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Where should we go next?

My wife and I have lived in and been enjoying the food in Manhattan for about 10 years now. As you might remember from a couple of my recent posts, we recently had our first kid and thus are eating out less, especially adult-only dinners. For pretty long time I've kept a handy list of favorite places and places we want to try. That said, realizing that we're not going to have the luxury of eating out as often, I would love to get some opinions on which places you think should be on the top of our list, which should be removed, and any that you think we're missing.

Some general info on our dining preferences:
1. Food is by far the most important thing when we eat out. Decor and service can certainly make the experience better or worse, but we've never been to a place and and walked out saying we'd never go back b/c of the decor. Have said that b/c of service though.
2. Cost matters, but in a relative value sort of way. Meaning if I am paying more for the same type of food I can get elsewhere in Manhattan it should be worth it. Don't have Per Se on the list for this reason, just can't believe the food there is that much better.
3. Have not been to many "upscale fine dining" places b/c I believe you are paying significantly more for the service/decor and that you can often get just as good food elsewhere. Have dined at del Posto for dinner twice. I did think it was great, but not worth the extra $. David Burke Kitchen is another example - the food was not impressive, the service was snotty and it was expensive
4. Type of food - open to anything, but tend to prefer ethic cuisine.
5. Generally avoid food we can easily cook at home. Not amazing cooks here, but can do a pretty good job with simple dishes steak, bbq, scallops, seared tuna....

I have a few lists below: basically places we want to try and places we've been fairly recently with quick thoughts on them as I thought it would help with our request. And, it might also help someone trying to pick between a couple restaurants we've been to. One last thought, if you think any of the places on our want to try list would work for a weekend lunch with baby pls let me know and I'll move them to that list instead of my "adult dinner" list. thanks!

Want to try:
- Jungsik - good reviews here and seems like our type of food, but honestly the picture don't look great
- Eleven Madison Park - Although I have my caveat above about "upscale fine dining" the comments on this board have put this on my list
- Omakase at 15 East or Sushi Azubu - never had a real nice sushi dinner before. nicest would be Poke or Haru and never sat at the bar or done Omakase. we both eat it occasionally, but pretty much stick to tuna/salmon, but open to trying plenty more with some guidance.
- Kyo ya
- Boloud Sud - haven't been to any of his restaraunts. generally not a huge french food fan, but feel like I should try this on the below.
- Bar Boloud
- Kajitsu
- Acme
- Nomad
- Le Bernadin
- Corton
- Marea
- Annisa
- Blue hill (been to stone barn)
- Minetta tavern
- The Dutch
- Ciano – been for their prix fixe lunch and liked it, considering going back for dinner specifically for the chicken for 2
- Breslin
- Locanda Verde
- WD-50
- Mas Farmhouse
- Mas Grillade
- Aldea
- Recette
- Nuela
- Kittichia
- blaue-gans
- El quinto pino
- Joseph Leonard
- Scarpetta
- Sorella
- Malatesta
- Peasant
- Dirty Candy

Places we've been:
Danji - love
Abc Kitchen - love
Red Farm - love
Kin Shop - great
Momofuku Ko - loved
Momfuku Ssam Bar - great
Ma Peche - great
Pearl Oyster Bar - great
Milos - loved but so expensive for what it is
Union Sq Café - overrated & nothing special
Tertulia - okay but overrated
Txikito - great
Frankies Spuntino - great
Lupa - used to love
Modern Bar Room - good
Wong - okay/overrated
Toloache - good
Spotted Pig - overrated. good once, bad once
Casa Mono - overrated. didn't like food or service
Fatty Cue - overrated, didnt enjoy
Fatty Crab - liked more than F Cue, still not great
Café Asean - better than either fatty, but not good enough to head back
Hunan Manor - great
Sichuan Gourmet - v good, but too oily
Zabb Elee - great
Empellon Tacqueria - okay, not worth going back
The Smith - okay
Itzocan - used to love, haven't been for years
Penang - good
Sala 19 - good
Koi - good but way too expensive for what it is
Ciano - went for the lunch special, very good
15 east - went for the lunch special, very good
Gotham B&G - went for lunch special, wasn't impressed
David burke Kitchen - hated

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  1. Nuela has closed.

