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5 nights in NYC (from San Francisco!) - Feedback please

I grew up in Montreal and like most East Coasters, spent extended weekends and vacations in NYC for much of my life. My wife lived in the city for 3 years. We're both living in San Francisco now and neither of us have been back for a visit in a couple of years. We're celebrating (belatedly) our marriage, and will be staying at the St. Regis for 5 nights from 06/26 until the 1st, then driving through the Hudson Valley to Mohonk to spend a few more nights over the 4th of July week.

As we haven't been in town for a couple of years and there are surely many new places that aren't on our radars, I'd greatly appreciate some advice and feedback re. our dining itin. No plans during the days, as we'll be visiting our favorite lowkey spots, delis and ethnic joints - it's just the evening reservations that I'd love to get feedback on.

We only have 5 nights in town so it's a small window to squeeze in some really top-notch meals that we hopefully can't get back on the West Coast...

First question: is Tamarind in Tribeca still relevant? My wife was asking about it as it's been a favorite and I've always enjoyed it too. We don't really have modern Indian on the high end scale in San Francisco. Is the kitchen still inspired and would this be worthy of adding to our limited timeline?

Second question: Degustation - same as above! Is there anything nee and better in town? My wife's never been but I love it and would like to introduce her to the restaurant, assuming it's still just as great.

Third: Japanese on the high end. My pick is 15 East for sushi (I love UshiWakamaru too). We have pretty good sushi in the Bay Area compared to most American cities, but nothing like LA, Vancouver, Seattle or even New York. Sakae in Burlingame is great and both Ino and Aka Tombo in SF Japantown are OK but nothing compared to what you can get at top end New York sushi bars. My wife isn't necessarily set on sushi though (she's open to the possibility) but would like to include one Japanese meal. We've been to Coi and Benu in town, but for my money Kyo Ya is unbeatable. The missus isn't sold on it however. Aburiya Kinnosuke has been on both of our lists for a while, but neither of us have ever been. Could anyone offer feedback on it, and would you suggest that it's destination worthy coming from San Francisco and with a limited number of meals? Could you please offer other suggestions and possibilities as well? If we do decide to go for sushi, is 15 East still on top of their game? I'm looking over my notepade list and see that I've eaten at Ebisu, Sushi Of Gari, Kirara, Kanoyama, Yasuda, Masa, Kuruma Zushi, Shimizu and several others, but the only ones that really made a memorable impact (in Manhattan proper) were 15 East and UshiWakamaru.

Fourth: Italian. Is Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca still as great as ever? It's long been a favorite of mine (along with Maialino in the Grammercy Park Hotel) and my wife has surprisingly never been, as her favorite food is Italian and Mediterranean cuisine.

Fifth: Eleven Madison Park or Gotham Bar and Grill? Or any other suggestions/recommendations? I've never been to Gotham but have dined at EMP. I'm also thinking of doing Eleven Madison for a special weekend lunch one afternoon and possibly Gotham for dinner. Are there any newer places that we should consider as well?

How does the above look for a quick cross-coastal week long trip? Is Tamarind kind of a boring choice for NYC considering there's really good Indian on the West Coast? Had I no requisites, budget or otherwise - what would you suggest are not-to-be-missed?

Lastly, while I mentioned that we didn't need to cover lunches as NYC is a second home to us, I would love a few suggestions for really great brunch spots that might have opened in the past 2 years which we wouldn't be familiar with and would come highly recommended.

Thanks so much!!

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  1. UPDATE: Re. Gotham versus EMP... I've booked Eleven Madison for Saturday lunch so the new questions is:

    Gotham versus Park Avenue??

    1. The chef at Degustation departed some time ago, and no-one thinks it's as good as it used to be. Why don't you go to Txikito for some Basque tapas and wine? It's not a quiet counter like Degustation and is less innovative, I think, but it's great.

      What's your wife's issue with Kyo Ya? Did she previously eat there?

      I won't personally comment on the rest of your questions (I've never been to 15 East, liked my one meal at Babbo several years ago, and was underwhelmed by a meal at 11 Madison Park several years ago), but I already know what the answers from others are going to be: Yes on 15 East, 11 Madison Park over Gotham, and probably, whoever previously liked Babbo still likes it and whoever disliked it still dislikes it. I take no responsibility for the accuracy of any of these standard board opinions.

      11 Replies
      1. re: Pan

        I think the OP means the Kyo Ya in SF?

