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Visiting Angeleno seeking NYC Chowhounder Recommendations for Food & Wine

cinzia Aug 14, 2009 01:06 PM

I'm not really looking for super high end i.e. Per Se, etc. but love interesting & inventive food w/ good atmosphere, convivial setting/crowd i.e. not stuffy and some comfortable for dining solo. I do my own research too but wanted to see what the CHders suggest.

To give you an idea - past/usual/fave stops include: Momofuku, Balthazar, Spotted Pig, love Jean-George's cooking/flavors (i.e. Spice Market when it was more solid, Mercer Kitchen), Frankie's Spuntino (LES), Blue Ribbon (the original - often), City Bakery...
And, also for reference, in LA my go-to faves include Animal, Mozza, Ita-Cho.

Thank you!

  1. cinzia Aug 17, 2009 06:46 PM

    Seriously? Not one comment, suggestion or otherwise? Did I miss something here? Have I been a bad chowhounder or something? I've certainly offered suggestions to visiting New York CH'ers. What the?

    1. k
      kathryn Aug 17, 2009 07:05 PM

      Hmm, I found your original query a little hard to scan. Even with the constraints you have listed (inventive food, convivial setting, comfortable for solo dining), that leaves a LOT of restaurants in NYC. How much are you willing to pay? Cuisine preferences?

      Which Momofuku are you talking about, there are now four! :) If you haven't been to Noodle Bar or Ssam Bar lately, you could always sneak in a stop off there.

      If you're looking for something similar to Momofuku Noodle Bar, there's Hakata Ippudo for ramen. For something similar to Momofuku Ssam Bar, can't think of anything off the top of my head. For something similar to Momofuku Ko where there's counter seating, delicious food, but maybe a little more liveliness, I might do Spanish: Txikito, Casa Mono, Degustation, or Aldea. You can also dine at the bar at the Bar Room at the Modern, Babbo, Scarpetta, the Tavern Room at Gramercy Tavern.

      For something along the lines of Blue Ribbon Brasserie, maybe the pass at Hearth, Perilla, trying to squeeze into the busy/tiny bar at Little Owl?

      Best bar/solo dining in Manhattan:
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/566733
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/613673
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/604648
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/553433

      2 Replies
      1. re: kathryn
        cinzia Aug 18, 2009 02:57 PM

        Kathryn-
        thank you so much especially for all of the links!! Was planning on a return to the noodle bar but will also try the ssam bar this go around. And Hearth, Perilla and either Little Owl or the sister restaurant were catching my eye, Market something? And Babbo as well.
        Sorry the net on my initial query was too wide!

        1. re: cinzia
          k
          kathryn Aug 18, 2009 03:13 PM

          I would personally pick Perilla out of those. I think a lot of people also believe Little Owl is not worth the fuss, and actually, now that I think about it, Hearth is kind of "Craft-lite" and Craft is now in LA. So I'd do Perilla.

          Ssam Bar is very different from Noodle Bar, so I think you're in for a treat.

          Babbo is a must go in my book!

          Have a great trip.

      2. hcbk0702 Aug 17, 2009 08:39 PM

        Looks like your request got lost in the shuffle. The NYC board has much more traffic than the other regional boards and posts can easily fall off the first page. It would be helpful to provide more concrete information, such as your budget per meal, cuisine preferences etc. since you have a rather wide-ranging list of favorites. To start off:

        Jean Georges for lunch is a must if you like JGV (the main dining room, not Nougatine) and should be the first reservation you make. $29 for two courses and $14.50 per additional course is a steal for a Michelin 3* restaurant (dinner would be at least $120 pp). Three courses is generally enough for a full meal, especially with the array of amuse bouches and mignardises that come along with it. Current highlights on the menu include the foie gras brulee, skate with chateau chalon sauce, and the parmesan chicken confit among others. There's no bar seating in the main dining room so you'll have to take a table, but I'm sure you'll be treated very well as a solo diner. I believe jackets are only required for dinner and not at lunch. If you'd like a more casual JG alternative, Perry St is the next best choice and they also have a great lunch deal: $24 for two courses and dessert. Skip Spice Market and Mercer Kitchen, there are much better places in NYC.

        If you like sushi, omakase at the bar at Sushi Yasuda is one of the best sushi experiences the city has to offer and ideal for solo dining. It's expensive though (around $100 pp, but can easily be more depending on your appetite), and there are less expensive options that are also good if you don't want to spend that much. Searching the board for sushi should bring up a lot of alternatives.