    Jung Sik. "...the picture don't look great>" I'm not exactly sure what you mean by that. We've been to there twice, and the food was delicious.

    "Nomad": I presume you mean The NoMad in the hotel of the same name? Note that they are no longer serving the tasting menu inside though many of the things that were on it are on the a la carte menu. You should consider trying to get a reservation on the Rooftop. Tasting menu only, and it is sensational!

    Boulud Sud. I'm not rushing back. Not that it was bad. Just underwhelming.

    Bar Boulud. You can definitely take the baby there for weekend brunch.

    Marea. I'm not a fan. I would substitute Ai Fiori. Imo, superior to Marea in every way, i.e., cuisine, service, and ambiance.

    Recette. I liked the food, but I found it cramped and loud.

    Ciano. A favorite of ours. Yes, the chicken for two is definitely worth a visit. Don't forget the veal meatballs.

    I don't see Tocqueville on your list. It should be . One of the most under-appreciated restaurants in the city.


    4 Replies
    1. re: RGR

      Thanks for your opinions RGR.

      Jung Sik - I was referring to the pictures on their website - they just don't look that great to me. http://jungsik.kr/#photo/1

      NoMad - yes, that is what I meant

      Tocqueville - This has been on my lunch specials to try list for some time. Do you think there is a major difference between their food at lunch and dinner? It's pretty much at the top of that list now.

      1. re: uncledunkel

        Here is my photo set from our second Jung Sik dinner. Maybe the food will look better to you?


        Re: Tocqueville. There is absolutely no difference in the quality of the cuisine at lunch vs. dinner. Mr. R. and I have done many of the 3-course lunch prix-fixes, and they are always first-rate. Our most recent meal there was lunch with uhockey and steakrules 85. We ordered from the a la carte menu. The food was stellar.

        Photos of our recent lunch at Tocqueville: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

        I just noticed that while you've been to the Bar Room at The Modern, the Dining Room is not on your list. It's another one that should be.


        1. re: uncledunkel

          For what it's worth my husband and I wanted to love Jungsik but weren't blown away. Was a nice meal but not amazing. I wouldn't recommend Bernadin because friends have gone recently and been really put off by the staff there. Not worth it at that cost. I wouldn't go to Blue Hill if you've been to Stone Barn - Stone Barn is better IMO.

          From your list, of those i have gone to, personally I have most loved Eleven Madison (gourmand menu), 15 East omakase, Nomad, Corton and Locande Verde. DBGB is nice for a more low key meal but it's not life-changingly awesome, just very good.

          1. re: The Cookbook Addict

            Stories!! What did your friends say? I've been thinking of trying LB sometime this summer, but I wasn't sure if I could handle their notions of what constitutes acceptable service.

      2. Remarks about places from your list that I've been to:

        - Kyo ya

        I've been twice: once for kaiseki and once for an a la carte dinner. The kaiseki was one of the best meals I've ever had in New York, simply sublime! The a la carte dinner was good but not comparable. So definitely go, but get kaiseki, which I believe requires 2 days' advance notice now, but call them and ask. And definitely tell them if there's anything that you don't like. I told them my girlfriend and I hate raw bivalves like oysters and clams, and they forgot and brought out really beautiful raw oysters. I reminded them that we had told them in advance that we didn't like raw oysters, so they apologetically removed them and substituted a great course of baby squid that they had just gotten in. As you'd expect from a high-class Japanese restaurant, service is extremely courteous and gracious.

        - Locanda Verde

        I was there once for a light late-night dinner and found the food delicious and the atmosphere very crowded and a bit crazy. Service was friendly and informal. I would be happy to go back.

        - Scarpetta

        I've been twice, and also enjoyed a meal at L'Impero years ago. Very worthwhile place. I think Ai Fiori is one or two levels up in deliciousness, but you'll definitely get your money's worth, and the atmosphere is more relaxed at Scarpetta. Interesting decor, too.

