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May 25, 2013 12:13 AM

Hawaii visitors need your help-- please!!!

My husband and I are coming to NY for the third time from July 2 to 9. We will be staying at the Four Seasons. Our previous dining experiences have included Per Se, Eleven Madison Park, Sushi of Gari, Babbo, Maialino, Del Frisco, to name a few. We really enjoyed Sushi of Gari so we will probably be dining there again when we attend Book of Mormon on July 3. we felt that Per Se was too pretentious, Babbo-- I didn't enjoy, as my food was way too salty, Del Frisco-- ok, but nothing outstanding-- I would consider it similar to Morton's, which we have in Hawaii. Maialino was great-- my husband really enjoyed the roasted pig, so we may return there. I've already searched through many of the threads on this board and am considering ABC Cocina, Jungsik, Quality Meats, The Modern, Momofuku Ko (but I understand that you can make reservations only 2 weeks in advance....). should we return to Eleven Madison Park? Or try another formal restaurant? Price is of no concern, however, we'd like to eat at a restaurant that we do not have in Hawaii, and something unique to NY. Any suggestions??? Thank you in advance for your help!

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  1. If you found Babbo oversalted, I'm not sure what you'll think of Quality Meats. I didn't find my food at Babbo oversalted, when I went there several years ago, whereas when I had lunch at Quality meats within the past couple of years, I thought their food was good but too salty. So keep that in the back of your mind.

    1. I eat a Quality a few times a year and have a dislike for strong salt and don't recall coming across anything matching this description. That said, I don't consider their sides their best feature. You must must try their boned in ribeye <period>

      Also, if you've not gone to Keens, do check them out for the old school new york steak house feel (the prime rib is great here btw).

      We did Mad Park and while the experience was nice, I didn't think it was worth the money (same with WD-50). I'm really starting to hate these multi-hundred dollar affair places that don't hit it out of the park (e.g. wanting commensurate value for my money).

      Random: For a great bloody mary, try Jane's on Houston.

      2 Replies
      1. re: rottyguy

        Thank you. I feel the same way-- especially with Per Se. I had to wake up at 3 am for 3 days straight before getting a reservation, and was really disappointed. We also ate at WD-50, and both my husband and myself were highly unimpressed......

        I will look at the menu for Keens. Thanks for your input!

        1. re: honolulufoodie

          My suggestion is to skip the hypie places and hit something like Cafe Mogador on 8th st. I also like Zum Schneider for the atmosphere food and beer. Boulton Watts on A has been really good for us too.

      2. Aloha Honolulufoodie! Thanks for the very detailed information you have given us.

        I was just in Hawaii this past winter, and loved Ono Seafood, Leonard's, KCC Farmers Market, Ono Hawaiian Foods, Waiola Shave Ice, Chef Mavro, Nanzan GiroGiro, Morning Glass, Sushi Izakaya Gaku, and Ramen Nakamura, to give you a sense of my tastes.

        It seems like your preferences are actually running more towards delicious food that is ambitious in scope but does not necessarily come with the trappings of white tablecloths, long tasting menus, etc.

        This sort of dining (combined with a small plates/tapas trend) has been a trend in NYC for several years now, but the list you have written above does not really hit on those notes except for ABC Cocina.

        I have a feeling you will have a much happier trip if you mix it up more with non-tasting menu and less-formal sorts of restaurants. Consider instead places like Louro, Acme, Momofuku Ssam Bar, Txikito, Recette, etc.

        It is also my understanding that fruits such as blueberries and peaches (and other stone fruits) have a hard time growing Hawaii since there isn't a cold season, so I'd make sure to stroll through the Union Square Greenmarket and grab some local produce to eat (open 8am-6pm, M, W, F, and Sat). Focus on varieties of local product that don't get shipped out to other places. Hopefully you will stumble upon Terhune's peaches or Mountain Sweet Berry or Berried Treasures' Tristar strawberries or heirloom tomatoes from places like Eckerton Hill. July will be a very nice time to walk through the farmer's markets. You might be lucky enough to stumble upon some wild blueberries or wild strawberries! It is very different from the KCC farmers market in Honolulu as very few vendors are cooking a la minute or selling prepared dishes to eat, it is focused more on produce & raw ingredients.

        Are you into bread? It seems to me as if Hawaii doesn't really have a culture that is into crusty, flavorful breads. So if you're into bread, NYC is a great place to buy some!

        I'd also make sure you hit on cuisines that are poorly represented in Hawaii, such as BBQ, Southern food, East Coast seafood, and maybe some Spanish, French, or South American in addition to Mexican.

