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Sep 8, 2009 08:35 PM

Just wondering... Old NYC Restaurants

I am cautious to say this cause I may sound too senile (sweat), but when I was living in NYC, which is about 25 years ago, there was no Jean Georges, no Per Se, no Bernardin, no Daniel, no Nobu. :)
Rather, there were Lutece (closed, I heard?), La Grenouille (seems it's still in business), Hatsuhana (once called the best sushi restaurant in NY), Four Seasons (I can see it's still in business), and Windows on the Worlds (gone with the tragic 9/11 terrorist attacks)

Best hotels also used to be the Palace (used to be called the 'Helmsley Palace'), the Plaza, Waldorf Astoria, United Nations Plaza Hotel (it was operated by Hyatt International. Now the hotel seems to be run by some other group?), Pierre, ST. Regis, Algonquin, etc. There was no W Hotel, no Peninsula or Mandarin, no Four Seasons, no Trump Hotel (There was Trump Tower though.)..

What do you think about these restaurants or hotels now?
Just curious... :)

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  1. agaaga, you may enjoy finding menus from some of those places, through this very neat l.a. public library database:

    3 Replies
    1. re: alkapal

      Oh wow! That is so cool! I could find some familiar restaurants' menus in jpg files! They even have the menu for Hatsuhana. Thanks! :)

      1. re: agaaga

        great! what's really neat is to go back in time, and search for menus from the '20s or '30s (or any modern decade, i suppose) -- a real slice of history!

        i learned of this when someone wanted to do a '20s-era party, and sought dishes that were popular then.

        1. re: alkapal

          alkapal, thanks again! For the reenactment of dishes from a 20s-era party, what could be a better historical reference than the actual menu from that era? You are awsome! :)

    2. Yes, Lutece is long gone. Also no more are La Cote Basque and La Caravelle, two of the Grand Dames of classic haute French cuisine.

      For the longest time, I had wanted to go to La Genouille, one of the last remaining of that breed. We finally had dinner there in May. What surprised me was that they have really packed in the number of tables, which takes something away from the luxuriousness one expects. In fact, there was often a traffic jam of waiters along the narrow aisle leading from the kitchen in the rear to the service table in the middle. We lucked out and had a cozy table for two in a corner. The room is very pretty, and the famous floral arrangements are magnificent. Service was courteous and efficient. Our food was excellent.

      4 Replies
      1. re: RGR

        RGR, you seem to have tried almost all the restaurants in NYC! You are awsome! :) Yes! As you said, I really loved La Genouille's floral ambience. It was at La Genouille that I tried frog meat for the first time in my life. :)

        1. re: agaaga


          Well, I do go back a long way! lol Honestly, though, when it comes to the number of restaurants tried, there are many people who have me beat by a NY mile. I'm constantly saying to Mr. R., "So many restaurants, so little time!" Considering our ages, there's more truth to that statement than I care to think about.

          This year, I've made a concerted effort to get to restaurants -- "oldies, but goodies," so to speak -- that have been on my "go to" list for a long time, La Grenouille being one of them. Another was Chanterelle. And, of course, there are always new restaurants opening, so every time I check off some on the list, there are others that get added. I generally avoid going to restaurants that are brand new, though I occasionally make exceptions.

          Btw, at La Grenouille, my husband had rognons de veau (veal kidneys), prepared in a classic mustard sauce. It's one of his favorites and is rarely found on NYC menu, so he was thrilled.

          1. re: RGR

            You must be a real foodie to try out 'oldies but goodies' especially in a city like New York, where a number of restaurants open daily. But good for you! Sometimes it is sad to watch my old time favorite restaurants go down the hill but I was so glad to hear that La Grenouille is still good foodwise. Thanks! :)

        2. re: RGR

          The one I still miss goes way back - Café Chambord - that's back to the 50s and farther. Also from the 50s and early 60s: Sea Fare of the Agean, Bruce Ho's Four Seas, Longchamps, Schrafft's, Christ Cella, Pavillion, and I'm sure I'll think of a few more soon!

        3. I wasn't around 25 years ago, but I can offer some insight:

          Lutèce closed in 2004. La Grenouille is still hanging on and remains the last bastion of traditional French haute cuisine in NYC. Frank Bruni, the recently departed NY Times restaurant critic, has mentioned it in an interview with Eater:
          If you're feeling nostalgic, Le Bernardin is the closest thing NYC has to a fine dining mainstay: 23 years in business and 23 unbroken years with the NY Times 4* rating. Eric Ripert is only in his 40's and if anything it seems like the restaurant continues to improve and evolve. It may leave a legacy longer and greater than Lutèce's.