        - DBGB

        I've been two or three times. I'm a bit underwhelmed. Their food is hit or miss. For example, I had really good tarte tatin there, but not all their sausages are that great. Cafe Mogador (a place that I don't think I can recommend anymore, considering that their problems with serving rotten salad have come back), which is a lot cheaper and less pretentious, serves much better, spicier merguez, for example. I don't think DBGB is worth the crush of crowds, but if you've never been, the decor might be worth seeing for itself, so maybe you could go on a less busy night, have a drink, and look in the eating room.

        - Malatesta

        Solid neighborhood restaurant. Not really a destination place, but definitely good enough to go to if you want to walk around the Village afterwards.

        Momfuku Ssam Bar - great

        I like it, too.

        Union Sq Café - overrated & nothing special

        I haven't been in years, but when I did go, I found it very good and reliable, with excellent service. Not sure who's overrating it.

        Txikito - great


        Frankies Spuntino - great

        I was underwhelmed by their Clinton St. location after reading some raving on this board. I found it just OK, except for one great dessert (the one with the prunes and marcarpone).

        Lupa - used to love

        Yeah, last time I went, one dish was really too salty.

        Modern Bar Room - good

        I had one meal there, a really good restaurant week dinner a couple of years ago. I still remember their sweetbreads were excellent.

        Casa Mono - overrated. didn't like food or service

        I found them too salty, but that was perhaps 7 years ago.

        Hunan Manor - great

        I've been once and wasn't blown away at all but plan to give them another chance.

        Sichuan Gourmet - v good, but too oily

        I love their 56 St. location.

        Zabb Elee - great

        I find them inconsistent but I'm still glad they're in my neighborhood.

        Itzocan - used to love, haven't been for years


        Penang - good


        There's a fair amount of disagreement in our tastes, so I'm not really sure which of the places I've liked you'll like, but on the basis of a delicious meal I had a couple of weeks ago, I've started to promote Quinto Quarto, a Roman trattoria on Bedford St. If you go, get the abbacchio.

        I also don't see La Sirene in your list. You might like their food, too. I see you say you like "ethnic" places. I think maybe what you mean is a place that has a sense of authenticity to the cuisine - that it authentically expresses what food means to the chef. And the chef at La Sirene has obvious pride in his food, and should, based on the meal I had there some time ago (on the recommendation of other hounds).

        I noticed RGR mentioned Ai Fiori, which is currently my favorite restaurant in New York. I think it's worth the money, and I hope you agree. It has a sense of place, too - they describe their cuisine as Ligurian, so it's not surprising that there are French influences or commonalities with French cuisine. One notable example is their bouillabaisse, which is probably one of the best dishes I've ever had in New York, and not the same as the style I had when I was in the south of France.

        I would also second RGR's praise for Tocqueville.

        I'd be tempted to recommend Red Rooster, but some hounds haven't considered it a serious destination for food (based on the meal I had, I disagree), and I have no idea whether you'd love it or hate it. I'll see if I come up with other ideas.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Pan

          After Kyo Ya's NY Times review you probably need more than a few days' lead time to get a reservation now.

          1. re: kathryn

            Good point, but I meant how much notice you need to give them to get kaiseki, not a reservation. I should have been more clear, though.

        2. Have had excellent meals at both Minetta Tavern & Le Bernardin.
          Nice Matin at 201 W. 79th has been awesome & I thought well-priced for the quality of food it delivers, but I haven't been there in awhile. Aquavit on E. 55th in midtown is great for a change of pace, as is Pravda on Lafayette,(sort of near the Bubble Lounge?) with its Kookie/Edgy Commie Era Russian decor but the chicken kiev and, of course the caviar, were impeccable...

          1. For sushi, 15 East is a must. Make a reservation for the bar and ask to sit in front of Mr. Shimizu. Order the omakase and just put yourself in his hands, you will not be disappointed!