        If you're looking for an izakaya (which is what Itacho looks like), Sakagura is considered to be the best with an immense sake menu, but is on the pricier side as izakayas go. Aburiya Kinnosuke may be a good alternative. A great yakitori place, like Tori Shin or Yakitori Totto/Torys should deliver the atmosphere you're looking for as well, with an obvious focus on chicken.

        Babbo/Lupa - If you'd like to hit up a Batali place, both of these are well-suited for bar dining. Babbo is pretty much in the exact same price range as Osteria Mozza, while Lupa is significantly less expensive.

        Scarpetta - Another Italian standout, this is a great (and stylish) bar dining spot. The spaghetti with tomato and basil here is a must-order dish. They have a great bread basket and very strong food across the board.

        Degustation - Excellent Spanish-inspired counter dining. The $75 ten course menu is one of the best deals in NYC, along with lunch at Jean Georges and the Gray Papaya recession special.

        The Momofukus are pretty unique. I don't know which one you visited but the menus have likely changed, so Ssam Bar would definitely be worth a (re)visit. Momofuku Ko is the best (and most expensive) among them, but you'll have to deal with their online reservation system to have a chance to dine there.

        For something like Blue Ribbon and possibly better, Prune or Hearth could fit the bill.

        Levain Bakery - Their chocolate chip walnut cookies are definitely worth the trip. There are a lot of other worthy bakeries in the city, depending on what you like.

        That's all I have for now.

        8 Replies
        1. re: hcbk0702
          cinzia Aug 18, 2009 02:39 PM

          hcbk0702 - thank you!!! Also spot on and greatly appreciated!

          I've been to the original Momofuku a few times now but plan to check out the Milkbar and maybe the Ssam too. Love them and can't not go. Not enough time (or patience) for the Ko reservation system.

          Spice Market & Mercer were long ago & just given for reference - I just really love his asian flavor combinations. Used to go to Vong in Chicago when it first opened there.

          I really appreciate the recession specials too so thank you for that!

          1. re: cinzia
            hcbk0702 Aug 18, 2009 04:33 PM

            If you have to choose one Momofuku, I'd go to Ssam Bar over Noodle Bar. While it's true that Noodle Bar came first chronologically, Ssam Bar is probably considered "the" Momofuku as it is the restaurant that is largely responsible for building David Chang's immense fame. Additionally, the Milk Bar is attached to the Ssam Bar, so it's no effort to visit both. There's also a fourth Momofuku restaurant opening in Midtown sometime later this year, perhaps in the next several weeks. It's been described as French-Vietnamese, but not much else is known about it. Undoubtedly, it will be very popular.

            Both Spice Market and Vong used to be great restaurants, at least right after they opened. Unfortunately, as JGV's restaurant portfolio started getting larger (~20 at last count), the quality has slipped at a lot of his other outposts. Spice Market received three stars from the New York Times when it opened; now it is down to one. No one even talks about Vong any more. On the other hand, Jean Georges has remained stellar throughout the years (four NYT stars since 1997) and has only improved, and Perry St, one of his newer NYC restaurants, has been very strong as well, though admittedly not as consistent as the flagship. No matter how thin he stretches himself, I think JGV will make every effort to make sure that Jean Georges stays at the top of its game.

            If you really love that type of Asian-French interplay, then you would love Le Bernardin as well. I'd suggest lunch ($68 prix fixe) at the bar, but the atmosphere is definitely more formal and traditional (jackets required), so I'm not sure if that's what you're looking for. Eric Ripert is able to do near-magical things with white miso, ginger, shiso, shittake mushrooms etc. that effortlessly supports and elevates the seafood.

            1. re: hcbk0702
              cinzia Aug 18, 2009 07:28 PM

              hcbk0702-

              I've been to the noodle bar since the first location and love going except am always solo; so to beat that I've decided to go early this trip and just bring home leftovers - from either or both!

              As for spice market, etc. yeah, I read that more recent review in the NYT - ouch! But it's true and, unfortunately, I fear that it's becoming more and more the norm for all of the celeb chefs w/ the numerous outposts. I had one of the worst meals of my life including horrific service at a Batali restaurant in Las Vegas after having one of the best meals of my life at Osteria Mozza here in LA. It's crazy. That being said, have never been to Babbo and think this trip might be the one.

              Very excited - and it looks like the heat/humidity are about to break - yay!

              Thanks again all!!!

              1. re: cinzia
                omotosando Aug 25, 2009 07:03 PM

                For whatever it is worth, I recently ate solo at both Babbo (bar area) and Del Posto (in the less formal seating area, not in the bar which only serves nibbles). It was definitely Del Posto, not Babbo, that blew me away.

