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Former chowhounder Kobetobiko back to Manhattan for X'mas. Looking for recommendations!

Dear chowhounders,

Not sure if any of you remember me, but this is kobetobiko, a former chowhounder who lived in Manhattan for many years until I moved to Hong Kong 3 years ago. I am ashamed to say that I have lost touch with chowhounds and just came back to the forum today as I will be coming back to NYC for 10 days during X'mas time! I am so excited!!! I have been poking around the Manhattan board and trying to see where I should go for during the trip. It's so hard to decide as there are so many old restaurants that I want to revisit, yet so many new ones to try!

Some restaurants that I would like to REVISIT (but not a must):
EMP, Del Posto, Marea, Jean Georges, Minetta Tavern (for burgers and steaks), Momofuku (Ssam or /and ?), Katz, etc. etc. (So many!!!!)

Some restaurants that I HAVEN'T BEEN and thinking about trying:
Osteria Morini, ABC Kitchen, Torrisi, The Dutch, any restaurants inside Eataly

Any new (for me) restaurants that you would suggest to replace the above? In particular, there are some food / dishes that I want to have but don't mind trying out new worthy places. For example:
- Lobster rolls, oysters, seafood (go back to Luke's Lobster?)
- PIZZA!!!!!! (Still Motorino? Any new places worth going? Particularly interesting slices? Need a few!)
- Burger and steaks (any get enough! I love dry aged with a LOT of funks!)
- Deli, streetfood, carts, snacks, etc.
- Sweets! (Dessert bars, cakes or cupcakes, macarons, gelato, soft serve (momofuku milk bar?), or bars of any restaurants like Gramercy Tavern)
- May be one Japanese

Some restaurants I spotted on Instagram and have no idea if they are good: Bones, Forcella, L'Apicio, Marylane(?)

I know my question is so general (I hated it in the best when people just came and ask "staying for X days, what to eat", but I am doing the same now -____-). But I would really appreciate some suggestions from my trusted chowhound friends.

Since it is a vacation, my time is flexible (can do lunches or afternoon meals, etc). And budget is no concern.

Last but not least, I am wondering if any of you will be interested in a Chowhound meetup. I do know most people may need to return to their hometowns and gather with families. If you are hanging out in NYC and want to eat together, please let me know!

here is my email, margielam118@yahoo.com
my Instagram (little_meg_siu_meg)

If you have instagram, please let me know so I can following your eats! :)

Thanks a lot in advance!!!

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  1. Forgot to mention, here are also some places on my hit-list:
    - Caracas Arepa Bar
    - Tiam for Falafel (any new falafel places worthy?)
    - Rub or Hill Country for BBQ (still good?)
    - Russ and Daughters
    - Bagels
    - One spanish (haven't decided)


    4 Replies
    1. re: kobetobiko

      I wouldn't dissuade you from going to Caracas, but in my experience--getting not only opinionated but also outer-boroughed here--the arepas (and everything else) at Arepas Cafe in Astoria, Queens are vastly superior.

      For falafel, I would say Azuri Cafe is the best.

      BBQ - consider Blue Smoke (in Flatiron or Battery Park) and/or Dinosaur, in Harlem.

      1. re: ramenbound

        I haven't been to Arepas Cafe, but based on my one visit to Caracas I'm not in a rush to go back. The space is super cramped and noisy. The arepas - the first one was interesting, but the by the fifth one I felt like there was just too much greasy carby dough.

        I like Fette Sau (Brooklyn) for BBQ, despite almost dying after sharing 4.5lb of meat with my friend.

        1. re: kyph0515

          welcome back kobetobiko. I second Fette Sau even though it's the wrong board for that rec.
          I also think you should check out Jungsik for excellent "modern korean kinda"
          and for Sushi Ichimura at Brushstroke I think would have some dishes that would standup even in Japan.

      2. re: kobetobiko

        Check out the new Brisket Town in Brooklyn, I had his brisket a few times during his Manhattan pop ups. Excellent stuff.

      3. [. 1 .] "Revisits":
        * EMP - EMP is in its third iteration since you were last here-- it's now a 15-16 course tasting that lasts around 4 hours. I'm sure you've read the NY Times piece on the over the top theatre that was incorporated into the dining experience; I actually happened to visit the same week and found the meal to be just fine. Subsequent visits seem to similarly echo a (comparatively) mellowed out experience.
        * Jean Georges - There simply isn't another restaurant in the city (or country) that offers a similar experience.
        * Del Posto AND/OR Marea - I'd suggest doing one of these for lunch in the interests of saving space for new experience, though if it's too tempting to do both, I don't blame you.
        * Ssam - I'm curious if you worry at all about a drop-off in your perception of / reaction to David Chang's food after (presumably) being pampered with the best of Hong Kong food. Not that Momofuku is necessarily entirely predicated on food you'd have there, or any surrounding areas you may have been, but most of the harshest critics of Chang that I personally know cite experiences with similar (and cheaper) dishes in China, HK, TW, Korea, Japan that they feel Chang has 'bastardized' (not my words) and glorified for people who haven't tried the authentic versions from which Chang draws either full or partial inspiration. Maybe I'm opening a really big can of worms here...
        * Katz's - I imagine you must be missing a good pastrami sandwich by now...

