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jaded chefs coming in for a quick visit

My husband and I are taking a quick trip to the city this coming week, and we're trying to figure out where to do our big, inspirational, this-is-why-we-came-to NYC meals. We're both chefs in Washington, DC, and we eat well on a regular basis.

Wednesday night we're going to the LTO event for RJ Cooper, and that will certainly count as a big fancy meal. We'd like to do at least one destination-restaurant lunch (think Le Bernardin, EMP, maybe Jean Georges); one mid-range casual but nifty dinner, probably Monday night (something like Spotted Pig or Balthazar, though we're not interested in waiting 2 hours to eat British food, lol). Tuesday night we'd like to bar-hop (food bars, that is). We like to go to fancy, famous, or otherwise off-limits places and sit at the bar, have a couple of small plates and a drink, then move on to the next place and do it again.

Hubby's a classical French chef; I do modern American with a seafood specialty.
We're big fans of the big names (Ripert, Boulud, etc), and the whole idea is to get away from our lives for a few days and eat some extraordinary food without spending $1000 a meal.

Last time up, we enjoyed Casa Mono, Ippudo, and Dovetail, had awful experiences at Fishtail and WD-50, and paid obligatory, enjoyable visits to Katz's and Shake Shack.

Especially for the bar-hopping night, which will probably be Tuesday, do you have any suggestions? For the destination restaurants, is there one or another that's hitting on all cylinders right now, or a place that might be a better deal than others? We're not paupers, but we're not magnates, either, so we're trying to piece together a quick trip that will allow us to experience a lot of what NYC has to offer without having to sell a kidney.

Any help is appreciated!

50 Clinton Street, New York, NY 10002

Casa Mono
52 Irving Place, New York, NY 10003

Jean Georges
1 Central Park W, New York, NY 10023

Spotted Pig
314 W 11th St, New York, NY 10014

Le Bernardin
155 W. 51st St., New York, NY 10019

103 West 77th Street, New York, NY 10024

65 4th Ave, New York, NY 10003

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  1. For bar hopping, you could do worse than the few block radius that contains craft, EMP, Gramercy Tavern, Veritas, Ssam Bar

    Eleven Madison Park
    11 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10010

    Gramercy Tavern
    42 E 20th St, New York, NY 10003

    Momofuku Ssam Bar
    207 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

    43 East 20th St., New York, NY 10003

    43 E. 19th St., New York, NY 10003

    1 Reply
    1. re: nmprisons

      that's definitely what i was thinking! any other hot-spots come to mind with several well-regarded/kind of fancy kitchens within a few blocks of each other, or at least adjoining neighborhoods? we don't mind spreading it out over the course of the evening and traveling a little bit, for the record, but i don't think we're into starting out on the UES and winding up in Flushing, for instance.

    2. I think you would enjoy Ma Peche. Chef Tien Ho is turning out amazing food. The dinner menu has more variety than the lunch menu, but the sliced rib chop at lunch is without doubt the best pork that I've ever had (not kidding). BTW, I'm heading to LTO to try Chef Cooper's cuisine on Thursday. I'm going to DC in three weeks for vacation; at which restaurants do you cook?

      Ma Peche
      15 W 56th St, New York, NY 10019

      1. jean georges for lunch is a great deal though the menu does not rotate as fast as i would like.

        1. ABC Kitchen is good for late lunch bites...if you want a real[mob] scene the Dutch is opening at 11pm on Tuesday night,and then into the week.

          ABC Kitchen
          35 E 18th St, New York, NY 10003

          The Dutch
          131 Sullivan St, New York, NY 10012

          1. For your (probably Monday) "mid-range casual but nifty dinner," I strongly recommend Aldea for Chef George Mendes' delicious Portuguese-inspired cuisine. His signature Arroz de Pato is not-to-be-missed.

            Aldea photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

            For your destination restaurant lunch, EMP. Definitely hitting on all cylinders!

            EMP photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

            Since you say you're a fan of Daniel Boulud, you should consider going to Cafe Boulud. His protege, Executive Chef Gavin Kaysen, is cooking some of the best food in the city right now. This may be Boulud's second-tier restaurant, but in every way that counts, it's first-rate!

            Cafe Boulud photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...


            Cafe Boulud
            20 East 76th St., New York, NY 10021

            1 Reply
            1. re: RGR

              Second Aldea and EMP.

              31 West 17th Street, New York, NY 10011

            2. For your destination lunch, EMP would be my pick.

              For your mid-range casual but nifty dinner, you can do same-day reservations at Fedora which has a Pied de Cochon alum working there (and if you're here on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, I'd actually choose M. Wells in Queens which also has Pied de Cochon alumni, and is a surprisingly easy trip from Midtown.)