        1. re: kathryn

          No, I meant Kyo Ya in the East Village.

          I didn't realize there was even a restaurant called Kyo Ya in the Bay Area. Interesting... are they affiliated?

          1. re: OliverB

            No relation, I believe. Kyo Ya in SF is all that Google used to show when looking them up--I literally couldn't find anything about the EV one right after it opened. It was all the SF one.

            Anyway, the SF one closed.
            http://sanfrancisco.grubstreet.com/20...

        2. re: Pan

          Thanks Pan!

          I'm not really sure why my wife isn't sold on Kyo Ya but that's how she feels... women! ;)

          I have a reservation for 11 Madison on Saturday the 29th however I just went to try for a res at Park Ave as well and they only have 11am lunch on the very same day left.

          I can always adjust our 11 Madison res to another day or night but would you consider Park Ave Summer a good choice for lunch? Should we strike Gotham from the list altogether?

          That's a major bummer about Degustation... I really wanted to take my wife there. Oh well. I'll look into Txikito as an option, although we're honestly not basing the meal on Spanish/tapas. I just really liked Degustation. Is there anywhere else in the city (new or otherwise) that we should know about or perhaps consider? Something fairly special and with great atmosphere but not Michelin* priced. In the same ballpark (price-range) as the others mentioned above, I suppose.

          Do you know anything or have any opinions about Aburiya Kinnosuke? I'm leaning towards something other than sushi, because we'll be in LA next month and can always have great sushi there.

          What about Tamarind in Tri? Is that still relevant?

          Thanks as always Pan (you've been a big help before on past trips to NYC!)

          Cheers

          1. re: OliverB

            Hi, Oliver. I'm glad you found my suggestions helpful on other occasions. :-)

            I haven't been to Park Ave Summer,Tamarind, or Aburiya Kinnosuke. I have been to Kyo Ya twice. As an a la carte meal, it's good, but as a 10-course kaiseki, it was a life-changing experience for me and my girlfriend. It was our first kaiseki, but we more recently had a kaiseki dinner at a respected restaurant my Japanese sister-in-law picked in Asakasa in Tokyo, and we both felt Kyo Ya was much better. And the entire experience was so relaxing and civilized. We found it romantic and special.

            I understand your point about Degustation. I haven't been to Momofuku Ko, but maybe that would be a comparable experience of eating creative cuisine at a kitchen counter. I do like David Chang's cuisine at Momofuku Ssam Bar a lot, so I think you should consider Ko.

            1. re: Pan

              I've enjoyed Momofuku Ko but both my wife and I have eaten there several times before (together) so I want to try and visit places that are at least new to one of us, or old and meaningful favorites. I think Kyo Ya will be enough Japanese for the short time we're visiting. I am curious about Aburiya Kinnosuke though; at least for a future trip...

              1. re: OliverB

                There's a new chef's counter tasting at Ma Peche called Kappo, BTW. And it can customized to your likes and dislikes (no beef, lamb, pork).

          2. re: Pan

            I disagree a bit about degustation. I think wesley was great and he had a spanish focus ( he is from mallorca). The new chef now is nick (they went through two others who were just ok.). who cooked for a couple of years at jack's luxury oyster bar and is terrific. Still small plates but not really spanish...i think it is again excellent... Not sure it is better or worse than with wesley. Fairly quite place, corkage policy, good prices and they are quite friendly...bar seating only.

            1. re: Polisax

              So where is Wesley now?

              That's where I want to go.

              Had several delicious meals at Degustation.

              The Chef at Falai is in Italy now and I really miss his foie gras three ways. . . memorable. Spending this weekend in Montreal was a good thing.

                1. re: kathryn

                  I went up to try his food at solo farm and table when it first opened. At that point it was very good but not at all the same small plates concept as Wesley practiced at Degustation. pretty location and he and his wife are just as welcoming as ever...but it really Vermont not NY and Wesley thinks that a different kind of restaurant is required (a bit more comfort food, etc).

                  I do wonder what happened to the Chef at Falai (on Clinton).. I think his name was Marco and he was always aching to get out from under Falai...I loved his food and hope he has succeeded. I think he went to a ski resort near Brentano Pass but I have not been there and have no idea if he is still there. He was a restless and ambitious soul and I am not sure he can work for other people for very long. He needs to become eponymous.