        [. 2 .] "Haven't Beens":
        * ABC Kitchen, Torrisi - yes, yes.
        * The Dutch - my personal recommendation is to go for the burger, which comes with fries that are a contender for the best in the city (and indeed among the best I've ever had)
        * Upscale Casual Italian - I prefer Maialino over Morini; it's a great option for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

        [. 3 .] Other Considerations:
        * Seafood: Prima on 1st St.
        * Pizza: Don Antonio in Hell's Kitchen has sprouted up in your absence. Another Neapolitan option you may want to check out.
        * Burgers: Along with Minetta, The Breslin and The Spotted Pig are the obvious contenders. A lesser known play is The Brindle Room, which in my view is on equal footing with the best.
        * Delis: Did you hit up Russ & Daughters and/or Barney Greengrass in your time here?
        * Sweets: Laduree opened up here on the UES. Not quite sure where you're going with the bars idea but I've had dessert at the bar/salon areas of Le Bernardin and wd~50.
        * Japanese: My vote goes to something in the Totto empire -- Totto Ramen, Hide-Chan, Yakitori Totto, or Soba Totto. All four are fantastic.

        [. 4 .] 'Instagrammed':
        Forcella may be another consideration for you if Neapolitan style pizza is your thing. I don't have experience with the other three, though I know that L'Apicio is from the same folks behind L'Artusi.

        [. 5 .] Appendix:
        * Jungsik - Technically the Jungsik brand is more easily accessible to you (coming from Seoul) than going to this branch, though I wonder how different the restaurants are. You'll find that this garners universal praise throughout the CH boards.
        * The NoMad - Chicken for two.
        * Blanca - If given a choice between returning to The Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare or paying Blanca a visit, I would choose Blanca. Thus, I recommend Blanca if you are interested in an at-the-counter tasting experience.

        [. 6 .] CH Meetup:
        Yes, please!

        30 Replies
        1. re: ramenbound

          Hi ramenbound,

          Thanks for your detailed feedbacks and suggestions!

          - EMP: I have heard a lot about EMP's continuous changes such as the (in)famous grid menu. That's why I am also a little hesitant. May be I should just do lunch? or perhaps I should just go to Nomad?
          -Italain and French: I think Del Posto AND Marea is likely to be the case ;) and yes I don't think I can miss the main dining room of JG, probably doing lunch for it is such a bargain.

          - Momofuku: I completely understand what you meant by the criticisms of Momofuku's empire. I grew up in Hong Kong before I went to Canada and USA when I was a teen, and I travelled back to HK and China every year. So I am as close to authentic Chinese food as to NYC. I had had the authentic pork buns in China and Taiwan long before Momofuku opened in NYC. Yet I love their version because they used pork that was much more flavorful and high quality than the normal version in China.
          What I like about Momofuku is not the ramen or the dishes that are close to the original Chinese/Korean food. I love their takes on offals and non-traditional stuff. It's the reason why I like Ssam Bar more than the noodle bar. And I went to Momofuku Ko the 2nd day it opened. I am tempted to try their ribeye or frankensteak, and any new offal dishes that they offer (and the duck lunch may be?)

          - Seafood: Thanks for suggestion on Prima. Also is John Dory Oyster Bar worth a visit?

          - Pizza: Don Antonio and Forcella - Marked!

          - Burgers - Had been to Minetta Tavern for black label burger, Spotted Pig for the burger with blue cheese. Haven't been to The Breslin. I of course will go for some more casual burger treats, like Shake Shack, Bill's Bar, etc. (so many places to go, so little time!!!!)

          - Japanese: I have tried all the Totto's and pretty much all the high end Japanese in NYC unless there are new ones that opened recently (but I haven't noticed?). Since these days I travel to Japan 3 -4 times a year, it's hard to find any traditional Japanese food in NYC that beats that ones in Japan. But I actually am interested in doing something more contemporary, such as going back to Soto (have been there, not sure how it fares out now), or something new and interesting.

          - Sweets: I go to Laduree and Pierre Herme and Sadaharu Aoki all the time when I travel to Japan. And Laduree is also opening a shop in Hong Kong next week. So I want to go for desserts that are more unique to NYC or at least something that I can't experience in Asia.

          - Meetup: Yes, we should plan something! :D

          Thanks again for your suggestions! They are really helpful!

          1. re: kobetobiko

            EMP is now tasting menu only for both lunch AND dinner.

            The Momofuku Ssam Bar ribeye is great but huge. I'd bring at least two others. I don't think there's a frankensteak on the menu at any Momofuku any more since Tien Ho left.

            For new pastry, Domonique Ansel, maybe?

            1. re: kobetobiko

              Welcome back kobetobiko - it is worth returning to Momofuku Ko then to see how they are doing from your last visit.

              1. re: scoopG

                Hi scoopG! Anything interesting or new at Momofuku Ko now?

                1. re: kobetobiko

                  I was there late summer, just before a menu change, I believe. But I recall some tempting dishes back then, including shaved Foie Gras, potato puff stuffed with gruyere, a Bento box with morsels of duck meatball and fried Brussels sprouts and oatmeal ice cream with apple sauce and apple gelée!

              2. re: kobetobiko

                I was just at Momofuku Ssam yesterday for lunch - nothing I ate I would remotely associate with traditionally Asian food. I also almost make a point to not order their famous pork buns (blasphemy!); I just feel like that's probably the least creative thing on the menu and I don't wanna spend $10 on two bites of something I can get in Asia for a toonie. What we did get (prix fixe with Spanish Mackerel, Charred Octopus, and Corn Ice Cream Pie, along with the Duck Sandwich and the Duck over rice) were pretty tasty though.

