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Jan 6, 2013 04:53 PM

1st Trip to NYC, input/suggestions needed for Michelin stars, ethnic food and bars

Hi CHers,

Wife and I are serious foodies making the journey from Canada to NYC for 7 nights from Feb 23- Mar 2nd. We will staying in the lower east side in order to be near all the cocktail places we most want to visit. That way we can stumble home at the end of the night. We usually do one breakfast/lunch and one dinner per day, followed by a cocktail crawl.

Here are my must go dinners:
Per Se - Extended vs regular tasting

These are my other likely dinners
Babbo (or other great Italian suggestions)

For these next ones should we do lunch or dinner?
Jean Georges
Momofuku Ko (or just do Ssam Bar)

15 East and Yasuda for sushi (love great sushi)
JG and Ko possible

Would love some suggestions for other breakfasts, bakeries near East Village and ethnic foods (Chinese, Puerto Rican, whatever else)

Finally, bars will be:
Angels share
Death and Co
Pegu Club
Milk and Honey
Lani Kai

Finally, how far out can I be making resos for these places? Are Per Se and EMP 28 days max? I know Momofuku has the crazy online reso system so will be the last one. Can the others been done now?


Looking forward to hearing your words of wisdom CHers.


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  1. Are you staying on the LES or EV? (Above or below Houston)?

    Note that 2/24 is a Sunday. EMP and the sushi places wil be closed. Luckily WD-50, Babbo, JG, Jungsik, and Per Se are open Sundays.

    The sushi places you mentioned also do weekday lunch only.

    For JG and Ko lunch vs dinner, I'd be afraid of tasting menu fatigue as EMP, WD-50, Per Se are all tasting menu only. So you're already doing a fair amount of tasting menus. Are you doing a la carte at Jungsik and Babbo? I'd really recommend a la carte at the latter.

    Also the Ko lunch tasting is such that I'd plan a very light dinner that night. If dinner at all. And it's only Fri-Sun.

    Other EV recommendations:

    I'd also add Mission Chinese, especially if you can do lunch. Dinner gets crazy with lines.

    I don't think Angel's Share is as good as the others on your list.

    I assume you know that D&C and PDT are very popular. Arrive early, Sun-Wed to snag a seat. Even then you may need to wait. No standing, capacity is limited, and it's hard to estimate wait times as some people have one round, others have many.

    Pegu Club is excellent. It also gets crowds but is bigger, so you should be able to get in on the early side. You may not get a seat though.

    Also Milk and Honey has moved uptown to 23rd St, not sure what the resevations system is going to be like, they're in a soft reopening phase right now.

    If you want something similar to the old M&H, try Raines Law Room or Lantern's Keep. Maybe Experimental Cocktail Club, if you prefer to keep it close.

    Lani Kai has closed.

    Mayahuel is excellent, also consider Amor y Amargo, Pouring Ribbons (Joaquin from D&C's new bar with the Violet Hour guys), Booker & Dax. Booker & Dax is attached via hallway to Ssam Bar, BTW.

    I also think if you like tequila and upscale creative Mexican food, Empellon Cocina should be on your itinerary. It's very close to a lot of EV cocktail bars.

    Very few restaurants in NYC take reservations this far out (Le Bernardin, Annisa, Luger's I think). Most are around the one month mark. Per Se is 30 days in advance--try midnight at OpenTable as well as calling. EMP is 28 days in advance, counting the current day ONLY at 9am. 9am is both the phone time and the OT time.

    17 Replies
      1. re: kathryn

        Thanks Kathryn,

        GAH! Just typed a huge reply and it got deleted.

        Okay, to recap, thanks to everyone for suggestions so far.

        We're staying on the LES, on Ludlow just a few blocks south of Houston. Looked like an optimal location for the bars in the area, and right near a Subway. Also can avoid the Times Square tourist trap this way.

        My revised lunches are looking like
        Mission Chinese
        Empellon Cocina
        Shopsins or Zabb Elee
        15 East vs JG (Thinking I'll just do JG for dinner and perhaps drop 15 East. Reviews for lunch for 15 East seem conflicted, that said, it will be far superior to any sushi where I'm from)

        What about Balthazar? Any other Italian lunch places?

        Per Se

        Should any of these be replaced with Corton/Bouley/Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare?

        I have purposefully left Le Bernardin and Daniel off the list based on mega controversy on the boards.

