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Aug 30, 2009 07:24 AM

NYC Foodie Vacation (anything missing? Chowhound approved?)

While I write about food frequently in my personal blog (see profile), it's not really a food blog. That might change, however, when my mother visits me for 3 weeks in September and we will be spending most of that time eating. I am including here the itinerary for all the high end places (already made resys) and well-known (no resy) spots that are on our list. If I am missing something or if anyone has any suggestions I'd appreciate them.

Katz's, Russ and Daughters
Pascal Barbot at Ko (yes, I got that reservation)
Shake Shack
Blue Hill at Stone Barns
Sushi Yasuda
Sushi Seki

We're probably already overbudget just for the ones above, but is there any other place that I'm really forgetting? (Don't want PS, LeB, JG)

While I'll probably blog about all our eating, I'd probably also post a couple reviews here of the expensive places on this list assuming Chowhounders are interested?

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  1. Presuming that you will be doing BHSB, EMP, and Marea for dinner, you might want to consider going to Jean Georges for the 2 for $29 lunch deal.

    You should include a steakhouse. My favorite is Keens. Delicious food, excellent service, and incomparable Old NY ambiance.

    9 Replies
    1. re: RGR

      I was thinking about a steakhouse also. I personally love going to Keens for the mutton chop. I was also thinking about Peter Luger's. Last time she was in NYC I took her to Mark Joseph's and the porterhouse underwhelmed, so maybe want to go to Luger's and try the porterhouse there?

      Not really been impressed by JG, and probably with Barbot and EMP too frenched out.

      Also, I didn't include on this list things that I do somewhat normally, like lunch at Gramercy Tavern (tavern side), etc.

      1. re: fooder

        I haven't been to Luger (Note the correct name has no "s."); however, it is the favorite of my good pal, steakrules85. Given his screen name, you can count on him knowing steaks, and iirc., he gives very high ratings to the porterhouse at Luger.

        For me, there is no such things "too Frenched [sic] out"! lol It is my favorite cuisine, and I would have no problem eating it every day on vacation -- and have done so on many visits to France and in Quebec.
        You are talking about a 3-week visit by your mom, so I don't one French dinner per week is over-doing that cuisine. If Jean Georges did not appeal to you, I would suggest you consider going to Veritas. It is currently very under-appreciated, which is a shame, since Chef Grégory Pugin's classic French cuisine with a modern sensibility is truly sensational!

        I like the food in G.T.'s Tavern Room. Prefer it to the formal dining room, where we had an extremely disappointing meal earlier this year. In either case, the food is New American, not French.

        I agree with fdr's recommendation of Aldea. Chef/owner George Mendes' Portuguese-inspired cuisine is superb! And prices are quite reasonable for food of such high caliber.

        Esca and Marea are both Italian-leaning seafood restaurants. I'm not a fan of Esca, and I haven't been to Marea yet. However, I'm a big fan of Marea's chef, Michael White, whose other restaurants are Convivio and Alto, both Italian. Alto is upscale, while Convivio is more moderately-priced and offers a 4-course prix fixe for $59 at dinner and $49 at lunch (a la carte available as well).

        Scarpetta is another excellent option for first-rate Italian cuisine. Dinner only.

        If you have not been to ChikaLicious, the small dessert bar in the E.V., I highly recommend it. Also, stop into Dessert Club ChikaLicious directly across the street. Lots of goodies there for take-out though there are a few seats.

        1. re: RGR

          I haven't heard anyone mention Veritas since Bryan left. I've been to most of the places already mentioned, including Luger though that was ages ago. Aldea does look interesting though. What's the current tapas hotspot? Has Txikito overtaken Tia Pol?

          I've been to chikalicious, almost from the beginning, though not early enough to have had the truffle ice cream (I think that's what it was?) before they pulled it off the menu. We're probably not going to be big on desserts, since we come from the land of the dessert buffet.

          1. re: fooder

            Yes, for some reason I really can't understand, Veritas has been traveling way under the culinary radar since Pugin took over. Those who have not been there within in the past year are missing out on some of the most extraordinary cuisine in the city.