                For burgers, I'm going to plug Korzo Haus again. I think it's pretty unique in Manhattan. I much prefer the Feta lamb burger at Breslin to The Spotted Pig's Roquefort burger. Too much blue cheese and salt in the latter, not enough beefiness.

                Interestingly, I also have a Hong Kong -> Canada -> USA -> Hong Kong trajectory. I'll be relocating to Hong Kong in January.

                1. re: kyph0515

                  Interesting kyph0515! Perhaps we should meet up when you are in HK then!

              3. re: ramenbound

                Re: dessert bars
                A few years ago this was a trend, sort of. Room 4 Dessert, Chikalicious, Kyotofu, WD-50's dessert tasting, then Tailor's dessert tasting, and P*ong. R4D, Tailor, and Pong all closed. Now there's Spot for a dessert bar. And Per Se's Salon only dessert tasting.

                1. re: kathryn

                  Hi Kathryn,

                  Thanks again for your reply! Those you listed I have actually all tried when I was in NYC! and Per Se's salon for dessert tasting sounds like EXACTLY what I wanna do, esp. I am not that keen on going to Per Se again for full tasting. This is perfect! Is it available all day any day?

                  Thank you once again!

                  1. re: kobetobiko

                    I believe so--I'd call and ask. The Salon is first come, first served, also.

                  2. re: kathryn

                    I think Spot eventually went downhill. The last time I went, I found the cupcake I got to be overly butter tasting (something some would like), and not full of flavor like they used to be.

                    1. re: Pan


                      Any recommendations for desserts? Doesn't have to be a dessert bar per se, just anywhere with a good bite of dessert item? And I love gelato or ice cream with unusual combinations. Anything new other than Momofuku Milk Bar? I miss their corn cookies!

                      1. re: kobetobiko

                        There are always the chocolates at Kee's; some of them have unusual flavors. Also, it might be worth going to Hundred Acres just for this: Brioche bread pudding with salted caramel ice cream. I believe they flambe the bread in brandy. Not so unusual, but despite whatever misgivings I have about general saltiness of savory food at Lupa, I love their tartuffo.

                        I have a local gelateria that's decent. It's a branch of an Arezzo-based chain, and it's on 2nd Av. between 4th and 5th Sts. It's not unbelievable, though; some flavors are excellent, others less so. Also near here is the Big Gay Ice Cream shop. I haven't been there because whenever I've wanted to go, there's been a very long line or it was closed, and whenever I haven't been in a mood for ice cream, there was a short line. :-)

                        For the most part, good upscale restaurants also have excellent desserts, I find, but I don't know if you can go into any of them and just order drinks and dessert, or that you'd want to. Sorry, I feel like I haven't been that helpful, which is funny for someone with a sweet tooth. But truth be told, it's much more common for me to buy something to go. I go to the Astor Place branch of the Financier chain now and then, patronize Moishe's, my local kosher bakery, go to Silver Moon when I happen to be on the Upper West Side, and buy Haagen-Dazs. I really should be eating fewer carbs...

                        1. re: Pan

                          I am crazy for gelato and ice cream or sorbet! Even in winter I can have them so problem at all. That's why I will still go for soft serve at Momofuku milk bar. Actually thinking about dessert tasting at Per Se Salon. Would you be interested?

                          1. re: kobetobiko

                            How much does that cost? Probably, if I have to ask, I can't afford it. :-)

                            1. re: kobetobiko

                              kobetobiko - try Mo Gelato (used to be called La Cremeria), its good (got alot of praise on the board too)

                              also if you happen to be in the LES, i love Panade for cream puffs and chocolate chip cookies

                              1. re: kobetobiko

                                Then you have to get the strawberry gelato at Ssam. Out of this world good, served with a purée that evokes cake batter, and cracker crumbles. My friend and I recently ordered one to share, and despite the fact that we were stuffed, promptly ordered another.

                                1. re: rose water

                                  Hi Rose Water,

                                  I agree! This strawberry gelato was available when I was there and I love it!

                                2. re: kobetobiko

                                  I would check out the gelato at Il Buco alimentari, you can get it to go, few flavors but the flavors they have are great, especially their caramel one. also for ice cream, I love victory garden in West Village, goat milk soft serve.

                                  1. re: jester99

                                    OMG!!! Goat Milk soft serve!!! I am CRAZY about cheesy gelato and esp. goat milk flavor!!!! Oh this is so down on my hit list!!! Thank you!!!!

                                    1. re: kobetobiko

                                      Their salted caramel is the best flavor of theirs I've tried.

                                      I guess you can swing around to Bosie Tea Parlor, Bisous Ciao and the new West Village Big Gay Ice Cream, while you're at it?

                        2. re: ramenbound

                          Kobetobiko - welcome back!

                          Ramenbound's list is a pretty good list

                          I'd say:
                          - burgers:
                          * brindle room: i wouldn't go, ive tried it 3 times and i've found it lackluster and doesn't compare to the other top burger places (sorry ramenbound, don't mean to shoot you down or anything)
                          * burger joint: not new or anything, but this place and minetta are still my favorite in the city
                          * breslin: i'd go for their lamb burger, which i think is really exceptional (if you go at lunch, its really mellow and not a total shtshow trying to get a table or anything)

                          - Pizza:
                          * Forcella: its pretty good although i'd go motorino over it (i like motorino alot)
                          * rubirosa: this is totally different type of pizza; its not "real" italian style pizza, but it isn't really NY style pizza either. I really enjoy this place (and pizza generally isnt very good in HK)

                          - Russ & Daughters: great idea and totally not available in asia

                          - Japanese: i haven't been here yet, but my friend told me its awesome http://www.yelp.com/biz/mihokos-21-gr...