        Pouring Ribbons (love the Violet Hour and hadn't heard of this place)
        Pegu Club
        Booker and Dax (Had heard of this and thinking about it still)

        Angel's share - what don't you like about it?

        Out: M+H due to move and Lani Kai for closing

        Keep the suggestions coming, thanks everyone.


        1. re: 97Sperss

          It's not that Angel's Share is bad, it's that the level of creativity and execution is better elsewhere.

          Re: Shopsin's
          Note their hours and rules and go on a weekday for shorter lines.

          I'd also still plan on a Momofuku restaurant... Did it drop from your itinerary on purpose?

          1. re: kathryn

            Hey Kathryn,

            Here's a dilemma.

            2 lunches and 2 dinners, want one to be Babbo and the others to be Japanese.

            I just realized that Babbo is doing lunch now, have you (or anyone else) tried lunch vs. dinner?

            I am thinking Babbo and Yasuda as the lunches, and 15 East and Kyo Ya as the dinners.

            Your thoughts?

            Revised line-up:

            Public Brunch

            Mission Chinese (possible)
            Empellon Cocina

            Momofuku (Ko with Ssam back-up) followed by WD-50 desserts
            Per Se
            Brooklyn Fare
            15 East
            Kyo Ya

            Late Night:
            Minetta Tavern
            Tacos Morelos cart

            1. re: 97Sperss

              The lunch menu at Babbo is pretty different from the dinner menu, a lot of the famous dishes aren't on it.

              1. re: 97Sperss

                I would sooner do Babbo for dinner, if possible - lunch is good, certainly, but a number of what I consider the best "signature" items - the octopus w/ limoncello vinaigrette, lamb's tongue, goose liver or beef cheek ravioli, goat cheese tortellini, spaghettini w/ lobster, etc - are only on the menu at dinner.

                On the other hand, the lunch and dinner menus at 15 East are quite similar - there are a couple of foie apps you can only get at dinner, for whatever reason, but otherwise there's quite a lot of crossover. I'd swap 15E and Babbo, myself.

                1. re: sgordon


                  It sounds like Babbo should definitely remain a dinner, and I feel like I'm going to dump Brooklyn Fare then.
                  After reading the reviews of BF, it seems that it is a great meal, but there are enough drawbacks and sub-stellar reviews that it is not justified.
                  I have to make the decision starting tomorrow morning whether or not to start calling them, as Feb 23rd is 6 weeks out. Does anyone think BF is an absolute must for my culinary adventure?


                    1. re: 97Sperss

                      Although this is probably a topic better suited for the Outer Boroughs forum, I would strongly suggest keeping a reso for Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare. I had the pleasure of dining there last month. It is a singularly wonderful experience. Preferences are subjective, but I favored my experience there significantly higher over my visits to Per Se and EMP.

              2. re: 97Sperss

                I'd swap both JG and WD-50 for both Corton and Bouley.

                1. re: ellenost

                  Hi Ellen,

                  Always love your input. Can you give a bit of an explanation as to why?


                  1. re: 97Sperss

                    Thanks for the compliment!

                    Bouley has long been one of my most favorite restaurants, and I'm planning to return for dinner in a few weeks.

                    I've had two excellent dinners at Corton (most recent dinner in August). While I find Liebrandt's food to be very creative, I also find it to be delicious. Service was very attentive both times.

                    While I find the food excellent at Jean-Georges, I've always found the service a bit chilly (I haven't dined at Jean-Georges in a few years).

                    I had dinner at WD-50 last year, and while I liked most of the food, some of the dishes were more creative than "yummy". The restaurant has a casual vibe in comparison to the other 3 restaurants that you're considering. WD-50 changed to only a tasting menu at its tables, while one can still order a la carte at the bar.

                    I hope this helps.

                    1. re: ellenost

                      Hi Ellen - any thoughts on Bouley for lunch? It seems like a pretty extraordinary deal.

                      1. re: edub

                        Although I've never been to Bouley for lunch, I've loved all of my dinners through the years. For $50, I think it is an amazing deal to have a multi-course tasting menu with choices for each course. Food, decor and service are wonderful, and I think the daylight streaming through the windows will make a beautiful restaurant even prettier.

                2. re: 97Sperss

                  I'd keep JG and swap WD~50 with Corton. Corton's a much better restaurant all around. If you do Bouley, do lunch.

                  1. re: 97Sperss

                    I would suggest considering Summit Bar over Pouring Ribbons or Booker and Dax, for menu items that are much more realized.