                Check out Frank Bruni's parting column and accompanying blog post in today's New York Times for a lot of intriguing restaurant suggestions. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/26/dining/reviews/26rest.html
                http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.co...

                I too loved Vong back in the day, although Spice Market bored me even when it was allegedly a three-star restaurant.

              2. re: hcbk0702
                k
                kathryn Aug 18, 2009 09:56 PM

                Actually Chang got famous off of the Noodle Bar's pork buns, so when people say Momofuku they typically mean the Noodle Bar, especially if they've been living in NYC for a while.

                Ssam Bar was a burrito joint when it first opened, remember? IIRC, lots of people were disappointed when he opened a 2nd restaurant, because it wasn't Noodle Bar part 2, with more pork buns.

                And technically the Momofuku in midtown will be the 5th venture (dependent upon if you call Milk Bar a restaurant...)

                1. re: kathryn
                  hcbk0702 Aug 18, 2009 10:15 PM

                  True, Noodle Bar was the earlier success, but it was quickly eclipsed when Ssam Bar completely revamped its menu and moved away from the burritos. I remember them, they weren't that great, and Ssam Bar wasn't that impressive in the beginning until they started introducing an eclectic mix of small plate items. That's when I remember the whole Momofuku thing becoming a phenomenon, and Ssam Bar seemed to attract considerably more buzz and press than Noddle Bar. Usually when I hear people say Momofuku, they mean Ssam Bar (or Ko), but that just may be my experience.

                  And I guess I consider Milk Bar more of an extension of Ssam Bar rather than a separate restaurant.

                  1. re: hcbk0702
                    k
                    kathryn Aug 18, 2009 11:55 PM

                    I guess my friends were obsessed with the pork buns from Noodle Bar very early on, and it kept getting written up over and over again, so that's what I remember more.

                    As for when people just write Momofuku if they typically mean Noodle Bar, well see sam1's post below! :)

            2. re: hcbk0702
              p
              Pan Aug 23, 2009 07:47 PM

              Correct about the dress code at Jean Georges at lunch: You can go there with jeans, no-one will bat an eye, and you'll get excellent service. I sometimes dress up, but only because I want to.

            3. s
              sam1 Aug 18, 2009 03:28 PM

              yeah, i wouldve replied if i caught this earlier...my apologies on behalf of nyc.

              animal happens to be a favorite of mine as well. you wont find anything like that here but i have an inkling what you may enjoy.

              definitely check out perilla...its excellent, comfortable, and balances between being a neighborhood spot and a destination quite well. get a duck entree if you see one.

              if you like jean georges' style, check out matsugen, his take on japanese. their 'recession special' happens to be their best menu option in my opinion. i crave their cold ramen with duck broth. id consider ordering some extra sushi if you are particularly hungry.

              8 Replies
              1. re: sam1
                hcbk0702 Aug 18, 2009 04:42 PM

                JGV only runs the FoH at Matsugen; the kitchen is run by the Matsushita brothers. It is really their restaurant. Soba is their specialty and it is the best in the city, and there's even a mill on premises to grind fresh buckwheat flour for the handmade soba.

                1. re: sam1
                  cinzia Aug 18, 2009 07:22 PM

                  Hey sam1-
                  Thank you for your suggestions and apologies, though the latter is not necessary!
                  so you've been to animal, eh? It's walking distance from my apartment and highly dangerous! Just took my Mom there while she was visiting last week and she loved it. In fact, come to think of it, there were a group of NYers sitting behind/next to us - I always sit at the bar, my favorite spot there. Perilla is on my short list for sure as I'm seeing friends in "Our Town" on Sunday nite and may go early before. Staying in the West Village so it's perfect.

                  1. re: cinzia
                    s
                    sam1 Aug 18, 2009 09:17 PM

                    well, if yr in the west village, yr in my neck of the woods.

                    some other area favorites:
                    moustache for their merguez sandwich on bedford, ino for their quattro panini and truffled egg toast also on bedford, perilla once again, tavern on jane for a late night drink or bar food, marys fish camp for a lobster roll at their bar, ushiwakamaru for omakase on houston, grey dog cafe on carmine for their club sandwich, da andrea for their warm octopus salad and paparadelle on 13th street, and barbuto for their roast chicken and their bucatini a la carbonara.

                    also...i think you'll like redhead on 13th off 1st ave...its probably the only real 'gastro-pub' we have in nyc...good bar with a solid and inventive kitchen. also, ippudo for their akiamaru ramen (sp?)...insane pork broth ramen...im just going to wait for the cold weather before i go again. get their pork buns as well. this place is miles better for ramen than momofuku. also pick up a square pizza at artichoke on 14th.

                    as for animal...the place shouldnt work...the food is too rich...but me and my girlfriend and her sister polished off 10 dishes on our visit. the pork belly with kimchi, the foie gras with maple syrup...the poutine with oxtail gravy...insanely great. my last trip there, i went to sushi zo, hatfields, langers, and a bunch of others...all fantastic.

                    stick to the smallish places on yr visit and youll leave quite happy.