        My current favorite BBQ places are Brisket Town and Mighty Quinn's, Hill Country can be good as well. For Southern, look into Redhead or Pies 'n' Thighs, or do a search on here.

        For East Coast seafood, I imagine that if you like oysters, they are very expensive when shipped to Hawaii, so a place like Balthazar, Aquagrill, or Pearl Oyster Bar might be fun. You could also get a lobster roll at Pearl, I don't think you can get those in Hawaii?

        And if you go to Balthazar, you can kind of hit three birds with one stone: great oysters, French brasserie, and a "classic NY atmosphere" restaurant.

        We are currently in a bit of a Spanish renaissance here with Txikito and Tertulia leading the pack IMO, though some would rate Salinas up there, alongside Tia Pol. You'll probably want to avoid Casa Mono if Babbo was too salty for you. We also have a great Spanish grocery store, Despana.

        For South American, you might want to hit up the Red Hook Ball Field vendors.

        If you want a steak in a very "NY" atmosphere, I would steer you towards:

        Peter Luger's porterhouse - a German beer hall atmosphere, books 6-8 wks in advance only via phone, no credit cards BTW, and quite famous

        Minetta Tavern's amazing cote de boeuf - located in the heart of the Village, Rat Pack atmosphere, feels like a blast from the past, recommended especially if you like that funky aged taste, very expensive though, and they are on OpenTable

        Keens' porterhouse for two - historical and famous for its 50,000 smoking pipes hanging from the ceiling and its long scotch list, easier to get a reservation here than the other two, books via OpenTable

        I believe that none of these three are really anything you have in Honolulu. Whereas Quality Meats is fine but the atmosphere doesn't scream "New York" to me. The decor is modern and sleek but it also looks like could belong to in any large city in the USA. Personally, I also felt their bone in ribeye lacked the "dry aged" flavor I like, in comparison to Minetta Tavern, Craft, Momofuku Ssam, and others.

        Maialino is an excellent choice and a Danny Meyer restaurant is always good to have in an itinerary.

        I haven't dined at ABC Cocina yet but if it is anything like ABC Kitchen, it will be fresh, creative, and tasty, but also very popular. I would also consider one of the Empellon restaurants. Hip, casual, creative Mexican, from a chef who used to work at Alinea and WD-50. Take a look at the menus and see what appeals. Their mezcal and tequila cocktails are also excellent, especially if you like smoky or spicy drinks.

        I wouldn't do both Jungsik & Momofuku Ko. That's two creative Asian formal/semi-formal tasting menus. There is so much Asian food/fusion Asian food in Hawaii, it seems like it should not be a priority while you are here.

        I would do Momofuku Ssam Bar for dinner if you really want some Asian fusion while you are here. More casual, but also delicious, and cheaper. Out of all of the Momofukus, it is probably my favorite. The menu changes all of the time, but I dined there last weekend, and had an awesome grilled asparagus dish with strips of chawanmushi, strips of pickled tomato, and sesame seeds. They were also doing this great stir fry sort of dish of charred ramps and breakfast radishes in a savory peanut sauce.

        I have also noticed that cocktails are not a thing that Hawaii does extremely well. I would take advantage of being in NYC and go to some of our top places if it interests you (PDT, Death & Co, Milk & Honey, Raines Law Room, Booker & Dax, etc).

        I would also check out some "Only in NY" type foods while you're here: bagels and smoked salmon, pastrami on rye, pizza, hot dogs & papaya juice, black and white cookies, cheesecake, egg creams, pickles, halal carts.

        Russ & Daughters (takeout, busy on weekends), Katz's Deli (from When Harry Met Sally), Papaya King etc. (not gourmet but iconic), William Greenberg's black and whites, Junior's cheesecake, egg creams from Gem Spa or Ray's, Pickle Guys, the Halal Guys (53rd and 6th after sunset), are all iconic "NY" sorts of places that are worth a look. Have you been to any of these yet?

        While I believe there is Naples style pizza in Honolulu, there isn't classic gas oven or coal oven style, I don't think.

        If you're interested in some of the places I listed above, you could do a LES food crawl.

        I highly recommend RGR's self guided Lower East Side Gustatory tour but sub in Pickle Guys for Guss' Pickles and note that Economy Candy's address is incorrect:

        We also have some of the harder to find Chinese cuisines: Henan, Shaanxi (Xian Famous Foods) and Fuzhou in Manhattan, and many more in Queens and Brooklyn (Shangdong/Qingdao and Dongbei to name a few). scoopG's Chinatown list (I don't believe that Honolulu currently has Henan or Xian style food):

        My favorite unique places in NY serve Xian (Chinese) food, Issan (Thai) food, organic/local/sustainable Japanese BBQ, authentic Basque (Spanish) tapas, creative diner food, pretzels, hot dogs, halal food, steak, upscale rustic Italian, Italian subs, creative Italian-American, high end non-sushi Japanese (like kaiseki), creative desserts, molecular gastronomy, mixology/creative cocktails, and creative brunches (sometimes every day of the week).