              For your restaurant hopping day, the big issue will be that for some places, there's always a wait for a bar seat and personally, once I sit down, I can't help but plant myself there all night. :)

              In the East Village, I would do: Vandaag, Prune (don't miss the bone marrow, deviled eggs, monkfish liver, radishes with butter, garrotxa with onions -- their starters are wonderful), Hearth (you can eat at the bar or "the pass" and don't miss the gnocchi), DBGB (order the charcuterie but skip the sausages and burgers), maybe end at Hakata Ippudo (usually crowded, so coming in at the end of service might actually be good). Also in the East Village is Degustation which is all counter seating but it's worthy of a full meal, not just a drink/snack.

              In the West Village: Takashi (Japanese BBQ but with incredibly high quality ingredients), Perilla/Kin Shop (though at the latter you might be waiting a bit for a seat at the bar), Pearl Oyster Bar (ditto), Po (tiny bar but great bartender, Batali's first place), Blue Ribbon Bakery (get the bone marrow), Joseph Leonard (great brussels sprouts with sriracha), maybe 'ino (truffled egg toast). Anissa? I believe they have a full bar with snacks.

              Scarpetta is great to dine at the bar as well but I can't think of much else nearby that's worth the detour.

              For Greenwich Village/Soho/Nolita: Minetta Tavern (get there really early, like 5:30pm), Lupa/Babbo (you'll probably have a bit of a wait), Ushiwakamaru (though you might want a reservation). Osteria Morini (it's loud and crowded on a weekend night but probably much better during the week), Peasant, and Public in Nolita aren't too far away. Or you could start to go East until you hit Bowery where Pulino's, Peels, and DBGB are.

              Pearl Oyster Bar
              18 Cornelia St, New York, NY 10014

              9 Jones Street, New York, NY 10014

              31 Cornelia St, New York, NY 10014

              Minetta Tavern
              113 MacDougal St, New York, NY 10012

              239 E 5th St, New York, NY 10003

              Blue Ribbon Bakery
              33 Bedford St, New York, NY 10014

              13 Barrow Street, New York, NY 10014

              136 W Houston St, New York, NY 10012

              21 Bedford St, New York, NY 10014

              194 Elizabeth Street, New York, NY 10012

              210 Elizabeth Street, New York, NY 10012

              54 E 1st St, New York, NY 10003

              65 4th Ave, New York, NY 10003

              239 W 4th St, New York, NY 10014

              355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

              299 Bowery, New York, NY 10003

              Joseph Leonard
              170 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10014

              282 Bowery, New York, NY 10012

              456 Hudson St, New York, NY 10011

              103 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

              Kin Shop
              469 6th Ave, New York, NY 10011

              325 Bowery, New York, NY 10003

              Osteria Morini
              218 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012

              1. Okay, some good suggestions already given (ie; Ssam Bar). I've been to Vidalia when he was there and wondered where he went (I guess I'll wait for Rogue to open then go down there again)... thanks for the LTO mention. So, here are some others you may know about (or not) and want to check out in that same vicinity. Unfortunately, as far as I know, none of them will have G.Dead music playing.

                Redhead - Meg does some simple, but simply great, American southernish food there & hubby Rob is a great bartender with a jalepino cocktail that's my favorite. Can go for bar seating with or without food and good conversation on the NY food scene.... Greg is from EMP, Rob from Drew N.'s empire. One block from Ssam Bar on E.13th betw. 1st-2nd Aves. Open Mondays.

                Hearth - sit at the pass, watch/interact with the chefs and eat excellent food, while drinking from one of the better wine lists around. Or sit at the bar and do the same. I have no doubt that you know who the owners are and why I'd recommend it. It gets overlooked too often. Entrance on E.12th St, just east of 1st Ave. Closed Mondays.

                Terroir - so, before Hearth or instead of Hearth, go 4 doors east on E.12th and eat/drink at their wine bar. I think its closed Mondays.

                Of course, outside the immediate area, but still in walking distance, are the Batali bars of Babbo, Lupa and Otto. For sitting at the bar, I really prefer eating and drinking at Otto, the least upscale of the 3. I like the bigness of it. I think all are open on Mondays (I'm sure of Otto). There's also Minetta Tavern in this area. Have fun.

                170 Thompson Street, New York, NY 10012

                110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

                Minetta Tavern
                113 MacDougal St, New York, NY 10012

                403 East 12th Street, New York, NY 10009

                1 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10003

                413 E 12th St, New York, NY 10009

                The Redhead
                349 E 13th St, New York, NY 10003

                9 Replies
                1. re: Steve R

                  the less Dead music playing, the better, actually! while we love RJ's food, we don't necessarily share his biker deadhead aesthetic ;)

                  wow, you guys, thank you for all the suggestions. i guess it's "fun" that we don't actually have reservations anywhere ... guess i might start working on a lunch res here soon.

                  last question: marea. it should be on the list for a destination lunch, shouldn't it?