          I don't think Hatsuhana has been in the discussion of serious sushi restaurants in a long time, as they aren't as exacting in terms of fish and rice quality as the top places (to be fair, they are also less expensive). Having things like California rolls and spicy tuna rolls on the menu gives the impression of a second-tier sushi restaurant.

          The Four Seasons (restaurant) is still chugging along. The food there isn't the most exciting, but it's usually well-executed and benefits from the unique dining rooms.

          The Helmsley Palace Hotel is now called The New York Palace, and it is supposedly still in the top tier of luxury hotels in NYC along with the Four Seasons, Mandarin Oriental, Peninsula, St. Regis, the Ritz-Carltons etc. The Pierre is probably a step or two behind, and while the Plaza and Waldorf-Astoria have long histories, they have been overshadowed by the above.

          2 Replies
          1. re: hcbk0702

            Thanks very much for your information. I didn't know that Le Bernardin has been around for 23 years!

            Back then, Hatsuhana was mentioned in almost all the NYC guidebooks as 'the best sushi restaurant in NYC'. Their business was so good that they opened branches (also in Manhattan). Of course, it seems they've been falling behind since then.

            As I remember, 'The Helmsley Palace' used to have a restaurant called 'Trianon'. They served breakfast there too, as I recall. Good old memories... :)

            I also wonder whether Waldorf-Astoria still has a cafe called "Peacock Alley", where they served tea sets and cocktails and a charming lady used to play a harp in the afternoon.

            1. re: agaaga

              The harpist was Darryl Sherman...a lot of her tunes are on my Comcast Music channel...beautiful sound and voice.

          2. La Grenouille and Four Seasons are going strong, as is 21 Club, Delmonico's and other bastions.
            The Plaza is fine except for the Palm Court. I spent an afternoon in the Oak Bar drinking champagne last month and it looks wonderful, the murals are sparkling. The Pierre is getting ready to open Le Caprice in their old restaurant space - I popped in and checked out the wonderful Rotunda Room - really my favourite hotel, apart from the Carlyle which is also going strong. So although there are changes (Tavern on the Green will be under new ownership next year and Cafe des Artistes closed), lots of the old fabulous places are still there!! (P.S. Gabriel Kreuther at the Modern is from Alsace as was Andre Soltner of Lutece and has some Alsatian-inspired items on his menu if you're missing Lutece)

            4 Replies
            1. re: bronwen

              Hi bronwen! Really? Cafe des Artistes is closed?? Won't they open again? Wow... I liked their ambience and I will be sad if it is gone...

              I wonder what the Plaza will look like after renovaion. I plan to check it out this time when I am in NY. :)

              1. re: agaaga

                Cafe des Artistes just closed about 2 weeks ago... from the article in the NY Times, it doesn't look like they will be reopening.

                1. re: iluvcookies


                  The Plaza's restaurant, the Oak Room, reopened earlier this year, and the food received a pretty scathing review and only one star from Bruni.


                  Chef Joel Antunes, was prompty fired, and a new chef (whose name escapes me) was hired. He revamped the menu -- more New American than French -- and prices were lowered substantially. I have not heard much about the Oak Room since.


                  The Langs will definitely not be reopening Cafe des Artistes. Plus, they've filed for bankruptcy.

                  The restaurant's name belongs to the Des Artistes building, and most people think, eventually, a restaurant will occupy the space again. In fact, Drew Nierporent has made noises indicating he may be interested.

                  1. re: RGR

                    RGR, thanks again, for your very informative comments. :) Fortunately, I plan to try only afternoon tea at the Champagne Bar this time. But I feel sorry to see that the Oak Room isn't doing well now. The place is part of my old memories... Here are some photos of a guest room at the Plaza and myself during the early 1980s (sweat), just for fun.

            2. This may be of interest to you


              the blogger visits old restaurants in NY and reviews them... very interesting!

              2 Replies
              1. re: iluvcookies

                It is interesting indeed, although there are also many restaurants that I am not that familiar with. Thanks! :)

                1. re: agaaga

                  The places he reviews are not really well known, just neighborhood stalwarts that seem to be in a time warp... places one might pass by and think "Wow, do people still go there?" Hence the feature's name. "Who Goes There?".