          3. Is it too late to change your post title? It's a little misleading as you are all over town, not just Midtown.

            1. The Tamarind in TriBeCa is a second branch of the one near the Flatiron Building, not sure what you mean by still relevant? Some here prefer Junoon / Tulsi, though I can't personally compare the three.

            2. What appeals about Degustation? The format with the open kitchen?

            The original chef left around spring of 2011. They have a new chef around, not a lot of reports just yet.

            If it's Spanish you want, Txikito still going strong, Tertulia will be new to you as will Salinas.

            3. Ichimura at Brushstroke is possibly not on your radar, nor is Neta.

            And our Kyo Ya in the East Village for kaiseki. Totally separate from the SF one.

            Overall this thread for an SF may also help:
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/903163

            For brunch, Breslin, Locanda Verde, Shopsin's, Clinton St Baking Co., Minetta Tavern, Public, Spotted Pig all still going strong.

            I'm thinking the Little Wisco empire was pretty small when you were last here? Might want to try out Joseph Leonard, Perla, Montmartre, etc.

            5 Replies
            1. re: kathryn

              Thank you,

              I meant still relevant as in it's been around for a long time and I haven't visited in several years - I was asking about quality and consistency. I think we'll give it a go for one of our meals though!

              I've just had some really great meals and past experiences at Degustation and I enjoyed the layout of the dining room and open kitchen. If the chef has split though, we won't chance it. I'll look into and consider Txikito but we may opt for something else altogether. My wife has a more restricted palette than I do (she rarely eats red meats for instance, unless cured for some reason which neither of us understand) and so tapas might not be the best choice for the two of us afterall.

              Thank you for the tips on Ichimura and Neta also - I'll look into both now. I love Kyo Ya, but as mentioned, my wife doesn't want to do it for some reason. I have no clue why she's not into it, but she isn't so it's off the list, ha.

              Checking into the thread that you linked to now - thanks again!

              1. re: OliverB

                I usually associate tapas with pork (white meat) and seafood. Not red meat (beef/lamb/etc). Unless she doesn't eat pork either?

                I love Kyo Ya. Serene. Charming staff. Spacious room. Well spaced tables, too. The menu doesn't read all that well (most of what's online is probably way out of date) as they don't really have a web presence.

                1. re: kathryn

                  I know but she doesn't eat pork either... believe me, I've pointed out the "other white meat" thing to her many times, ha! She's funny like that. She ordered a mushroom quiche with bacon for brunch today and will dig into a plate of charcuterie and salame (as long as it's free range) or pick sausages off my pizza before taking a bite, yet she claims not to eat pork or read meat. Who knows! :)

                  I love Kyo Ya too and would love to visit, but my wife shot it down and this trip is really all about her. We had to cancel a wedding reception in Montreal this month because I'm awaiting my greencard and wasn't allowed to fly home, so this short trip is making up for that. I may try to push it on her again though!

                2. re: OliverB

                  The trouble with txikito is that it is loud and chaotic... Ichimura is fantastic... A bit pricey but very very good. Neta can be good if you sit at the bar... Otherwise i think they tend to mail it in sometimes. Also really loud for sushi.... Though they do more than sushi... That is what is best there....

                3. re: kathryn

                  PS - Title changed!

                  I meant that we're staying in Midtown, but I guess that's irelevant and I could see how it might be confusing. Thanks for clueing me in!

                4. Okay, the missus gave the green light for Kyo Ya, but I just called for a 06/28 reservation and caught the answering machine which was totally indecipherable. I didn't get a word of the message. Could anyone please tell me how and when to call to get a reservation in?

                  Thanks!!

                  PS - We've got the following so far:

                  06/26 - Dinner at Tamarind
                  06/27 - ???
                  06/28 - Hopefully Dinner at Kyo Ya (trying for a res)
                  06/29 - Lunch at Eleven Madison Park / ??? for Dinner
                  06/30 - ??? for Dinner (Considering Gotham)

                  Could someone please advise re. Park Avenue Summer for Saturday 11am lunch - is it worth it? And what about Gotham for dinner on the 27th; too similar to EMP?

                  Babbo for lunch or dinner; any difference? Similar opinions or general concencus shared with Pan (meh?)

                  Thanks again!

                  17 Replies
                  1. re: OliverB

                    It's 12:30am here! They're at home, call back tomorrow near 4-5pm NYC time. I've also been stumped by their answering machine in the past. Just keep trying until you get a human.