                          - steak: i like steak way better in America, so maybe peter luger's or I really like the steak at Diner in brooklyn alot (put your name down, get apps / drinks at marlow next door


                          - Korean: korean food sucks in HK (although you could go to korea reasonably easily). Hanjoo from Flushing recently opened a branch in the east village (I just ate the one in flushing at really enjoyed it). they specialize in sam gyup sal (pork belly bbq), it's really tasty and maybe worth a try

                          - Hong Kong: btw you should post on the HK board! i've been posting a little (i usually go once a year, but put lot of posts up when i get back) although i've been bogged down trying to re-do the layout of my blog, which is almost done, but ill be posting again soon

                          1. re: Lau

                            Hi Lau,
                            No hard feelings :). Interesting you mention burger joint--I usually prefer a balanced burger that's more akin to this type, but have found myself let down by B.J. The Brindle Room is definitely a different profile burger from what I prefer, but somehow I find myself drawn to it--no supporting veggies, only small supporting cast of very little caramelized onions and cheese that allows the meat--which, where it lacks in dry-aged funkiness, delivers on flavorful sear-- to be the main star. That said, I certainly wouldn't push a trip to Brindle Room above The Spotted Pig or The Breslin for anyone who hasn't been to those.

                            +1 on Han Joo, if it is anywhere near the quality of the Flushing outpost.

                            1. re: ramenbound

                              im a specific when it comes to burgers, i dont actually like any vegetables on it. i prefer just meat, cheese, caramelized onions and bun (and i like ketchup as well, but i don't like it on the burger, prefer to put it on the side and dip as necessary, find people lather it on too hard if they put it on already). so like that profile you talk about.

                              Brindle: anyhow, brindle i found to be sort of unremarkable b/c if i wanted a good dry aged burger, i'd get minetta, but if i wanted a sort of no frills regular normal burger i'd go burger joint, so just didn't do it for me for some reason.

                              Hanjoo: i should've caveat'd with i haven't tried the one in the city yet, so i can't definitively say it's the same as the one in flushing, but it's likely similar since it just opened

                            2. re: Lau

                              Agree with you Lau, Hong Kong has no good pizza nor steaks nor smoked salmon etc. It is pretty sad in terms of culinary scene. This is why I am so eager to go to so many places in NYC! decision decision decision!

                              1. re: kobetobiko

                                yah HK's western food is generally ehhh unless it's very high end (and then generally very expensive) although i think generally american food is awful outside of the US

                                NY's culinary scene is not the best at everything (obviously), but you can't knock it's diversity...very difficult to find a city that has the range of food that you have in NY

                                1. re: kobetobiko

                                  Strangely, I had one of the tastiest slices of NY style pizza I've eaten in recent years in Hong Kong last winter.

                                  1. re: Humbucker

                                    Um? I am not aware of any great NY style pizza in HK. (and I think I have tasted all available?). They are just not as good as the ones in NYC....

                              2. re: ramenbound

                                You'll find that this garners universal praise throughout the CH boards

                                I don't want to start a fight, but


                                1. re: calf

                                  Ok, that statement is was slightly sweeping/an exaggeration of observation. More accurately put, it's hard to think of many restaurants offering a similar caliber experience that seem to have as much support/buzz on the boards these days.

                              3. These may help:

                                Even though you live in HK, will you be able to find places like Danji, Fatty Cue, Kin Shop, or Mission Chinese? These all seem like they're more creative/fusion.

                                What about Takashi for Japanese?

                                And this:

                                Going through the history of the Eater Heat Map is interesting, I find.

                                I don't see Acme, il Buco Alimentari, Empellon Cocina on your list... Lots of foods you probably won't find in HK?

                                Mile End now has a Manhattan outpost BTW.

                                A return to Momofuku Ssam might be good, as the rotating dishes will be totally different now (aside from the buns, hams, rice cakes). Or a visit to Ma Peche.

                                At the Dutch consider going during the day for the fried chicken.

                                For pizza, Best Pizza or Paulie Gee's in Brooklyn? In Manhattan, South Brooklyn Pizza in the EV.

                                6 Replies
                                1. re: kathryn

                                  HI kathryn, thank you so much for the links!!! They are just perfect! You know you are the first person I remember at Chowhound and when I came back the first person I added back (as they erased all the people I used to follow) was you! :D Just those 20 places on the list will be enough to fill my meals for my 10 days....Now i just have to do some elimination which is always tough.....In fact those places your mentioned (e.g. il Buco Alimentari, Empellon Cocina) I have no idea....I am so behind....@_@"

                                  Where will you recommend for a REAL GOOD dry aged steak these days? Not sure if there is anything new in NYC for steaks, or should I just go with the oldies?

                                  Thanks again kathryn!

                                  1. re: kobetobiko

                                    Honestly, it's tough to beat the oldies for steak, especially if you want the funk and already are going to Minetta. Some here are fans of the one at Craft (has that kind of blue cheese funk). But you've probably been there already? Or maybe can go outside of NYC?

                                    Oh, forgot to mention Perla, ex-Babbo and ex-Manzo chef, now working with the Little Wisco empire (Joseph Leonard, Fedora, Jeffrey's).

                                    And one of the NY Times lists I pointed to has a bit about Recette. You might like their regular menu, or even the Mondays with Jesse menu (assuming you'll be here).