                    Elsa, Waylands, Lovers of Today, and Toucan and the Lion are also known to make great drinks if you can't get into one of the biggies.

                3. im not a big cocktail fan but you listed mostly all of the big players. i think lani kai closed though...actually, im sure of it. its now some forgettable 'gastropub.'

                  i used to love yasuda but now only go for weekday lunches at the tables. they offer a 'sushi matsu' which i find to be a fantastic deal considering the price and quality. i would avoid 15 east for lunch as i believe their best staff and higher quality fish is served at the bar during dinner. i love 15 east for omakase.

                  some east village/lower east side options (breakfast, lunch, ethnic food, etc...):

                  -shopsins...famous, ginormous menu, small but if you order wisely, youll find the place delicious.
                  -mission chinese food...hugely popular, amazing american inspired sichuan. lunch tends to be less crowded but dinner is doable if you go early or late.
         on 7th street...they take themselves too seriously but the cortados are solid and worth a visit.
                  -zabb elee...order wisely and youll have a solid and cheap northern thai meal. hurts my stomach but i still like the place.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: sam1

                    Thanks Sam,

                    Mission Chinese looks cool.

                    Shopsins has a ridiculous menu. What are the standouts?

                    Love Thai, so Zabb Elee sounds great.



                  2. Of the bars you listed, my favorites are D&C, PDT, M&H, and Mayahuel. However PDT is extremely difficult to get in to, so it may not be worth the trouble. I would also add Little Branch to your list. And as someone else mentioned, Pouring Ribbons is worth checking out.

                    Must go to dinners:

                    I haven't been to Per Se, EMP, or Jungsik (I have plans to hit these soon though), but by all accounts these are some of the top places in the city, so this is a solid list. I would also add Corton and Le Bernardin.

                    Babbo: Solid choice. Go.
                    WD~50: If you are comfortable with doing so, I highly recommend dining at the bar. At the bar they allow you to order a la carte off both tasting menus, so you get to control exactly what and how much you get. Order the pho gras.

                    Ko: Personally I think this place is overrated. If you must go, do dinner so you can get the egg/soubise/caviar dish. Ssam bar is overrated too imho, but one can have a great meal if one orders correctly.

                    JG: I never did the lunch, but it's a great deal. One of the best restaurants in NYC. The tasting menu is a lot of food. I say go for the prix fixe, but ask them to sub or add on the turbot with chateau chalon. They'll do it.

                    1. IMO, Jean Georges should be at top of your dinner list. To me it's a nice leisurely dinner place. But if you did lunch you would not be disappointed. 15 East is a much much better experience during dinner. Lunch is not even close, i think skip it if you can't do dinner there. Katz's is a definite lunch not to miss. Blue Ribbon Izakaya might be a good lunch spot, its on LES and you can mix good cooked with some sushi. Are all of your dinners "super fancy",,,if not Pig and Khao is casual and not expensive but interesting on LES. Meatball Shoppe although overrated is a good quick lunch stop, something different than I've seen in Canada. Recette is a good dinner spot. Ceci Cela in Soho is good for pastries and coffee.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: foodwhisperer

                        I'm surprised to see you say that about 15 East lunch. I used to work a block from 15 East, and Masa was often (but not always) there at lunch, and served me a number of great omakase meals at the bar.

                        Also, a lot of his regulars, including some in the food industry, seem to come in at lunch time (as was evident by their conversations). Even saw David Chang eating there a couple times.

                        1. re: foodwhisperer

                          Thanks foodwhisperer,

                          Dinners don't all have to be super fancy, though they probably will end up being that way.

                          I've heard of Blue Ribbon and that's a definite possibility, I'll check out Pig and Khao and the others you mentioned.

                          Do you have any recs for a late dinner after a Knicks game (eg. 10 PM)



                          1. re: 97Sperss

                            That could be your opportunity to walk into bar seats at Minetta Tavern.

                            1. re: Sneakeater

                              minetta is good late at night.

                              if you dont want to go too far, i always love a casual meal at the bar at keens.

                              1. re: sam1

                                Minetta looks like a good choice. Any other specific places in the MSG area, as we won't likely be there again?

                                1. re: 97Sperss

                                  MSG area is a bit of a wasteland. You could try the Breslin or a late reservation at The NoMad.

                        2. We called PDT at 3pm on the day we wanted to visit and snagged a 730 reservation, it was a weekday evening and still took us about 15/20 minutes to get through but it all felt relatively straightforward.