'd choose Lupa or Babbo (I like Lupa better.) Lupa serves lunch, Babbo doesn't. I see that 11 Madison serves lunch as well.

              The only other thing I'd add is a dessert tasting at Chikalicious... as far as I know, there's nothing like it in the Bay Area.

              2 Replies
              1. re: daveena

                I've been to Chikalicious and if you're planning to go to WD-50 anyway, eat dessert at WD-50 as the desserts at WD-50 are superior in taste. I like Chikalicious and want to like it more than I do, but I've often found it to be a little cramped and slow. Also the point of Chikalicious is sitting at the bar and watching them work, but I've never managed to actually get seated there.

                1. re: kathryn

                  kathryn, I think the best chance to get a seat at the bar is to go to Chikalicious on a Wed. or Thurs, and early, between 3 and 6 p.m. It's been a long time since we were there, but we were the only ones in the place between 5 and 6, so it was a lot of fun chatting with Chika (and Donna, who has since left) as we watched our desserts being prepared. Chika's husband, Don, was also there, and we chatted with him as well. Loved the desserts! Frankly, if we couldn't get a seat at the bar, we wouldn't bother.

              2. Hi GenhisJohn,

                I think you have a wonderful list, and if it were me I would only change 1 or 2 (based on personal preference). I am not sure why your friend suggested Le Zie (probably because it is convenient to where he/she lives?), but just like Lucia mentioned I found the food there to be quite mediocre. I am not sure if it is worth a visit if you come all the way from SF.

                If you do like Italian food, then I would suggest adding one of Batali's establishments to your list. Babbo or Del Posto for a more lavish dinner, or Lupa or Otta more a more casual experience. A Voce is another great choice (not owned by Batali) for delicious Italian food.

                While I am a big fan of Sushi Yasuda, I am not sure if it should be on this list as there are so many amazing sushi restaurants in the West Coast. If you want a change of taste and cuisine between your different meal and you want sushi, then Sushi Yasuda will not disappoint. However, you are looking for unique sushi experience in NYC or expecting it to be better than in SF, then it may not serve your need.

                4 Replies
                1. re: kobetobiko

                  I'm not a sushi expert, so I'm relying on Porthos' extensive 3-city sushi rankings (covering NYC, LA, and SF-Bay Area) - I'm guessing GenghisJohn was similarly influenced - anyway, NYC restaurants take the top 3 spots, with Sushi Yasuda at number 1. San Francisco doesn't even register until #6.

                  1. re: daveena

                    Thanks for the plug daveena. Although, I may have to amend my list to remove Jewel Bako from the top 3 since it's been a while since I've been and I'm not sure how JB is holding up.

                    I haven't tried Sebo in SF yet or Sushi Zo in LA yet but as things stand now, Yasuda still takes it with the rice, selection, and quality that he offers. When you go, don't forget to try the fresh grilled eels, ask him if kama toro is available, and try his whitefish selection. Also, try to book him on a Wednesday or Thursday where things are a little calmer (compared to Friday and Saturday). You also have a better chance of scoring the rarer items earlier in the week.

                    1. re: Porthos

                      Hi daveena and Porthos,

                      Thanks for the postings! It has been quite awhile since I went to SF and to know that Yasuda is among one of the best in comparison makes me feel really happy! Now I know I am indeed enjoy best-in-class sushi at Yasuda.

                      It is interesting that you mentioned getting rarer items on Wed and Thu. I usually only go there over the weekend. What are some of the items that you have seen in weekdays that are not available over the weekend?

                      1. re: kobetobiko

                        Weekends are busier and he has less time to talk to you. I went on Thursday one night and found out that he ran out of kama toro by lunch on Thursday that week.

                2. It's always tough coming up with a list of places you have to eat at before flying back to the west coast.

                  Off your list I would rank them:

                  1. Sushi Yasuda. Rreserve in front of Yasuda, ask for omakase, and try a couple of items off their cooked menu.

                  2. Jean Georges

                  3. 11 Madison

                  4. WD-50. Aside from Coi, I'm not aware of other molecular gastronomy places in SF.

                  My caveat is that I'd try to fit in Babbo above Jean Georges (go ballistic on the pasta and the pig foot milanese) maybe try to squeeze in Cru. I would even add L'Atelier in place of WD-50 but that's just because I'm not so keen on the molecular gastronomy stuff (although I did like Dufresne at 71 Clinton).

