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We came, we saw, we ate (long)

foodseek Mar 23, 2008 09:45 PM

Thanks to all of you for your great suggestions for our vacation to Manhattan. I and my young adult daughters spent the past week in Manhattan sightseeing and eating.
Day 1-We arrived on St. Patrick's Day morning and after watching the parade walked to Serendipity 3 for lunch. It was a cute restaurant/gift shop which lured us in with the frozen chocolate. We sat upstairs which seemed to have more room than the downstair area. Black bean burger was tasty, goat cheese nachos not so great. Frozen chocolate tasted like an iced milk rather than cream and was served with green whipped cream. A novelty which we wanted to try because we had heard so much about it. Dinner was at Bar Americain and Monday night special fried chicken. Delicious chicken juicy not greasy and 2 large pieces served with biscuits topped with black pepper. We also tried the asparagus salad which was very good. The desserts were as pretty as they were tasty. Our server was attentive not hovering and overall we had a great time.
Day 2- Lunch at Katz's Deli-After being prompted on proper ordering technique we ventured off with our green tickets on our own and tried our best. The sandwich master did slice off some meat for us to try as he made our sandwich which I thought was a nice touch. Rueben sandwich was great-especially the kraut,loved the pastrami sandwich on rye, corned beef sandwich also terrific. We had a side of potato salad and were delighted to find it creamy,dressed slices of potato without lots of additional mixings found in other potato salads. We tried a chocolate egg cream-loved it but then again we love most things chocolate. Dinner before the theater at Marseille which was a real gem-the lamb couscous was a hit as well as the hummus and endive salad. I ordered steak frites which I appreciated was served med.rare as ordered.We were watching our time not to be late for the performance and were assured by our servers not to worry they would pace the dinner and have us at the theater in plenty of time-which they did. We really enjoyed this restaurant.
Day 3- Lunch was a delightful mix of fast and street foods. Hot dog at Grays Papaya near Grand Central Station with papaya drink which is touted as a digestive aid but we deemed it a terrific compliment to our hot dogs-one chili dog, one with mustard and relish, one with kraut. Then on to pizza at Patzeria Perfect Pizza where we had two slices of cheese-thin crust,perfectly gooey and not greasy. Kind owner and loved the pizza. At Central Park we added a pretzel with yellow mustard-not so special and nuts-warmed in bag which we loved. Dinner at Vice-Versa perhaps the most value meal we had in Manhattan-we ordered the prix fixe dinners-penne with cheese and walnuts was our favorite and enjoyed the desserts-service was good as well. I would recommend this restaurant for Italian at a fair price.
Day 4- This was our last full day and our day of gluttony. We had lunch at Le Bernardin which we found to be very welcoming and warm. As we walked in we were greeted twice and welcomed into a muted space with beautiful floral arrangements and seated at a midroom table. Diners were speaking in their restaurant voices so although the room was full it didn't seem so. The prix fixe lunches we were preceded by a salmon spread with toast points which was delicious. The service was attentive and although we were under their constant watch they did not seem obtrusive. Loved the lump crab cake/cauliflower starter, the breads-especially the walnut raisin - and the dessert. The skate was not my favorite-not as good as the one daughter had at Bar Americain- since the sauce poured tableside seemed to overpower the fish. The presentation was beautiful but sadly not the taste. Desserts were a hit and not at all a disappointment and the hazelnut mousse with brown sugar ice cream was memorable.Dinner at Babbos with an early reservation at 6:30 for 4 people. We arrived a bit early- 6:25.The first impression of this space was off putting-very cramped entrance with a bar to the right of entrance with dinner tables to the left which have to be passed to get to reception area. After giving our name we were told we couldn't be seated without our fourth member of the party (friend of daughter who attends NYU) who was meeting us at restaurant. We looked around the restaurant for a space to wait and having seen none were hoping for the superpower of invisibilty. The coatcheck lady asked us to move out of her space and go stand near the bar. We ordered 2 glasses of wine and hovered above two patrons trying to enjoy their dinner-apologizes to them. Anyway not more than 5 min later daughter's friend did arrive so we were seated upstairs. Nice space which reminded me of grandmothers dining room with framed Italian sayings. Although the service was not bad it did not add greatly to our experience either. We hadn't finished the ceci bean bruschetta when the server came around before individual starters arrived and was going to clear the complimentary plate before we stopped him. The food was good though and some entrees actually were great-fettucine with pancetta, lobster pasta, and pesto ravoli were outstanding. We wanted to love this restaurant and it just fell short-not so much because of the food but because of the service and lack of enthusiasm of the staff. They didn't seem to want to be there and after awhile neither did we.
Day 4- Breakfast this morning was our bagel search and our last treat before flying home New York Cheese Cake which we found at Juniors in the downstairs food court area of Grand Central Station -this slice alone was worth the trip and -H & H for blueberry bagel and plain bagels -loved that they were warm with what seemed like a toasty crust-wish cream cheese was spread on top but we did pick up some from the refrig. case.
We loved our time in Manhattan-appreciate all the responses and past posts we looked though on Best board for suggestions. We can't wait to come back and sample the delights again. Many thanks.
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http://www.chowhound.com/topics/491612

