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Jul 1, 2012 09:23 AM

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.

      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:

        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.