            1. I popped in to Haru on Park Avenue last week - was in the area, hungry and had 30 minutes before a meeting. Sat at the bar and ordered both from the happy hour menu as well as the restaurant menu. The happy hour roll tasted fishy, not fresh and with soggy rice. Sort of what I expected from a "happy hour" special. What was truly disappointing was the "special" maguro touted by the waiter as "the best." $11 for one piece of sashmi - why not if it's what the waiter is making it out to be, will be worth it. Unfortunately, It was just bad. Fishy, flaccid, rubbery. Yuk! I won't be going back any time soon.

              1. From your list, I highly recommend both Corton and The NoMad. If you go to The NoMad, I highly recommend the chicken for 2. I've had recent excellent meals at both restaurants. Glad to see you like two of my favorite restaurants: Momofuku Ko and Ma Peche; I've recently had great meals at both.

                1. Based on the places you've listed as "love" or "great" I'm sussing out a few things: you like big, hearty flavors. Good value:price ratio. Unpretentious atmosphere. That said, of the list you've got, I think your best bets would be:

                  Acme: pretty comparable to Momofuku Ssam, in some ways - though not as adventurous in terms of flavor pairing / unexpected ingredients.
                  Marea: also consider Ai Fiori - I find Marea often stumbles when it comes to the secondi.
                  Minetta Tavern: though I find the famous "Black Label" burger overpriced, most of the menu is excellent value for what they serve.
                  WD-50: harder to judge now that they're tasting-menu-only. Maybe try dining at the bar where you can sample a la carte offerings first?
                  Recette: tougher call, as it seems a few of the "small plates" places you were less than enthusiastic about - but dang, they're good.
                  Peasant: super rustic, great vibe, delicious unpretentious food.
                  Dirt Candy: even avowed borderline-carnivores like me looooove this place.
                  The NoMad: EMP-lite, though still quite pricey.
                  EMP: what is there to say that hasn't already been said? Even those of us who usually don't go for the hoitiest-toitiest, the Daniels and Jean-Georges and Le Bernardins and Per Ses, love this place. An amazing meal, every time.
                  Kyo Ya: the kaiseki is extraordinary, but do keep in mind the food is much more subtle than at some other places. They don't punch you in the face with flavors, so much as lightly caress you.

                  Scarpetta - I'm kind of mixed on. Mind you, I've liked everything I've had at Scarpetta. I just find everything about $5-$10 more than it reasonably should be. At the same or lower price point, Babbo or the Michael White places are preferable to me.
                  The Dutch: not as high on them as some other diners are - wasn't blown away by the fried chicken - but most things were very good. I like them as a lunch/brunch option. Sandwiches are excellent.
                  Kajitsu: haven't been since the new chef took over, waiting to read a few reviews.

                  A few you don't list:

                  Babbo: Odd you didn't list them, since it seems you've been to many of the other Batali places. Better than Del Posto (which I do like) IMHO, and at a lower price point to boot. The vibe is much more casual (obviously) but it's still a special night out place if there ever was one.
                  Also, a number of the places in Eataly: I'm particularly fond of Il Verdure, the vegetarian place, for a nice lunch / brunch (and, being the veggie place, it's usually the least crowded...) - also Manzo is great for more of a fancy meal, and Il Pesce we'll do if Verdure is full but Pesce happen to have seats open.
                  Marc Forgione: similar price point to Babbo. Big flavors, manages to straddle the rustic / modern line very nicely, very playful, and quite often flat-out delicious. His signature dishes are such for a reason: the bbq oysters, chili lobster, halibut "proposal", and chicken-for-two are all stunners.
                  Aquavit: the service can be a touch stiff depending who your server is (but not stuffy, more just a little bland) but the food has been out-of-the-park the last couple years, since Chef Jernmark put his personal stamp on it. Very decent price for what you get - $89 / 4 courses. Decent a la carte at lunch as well, but a bit more traditional fare. The real creative fireworks are mostly on the dinner menu.
                  Cafe Boulud: to me, the shining star of the Boulud empire. Chef Kaysen is making the most creative food of any of DB's restaurants, which tend to be quite a mixed bag in my opinion. (Hate: Daniel, DBGB bar menu / Like: DBBM, Sud, DBGB main dining room / Mixed: BB)
                  Soto: another Japanese option to consider, especially if you're an uni fan. Keep in mind, though, it can get VERY expensive. Stick with the composed plates and skip the straight-up sushi/sashimi, and you'll have some amazing food.
                  Lincoln: again, a bit expensive, but pretty dang excellent.
                  Mission Chinese: yes, you've got to wait for a table, but they'll take you cell# and it isn't like there aren't 100 bars to grab a drink in while you wait. If you've got a spicy jones to fix, a good alternate to Zabb Elee. Different (darker) flavor profile, of course, but gets the job done.
                  Empellon Cocina:: don't let bad vibes from Taqueria cloud you. Cocina is great, and quite different. It's the restaurant that Stupak REALLY wanted to open.
                  JoeDoe: an underrated little neighborhood gem in the East Village. Unpretentious, delicious, aggressively flavored, playful - Joe Dobias is a really solid chef putting out some really great stuff. His wife, who runs the bar, is a fantastic mixologist, and makes a number of really creative beer-based cocktails. Also a good brunch option (duck hash w/ duck eggs is awesome) though the selections tend to lean on the heavy side - last few times we were there for brunch, there wasn't a single fish option, but something like 5 bacon/pork choices it seemed. Which are all delicious, I'm sure, but sometimes you want a bit of lox for brunch, y'know...