        Notable food trucks/carts:

        Prix fixe lunch deals:

        Best breakfast/brunch in NYC:
        It is (IMO) at the Breslin, Locanda Verde, Shopsin's, Clinton St Baking Co., or Minetta Tavern.

        Best bagels in NYC:
        Summary: the freshest bagels are the best; bagels don't age well at all. Focus on the smoked salmon instead. Preferably at Russ & Daughters! Featured in shows such as No Reservations and Louie!

        I'm fond of red onion, capers, regular cream cheese, and tomato on mine. Try a few smoked salmons before you settle on one, they're surprisingly different (and lox is not the same as smoked salmon, because lox is salmon cured in salt brine, and most people actually prefer the more modern, Nova-style smoked salmon). You can get a mini-sized bagel sandwich at Russ & Daughters, too, if you wish. Takeout only.

        If you like the idea of RGR's self-guided LES tour above, check these out, too.

        scoopG's self guided Chinatown tour:

        A West Village food crawl

        East Village:

        6 Replies
        1. re: kathryn

          Thanks for all of your input!! If you venture to Hawaii again, you need to go to Izakaya Nonbei. They have a frozen sake that is to die for...... Ted's Bakery for their Chocolate Haupia pie..... Delicious!!!

          I should clarify-- i love tasting menus, but hubby doesn't. however, I would like to go to at least one upscale restaurant, as we are traveling to NY for my birthday. That being said, do you think we should go to Eleven Madison Park? Or try something different?

          I listed Jungsik because we don't have any upscale Korean restaurants in Hawaii, and I love Korean food.

          I was considering Peter Luger, but it's in Brooklyn, and we are staying in Manhattan..... Is the steak worth the trip?

          Thanks again for your help!!!!

          1. re: honolulufoodie

            You're welcome! We are actually planning to be in Maui and Kauai this December, skipping Oahu this time around.

            What did you think of EMP your first time around (did you do the grid or the tasting)? Are you aware of all of the changes they have made (no more grid)? Have you been to more other "playful" and experimental upscale restaurants in the past, like Alinea? If this intrigues you, I'd go back to EMP.


            Do you LOVE steak or is it just that you feel you should take advantage of ability to go to a steakhouse while on the mainland? While I enjoy the steak at Peter Luger, the no credit card / no OpenTable policy makes it much less convenient to visit for me, but I live here.

            Since you are in Hawaii, I'm guessing the time difference + needing to call for a reservation (and probably having trouble getting through to PL) will be annoying for you.

            1. re: kathryn

              Did the tasting. I liked it, but husband wasn't impressed. We have been to Alinea in Chicago. Did not like it. We did a wine pairing with the meal. For certain courses, they asked us if we wanted to "upgrade" to a batter wine. The waiter made us feel that we were "cheap" if we didn't upgrade. Food wasn't memorable. However, The Dining Room in San Francisco was one of my favorite restaurants. Sadly, they have closed its doors....

              I enjoy steak, and yes, I thought NY would have some better options than Hawaii. We have Morton's, Ruth Chris, BLT, Wolfagangs..... Of those, Morton's is my favorite (I love the onion rings and parmesan fries there)

              1. re: honolulufoodie

                Maybe instead of EMP, look at The NoMad, their other restaurant. Great service and atmosphere, and an a la carte menu.

                Or stick with the Modern, as they offer a prix fixe.

                Wolfgangs is a chain actually based of off Luger, forgot that you have them in Hawaii. So in thinking Keens or Minetta for you.

            2. re: honolulufoodie

              Please don't underestimate the value of kathryn's input above!
              I would recommend actually printing the information and links to keep with you as you travel the city so you are able to find lunches and snacks nearby as well
              Her suggestions for spanish are all very authentic- i took some out of town friends who visit spain often to tia pol and they loved it as much as i do although it is a louder/busy place.
              Casa mono is a more "upscale" environment and really enjoyed every time i have been -the razor clams a la plancha are a must. I am sure that if you make a reservation and note that you are sensitive to salt and/or mention this to your waiter they would accomodate you. If there is still an ice cream dessert with pedro ximinez sauce on the menu it still haunts me. Excellent wine selection as well.

            3. re: kathryn

              Kathryn, you're always super-helpful, but I feel a need to comment on Junior's. I went to their outpost on 45th St. (I think it was) a few years ago, and at least at that time, it really sucked. Even the cheesecake was just passable. I definitely would try not to go back to that location.

