Bunch of questions—RE: Babbo Res, Gramercy Tavern, Aldea, Annisa, EMP, Saxon + Parole
Quick Background—Traveling with my husband and we’ve both only visited in NYC once, but not recently so I’m really starting at square one when it comes to dining in your city. After some research, these are my lingering questions.
--I will be looking for a Thursday night res. in late July at Babbo and will call a month in advance at 10...am I likely to still have an issue getting a reservation if we are flexible with time? (Not sure if this is hard to book period or just without much advance notice.)
---Tavern in Gramercy Tavern: Any experience with doing the set menu with Pairings? This sounds like something we would enjoy. Is the Tavern mostly bar seating or tables? With no reservations, how difficult is it to get in on the weekend?
--Both Aldea and Annisa interest me for dinner. (Specifically because I want to consider some fine dining options other than French, Italian, or contemporary American.) Is one clearly the better restaurant? And to complicate things, I do have my eye on Tocqueville which would probably be the other contender for this night’s dinner.
--I would LOVE to do EMP for a 4-course lunch, but I am struggling with fitting those 3 hours into our short trip itinerary. Assuming we drink responsibly, from your experience is this is the kind of lunch that makes you want to take a nap afterwards or do you just leave comfortably full and happy? If that even makes sense?!? My only experiences with multi-course fine dining have been at dinner and when I think about my two favorite spots at home, we’ve almost always gone out for drinks after eating at one, but seem to be exhausted after a meal at the other.
--Looking at Saxon + Parole for a Saturday brunch. Anyone thoughts on their brunch and if we should expect long waits for a table? I think I’ve only seen mentions for its dinner.
Thanks in advance for any help!
Babbo: If you are flexible on time, and can't get a reservation, just go when it opens for dinner and eat at the bar. You should be able to get a reservation, though, I have never struck out when flexible about time.
EMP: You should be able to enjoy your afternoon despite a filling lunch. That said, whatever it is you plan to do afterwards is unlikely better than relaxing in the EMP dining room with a drink.
I will have to write more about the trip later...but I wanted to say that comment above "whatever it is you plan to do afterwards is unlikely better than relaxing in the EMP dining room with a drink" sold us on making EMP lunch a priority for the trip.
We went for the 4-course on Friday and it was such a great experience. We were so glad we did it! Thanks.
> --I will be looking for a Thursday night res. in late July at Babbo and will call a month in advance at 10...am I likely to still have an issue getting a reservation if we are flexible with time? (Not sure if this is hard to book period or just without much advance notice.)
Make sure you call a month in advance to the NUMERICAL date, i.e. call on June 8th for July 8th. They also take walk-ins and post last minute cancellations to Twitter. They are also open for lunch Tuesday-Saturday. If you are flexible, you should be able to get in via one of these methods.
> ---Tavern in Gramercy Tavern: Any experience with doing the set menu with Pairings? This sounds like something we would enjoy. Is the Tavern mostly bar seating or tables? With no reservations, how difficult is it to get in on the weekend?
It's proper tables. not lounge/bar seating Difficulty getting in depends on when you go. Note that they are open all day, so an earlier dinner or late lunch might work better.
In terms of what you want to do after your EMP lunch, it might depend on the weather! I had lunch there last July, but it was during the massive heat wave that hit the east coast, and I walked out of lunch and went straight back to the hotel to nap in the air con!
Others might disagree, but I don't think Anissa is much different from French/Contemporary American. I'd say it's no more "Asian" than Jean Georges (a restaurant with plenty of Asian accents, but whose cuisine I would nevertheless characterize as French).
For what you're looking for, I think Aldea is a better choice. (I also personally like it better -- but that's a different story.)
Toqueville is CLEARLY French/Contemporary American (and, I think, not as good as Aldea or Annisa -- although I acknowledge it's a big favorite on this board).
I would consider both Aldea and Annisa to be "contemporary American" - each has touches of other cultures thrown in, but overall they're NewAm places. If you want to stretch beyond the Continental box... we have some great high-end Indian (Junoon, Tulsi) or even better are our high-end Japanese options - Morimoto, Nobu, Soto - all are more about the composed dishes than the sushi / sashimi, so you don't have to be sushi connoisseur, which some people worry about.
The other option is to go a little experimental - WD-50, although with the new tasting menu format would be a bit more expensive than either Aldea or Annisa. You could do the "from the vault" tasting though - which at five courses for $75 is pretty reasonable. Other places doing more eclectic cuisine like that would be Corton (only really expensive tastings, though) and, to some degree, Public. Not so much the funky techniques at Public, but he's very creative with his flavor pairings. Actually, Public would be a great replacement for Saxon & Parole for brunch - same chef, better brunch hands down.
It's not my preferred either - but I'd absolutely call it NewAm, only with some Iberian flavors dotted throughout - heck, on the website it only says they're "inspired" by the flavors of the Iberian peninsula. They're basically a local/seasonal place a la Gramercy, but with Iberian ingredients dotted throughout. I can say that the last time I dined there, the Venison with huckleberry coulis I had as an entree sure wasn't Portuguese in the remotest sense.
For something closer to purely Portuguese fare, I'd say go to Alfama or Convivium in Park Slope (though the latter is mixed with Southern Italian and Spanish to some extent..)
Thanks for the thoughts. I really appreciate it.
I am definitely going to revisit the menu for Public's brunch. I actually found Saxon + Parole from the Public site and found the menu more appealing, but if the other is clearly better...that's would be my choice.
As far as my comment about the ethnic "influence"....I was literally thinking a slight influence of a cuisine I don't regularly eat in a fine dining setting would be nice, but I really don't want to do an all out ethnic dinner. Not that we wouldn't enjoy it, I'm sure--just not what I was looking for.
The point may actually be moot anyway. I think I've found a way to do the EMP lunch without sacrificing our other trip priorities and we'd probably do that in place of a second formal dinner as long as the reservations work out. We do have a third night, but we're going to keep that open for bar/food crawling or just a place that doesn't take reservations. I hate to be on too strict of a schedule--this is supposed to be a vacation after all. :-)
Second the notion that Public is much, much better. I agree that Saxon + Parole's menu is more appealing on paper, but Public is really one of my favorite brunches in the city. (However, both are very good restaurants—Public is just a step above.) If you arrive very close to 12 (or before), your wait at Public will be minimal.