Atera: Delicious and amazing. Very small and intimate space with an open kitchen where you watch the chefs prepare the food you are going to be served. Their pickling liquid was used multiple times to pickle different items throughout the dinner and was amazing - especially noticeable when eating the "quail egg" (actually spherified aioli). Highlight for me was the cured swordfish belly which was one of the most amazing things I've ever tasted. I also loved the bread that was basted in pork fat - so amazing - I know I am going to dream about this piece of bread. I think the one miss was that the restaurant tries a bit too hard to make things appear as something they are not. It worked most of the time, but sometimes the food was very interesting but tasted just okay as with the lichen cracker and the churro which was actually dried salsify. It was a unique, delicious and great experience overall which I wouldn't miss out on.
Eleven Madison Park: Amazing service. Amazing service. Amazing service. I can't imagine a restaurant with better service than we had here. The service was perfection from start to finish including a small break inside the kitchen to have a desert prepared in front of us by one of the pastry chefs. The yuzu cream cheese with caviar was one of the most delicious things I've ever had. Many if not most of the dishes throughout the meal had a nice tart/acidic taste to them - something that is not done often enough at restaurants. The desserts were some of the best presented and delicious we have had. There was a lot of variety throughout the meal but I still get this feeling as if something was missing.
Soto: Highlight - uni. We had pretty much every uni dish on the menu. All delicious but I liked the deepfried one the best as I don't think you can find this anywhere else. I think the service could have much much better - the servers were nice but they seemed very very lost.
Marea: Great from start to finish. Beautiful restaurant. Great service. Highlights were the crudo - the two that stood out were the deep sea bass and another with caviar (I can't remember the fish for this one).
Clinton Street Baking Co. - I really didn't expect to be blown away by the blueberry pancakes but I was. I have had pancakes at quite a few other places which are supposed to be amazing and am always very disappointed.
Russ and Daughters: Wasn't expecting to be wowed by the fish here but wow. We had a bagel with nova salmon and caviar cream cheese.
Momofuku Ssam Bar: I think we might have liked it more if the restaurant was running properly when we went. The pork in the pork buns was done to perfection (the bun itself was not very good) - not too fatty tasting and delicious. The raw fish courses we received were put together sloppily, I don't know if this was because the chefs were tired at the end of the day or if that is the usual case. The waiter is also probably tied in first place as being the worst waiter I've ever had.
Ippudo: One of my favourite meals of the week. We eat ramen pretty often and this rivals (and probably beats) the best we've had in Japan - including Ippudo in Japan. I don't remember them having as many variations of the soup base at the restaurant we went to in Kyoto. There are quite a few different soups to try out. The pork bun here was amazing - my wife didn't like the one at momofuku but loved this one.
Gramercy Tavern: One of the great misses of the week. I thought the first few courses we ordered were mediocre at best and unflavourful - beef carpaccio, corn soup, sea bream. The pork croquette entree (very similar to the testa from Blue Hill) was delicious - the beans underneath this dish were also quite good. I really would not recommend this restaurant based on the food we had that day. I assume this is probably an isolated incident but that's how it went. I also didn't like the feel of the restaurant - it seemed like somewhere I would take my parents for a dinner but never go by myself or with friends.
Sakagura: Clean food and good flavours but nothing amazing. I would go for a regular office lunch but this isn't somewhere to seek out.
Le Bernardin: Perfect seafood, done perfectly. I couldn't fault this restaurant if I wanted to. Everything we had was perfect. The fish was cooked perfectly and the sauces that accompanied them were light and flavourful but subtle enough not to overpower the fish. The highlight of my meal was the Sea Medley appetizer (Shellfish Medley, Yuzu Scented Custard, Smoked Bonito Broth). The flavours here are delicate and light, they are interesting but not bold.
ABC Kitchen: I loved this place. I wasn't expecting to and had cancelled reservations two or three
times before finally deciding to stop in at lunch. Quite a loud restaurant that was almost always fully booked on opentable. I loved the space and the vibrant open feel of the restaurant - it makes you feel alive. We had the crab toast, kale salad, roast carrot and avocado salad, black sea bass. Everything was amazing other than the kale salad which was still a very good kale salad but nothing spectacular.
John's Pizza: Delicious. Very basic pizza (no fancy ingredients) but just perfect. The sauce was one of the best I've had, with a very strong tomato taste.
Joe's Pizza: Also amazing. I would have this pretty often if I lived in Manhattan. The crust was very flimsy and it was extremely greasy but I actually liked that about it. I want a slice right now.
Babbo: Good and mediocre at the same time. Nothing was bad but nothing was amazing.
L'Artusi: I liked the space and the food was good. The roast chicken entree was one of the most moist pieces of chicken I've ever had (the other two were at Aziza in SF and Spinasse in Seattle) and the sauce of hen of the woods mushrooms paired very well. It would have been nice if it came with something other than a few mushrooms though. The other dishes at the restaurant represented middle of the line italian. I would still recommend if it is a group outing or for a casual dinner but not for a foodie searching out the best in the world.
Halal Cart: We had both Halal carts at the corner of 53rd and 6th. The white sauce is very delicious but that is probably because it is not very healthy - I think it is mostly mayonnaise. The meat itself and the rice underneath are not very good though.
Taim: We loved this quaint little take out shop. The hummus and falafels are very very good.
Zabar's: Had an incredibly delicious gouda like cheese which is made with the addition of coconut cream. I would recommend anyone who goes to search this one out.
Blue Hill: My favourite restaurant of the week. Every single dish we had was amazing (other than the blue fish toast which was mediocre). The ingredients and flavours of every dish worked amazingly together. I think I had the best tasting beans I've ever had here - almost potato like in texture. The testa (fried head cheese) with homemade mustard was delicious. The ricotta served in the bread appetizer was one of the best fresh cheeses I've had.
L'arte del Gelato: I liked this better than Grom (though Grom was still quite good)
So overall -
Must eats - Blue Hill, Joe's, John's, Taim, Russ and Daughters, Ippudo
Pass - Halal Cart, Gramercy, Babbo
Shake Shack: It was not bad but I really don't see what all the fuss is about.
The must eats were based on price as Atera and EMP though amazing meals cost an amazing amount - you could eat at all the other restaurants on that list for the same price as one meal at either of these restaurants. (Le Bernardin was also quite amazing)
awesome! I love Joe's too. And I went to Aziza many years ago based on the SF Board recs and loved it!