            Scott Bryan's New American cuisine was excellent, but for about the last year of his tenure, he seemed to be tired or bored because the menu didn't change much, and his food became very unexciting. Btw, he's currently cooking at Apiary, a moderately-priced restaurant in the East Village. The food's good, but his style now is more rustic than "haute."


            1. re: RGR

              Well, I just looked at the menu online for veritas. The prix fixe comes in at 88, which is EMP and Marea prices, so the food needs to really be at that level just to justify the price.

              1. re: fooder

                If you look more carefully, you'll see that Veritas' 3-course prix fixe is $85, not $88. As I said, I haven't been to Marea, but regulars on this board know that EMP is our favorite NYC restaurant. Therefore, when I say that, imo, Chef Pugin's cuisine is as stellar as Chef Humm's, that's saying a lot!!

                1. re: RGR

                  RGR- I know you love Chef Humm's duck. How would you compare Veritas' version?

                  1. re: steakrules85


                    I think Chef Pugin's duck is the equal of Chef Humm's in terms of tenderness and flavor. The differences reside in how the ducks are prepared. While, as you know, Chef Humm roasts a whole duck from which the breast is carved, Chef Pugin is using a "magret" (breast). Not sure exactly what technique(s) he is using to cook it, but the skin, though crisp, is not as crisp as Chef Humm's duck. When it comes to the accompaniments, I adore the current corn and blueberries with Chef Humm's duck, but I have to say that Chef Pugin's sensational nectarines, cherries, and figs had me swooning. In sum, each version is, in its own way, extraordinary.


                    So happy to hear that you love EMP as much as I do. The current menu is choc-a-bloc with so many fabulous dishes! But with fall now knocking on our door, the menu will be changing soon, and there's no doubt that Chef Humm has lots of new and wonderful surprises up his culinary sleeve.

                  2. re: RGR

                    RGR, my mouth is watering when I look at your fine list a few posts above!
                    We have to get back to EMP, it has been too long. It probably is our favorite restaurant in NYC also.

      2. I have only been to Katz's, Russ & Daughters, EMP.

        If you do not have Greek food where you (or mom) lives, NYC is a good place for it. If you are open to going to Astoria you might want to check the Outer Boroughs Board.

        Since I spend more time out of the city these days I miss ONLY in NYC places like Kossar's, all the fine dining choices like EMP, etc. My most recent favorite dining experiences were Aldea and SHO. Falai is also a favorite. Rayuela is fun, though in a different league than the others. Dirt Candy, Graffiti, Terroir all have very good food in tiny EV spaces.

        1. You have to go to Chelsea Market - a gourmet mecca... just for the aroma of baking brownies at the Fatwitch - the breadmakers at Amy's bread, and the rugelach at Ruthy's bakery.
          Also - surely no-one can come to NY without a Murray's bagel. I can't get decent bagels in London so I stock up on the pumpernickle ones with whitefish salad - amazing.

          1. If you are going to Yasuda there is no need to do Seki.

            Not sure why you pick Esca esp that you have Marea. IMO there are better restaurants in town to try. How about Italian like Babbo, Scarpetta or Convivio? If price is an issue then Lupa is quite affordable.

            I agree with RGR that you should add a steakhouse and Keens is fantastic. Also, no pizza place? There are many to choose from, Joe's, Patsy's, Keste, Co, different styles depending on what you like.

            3 Replies
            1. re: kobetobiko

              I believe Yasuda and Seki to be totally different sushi experiences. My favorite single piece of sushi is still Seki's triple decker. If you haven't tried it while there you should. It's a grilled oyster, topped with seared toro, topped with uni, then a squirt of his green sauce. I don't even think they have a name for it. When I asked the waitress for it one time I wasn't at the sushi bar she just drew me a picture on her pad and asked me, "does it look like this?"

