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Aug 25, 2011 08:56 PM

Need Advice - Friend Visiting From L.A.

So I have a very good friend who's visiting from L.A. next month. He's arriving on September 11th, to be exact, and spending six days, five nights. He's one of those born-and-bred L.A. natives who think NYC sucks (it's a business trip.) He definitely loves good food. He's taken me to many excellent restaurants in L.A. over the years so I not only want to return the favor but also show him that NYC does NOT suck!

Yes, he loves good food, but he's not a fine dining kinda guy. So nowhere with a dress code or even slightly stuffy. Even EMP might be too high-brow for him, so none of the ilk. He's more into simple stuff. Simple food, done well. Molecular gastronomy wouldn't impress him at all. Ingredient-wise, not a fan of foie gras or other offals, though he loves uni and he wants to go to El Quinto Pino just for uni panini (he'd seen it on Food Network, apparently.) The only cuisine he dislikes, as far as I remember, is Chinese. Budget-wise, I'd say we can go up to $100/person including tax and tip, but not alcohol.

Since he's coming from L.A. obviously no Mexican, Korean, etc. Basically whatever L.A. does way better than NYC. I'd like to show him what NYC does really well, or at least better than L.A.

He mentioned he loved Blue Water Grill, but I know that was at least ten years ago. So I was thinking something similar, like maybe Oceana? Would that fit our budget? I've never been. You can't find a good lobster roll in L.A. so I was also thinking Luke's Lobster (best in NYC IMO.) I'm kind of torn on sushi - I think there are too many excellent mid-end sushi places in L.A. for him to have sushi here. I don't think he would want to spend the kind of dough that you need to get really good sushi here. I would like to take him to Sakagura though since it's pretty unique.

I also know that he likes Mastro's in Beverly Hills, so I was thinking either Peter Luger, Keens, or Minetta Tavern for steak. He kind of likes a bit of a "scene" so I'm leaning towards Minetta. I have an in at Minetta that I can't use too often, actually haven't used it at all yet, so this might be a good time so I can get a res at a reasonable time. And of course, some kind of Italian - I thought Scarpetta, then I realized they have one in L.A. now. So where now? I don't know too much about Italian places here since my husband (my main dining partner) doesn't care for it. I'm also thinking Keste for pizza even though I know it's not NY style.

Am I missing anything? Maybe some kind of Eastern European or Jewish? Is there a place good enough to squeeze in during a shorter-than-a-week visit? Any other recs you can think of?

I know this is a rather long-winded post, so I totally appreciate you reading it and would really, really, really appreciate any opinions or recs you might have! Thank you in advance!

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  1. Oceana is our favorite fish/seafood restaurant. The food is superb, service is friendly and attentive, and the surroundings are very pleasing. You should not have a problem keeping within your budget.

    Oceana photos:

    For Italian, I highly recommend Ciano. Delicious food, excellent service, and casual, but lovely, ambiance.

    Ciano photos:

    120 W 49th St, New York, NY 10020

    45 E 22nd St, New York, NY 10010

    2 Replies
    1. re: RGR

      Looks like Oceana is a go - thank you! Nice photos, as usual.

      1. re: RGR

        Hi RGR, I'm also interested in visiting Oceana soon. Do you have anything that you particularly enjoyed? Thanks.

      2. I like El Quinto Pino but I like their other restaurant Txikito much, much better. You could just go and get the sandwich at EQP, and then walk to Txikito for a full meal.

        Plus, there's been so many Spanish tapas openings recently, many of them focused on a specific region in Spain. The new Tertulia is inspired by cider houses in Asturias in northern Spain. Just opened and definitely a big "scene" when we walked past Wednesday night around 8pm. Salinas has a mix of Catalan and Valencian dishes. Plus, there's the Spanish influenced small plates at Degustation -- casual enough not to feel stuffy or have a dress code, I think.

        For Japanese, does he like Japanese BBQ? I believe that Takashi is a one of a kind restaurant and I don't think anywhere in the LA area is doing the local/sustainable beef yakiniku thing, much less some of their more creative dishes. You can not order any of the offal dishes and still have a great meal. I love their beef tartare, short ribs, rib eye, skirt steak, beef belly.

        If he loves uni, he'll love their Niku-Uni dish.

        Additionally, Soto is known for their creative uni dishes:

        If he likes cumin & lamb, maybe try Xi'an Famous Foods. I'm pretty sure LA doesn't have any Xi'an food just yet. It's really different from other types of Chinese food -- would he willing to give it a try?

        I'm so jealous of your "in" at Minetta Tavern. Can you take me?! :) Definitely go there. It's a one of a kind place.

        For Italian, given that your friend is coming on relatively short notice, it's going to be tough. Does your "in" also get you into Babbo? Locanda Verde? Maialino? Those would be my picks for upscale casual, though they all book up 3-4 weeks in advance. Locanda Verde is probably the hippest of the three. Call ASAP.

        Keste would be good for pizza, though I think Motorino's pie is better. Roberta's would probably be the scene-iest but also have a huge wait since they just got reviewed in the NYT.

        > Am I missing anything? Maybe some kind of Eastern European or Jewish? Is there a place good enough to squeeze in during a shorter-than-a-week visit? Any other recs you can think of?

        Russ & Daughters? Katz's? Though I realize a lot of LA hounds think Langer's is better than Katz's.

        2nd Avenue Deli, maybe? Depends on what sort of deli foods he likes, if it's pastrami, chicken soup, matzoh balls, corned beef, etc.