                    1. re: sam1
                      k
                      kathryn Aug 18, 2009 09:59 PM

                      Ushi is currently on vacation, isn't it? It reopens later this week, IIRC, so don't be dismayed if you call to make a reservation and they're not open. Reservations highly recommended, especially for the bar.

                      Redhead is a good neighborhood restaurant but they just got one star in the NYT so let's see if it gets more crowded....

                      1. re: kathryn
                        cinzia Aug 19, 2009 10:34 AM

                        ok, I can't figure out how to respond directly, this is crazy! ; ) Kathryn, thank you for all your insight and follow up as well!

                      2. re: sam1
                        cinzia Aug 19, 2009 10:33 AM

                        the pork belly w/ kimchi is one of my all time faves and, as for the poutine, friends & I have dubbed it either 'hangover' or 'pms' food of the gods. I try to balance it out w/ salad or something somewhat lighter. what did you think of hatfield's? i went in the spring and talk about food being too rich, it was crazy. they are in the process of moving closer to mozza, in the old red pearl kitchen space.

                        thanks again for all the great recs, esp. the w. village focused ones - staying at perry & w. 4th so right in it and very excited.

                        what about spotted pig - is that not considered a 'gastropub'? I went last summer and really enjoyed it. again, decadent, but deelish. had some wine at turks & frogs first which was lovely to stumble upon.

                        1. re: cinzia
                          s
                          sam1 Aug 19, 2009 10:44 AM

                          im just not a fan of spotted pig. way too crowded to be enjoyable, inconsistent kitchen, the starf%cking...its not for me.

                          turks and frogs is great but like most wine bars, they have huge mark-ups.

                          hatfields...i thought it was rather perfect. small, intimate, inventive food and very enjoyable evening.

                          1. re: cinzia
                            steve h. Aug 23, 2009 08:15 PM

                            cinzie,
                            the pig is good.
                            babbo, at the bar, is pretty good, too.
                            maybe consider a meal at esca. sit at the tiny bar, grab a table, whatever. the crudo is very good as is the pasta. share a sea bass (baked in salt) with a friend. desserts will surprise you. the grappa is what you would expect.
                            yasuda goes without saying.
                            oh, grab a steak and a scotch at keens.

                    2. c
                      cimui Aug 19, 2009 12:07 AM

                      I think you might like Soto, esp. since you're staying in the W. Village. http://nymag.com/listings/restaurant/...

                      They're lovely with solo diners; the compositions are interesting and beautiful. And they're particularly strong on uni dishes, if you like those.

                      1. p
                        Pan Aug 23, 2009 07:54 PM

                        I think you've gotten some excellent recommendations. I loved my dinner at Degustation but haven't been to Momofuku Ko yet. Momofuku Ssam Bar is excellent and open late. I've been to the Milk Bar several times. I love their soft-serve ice cream (particularly the rosemary flavor, if they have it when you go) and the dulce de leche cake.

                        I like Frankie's Spuntino, too. I think that Supper, just a couple of blocks up on 2nd St. and Av. A, is similar in taste and price point. Another East Village restaurant at a similar price point that you might like is Cacio e Vino. If you go there, get schacciata, which consists of two pieces of very flat bread with filling in between. Their pizza is also good, as are various antipasti, and they have a good, inexpensive wine list and know their wines. Supper may have better mains, but I like both places.

                        All that said, if I had a choice, I'd definitely go to Babbo or Lupa instead.

                        Since you liked Balthazar, you might want to try Daniel's new brasserie, DBGB. Get reservations, so that you sit in the back room and have access to that menu.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Pan
                          k
                          kathryn Aug 25, 2009 12:04 PM

                          Pan, they replaced the rosemary flavor a few weeks ago with fruit & summer inspired ones, and are due to replace *those* with new flavors quite soon. They rotate about once a month.

                          1. re: kathryn
                            p
                            Pan Aug 25, 2009 10:44 PM

                            I know that they replaced the rosemary flavor, because the last time I was there, they unfortunately didn't have it. I liked the peach flavor, though.

                        2. cinzia Aug 31, 2009 02:04 PM

                          Well, thank you all - I just returned and had a wonderful time! Here's the dining rundown in order, though not too detailed, sorry!

