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Jun 19, 2012 08:00 PM

NYC trip - next week

Hi NYC hounds,

I know you see a bunch of these kinds of posts but kind of hoped you would indulge one more. I am coming to NYC next week for a conference and am planning my dining itinerary. I will be dining solo and have reservations for all of the following places. The itinerary is heavy on fine dining because that's what I like, but would consider some more casual places as well. I have no objection to any type of cuisine. Would like some opinions on whether any of these places might be inappropriate for a solo diner for any reason (I'm guessing not but one never knows).

Wed - Lunch - EMP (this of course is the meal I'm most anticipating)

Wed - Dinner - Maialino (the reservation is at 9PM, but will this be overkill with the EMP lunch?)

Thurs - Lunch - ABC Kitchen

Thurs - Dinner - Annisa

Fri - Lunch - Nicoletta, I think (don't know what the wait times will be like but very interested in a good pie)

Fri - Dinner - Atera

Sat - Lunch - Modern Bar Room

Sat - Dinner - Hecho en Dumbo Chef's Table (not sure about this one but I love Mexican and I've heard some good things)

Sun - Brunch - Minetta Tavern

I plan on reporting back on my experiences. I would love to get your input on my choices. Thanks in advance to you all!

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  1. I had lunch at EMP mid-April. We were told during the confirmation phone call to allow about 2.5 hours for the 4 course tasting menu. However, with an unforeseen endless parade of amuse bouches, our meal that started at 12.30 pm lasted for 4 hours!!! We were so full, we have to cancel our Tori Shin 8.30 pm reservation and settled for a Shake Shack Burger at around 10.00pm instead!!!

    Apart from Toritos and Cava, Toronto, IMO, does not have any decent Tapas places. As such, I would suggest you exchange your ABC Kitchen lunch for a 'stunning' Tapas lunch at the Michelin 1* Casa Mono instead. The meal I had there featured so many delicious dishes, they drew non-stop Oohs and Aahs from everyone on our table!!

    7 Replies
    1. re: Charles Yu

      Thanks Charles, I think you're absolutely right about Toronto being bereft of tapas places, and I LOVE spanish food (have made a couple of trips there) so I will seriously consider this. Was also considering Txikito for a Basque flavour.

      1. re: gourmandish

        BTW, Casa Mono is not traditional Spanish and they serve raciones, which are larger than tapas. As a solo diner it might be too difficult to try a variety of dishes there, because of the larger portion sizes.

        If you have specific dishes you really love, let us know, and perhaps we can help guide you. For example, patatas bravas, croquettas, suckling pig, padron peppers, etc.

        1. re: kathryn

          Well, I do love patatas bravas. Other favourites from my trips to Spain included pimientos de padron and boquerones. It should be noted that I do have a big appetite, so larger portion sizes are not necessarily a deterrent for me.

          1. re: gourmandish

            Casa Mono has patatas bravas but no pimiento padron. They do have jamon iberico and pan con tomate.

            Txikito has pimientos but no patatas bravas. Txikito doesn't do pan con tomate or jamon, btw. Not sure why.  My husband loves their Gilda pintxo (with anchovy).

            Tertulia has pimientos but I don't like their potatoes dish. It's called nuestras patatas because it's paprika coated potatoes with aioli on top. It's not really what I identify as patatas bravas. They also have the 5Js jamon iberico (so good!) and pan con tomate, but I'm not a huge fan of the bread  they use.  I also love their anchovy toast.

            1. re: kathryn

              As I've responded to posts before, there's nothing that un-ordinary about Tertulia's "nuestras patatas" because it is also a form of "patatas bravas". Catalan and eastern seaside cities in Spain make their patatas in this same or similar fashion. Tertulia also just used their word-play license and adopted a generic phrase "nuestras patatas", which simply translates into "our potatoes".

              1. re: RCC

                All I said was that it's not what I personally identify as patatas bravas and it's not what I remember eating when I was in Barcelona.

                1. re: kathryn

                  I was aware of what you meant. I just wanted to clarify in case somebody mis-reads your post.

    2. I am from Toronto as well, but travel to New York a few times per year, primarily on food focused visits, planned with the help of the excellent Chowhounds on this site. In the past year I have been to EMP for the 4 course lunch, had dinner at Maialino, been to the Modern Bar Room for lunch, ABC Kitchen for dinner and Minetta Tavern for brunch. I enjoyed all of these, but think I was the least impressed with ABC Kitchen (in terms of food and service, however, we were there on Christmas Day, so it may not be a fair assessment) and would agree that it may make sense to substitute something that Toronto does not do as well for that meal. I haven't had tapas in New York, but am also planning an itinerary for an upcoming trip, and plan to try to hit either Txikito or Tertulia. In terms of Mexican, I enjoyed Toloache last summer, as a pre-theater dinner, but it seems like Empellon Cocina is getting a lot of recent positive buzz on this site. In terms of the EMP lunch, I think it depends on what time your reservation is for and if you get all the "extras" that Charles received. We didn't, but the meal was still amazing. I think we were there for approximately 2.5 hours, as Charles had been quoted. I also think it depends on what you decide to order at Maialino - I know if you are planning on actually ordering the Maialino, it may be quite filling, but I think it is possible to make a good meal out of lighter dishes (i.e. apps, pastas etc) if you want.

      1. Nicoletta is still very new and the chef is doing his own style of pizza, with a crispier crust than NYers are used to. It seems more Midwestern style than NY or Naples. I'm not sure what you're looking though.

        For a great, solo sized pie in the same neighborhood, try Motorino.