                  Here's my itinerary from my most recent NYC trip:


                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Porthos

                    I am going very soon on a short trip to NY, and have planned both Jean Georges and a good sushi restaurant, possibly Yasuda. Couldt get a reservation at Babbo on the day we wanted.

                    Yasuda: What will it cost? And is it hard to get a reservation? If you cant get a seat in the bar/in front of Yasuda, is there no point in going? Should we then choose somewhere else? Where? (Kuruma? UshiWakamaru?)

                    Jean Georges:
                    Cant seem to find this information: The formal room vs the Nougatine room: where do you get the prettiest views, and which room has the best interior? When you go for lunch: can you order the $28-lunch-deal in both rooms, or only in the Nougatine-room?
                    I whish their net-site had more information..

                    Great if you can help me!

                    -norwegian foodie..

                  2. For your choices among the upscale restaurants, in addition to Eleven Madison Park (that I like quite a lot), I would add: Aureole, Bouley and Danube.

                    1. Thank you very much everyone for all the great suggestions! My wife and I really appreciate your taking the time to help. We had a great time last night reading these posts and researching all the menus! Lots of delicious things to consider and hard choices to make... 11 Madison seems to get nearly unanimous support everywhere we look. Momofuku seems highly regarded & a good change of cuisine. We're still struggling with where to have our last dinner in NYC -- Jean Georges or Bouley. Leaning towards Jean Georges but haven't made the reservation yet. Might just have to flip a coin on that one... seems like we win either way.

                      At this point, our itinerary is:
                      Friday lunch: Russ & Daughters
                      Friday dinner: 11 Madison Park

                      Sat lunch: Lombardi's
                      Sat dinner: Momofuku Ssam

                      Sun brunch: one of the Chelsea suggestions Lucia offered -- (Rocking Horse, Petite Abeille, good, Maroon's, Tour, Tavern on Jane, Bright Food Shop)
                      Sun dinner: Lupa

                      Mon lunch: Katz's
                      Mon dinner: Jean Georges

                      After a lot of thought, I think we'll have to save Sushi Yasuda for next time. Kobetobiko I really appreciate your thoughts on this one. Porthos (and many others) makes a very compelling case for Yasuda, but after looking at Porthos' list of best sushi in SF-LA-NY (http://www.chowhound.com/topics/365485), I realize there are still a few local (SF) places we need to visit first... Daveena, thanks for the tip on Chikalicious -- not sure how we're going to fit that into an already outrageously gluttonous couple of days, but I'm sure we'll try. RGR, thank you for your thoughts on Gramercy Tavern & Hearth, and for the Veritas recommendation. Veritas will definitely join Sushi Yasuda at the top of the "next time" list.

                      Again, deepest thanks all! This is the reason why we work (and exercise!) the rest of the year -- so we can truly indulge when we get the chance. Hard to put into words how much we're looking forward to this!

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: GenghisJohn

                        Chikalicious would be perfect after Russ & Daughters - it's only open Wed-Sun, and you definitely want to be there on a weekday around 3 to ensure a bar seat.

                        Lupa tips - they reserve most tables for walk-ins, so you won't be able to get a reservation now. I'd try to get there as early as possible - even on a Sunday night, it can be a mob scene. If all the tables are taken, eat at the bar. If the bar's full, put your name on the bar's wait list too. A good ordering strategy is 2 (salumi or contorni) + 1 pasta per person. Secondi are generally weaker.

                        Both Jean-Georges and Bouley have great food but very different atmospheres - I find Jean-Georges a little too cold and modern. Bouley is cozy and romantic. If I were to separate the food from the overall experience, I think JG would get the nod, but Bouley is a sentimental favorite.

                        1. re: daveena

                          You can try to reserve a table at Lupa on Opentable.com. If that does not work, then go early!

                        2. re: GenghisJohn

                          By the way, Russ & Daughters is only take out (no tables), but it is wonderful. I would also vote in favor of Bouley over Jean Georges.

                          1. re: GenghisJohn

                            Chickalicious would be perfect after Sat dinner: Momofuku Ssam since you'll be close by and Ssam does not offer any coffee/tea or desserts besides mochi.