            4. Kathryn and I differ on a few things from her list, most notably Quality Meats. I've sent several people to QM, all of which love the rib-eye. My old companies ad execs use to take their clients there as well; if that accounts for anything.

              With respect to Lugers, Katz, and the "popular" places, personally I'd skip them. Not necessarily for the food (except for maybe Russ and Daughters, I simply don't understand the hype here-- Thompkins Bagel on A has a fantastic bagel), but the service. I think they get too popular and start to get sloppy on some things... The last time I was at Luger's, I had some surly waiter serve us. While folks may think this is part of the ny scene, I personally don't want to spent $100+ on a meal with poor service. Especially on steak where the competition is so great here in the city (I saw this at Gallaghers and Sparks (which use to be my favorite)). Katz has a line out the door most hours and the wait staff is so incredibly impatient, it's not worth your time or patronage IMO.

              The specialty cocktails are indeed a scene here. I'd add Angel Share and Summit to Kathryn's list on Ave C.

              Anyways, good luck. We were in the North Shore & Kauai in February and loved all the Poke and and fresh fruits!

              13 Replies
              1. re: rottyguy

                Heh. In my experience, clients have the worst taste in food...

                Never experienced bad service at Luger. Gruff maybe, but not bad.

                What is your opinion of the steak at Minetta Tavern?

                There is basically no Jewish deli scene in Hawaii, and Katz's would fill the gap nicely while Sarge's is still closed (they think by August they can reopen, fingers crossed).

                Angel's Share is not at the same level as the others I mentioned in regards to cocktails. I like Summit Bar a lot but only if I happen to be in the neighborhood. They have a lovely garden but it gets filled up with smokers (bleh).

                1. re: kathryn

                  Well, as ad execs generally have a (quasi) unlimited expense roll to wine and dine, they'll generally go top shelf (and they eat out a lot)...

                  I've not been to Minetta. They're not a "chop house" correct? Is the Dry Aged Côte de Boeuf the cut to get here?

                  For sandwiches, I generally send folks to DeFontes though their prices have been creeping up lately (not as bad as Katz or 2nd Ave yet), I may be in search of a new deli soon.

                  I like Angel share for the ambiance (Raines is way too dark) and their Japanese Whiskey drink which you don't find at very many places in the city. The other spot I like for drinks is Hotel Griffou. Cool ambiance but skip the food, I've yet to eat anything memorable here.

                  1. re: rottyguy

                    Not a steakhouse per se, correct, and yes, that's the cut they're known for.

                    IMO Japanese anything in NYC isn't going to be all that interesting to anyone from Honolulu, given how much of it they have there.

                        1. re: kathryn

                          Without getting in the way of your differences in opinion here, I just want to point out that the OP from Honolulu declared "We really enjoyed Sushi of Gari so we will probably be dining there again when we attend Book of Mormon on July 3."

                          1. re: kathryn

                            Thats not nec true, I am in Hawaii pretty often. There arent too many places like Kajitsu, Brushstroke, 15 East, Azabu, Takashi, Yakiniku Gen, Hakata Ton Ton or Soto in Honolulu. There seems to be more of a focus on Okinawan, kappo, izakaya, okazuya, bento, teppanyaki and cheap sushi in Honolulu.

                          2. re: rottyguy

                            Hotel Griffou has been closed for a while now.

                        2. re: rottyguy

                          Thanks for your input. Still on the fence between Keens and Quality Meats. leaning towards Quality Meats, because I do enjoy my sides with my steak....

                          Sorry, forgot to ask-- any recommendations for pizza? Sad to say that the best pizza in Hawaii is probably Pizza Hut.... :( Ate at Lombardis the last time we were there, and wasn't too impressed. It was way too crowded and the pizza was soggy.
                          I've seen some posts re: NY pizza but there are so many different styles of pizza. Which restaurant best exemplifies NY pizza?

                          1. re: honolulufoodie

                            Exactly. I did the same thing 10 years ago. The salt on the pepperoni had me drinking a gallon of water for the next 3 days.

                            What exemplifies nyc pizza is the "regular slice" which is just plain cheese picked up at any of the various pizza parlors. Everyone has their favorites around the city. My wife happens to like Famiglia on 9th and b'way and I can't disagree much.. Nice crispy crust.

                            You should give Gruppos (ave B) a try at some point. Their wafer thin crust is unique among the doughy slices here. I also like Luzzo's on 1st which has a chewier dough.

                            After a few slices off the street, I'd hit Gruppos for a sit down.