                  There are a few excellent Chinatown options worth checking out as well - Oriental Garden, Ping's, and Fuleen are standouts, and I've been hearing that Danny Ng is very much back on track of late. That might warrant a different thread, though. They're also not so much "date night" places as everything's generally served family-style (and family-size), best enjoyed with a group.

                  A few I might skip:
                  Aldea - The prices are fair, but for some reason I just can't get on the Aldea bandwagon, personally. I've had food there that's perfectly good, but never anything that really blew me away or moved me on a vasceral level. Part of the problem might be that I LOOOVE Portuguese / Mediterannean food, but I found the menu to be lacking in actual Portuguese flavors. It all came off as fairly standard New American with a little something thrown in here or there. When I'm craving Portuguese, I go to Convivium Osteria in Park Slope - they're less refined / more rustic, but the food just moves me more.
                  Anissa - same as Aldea. I respect Chef Lo to the moon, but for some reason her food just doesn't speak to me. I find the value:price ratio a little lacking as well, especially in terms of portion size - I've had a couple entrees there that only barely qualified as such. Oddly, I liked them better the time I went pre-fire. They're one of those places I haven't been to in some time, though, and keep thinking I should revisit.
                  Blue Hill - you know... it hurts to say it. Because, y'know, it's frickin' Blue Hill. But the last couple times I've been, while everything has been perfectly prepared, often very good... just no fireworks. Either the shine has worn off, or they're not stretching as much as they used to, or others are doing similar things either better or at lower price points, or something... but Blue Hill just didn't excite me the last couple times. I feel like they're kind of resting on their laurels, while other places keep pushing forward.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: sgordon

                    Pan & sgordon - those were quite the posts - thank you! very helpful. I've been meaning to write-up my two most recent dinners out - recette and um segredo. fwiw these were both dinners with friends rather than my wife. at recette, two of us ordered and split 7 dishes, sort of just creating our own tasting menu. we both enjoyed it and i would recommend, however with so many places i want to try in the city i doubt i'll be back. my favorite dish was definitely the salt cod fritters with lamb ragu. we joked about changing our order to just seven of those. we also had: marinated hamachi, bone marrow toast, tuna, spaghetti, duck breast, and pork belly. all were good, but if i do make it back i want to try the oxtail & prawn lasange.

                    also went to um segredo for the hemingway dinner. very creative and tasty dishes. also loved the atmosphere. would go back as i feel it is so different than what you can get elsewhere, and it won't always be around.

                    didn't realize aquavit had changed a few years ago. i went maybe 5 years ago and was not impressed, will need to reconsider it.

                    1. re: uncledunkel

                      Glad if I was able to help. Um Segredo sounds intriguing. Could you please describe the food a little more? I note that the name is Portuguese.