                  240 Central Park South, New York, NY 10019

                    1. re: AubWah

                      OP listed Fishtail, not Fish Tag.

                    2. re: ktfish78

                      Though there are many who rave about Marea, I am *not* one of them (despite being a fan of Michael White's food). They managed to serve me a fish that was overcooked, i.e., too dry -- a huge faux pas for a restaurant whose specialty is fish and seafood.

                      Instead, I highjly recommend White's new upscale restaurant, Ai Fiori, where we;ve had two stellar meals.

                      Ai Fiori photos here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

                      and here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...


                      Ai Fiori
                      400 5th Ave, New York, NY 10018

                      1. re: RGR

                        Definitely Ai Fiori over Marea. Many great suggestions on this thread. If you are interested in high-end modern Indian, try Junoon. We just went for the second time and it is fabulous. I would also put Annisa on your list.

                        27 W 24th St, New York, NY 10010

                        1. re: rrems

                          There's also Tulsi for high end Indian. Hemant's food is superb!

                          Tulsi photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

                          We've not been to Junoon yet. But if you think it's fabulous after two tries, rrems, that's good enough for me. What did you have that you especially recommend?


                          211 E 46th St, New York, NY 10017

                          1. re: RGR

                            For apps, the piri-piri shrimp, quail, duck meatballs. Entrees, goat, lamb shank, halibut. You must also order the cauliflower and spinach as a side. It's a full portion but worked well for splitting among 3 of us. The date pudding cake and the kulfi were great. Portions are large so you might end up taking some of your main course home.

                            1. re: rrems

                              Thanks, rrems! I've made the notations. We do make every effort to order wisely in terms of number of dishes, sharing or not sharing, etc. However, since we're very portion-control conscious, taking home leftovers when we choose not to finish things is nothing new for us.


                    3. re: Steve R

                      dinner service
                      monday to saturday
                      5:30 pm to 11:00 pm

                      sunday dinner
                      5:00 pm to 10:00 pm

                      late night menu
                      monday to saturday
                      11:00 pm to 1:00 am

                      Sunday-Thursday 6-10
                      Friday-Saturday 6-11

                      Open Mon-Sat 5 pm-2 am (food til 1am)
                      Sun 5 pm-midnight

                      open every day from 11:30am until midnight

                      Sunday - Tuesday: 12pm until 11pm
                      Wednesday - Saturday: 12pm until 12am

                      Monday through Saturday 5:30pm - 11:15pm
                      Sunday 5:00pm - 10:45pm

                      170 Thompson Street, New York, NY 10012

                      110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

                      413 E 12th St, New York, NY 10009

                    4. Leave Manhattan and go to Traif where a very young chef is putting out extremely interesting small plates for an unbelievably small price. You can eat and drink and incredible amount for under $120 (drinks, food and service ) Look at their website: http://traifny.com/ It is in Williamsburg and it is nice to see what young chefs are doing. Also, in Williamsburg is "One or EIght"- an excellent modern Japanese restaurant with great sushi, but also modern Japanese/western influenced large plates and a wide selections of genuinely excellent sakes. Again, keep your kidneys, have a great time, and see the less stuffy, vibrancy that Brooklyn has to offer (really what Manhattan below 14th street was 25 years ago)

                      1. I'm not sure jaded Chefs are going to find inspiration from the suggestions given on a food forum, if you're asking what's hot right now. I would certainly avoid Balthazar and Spotted Pig, which are old projects showcasing several year old formulas..

                        Leaving Manhattan may prove a revelation. Brooklyn is thriving in mid-market food. Much of it is hype with barely trained chefs, and you'll see through it, but in terms of inspiration, that's where to look. Brooklyn Flea is one stop worthwhile, just to see some of the little food projects people have started.

                        For real inspiration, Queens and Brooklyn's hole in the wall ethnic options might prove more worthwhile than checking out the latest Batali or Jean-George project.

                        Vandaag and Perilla are two good ideas. The Scandinavian influence is creeping up on both coasts, and Vandaag is foreshadowing that. Perilla is a celebrity chef project run more like a mom and pop.

                        For cocktails, visit Summit Bar.

                        9 Jones Street, New York, NY 10014

                        Spotted Pig
                        314 W 11th St, New York, NY 10014

                        80 Spring St, New York, NY 10012

                        Summit Bar
                        133 Avenue C, New York, NY 10009

                        103 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003