                            Let us know how you fair with your pizza & steak (I feel invested now <grin>).

                            1. re: honolulufoodie

                              I would say Patsy's (the original in Harlem), but I haven't been there for quite a while.

                              I'm kind of surprised kathryn hasn't chimed in yet. :-) She can tell you chapter and verse on the different styles. rottyguy has a good point about the gas-oven slice, but while that typifies New York, the whole-pizza coal-oven places exemplify it in a better sense. Patsy's is one, and there are several others, including Arturo's, which I've liked very much (kathryn disagrees). Nowadays, I've got very good pizza much closer to me at South Brooklyn Pizza, on 1st Av. between 7th and St Marks, so I usually just go there for a margherita slice or two when I want pizza, but their pizza is really more Neapolitan style and not coal-fired. It's very good but I would not say it's real New York-style pizza.

                              1. re: honolulufoodie

                                My friend who lives in Honolulu has recommended V Lounge, Antonio's, and JJ Dolan's in Honolulu, and he often goes to Prima in Kailua as well.

                                Best NY Pizza:

                                Lombardi's is not that good any more. And I've also gotten super wet pies there.

                                You say you want the best NY style but there is not JUST one NY style, so it's hard to point to only one place and say it exemplifies NY style.

                                The two most popular styles are coal oven and gas oven.

                                If you don't like lines or a bit of wetness in the center, then a lot of the coal oven places are out. It is also the coal oven places that are sit down / whole pies only. I find it's bet to order no toppings or one topping max, and sometimes ask for it well done. There should be some charring on the bottom which many visitors interpret as "burnt."

                                The plain cheese, gas oven style is the other prevalent kind. A corner street slice that you eat standing up.

                                None of these are about fancy toppings or local/organic ingredients BTW. It's about the meshing of crust, sauce, cheese. Though South Brooklyn does a better job than most.

                                1. re: honolulufoodie

                                  Why Keens or Quality Meats and not Minetta Tavern, BTW?

                              2. Aloha honolulufoodie! yours truly is from Kalihi and now da ues mayor!
                                Anywho-here are my recs:
                                -Kaijitsu-delicious vegetarian type-a must try
                                -Sassabune-bare bones decor but excellent sushi-da best!
                                -Costata-Michael White;s new Italian in SOHO-has a great bone in rib eye that is extremely tasty-dry aged-broke da mouth good!. Upscale dining.
                                -Goannuri-for upscale Korean w a view to die for.
                                -Brushstroke-for their tasting menu-There is a sushi place inside Brushstroke called Ichimura which gets rave reviews but I wenr twice recently and found it just ok.
                                -Tamarind for Indian-the one in SOHO -not the other one
                                -Milos-for ab fab great Greek food-clean wholesome frsh fish-pricey but worth it.
                                -Pig and Khao-great Fillipino food w lots of porky dishes-its a bar/restaurant type place -smallish restaurant for tasty small plate bites.
                                -Momofuko noodle bar-then walk over for desserts to the Milk Bar.
                                And don't forget perhaps grabbing lunch at Russ and daughter, Katz's, and Eataly.

                                8 Replies
                                1. re: UES Mayor

                                  Isn't there a Sasabune in Honolulu now?

                                  I would recommend Momofuku Ssam (which is much more eclectic) over Momofuku Noodle (which is ramen focused). And it's Momofuku with a U at the end.

                                  Note to honolulufoodie: Eataly is also run by Mario Batali (of Babbo, etc) and is a huge shopping complex with multiple restaurants inside.

                                  1. re: UES Mayor

                                    UES Mayor, use to work in Hawaii for Spencecliff two Restaurants at Ala Moana ctr and Coco's back in the 80's....lived in Makiki...........Now when I go back the trafic is nuts, but I still like to get over to Rainbow for Shoyu Chicken......take care.............Bill

                                    1. re: UES Mayor

                                      I had excellent Korean food twice in Honolulu last summer. I can't see flying to New York to go to Korean restaurants.

                                      1. re: Pan

                                        We have nothing like Goannuri and Jungsik in Hawaii-

                                        1. re: UES Mayor

                                          I haven't been to either yet. Other than the view, is Gaonnuri better than a place like Don's Bogam?

                                          1. re: Pan

                                            Totally different dining experience-altho both Korean. Try Goanurri! You will love both the food and view.

                                            1. re: UES Mayor

                                              What dishes do you like best there?

                                              1. re: UES Mayor

                                                I'd like to try it, but I live here. I just found the level of Korean food in Honolulu quite high, and that was just by going to one restaurant friends of mine who live there took me to and then another than got 4 stars on Yelp. Both restaurants were relatively inexpensive.