                          Friday 8/21: lunch @ Mary's Fish Camp for oysters, clams and squid - yum! (Mike Meyers siting and made a new nyc friend to boot -love sitting at the bar/counter!); outstanding dinner at Lupa - romano beans w/ pecorino; rapini w/ chili & ricotta; canellini w/ slow poached tuna; gnudi (divine); and skate (can't get enough skate when I'm in nyc!).

                          Sat 8/22: Brunch at Good then up to the Union Sq. Greenmarket early to cook for/with friends in Brooklyn. Pleasantly surprised by 'watermelon cucumbers' - thought we had all the produce in CA! The feast we cooked was insane - clams; lobster; shrimp; homemade cavatelli; cavolo nero & ricotta salata; figs/peaches/arugula/murray's burratina; and raw zucchini, red onion, mint and feta salads - insanity!

                          Sun 8/23: dinner at Little Owl - not entirely sure the 'ricotta cavatelli' had all that much ricotta in it - tasted like regular cavatelli - aside from that, loved the place.

                          Mon 8/24: lunch at Momofuku Ssam (prix fixe w/ pork buns; rice cakes w/ gai lan, chilis & house made pork; and thai tea dessert); a few goodies (cookies and then, be still my heart, blue cheese & kimchee butter croissant at MilkBar - sooooo good!); dinner at Raoul's at suggestion of and with new friend from Mary's - specifically went for this corn & lobster & avocado gazpacho/soup - quite good - and met more Angelenos.

                          Tues 8/25 - Huntington LI visiting family.

                          Wed 8/26 - took train to 72nd (nose bleed for me) specifically at your rec of Levain cookies - oh my christ they are good! Walked it off through Central Park on way to a matinee. Dinner at the bar at The Redhead - loved it! Flatbread, burger and those damned sea salt chocolate cookies!

                          Th 8/27 - lunch w/ my cousin at the Shake Shack; pre-theater dinner at Perilla (prix fixe at bar - mussels, skate, peach cobbler - sorry to say but better peaches in LA!)

                          Fri 8/28 - lunch grabbed quiche to go at Balthazar; checked out the new museum on bowery; drink in the back bar at Freeman's (so great on the rainy nite); dinner at Blue Ribbon (oysters, sardines, mussels, lobster, and, you guessed it, skate) - always solid, didn't fail.

                          Sat - Balthazar salad at the airport.....love that salad....

                          Again, many thanks! The list was simply too long. Top of the list for next trip: Porchetta, Scarpetta (going for a theme here), Babbo, Ko...and the slew of new offerings that will surely come up until then. Now I've got to go order a crate of those Levain cookies! ; )

                          Cinzia

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: cinzia
                            p
                            Pan Aug 31, 2009 02:27 PM

                            Thanks for reporting back, Cinzia. Sounds like you had a great time. How was your lunch at Momofuku Ssam Bar?

                            1. re: Pan
                              cinzia Aug 31, 2009 05:57 PM

                              Oh my pleasure - everyone was so great w/ their suggestions and input!

                              You know I have eaten at the Noodle bar several times - the first being when it was in the original space which I believe now houses Ko, if I'm not mistaken - and this time after eating at Ssam I walked by the Noodle bar and was glad I had eaten at Ssam as the menu was just that much more enticing to me. It seems as though possibly the menu has shifted somewhat from one to the other because things I liked getting at Noodle (the buns, anything they do w/ rice cakes) were now on the Ssam menu. And the prix fixe was a nice bonus too. Service was great and the food deelish.

                            2. re: cinzia
                              s
                              Simon Aug 31, 2009 02:37 PM

                              Great report...glad you had fun...i'd say try Russ&Daughters and GCOB on your next trip...the only cringe-worthy note in your report was the New Museum on Bowery -- i went there last year and thought it was literally the worst museum i'd ever been to in my life...

                              1. re: Simon
                                cinzia Aug 31, 2009 06:03 PM

                                Thanks Simon - yes, I always have a great time in your town! I'll add R&D to the list. But what is GCOB?
                                As for the New Museum, it was a rainy day and a perfect diversion. I think the space itself was a bit strange but I really enjoyed a few of the exhibits - especially the one on the Black Panthers as I grew up in Chicago to civil rights marching parents.

                                1. re: cinzia
                                  p
                                  Pan Aug 31, 2009 06:39 PM

                                  I just figured it out: Grand Central Oyster Bar.

                                  Thanks for reporting on your meal at Ssam Bar. I look forward to going there for a meal.

                                  1. re: Pan
                                    cinzia Sep 4, 2009 02:55 PM

                                    Thanks Pan! And I've done the GCOB in the past and thoroughly enjoyed it!!

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