                                    1. re: kathryn

                                      Oh I guess I may just return to Minetta for both steaks and burgers! I don't mind having the good oldies! They are still here running good business for a reason! :D

                                      1. re: kathryn

                                        Yes kathryn I have tried Craft (and also Craftsteak when I was around). I like Tom Coliccio's food a lot but not sure if I will go to his restaurants this time unless he has something new and interesting happening. Definitely will look into Perla. Recette has been on my radar even since I was in NYC but never got to visit. Need to research again! OMG! It's so overwhelming!!! So many great options!!!!

                                    2. re: kathryn

                                      Was Mile End around, and did you go before you left? Seems list add worthy. Especially now that there's a Manhattan outpost.

                                      Bobwhite in Alphabet City is pretty good for fried chicken and pork chop sandwich.

                                      Nam Pang has terrific sandwiches. They say it's Cambodian, but if anything, I'd say Cambodian inspired but very NY and modern interpretations.

                                      1. re: villainx

                                        Hi villa nix, Thanks for the suggestion! Mile End is definitely on my list with the Manhattan location! I just need to figure out how to fit it with my other meals! So many places I want to go!!

                                    3. I certainly remember your postings. I'm glad you're in Hong Kong, what a beautiful location and what great food!

                                      How are the tapas in Hong Kong? I'm not sure whether Txikito was already open 3 years ago, but you might consider going there during your visit.

                                      Some remarks about South Brooklyn Pizza: (1) Their margherita is very good, but don't get anything else there. Whatever their "special" is, it's never nearly as good as the margherita. (2) There's one two-top and otherwise, you'll be standing (they have some counter space). I'm pretty unsure that it's the best pizza in Manhattan, but it's very good, open till 5 AM, and I'm very glad it's in my neighborhood!

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: Pan

                                        Thanks Pan!! And I remember you too! :D

                                        Even though I was born in Hong Kong and I like the city, I must say in terms of culinary creations and scenes it was very backwards. Other than Chinese (Not even regional, just strictly Cantonese food, BBQ, dim sum or seafood) or local street food, I couldn't recommend anything to overseas visitors. The western food is at least 10 years behind compared to international cities like Manhattan, Tokyo, or countries like Franch, Italy or Spain. It's so sad it's not even funny.....

                                        Thanks for the advice on Pizza. I want to hit up so many pizza places but I know i will have to restrict to a few in the end as there are just so many places that I want to go!

                                        1. re: kobetobiko

                                          The solution is easy: Stay in New York longer! :-)

                                          1. re: Pan

                                            Pan, I wish!!!! I would love to stay forever but my family won't let me. And for course i don't think I can afford so many days of annual leaves! :(

                                      2. Another thought: Have you been to Tocqueville? It isn't new but it is great and it's new American style, so probably of a type of cuisine that's stronger here than in Hong Kong. Another place you might consider is Riverpark, a pleasant restaurant on the East River near the various hospitals (NYU Medical Center, Bellevue, etc.) that's part of the Tom Colicchio empire.

                                        6 Replies
                                        1. re: Pan

                                          Is Riverpark open? That area was hard hit in the storm.

                                          ETA: according to their website they reopened 11/8.

                                          If you haven't been to Breslin, it's absolutely worth going there for the lamb burger

                                          1. re: rose water

                                            Hi Rose Water, I remember you too! :D Nice to meet you again on Chowhound! Oh I haven't been to Breslin and lamb burger totally sounds like my thing as I love lamb! Gamey ones are even better!!!

                                            1. re: kobetobiko

                                              The thrice fried chips that come with the lamb burger at the Breslin are awesome, too.

                                              1. re: kathryn

                                                I also found the pickles they give to be very memorable, for some reason.

                                          2. re: Pan

                                            +1 on Tocqueville. I was there for lunch a few days ago and was thoroughly impressed. Uni carbonara. Scallops and Foie.

                                            1. re: kyph0515

                                              I had been to Tocqueville when I was in NYC. I like it a lot but I think I may be trying out new restaurants instead! So difficult to pick restaurants as there are so many old ones that are worthy revisiting! Yet new ones are also appealing!

                                          3. Welcome back! Didn't you pass through LA once, too? As noted above, since you're in Hong Kong, Chinese food wouldn't appear to be much of an option, particularly since Chinese food in NY seems to have regressed since you left. However, you might want to stop by Mission Chinese Food just to see what they've done in NY and SF. (It's good, but is it Chinese?)

                                            15 Replies
                                            1. re: Chandavkl

                                              Danny Bowien doesn't claim he is cooking Chinese - he calls it Americanized Oriental food.

                                              1. re: scoopG

                                                Yes, but the restaurant name contains the word "Chinese" so there is more than an insinuation.

                                                1. re: Chandavkl

                                                  The name is directly tied to his pop-up restaurant within Lung Shan in San Francisco. Bowien pointedly does not hire any cooks with with previous experience in Chinese kitchens so he can train them himself. He did not draw inspiration from China - only going there after Mission Chinese was a hit - but from American-Chinese and Chinese take-out in San Francisco. So much so that at one point his wife declared: enough of the (take-out) research!

                                                  1. re: scoopG

                                                    are you sure about the hiring cooks with any previous experience in chinese restaurants?

                                                    i dont know the answer to that, but the reason i ask is that two of the chefs in the kitchen at the NY branch are china chinese (they speak in chinese) and they very much look like typical line cooks from a chinatown place

                                                    1. re: Lau

                                                      Here's the quote in question:

                                                      “None of our cooks have previous Chinese cooking experience, which is good.”