                      1. re: Pan

                        Um Segredo (whihc means "secret") is Chef David Santos's Supper Club. Dave is of Portuguese extraction. Each dinner has a theme with a different menu. While some have had Portuguese influences, most have not. All show Dave's superb talent, creativity, versatility, sense of humor, and playfulness.

                        There is at least one thread discussing these dinners (I'm too lazy to do a search).

                        Here's the website where you can sign up to receive notices of upcoming dinners: http://www.umsegredony.com/

                        Btw, Dave is running the Seafood Shack at Pier NYC, on Roosevelt Island. We were there a few weeks ago. As usual, his food was delicious.

                        Pier NYC photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...


                        1. re: Pan

                          Here's a thread that may be helpful;

                          The menu for the dinner i went to was:
                          shiso granite

                          Cured Sakai Salmon
                          heirloom potato salad, pickled red onion

                          Swordfish(maybe marlin
                          )charred green onions, arroz valenciano, saffron puree

                          Roasted Trout
                          farro, corn, bacon

                          Rabbit "Shepard's Pie"
                          braised rabbit, root veg, potato foam

                          Crispy Pork Belly A La Cubana
                          black beans, yuca, mojo

                          Key Lime Pie
                          lime curd, ginger snap crumble, toasted marshmallow ice cream

                          It's been about a month since I went, looking back, the dishes don't stand out as an amazing "I need that exact dish again", but more remember them as being creative and different than what you'd typically get. as an example, the rabbit shepard's pie was good and nothing like i would have imagined the dish - it came in a glass jug, the potato foam is not something i would typically like, but it worked perfectly in the dish. sorry, know that was a great description, but hope it helped some

                        2. re: uncledunkel

                          I was never the biggest fan of Samuelsson. I found his dishes to lack a certain passion and gutsiness. Credit where it's due to him, he was certainly one of the most creative chefs on the scene a decade ago - now, in a Post-Wylie NYC, his experiments almost seem quaint, but they were quite modernist for the time. But unlike Wylie, very little that Samuelsson did really grabbed me on a visceral level.

                          That said, one of the best things I've ever eaten was from him - a duck-liver-crusted tuna in a mild coconut curry. Nothing remotely Nordic about it, but delicious. Overall, though, I found most meals from his Aquavit to be a let-down.

                          I think Jernmark is a serious upgrade, but it took some time for him to put his stamp on it. Unfortunately, Sifton re-reviewed them a bit too soon, I think. The menu and kitchen were still in transition - had he waited a year, it might have been the difference between a two and a three-star. Though as I said, the service can sometimes be a bit bland, perfunctory, and that can always factor into things...

                        3. re: sgordon

                          Excellent post, but l'd strongly disagree with characterizing JoeDoe as "unpretentious:" the two times l've had brunch there, the service was quite rude [maybe because we didn't order alcoholic drinks?], the made-up rules about ordering pretentious in the extreme. The food is good, but didn't make up for the service. l wrote a rant about it here a couple months back.

                          1. re: howdini

                            I don't recall any rules about ordering... maybe I never broke them, though. Still, no excuse for rudeness. (I tend to associate pretension more with high-falutin' snootiness, whereas the food at JoeDoe is more in the "elevated comfort food" category.)

                        4. A few more comments/suggestions:

                          Bouley - Given the OP seems to want to find decent value, I think the Sat lunch at Bouley might be an excellent choice. Very good food (almost a tasting menu comparable to dinner), upscale yet moderately priced.

                          15 East - Had omakase at 15 East two weeks ago, it was excellent and not TOO expensive (compared to good sushi bars)

                          the nomad - Maybe instead of EMP you could try the nomad, which has a lot of EMPish dishes at a much lower cost.....given that EMP is taking away its grid menu, the price tag is steep

                          Marea - have been there twice, excellent both times...could also consider lunch if you think dinner prices are too steep.

                          Didn't like any of the Daniel boulud places...(cafe boulud, bar boulud, daniel) but that could just be me. Given you liked blue hill you might like Kajitsu too...and lastly I think WD-50 would not give you the same type of "surprise" as momofuku Ko...