  1. w
    Wallowing Gourmet Apr 8, 2008 05:51 PM

    Glad you had some memorable meals! We've been to both Babbo (twice), and Le Bernardin, and to attempt to compare the two is folly. However, we loved both of them, but the Le Bernardin experience was much more relaxing, to say nothing of ethereal.

    Babbo has a buzz, and a vibe, and if you're looking for quietude and a genteel atmosphere, you're in the wrong place. It is, however, exciting, fun, and absolutely terrifice, both from a service and a food standpoint. Sometimes, you need that kind of semi-raucous, yet controlled atmosphere, to make your night. Other times, Le Bernardin has that kind of almost regal, reserved, calm, somewhat quiet and yet hip atmosphere that makes you feel like you really are one of the Masters of the Universe, even if only for a few brief moments.

    If I had to choose on price alone, Babbo would win, and it ain't exactly cheap when you go with the tasting menus and the paired wines. But, if I want to repair the many wounds to my mind and soul over the last couple of months, Le Bernardin would be my choice, despite the significant price difference.

    Netted out, it comes down to whether I want to feel like the King of New York, or I just want to rock. LB does the coronations, and Babbo rocks. There are other choice, as I'm sure you know, but most of the time, I want to rock. If I need to get rid of the crown of thorns from the previous week, then LB wins, hands down.

    Just my two cents.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Wallowing Gourmet
      foodseek Apr 10, 2008 08:24 AM

      I appreciate your take on the two (Babbo and Le Bernardin) restaurants. I agree that the focus and appeal of both are quite different. I am sorry if it sounded like I was comparing the two in previous posts. It just so happened we went to both the same day-La Bernardin for lunch and Babbos for dinner. Being on vacation, we looked at all dining experiences as part of our entertainment and although some we enjoyed more they were each memorable. The food at Babbos was good, the "scene" busy and bustling yes, but the service not so great. I mention that because most places with a younger "rocking" crowd usually have an energetic wait staff and Babbo's did not in my opinion. All in all, though, we found Manhattan a plethoria of sights and tastes hard to beat anywhere else. Thanks again to board for suggestions!

      1. re: foodseek
        w
        Wallowing Gourmet Apr 12, 2008 01:22 PM

        Well, I haven't been to Babbo in over a year, so maybe things changed, as they often do. My memory of the service was that it was very good, knowledgeable and attentive, without being overbearing. The food was tremendous, and if I could score a reservation without that hassle, I'd love to go back. Sometimes you need to reassess places, albeit at a price.

        1. re: foodseek
          s
          Simon Apr 13, 2008 07:52 PM

          Thanks for the detailed report.

          I've been to LB maybe three times but not within past 4 years, and your post made me want to return.

          The snide and curt reception you got at Babbo is standard practice at Batali places, which is why i almost never go to them anymore...given the cost you paying, i think it's incredibly obnoxious of Babbo not to seat a group of 3 that is waiting on a 4th, especially at 6:30 with a reservation (what's the worse case scenario for them? is it worse being inconveniencing your customers? bad)....

          Anyway, glad you had fun in NY!

      2. MMRuth Mar 24, 2008 04:57 AM

        Thanks so much for reporting back - sound like you had some great chow!

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