Angeleno 'hound needs to narrow down NYC list
So, I have not been back to New York in the last year, and am having some trouble narrowing down where I should go when I'm in town for a coming long weekend. I'm looking for about three dinner places for a mid-sized group and maybe two or three brunch/lunch choices. I had long ago made a dinner reservation at A Voce, but am faced with some reluctance by dining companions who think it will be very stiff. Ideally the location will be south of Midtown. So the dinner choices at this point seem to be: A Voce, Resto, Momofuku Ssam, Maremma, Fig and Olive, Waverly Inn, P*ong, Budakkan (reluctantly).
I need help, either with other suggestions or with a narrowing down of the ones that I have. Somewhere enjoyably un-stuffy/decently hip but with serious food; in other words, something that will keep the scene-y friends as happy as the foodies. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.
I'd go to Momofuku for sure. The last time I was at Fig and Olive the service wasn't great nor was the food...I think there are better places. Waverly Inn is supposed to be great, but you might have a hard time getting in there. Look up these and see what you think: Perilla and Thor (I really enjoyed it). I recenty went to Del Posto and really liked it--ddn't find it stuffy either.
A Voce is a very nice place. The (one) meal I had there was fantastic. I wouldn't call it stiff or formal, but the ambiance matches the fact that it's a fancy, fairly expensive place. I would say it's more warm and elegant than cold and stiff. I found the staff there to be excellent.
Budakkan? Nah. I wouldn't. Resto, yes. For the same price point as Waverly, you could do Hearth or Insieme. Or maybe even Blue Hill.
Based on our one dinner at A Voce shortly after it opened, I agree with you that Andrew Carmellini's modern Italian cuisine is delicious. And you are also right when you say it is not a stiff or formal place. However, unless they have made some significant changes since we were there, I disagree that the interior has any warmth about it. The decor is very modern and hip, and because there are only hard surfaces -- not a stitch of fabric anywhere -- the noises level rises to an insanely high level. That's actually what has kept me from going back. However, during the warm weather months, they now have an outdoor patio set back on the sidewalk and surrounded by shrubbery. So, we'll be going again to A Voce very soon, and we'll be sitting outside.
I suggest Fig&Olive's newest restaurant downtown in the Meatpacking District. It is a huge, stunning space with rosemary plants on the walls, a long marble tasting bar, open kitchen and bottles of imported olive oils everywhere. I am a big fan and just went last week, when they introduced a new summer menu - which is amazing - new crostini and tapenades, 3 chilled Mediterranean soups served with crostini, new entrees which include a whole grill branzino for ONLY $19 (my fiancees favorite new summer dish!) and all new desserts...pair these dishes with their signature cocktails or the extensive wine list, which has wines you can't get anywhere else in the city, and you are set! This is the best place to find a young, trendy crowd of people and fulfilling, amazing food, plus you're right around the corner from the hottest nightclubs in the City...Enjoy!
How big is your group? Momofuku Ssam doesn't take reservations unless you reserve a Bo Ssam (marinated pork shoulder butt). They might have trouble accomodating a party larger than 10 or 12. But if you do the Bo Ssam, I think both the scenesters and the foodies will be happy.
For a good scene + good food, do Balthazar or Cookshop for weekend brunch.
Forget Waverly Inn. Graydon Carter is running it bascially as a private club, so your chances of getting in are just about nil.
Even though Resto is in our neighborhood, we've not been. Reviews about the food have been mixed.
For upscale lunch/brunch, if you haven't been to Eleven Madison Park since Chef Daniel Humm took over the kitchen, I highly recommend it. At brunch, skip the breakfast stuff and head directly for Chef Humm's sensational French-inspired lunch fare. I wouldn't descibe EMP as scene-y, but the space is gorgeous!
Since you were last here, there's a new chef at Gramercy Tavern. Michael Anthony, formerly of Blue Hill, arrived in October and has totally re-vamped all the menus. Might not please the scene-y folks, but the foodies will be very happy.