                                                      1. re: kathryn

                                                        ah interesting, i figured he just plucked these two guys out of some chinese restaurant, but i guess not

                                                      2. re: Lau

                                                        Also here in a very recent GQ piece:


                                                        “…He (Bowien) went to China only after the pop-up had become a hit. Bowien has had no luck employing cooks with previous Chinese-cooking experience or who have even used a wok before. "As soon as you get a wok cook, it's all, 'No, this is the right way to do it,' " he says. "I'd rather have people who are earnest and humble and want to learn."

                                                      3. re: scoopG

                                                        Good point about SF being a pop-up. The external signage only says Lung Shan, so if you drove by in your car looking for it, you'd miss it.

                                                        1. re: Chandavkl

                                                          It's a perma-pop up now, and there's a set menu with signature dishes that both locations share.

                                                          That said, I don't see the point in someone coming from Hong Kong bothering with this experiment in replicating regional dishes.

                                                          1. re: sugartoof

                                                            As an Asian American I find it not only relevant, but fascinating and important as a point of critical study. I think it's wonderful that these kinds of cultural transformations are taking place before our very eyes; it reminds me of the history of music, where ideas were continually borrowed (or, yeah, sometimes stolen) between cultures. Now whether a particular Asian person is receptive to these is another question. I think it takes a combination of awareness and open-mindedness to understand and interpret any new cuisine on its own terms. And that depends more on the person than their cultural background--some people are just more adventurous than others.

                                                            1. re: calf

                                                              I suppose if you're approaching food like a semiotics course, then sure, but we're not talking critical study, we're talking about a good tasty meal. It's basically Pan Asian applied to regional dishes, like cumin lamb or mapo tofu, with good marketing.

                                                              It's not to devalue it's place, I just still wouldn't suggest anyone arriving from Hong Kong take time for Pan-Asian food, or modernized California cuisine approaches. Mission Chinese Food made it's name through reinventing Bahn Mi, making burgers, garlic noodles, and bringing in guest chefs to mess around with Bok choy. The final incarnation isn't noted for bringing in the Chinese community looking for a high end dinner, it's supported by Yelpers who want a hip version of dishes ripped off from Mandarin Old Islam in SF or Xi'an Famous Foods in NY, amongst other influences.

                                                              1. re: sugartoof

                                                                It's also supported by being listed in the Michelin Guide 2013, as well as by an nytimes 2-star Critic's Pick. I actually completely share your concern, i.e. that my friend/family Hong Kongers may not find it tasty, but in the long run that risk is outweighed by the value of cultural insight gained through a unique a foreign experience.

                                                                It's not that different from enquiring about the "secret" menu in any decent Chinese restaurant and then being presumptuously told you won't like it. I think at that level, people can decide for themselves.

                                                                1. re: calf

                                                                  " the value of cultural insight gained through a unique a foreign experience."

                                                                  Uh anyway. I don't know when they'll have time, considering they also need to taste Mcdonald's french fries in America to see if they taste like they do in Hong Kong too.

                                                                  1. re: sugartoof

                                                                    Well, I think that's an inaccurate analogy.

                                                                    Actually it's an incorrect analogy; the point isn't to see if X tastes "like Y back home". That's not what I've been talking about at all.

                                                                    1. re: calf

                                                                      You're right, instead you're simply intellectualizing the disregard for a standard notion here that people visiting NY probably don't want to sample the national cuisine from where they're originating from. I would no sooner suggest someone from France try the Americanized flavors of Macarons available, no matter how hyped.

                                                                      Mission Street Foods was a food cart that started off selling a trendy pork belly dish that was a play on peanut butter and jelly, and then grew to doing Vietnamese foods, not so much deconstructed or inventive as just playing off food trends. They were never known for Chinese food, nor have ever courted or attracted the local Chinese communities. Mission Street Chinese is a hodge podge of Islamic Chinese, Mongolian, Sichuan, and Taiwanese dishes which you can find all across NY Chinese menus, which you would never ever recommend to someone from Hong King to begin with, for obvious reasons......oh and finally, they billed it as "Americanized ORIENTAL Cuisine".

                                                2. Long time no hear, Kobetobiko!!!! Welcome back!!

                                                  To your list, if you can get a place, I would add 'Atera' for fine dining.

                                                  Also, do try out the Michelin1* Casa Mono. Hong Kong has nothing close to that. Great tasting Spanish food with lovely 'wok-hay'!! Ha!

                                                  For Japanese, I would try out the 1* Yakitori place 'Tori Shin'. Only place outside of Japan that is good and sanitary enough to serve 'chicken sashimi'!! Great value $50 tasting menu.

                                                  If looking for smoked salmon, prefer Russ & Daughters than Katz.

                                                  Whilst visiting Eataly, may be you can walk over to 'Hill Country Chicken' for some really good greaseless Southern Fried Chicken or across to the park for a 'Shake Shack Burger'?! Remember to order the burger medium rare!

                                                  A couple of months back, S'pore chowhounder Fourseasons and I had a mini meet at NYC. We both found the food at Jean George so-so! And the service even worse! However, our meal at 'The Modern' was very memorable!