              I've never had a bad meal at Esca, and I believe the whole fish at Esca compares more favorably price-wise for the quality than Marea (where I would do the prix fixe) or any of the Greek places.

              I've been to most of the places you guys have mentioned. I've been around, personally. The spaghetti at Scarpetta will likely end up on the list, but we'll probably just go to the bar, have the herbed potato chips, bread basket, polenta, and spaghetti.

              As for pizza, she's not big on cheese in general, otherwise I'd take her to DiFara.

              1. re: fooder

                You are right about Yasuda and Seki to be totally different sushi experiences. Perhaps I am not a big fan of the new styled sushi and hence my comments. Of course if you enjoy it then by all means bring your mom there.

                It looks like you are set with your choices, good job.

                1. re: kobetobiko

                  Thanks, I was pretty much all set with the itinerary. Just wanted to bounce it on here in case there was something completely obvious that I missed.
                  If you like traditional, I always recommend kurumazushi, though it's pretty much out of my budget considering all the other places on my list. True traditionalists like Uezu though, don't serve raw salmon.

            2. I thank RGR for shouting me out regarding my steak "expertise". And yes if you are going to just do ONE steakhouse you must go to Peter Luger. However, Keens is definitely a fine alternative and our great city is a steakhouse mecca. As always I will throw out other recommendations for Strip House, Old Homestead, BLT Prime, and Smith and Wollensky.

              For incredible high-end American cuisine you must try Craft. It is one of my favorite restaurants and is truly incredible. Although it is not a "steakhouse" in the sense of the word, I had one of the best porterhouses of my life there and yes I have had my share of porterhouses in my short lifetime. Eleven Madison Park is hands down one of the best restaurants in the country, let alone NYC so make sure you do not miss it. Other recommendations for high end include Gotham Bar and Grill, where I just had a sensational meal recently. It has been around since 1985 and has become an NYC classic.

              For Italian, Babbo is a must for me. The best Italian I have had. Another Italian restaurant which used to get more praise but hasn't recently is Crispo. I loved Crispo as well and the prices are really reasonable. Scarpetta and Conivivio have gotten rave reviews, however I have not been to either yet- but will in due time.

              Katz's is another NYC classic that I have yet to frequent, but once again many will tell you it is a can't miss.

              If you are looking for breakfast/brunch type places I recommend Clinton St. Bakery, Jane, and Shopsin's in the Essex Market (which is a true NY only experience ahaha). Do some googling on Mr. Kenny Shopsin to see what I mean.

              As far as Shake Shack goes- it has a cult following, however I don't see why it is so special. Granted, I have only had it at the Mets Citifield so may be it is different at the actual locations. It is a great burger for ballpark standards, But they do not cook the burgers to your requested temperature (bloody rare for me) so that is a huge drawback. If this isn't a big deal for you then maybe it's worth a try. Their black and white shake is to die for though.

              3 Replies
              1. re: steakrules85

                It's been almost 5 years since I last went to Luger. If I could actually get a resy, I would have gone with Minetta Tavern, for the burger and Bruni's rave over the steaks. I've had the black label at Minetta at the bar before though.

                I figured with BHSB I don't need to go to Craft as well. Love Gotham I think it's very underrated but haven't heard how the new chef is affecting the cuisine.

                1. re: fooder

                  "Love Gotham I think it's very underrated but haven't heard how the new chef is affecting the cuisine."

                  To clarify, Alfred Portale is still the Executive Chef and Co-owner. Jason Hall is his new chef de cuisine.


                  1. re: RGR

                    Yes Alfred Portale is still the top dog at Gotham BGB and their new chef had taken over when we ate there 2 months ago.

                    Fooder- If my meal was any reflection of his cuisine, it is fantastic.

                    Never been to Blue Hill, but I seriously recommend Craft. I think you would really enjoy it.

                    I have been to Minetta Tavern for their Black Label and it was very good and a very good experience overall (wrote a long review if you are interested in it). I am meaning to go back to try the cote de beouf, however it is not a true steakhouse. For a true steak hit up on of the other places I recommended.