        Shopsin's for breakfast/brunch during the week? Since this is a business trip, are you constrained to only dinners?

        Is he interested in any of the Momofuku restaurants?

        This thread might help too:

        Obscure picks for West Coast hound:

        Or this:

        Russ & Daughters
        179 E Houston St, New York, NY 10002

        Katz's Delicatessen
        205 E Houston St, New York, NY 10002

        357 6th Avenue, New York, NY 10014

        110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

        Shopsin's General Store
        120 Essex St, New York, NY 10002

        Minetta Tavern
        113 MacDougal St, New York, NY 10012

        239 E 5th St, New York, NY 10003

        El Quinto Pino
        401 W 24th St, New York, NY 10011

        Second Avenue Deli
        162 E 33rd St, New York, NY 10016

        240 9th Ave, New York, NY 10001

        Keste Pizza & Vino
        271 Bleecker St, New York, NY 10014

        Locanda Verde
        377 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10013

        2 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10010

        Xi'an Famous Foods
        88 E Broadway, New York, NY 10002

        349 E 12th St, New York, NY 10003

        456 Hudson St, New York, NY 10011

        359 6th Ave, New York, NY 10011

        136 9th Ave, New York, NY 10011

        2 Replies
        1. re: kathryn

          The best deli meat at 2nd Ave., imo, is the knoblewurst. Since it's not served in most delis in NYC, I'm guessing that it might be hard to find in L.A.

          2nd Ave. Deli photos, including the knoblewurst sandwich:

          Second Avenue Deli
          162 E 33rd St, New York, NY 10016

          1. re: kathryn

            OK. Sorry it took me such a long time to get back to this thread - been too hectic with family affairs. I'm back now though. Meanwhile thank you so much for responding, ladies! Truly appreciated.

            Yeah, most likely El Quinto Pino will be a lunch or snack type deal. Not sure if he's into Spanish tapas or not - but he does live near the Bazaar in L.A. and I'm pretty sure he goes there so high-end tapas probably won't be a priority.

            Takashi would be absolutely perfect - thanks for the rec. I've been meaning to go there since opening too - can't wait, sounds amazing. Unfortunately my Minetta hook-up is strictly for Minetta - but Minetta is definitely on the list as well. I have a feeling Shopsin's would be right up his alley too. Not restricted to dinners at all, BTW - his hours will be totally flexible. Still haven't booked any Italian so I guess we'll see where I get lucky. I tend to be pretty lucky w/ ressies, though obviously I'm not counting on Babbo.

            I spoke to him a couple days ago & he expressed interest in Jewish/deli stuff for sure. Now this is something I'm totally unfamiliar with - so 2nd Ave. is best for knoblewurst, what about for corned beef? Is Katz's pastrami still the best? Would totally appreciate a summary of sorts or if there's a good thread for it? Other than that I think we're pretty good here.

            Thank you again - any deli experts please feel free to chime in!

          2. After years of being a quiet observer, I'm finally chiming in.
            Among the good restaurants your friend would certainly enjoy, I recommend the following:

            Authentically charming, good food/price ratio and quaint:
            Angelini Osteria

            Carlitos Gardel

            The obvious choice: MOZZA

            Interesting LA breakfast/lunch finds:
            Joan's on Third

            Hope this helps!

            6 Replies
            1. re: chowservice

              I think you are confused - my friend is a L.A. native visiting NYC so I'm looking for NYC recs for him.

              Don't be discouraged though - post away!

              1. re: uwsister

                Ha! Thank you! I got a bit too excited I guess...

                Ok, here goes it:

                Babbo? If he's from LA, and has been to MOZZA, he'll be pleasantly surprised to be taken to a Batali restaurant.

                Over and out for now!

                110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

                1. re: chowservice

                  Babbo would be cool, but I'm sure all the tables are booked out & I don't know if I'd want to take a chance showing up at the opening.

                  Sunday evening we are definitely doing Minetta, everything else is up in the air. Most likely we will play it by ear with exception of Thursday. Monday and Wednesday he can't commit to a time due to his schedule so it'll be whatever's-available-last-minute kind of deal, Tuesday he's having a business dinner. Thursday looks like it will either be Oceana, Takashi, or one of Italian places if I can snag a res or last-min cancellation. And of course, pizza, El Quinto Pino, Shopsin's, deli, stuff like that for breakfast/lunch.

                  Still need Jewish deli recs from experts! What's good at Katz's, Second Ave. Deli, Sarge's? I'm very familiar w/ Russ & Daughters, but delis I really don't know much about. Would really, really appreciate any info.

                  1. re: uwsister

                    No, no no. Do NOT take him to a jewish deli. Those are done better in LA. What you can't get in LA is that really high-end dining experience. I would recommend Per Se and Le Bernardin, restaurants of those ranks. And if he likes Mastros then he'll love Peter Luger.

                    Per Se
                    10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

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

                    1. re: david t.

                      "...he's not a fine dining kinda guy. So nowhere with a dress code or even slightly stuffy. Even EMP might be too high-brow for him..."

                      1. re: david t.

                        thegforceny - thank you for reading my post! Ha.

                        While I'm not too versed in Jewish delis, I highly doubt they are really done better in L.A. Yes, Langer's may have better pastrami than Katz's, but what else is out there? Canter's? (average at best) Nate 'N Al's? He specifically inquired about delis too, so the point is kind of moot.

                        Peter Luger would have been a good choice - but I decided to take him to Minetta instead since I didn't think he'd want to schlep out to Brooklyn after his long flight. Next time! Thanks for the rec though.