                                                  Lastly, will you be in HKG this March?? I'll be in town for a month and as per past visits, will be organizing an annual chowmeet. In the past, chowhounders like fourseasons, e-ting, HKTraveller, Peech, Uncle Yubai...etc all attended. May be you would like to join us?! Past venues included, Caprice, Shanghai Fraternity Association, Sun Tung Lok, Hong Zhou, The Chairman...etc.

                                                  Have fun and Happy Chowing in the Big Apple!!

                                                  11 Replies
                                                  1. re: Charles Yu

                                                    1. My view is that, between Corton, Atera, and WD~50: pick one, whichever is the most personally appealing.

                                                    Your comment about JG versus The Modern sent me thinking: Why do upscale NYC restaurants keep serving fish, when the fish isn't fantastically good (in my humble, subjective, possibly ignorant opinion)?

                                                    2. Jean Georges--I had a really lovely lunch the first time, but the second time was mixed. I was with parents, and I think Chinese people have different expectations about how meats and fishes should taste. Good quality fish is really hard to come by, and though what I saw was reasonable for a $40 lunch in NYC, it didn't make the cut for a Chinese palate, especially being advertised as a 3* restaurant. Being East Asian, my parents were much more accustomed to incredibly fresh yet cheap fish. Similarly, both the suckling confit and crab toast* are reconstructed proteins, and again that is challenging for an Asian palate, yet economically sensible for a restaurant to serve (obviously because whole meats are much more expensive). I am interested in Jean Georges for dinner, but I've been wondering, for a couple months since, whether Jean Georges at dinnertime is a very different restaurant in terms of what and how they cook.**

                                                    *As a point of reference, I remember helping my dad order the Crab Louis salad at Marseille, and that was spectacular! And as another point of reference, the crab flan at Bouley was really lovely, and my mom liked that. In comparison, the crab toast was not memorable like those.

                                                    3. The Modern--Ridiculously sophisticated food, that is yet lovely and tastes good. Everyone has their "jaw-dropping" restaurant experiences, and this is one of mine. Even one of the amuses (some squash cream thing with pomegranate) has hit a culinary home run.

                                                    But. The fish again. The cobia and the cod are kind of firm and chewy. I just don't get it. Is it supposed to taste that way?

                                                    I guess I am really complaining that between the red snapper and the turbot at JG (lunch) (and not to pick on this one restaurant, I am really talking about a whole set of restaurants out there), I could have gotten a little organic salmon fillet from Whole Foods, and rare-bake it at 200*F for 20 minutes, and thus provide me and my dad a moment of true culinary bliss. So why are we eating out?


                                                    **I.e., Jean Georges gets recommended/discussed a lot on this forum, but I am wondering whether lunch and dinner are really quite different restaurants--or not? If there's a difference, it kind of matters.

                                                    1. re: calf

                                                      I've never been to Jean Georges for dinner and don't think I'd want to go if I were paying, because the whole point of visiting the restaurant to me is to have high-class French food in a pleasant atmosphere at a moderate price. I have never actually had a 4-star lunch there; my lunches have been good 2 1/2- to 3-star meals, in my mind (using my own interpretation of NYT stars). Might a dinner tasting menu be a 4-star meal? Yes, perhaps so, but I wouldn't gamble that much money on the possibility that I might be disappointed, when I could instead go somewhere else for less money that I'm more likely to fully enjoy. Because for me, there is one significant problem with Jean Georges and Chef Vongerichten, in general, which is that I find that his fusion dishes are often unbalanced in taste, whereas his less fusiony dishes can be great.

                                                      And with that segue, I'll point out that I've had his skate in chateau Chalon sauce a couple of times at lunch, and it is probably one of the better dishes I've had in New York. So if you do go back, try that dish and see if you feel differently about it than the other fish dishes you've been having there.

                                                      1. re: calf

                                                        Dinner at Jean-Georges usually is of a higher caliber than lunch. [Note that they also offer a tasting menu option at lunch (I'm not certain if this was always the case in years past, at least as printed on the menu).]

                                                        There are, however, a few dishes from dinner that are accessible at lunch (eg, the egg caviar, the foie gras brulee, and the scallops with caper-raisin emulsion, for starters). Since trying the tasting menus at dinner, I've always gone back hoping to find the skate with chateau chalon sauce on the lunch menu but have yet to see it.

                                                        Aside from overlaps, I find it rare to have more than one, maybe two true three star dishes at lunch service. Of the regulars on the lunch menu, the tuna ribbons could be considered a lower-end three star dish. None of the fish/meat entrees come close.

                                                        (Note that while Pan is speaking in NYT/faux-NYT star terms, the stars I refer to are Michelin)

                                                        1. re: ramenbound

                                                          Thanks for explaining. But the dinner prix fixe is a little mystifying to me. Lunch p.f. is $17/course, whereas dinner p.f. is $29.5/course. Other than there being 7 additional fish/meat entree choices at dinner, I am curious to know what else would justify this price difference, be it upgraded ingredients, more amuses, or increased portion size.

                                                          The two tasting menus, on the other hand, look enticing, so I'm glad to hear that they are quite apart from lunch, again in order to justify the higher price.

                                                          1. re: calf

                                                            Calf, you know what? I have the exact same feeling about dinner vs lunch @ JG! In fact I found that if the same dish is offered at lunch and dinner, there is almost no difference except that it is more expensive at dinner. This is why I prefer to go to JG at lunch time.

                                                            1. re: calf

                                                              The lunch is now $19/course if I'm not mistaken. I guess a large part of it is just the economics of it--supply and demand. The amuses are not particularly more interesting at dinner; from my experience, some of the compositions are more interesting, memorable and bold, though not all of the dishes are uniformly superior to lunch offerings.