        3 Replies
        1. re: kathryn

          Motorino is definitely on my radar as well - but I kind of like the crispier crust. Will have to decide between the two I guess.

          1. re: gourmandish

            We haven't been to Nicoletta, so I can't personally say anything about the crust. But if you like the crisper style, I would recommend either Rubirosa or Vezzo.

            Rubirosa's Classic:

            Vezzo's Thin Crust with Sweet Sausage & Sautéed Onions: :


            While I liked the food at ABC Kitchen, I agree with those who suggest going to Casa Mono instead.

            Casa Mono photos:


            1. re: RGR

              ABC food was okay, hated the service, left us feeling like they all had some place better to be. If it were me I'd take it off the list.

        2. You have a pretty good list there. Definitely keep EMP, Maialino, and Minetta Tavern. The Casa Mono suggestion is definitely spot on as well. It is an incredible restaurant with unbelievable food on one of the nicest blocks in Manhattan.

          1. Weds: I think it might depend on how much you drink with lunch, and if you go for the normal four-course or the tasting. Maialino is pretty heavy, hearty stuff (at least the good things from the menu are) so it might be overkill to tackle it after a tasting menu. I don't know what your capacity is, though - or what time your lunch is. If it's an early one, you might have enough time between. If it's a later rez... you might want to go lighter that night. Maybe sushi, or some lighter Japanese fare - Kyo Ya or Soto, perhaps. Or even - dare I say? - vegetarian. (Dirt Candy could be a fun, unexpected choice...)

            (Also, I notice there's no Asian restaurants on your list - just not a fan in general? Or get enough of it back home?)

            Thurs: I'm not the biggest fan of Annisa, but it's been some time since I've been. There are number of places at similar (or even lower) price points I'd much sooner go to - Public, Forgione, Acme, Momofuku Ssam Bar come to mind... the last one is a fantastic spot for a solo diner for dinner. The wait for a onesie at the bar is usually minimal (if any at all) and the food is tremendous.

            I do like ABC for brunch quite a bit, though I understand the push from (seemingly everyone) to maybe do Casa Mono instead. ABC is great, but nothing I'd go out of my way for if visiting from out of town. Casa Mono (or one of our other Spanish places - Tertulia, Txikito, etc) might be something a bit different than you have back at home. And on the subject of Batali-owned places, Babbo now does lunch... they could be an option. Much like MSB, solo diners can usually find a spot at the bar without too much trouble.

            Fri: Nicoletta is still a bit untested, Most of the word we've heard so far is friends & family, and Michael White fans who want to be there first and are predisposed to dig what he's doing. Not that it'll be bad - most likely it'll be good, he's put out one solid joint after another. But there might be better options. In the same neighborhood is the now-famous Momofuku Ssam Bar "duck lunch" - were you not to try them for dinner. The Duck Over Rice, simple as it sounds, is extraordinary, and the duck fat ginger-scallion sauce they leave at the table... you could just eat it with a spoon. If your heart is set on pizza, Motorino might be a better call for lunch in that 'hood - tested & well-approved by the masses.

            Sat: I've been generally disappointed with HeD. For a modern Mexican fix, maybe sample a bunch of plates at Empellon Cocina?

            5 Replies
            1. re: sgordon

              Thanks to all, these are fantastic suggestions. I do like Asian food as well, but eat a lot of it in Toronto so was kind of thinking of trying some different things. I'm pretty sure I'm going to take the Casa Mono suggestion. Like the Babbo idea too.

              I strongly considered Dirt Candy and may revisit the idea (and the chef is a fellow Torontonian which is cool). I'm going to be going full on at EMP with the full tasting menu and pairings so I think Maialino may be too much.

              I don't have a David Chang restaurant on my itinerary as I intend to try his Toronto places when they open at the end of the summer, but maybe I should (since getting a reservation initially in Toronto will no doubt be a difficult proposition).

              Also looked at Empellon Cocina and it seems to consistently get good recs. I think I may go for it.

              Thanks again!

              1. re: gourmandish

                If I may add to the Momofuku Ssam suggestion. In addition to that very good Duck Over Rice dish, of equal goodness (or sometimes, even surpassing the rice dish) is the Duck Sandwich. The Pork Bun is also a must.

                1. re: RCC

                  OK, I'd say you've sold me!

                  Revised itinerary

                  Wed Lunch - EMP
                  Wed Dinner - Dirt Candy

                  Thurs Lunch - Casa Mono (I guess they don't take reservations for 1 but I was told I shouldn't have much of a wait as a walk-in)
                  Thurs Dinner - Annisa

                  Fri Lunch - Ssam Bar
                  Fri Dinner - Atera

                  Sat Lunch - Bar Room@Modern
                  Sat Dinner - Empellon Cocina

                  Sun Brunch - Minetta Tavern

                  Thanks everyone for your input - I am really stoked about this trip. Will be sure to report!

                  1. re: gourmandish

                    Lookin' like a good trip. Jealous.

                    Only thing I'd add would be to consider the brunch at Public either Saturday or Sunday - super-creative, not like any brunch anywhere else. Were I to replace one, it'd be Minetta - they're great, but there's nothing on the menu you haven't had elsewhere, in some form or another. (That said, I'm assuming - like many visitors - you've already got your sights set on the Black Label Burger, so I won't belabor it... Just throwin' an alternative idea out there, if they're booked...)

                    1. re: sgordon

                      Who else besides Minetta Tavern is serving a black pudding clafoutis or ham baked in hay for brunch?