                                                              FWIW, since trying both the Jean-Georges and the Seasonal tasting menus at dinner, each of my subsequent visits have been for lunch. The lunch is indeed is really hard to pass on when it's as good a deal as it is. I'd still recommend anyone who likes the restaurant to give dinner a shot at least once, probably to try to the tasting menus.

                                                            2. re: ramenbound

                                                              It's disappointing to hear that Jean-Georges apparently took the skate with Chateau Chalon sauce off the lunch menu. I had that twice at lunch there a few years ago, and it was a really great dish.

                                                              1. re: Pan

                                                                Oh that's one of my favorite dishes at lunch! In fact I went to dinner and had this dish with turbot which was more expensive, but I prefer skate wing to that!

                                                            3. re: calf

                                                              Hi Calf,
                                                              I hear you. My exact sentiment sometimes. I am used to super fresh seafood in Hong Kong and a lot of them not even available elsewhere. And I travel to Japan all the time. So it's hard for me sometimes to get excited and "wow" by seafood dishes in other kinds of cuisines. For instance, most of the crudo dishes hardly impress me, as I have had plenty of pristine sashimi in Japan, and the freshest raw fish used in crudo just couldn't quite do it for me. You are also right about suckling pig and roast pork bellies. When I have been eating outrageously good crispy and juicy suckling pigs all my life, it is quite rare that I will get wow'ed by suckling pig in Spanish restaurants or pork bellies that crunchy skin or even porchetta (in western cooking the pig's skin often end up "sticking to the teeth" despite being crispy or crunchy; a good Chinese pig's skin will never have that problem).

                                                              Back to JG, I have been to their lunches and dinners. I actually think I prefer lunches because the lunch was value for the money. For dinner, I didn't find the food quality or execution to be significantly better, yet it was much more expensive and seemed overpriced in relative terms.

                                                            4. re: Charles Yu

                                                              FWIW, most people would consider Casa Mono and Tori Shin to be good restaurants that are not true Michelin stars. I still enjoy Tori Shin enough to go back regardless though.

                                                              1. re: Charles Yu

                                                                Hi Charles,

                                                                Thanks for all of your suggestions. Some of the ones you mentioned I already listed in my second post (as I forgot to mention them in my original post). I was actually a regular customer of Casa Mono when I was in NYC, so this time I may give way to new restaurants.

                                                                As for Japanese, since I go to Japan a few times each year now, I guess I will only go for something that you actually can't quite find in Japan (as you know in Japan the level is just so much higher in different genres of Japanese cuisines). That means it is likely to be some fusion Japanese or New York Style Japanese

                                                                I always go for pastrami and tongue at Katz and Balik salmon at Russ & Daughters. (Katz's has smoked salmon? Who orders that there??? XD) I for sure will not miss these as they are both so not available in HK (and in Asia, so to speak)

                                                                I would love to meet up with you when you are in HK. In fact e-ting, peach HK traveller are all my friends. Believe it or not, you are my FB friend hahahaha.

                                                              2. If you like dessert try Dominique Ansel Bakery. He is the former pastry chef of Daniel and he opened his own amazing bakery in Soho less than a year ago.

                                                                Macaron, religieuse, kouign-amman, cannelée, paris-brest, madeleine baked to order, everything it's absolutely delicious.

                                                                8 Replies
                                                                1. re: alepenazzi

                                                                  Hi alepenazzi,

                                                                  Thanks for your suggestion! I indeed have Dominique Ansel Bakery on my wish list. Since I am likely to be hitting the place solo, which 2 -3 items do you think is the best? I will go from there.


                                                                  1. re: kobetobiko

                                                                    Personally, I adore his cannele (closest to the ones I had in Paris). The DKA is pretty darn good (it's an interpretation of the Kouign amann) and if you love intense, over the top chocolate, the freshly baked flourless chocolate cookie is hard to beat.

                                                                    Btw, if you haven't been to Payard's patisserie (not sure if you were around when he had his Lexington Avenue bakery/restaurant), he did set up shop in the UES again and the pastries are gorgeous and delectable.


                                                                    1. re: kobetobiko

                                                                      The DKA is pretty awesome. We also got the madeleines which are made to order (about 10-15 minutes?). I would endorse the cannele as well, but if I had to choose I'd get the DKA. If you know what "wu dip so" is - it's kinda like that.

                                                                      1. re: kobetobiko

                                                                        In order of preference: DKA, any religeuse, cannele, daily specials.

                                                                        1. re: mookleknuck

                                                                          Thank you kyph0515 and mookleknuck! So happy to hear they have good kouign amann and cannele. It's so hard to find cannele and kouign amann, let alone good ones....It's so sad ToT Now I am so getting these for my fix! Thanks again!!!

                                                                          1. re: mookleknuck

                                                                            Best Almond Croissant in the city.
                                                                            NYC Chowers agree?

                                                                            1. re: six dower

                                                                              Dominique Ansel? Certainly at the top. They're a little pricey but really good.
                                                                              Mille Feuille are great too. La Maison Du Macaron as well.

                                                                          2. re: kobetobiko

                                                                            basically, anything there is good, hell even his chocolate chip cookies are really good. If you had to like choose what to get there, pick up a DKA, a canele and get the fresh made madeleines.

                                                                            Currently for the holidays, there is the monte blanc which is good. Also, the caneles travel very well so you can maybe bring those back as a food gift for someone or just you.