                    Park Ave Summer serves weekend brunch Sat and Sun. Is that what you want? Brunch or lunch?

                    Do Babbo for dinner, the menus are fairly different and many signature dishes aren't available for lunch. Though you're already past when their books open (one month in advance to the numerical day), so you'll need to grab whatever times are left for your dates.

                    1. re: kathryn

                      Oops, how silly - forgot about the time difference!

                      Thanks for the tip on Babbo btw, I was able to squeeze in a late 10:30 PM dinner for the Sunday night (06/30) and they were pretty much booked solid through the rest of the week.

                      Re. Park Summer weekend brunch -- what's to be expected and is it worth it? I'd rather do EMP lunch on the Saturday, though I'd be willing to adjust the res and push it to another day if Park Summer is absolutely worth doing for brunch. Eleven Madison seems pretty easy to get a booking for lunch this far in advance.

                      Assuming that we're good for dinner at Kyo Ya on Fri. 06/28 (will call tomorrow to confirm) we still need 2 more evening meals to fill for Thu. 27th and Sat. 29th.

                      Any suggestions?

                      Something lighter for the Saturday since we're doing EMP for lunch...

                      1. re: OliverB

                        One thing about Kyo Ya: When you speak with them, mention if you want kaiseki, because that has to be requested in advance. You can get 8, 9, or 10 courses. I highly recommend the 10-course kaiseki.

                        1. re: Pan

                          Thanks Pan and will do!

                          What kind of price range am I looking at for the full-on kaiseki per person?

                          We'll be taking our honeymoon throughout Japan Oct. 2014 so it will be wonderful to compare! Does the chef discuss the kaiseki with you over the phone or is it entirely his discretion? I doubt it'll be an issue, but my wife doesn't eat red meat. She's less adventurous when it comes to fish liver, uni, etc but I'm sure she'll try just about anything and I better prep her for our honetmoon anyway!

                          1. re: OliverB

                            When you book the reservation, explain your wife's dietary restrictions. I don't actually recall there being any red meat course, anyway, but I told them my girlfriend and I hate raw clams and oysters, and they forgot and brought out beautiful raw oysters. I knew they'd be wasted on us, so I called over the waitress and said I had specifically mentioned our hating raw oysters when I made the reservation. She took away the oysters and substituted a wonderful course of just-hatched squid the chef had just gotten in.

                            They will give you a menu of the courses when you're there, from what I remember, but I am sure they would discuss them over the phone.

                            Kyo Ya has no website, but according to their menupages.com menu, the 10-course kaiseki is $150, 9-course is $120, and 8-course is $95. Add a significant amount of money if you plan on having some of their great sake. When I went, I believe the 10-course kaiseki was $125, and including sake, tax and tip, I paid just about $300 even for two people. We got the sake we liked 2nd-best and 3rd-best because our favorite just cost more than I was willing to spend. You may well make a different decision, and if you've got the cash, it will be worth it.

                            1. re: Pan

                              Hmmm...Actually, I think the 10-course kaiseki may have been less than that. This was in 2010. I'm thinking it had to have been less because there's no way we had 2 sakes shared between us, tax, and tip for $300 if our kaiseki dinners already amounted to $250. But whatever - that's not really relevant to you, anyway. :-)

                              1. re: Pan

                                Perfect, thanks so much!!

                                The last time I ate at Kyo Ya I ordered off the a la carte menu and ended up spending about the same and leaving quite disappointed but I realized that it was entirely my fault and I've been looking forward to returning.

                          2. re: OliverB

                            What are you doing for lunches on other days?

                            Maybe a lobster roll at Luke's after EMP?

                            1. re: kathryn

                              We're not certain yet but we have many favorites in the city and will likely just wing it. I have Pearl and Mary's down for one day for sure! We were supposed to drive down the coast to Maine originally (from Montreal) but since that's been scratched, I need to have my lobster roll fix, so depending on how we feel and how busy both places are, at least one of them is a definite!

                              My wife has a few favorite Turkish and Middle Eastern places and I have my favorite delis and lunch counters. I think it will just depend on what we end up doing each day and what neighborhood we find ourselves in.

                              I would appreciate some great new brunch/lunch options though, if you have any to suggest. We'll probably find ourselves at Blue Ribbon Bakery, Minetta or Balthazar at least one day.

                              1. re: OliverB

                                Don't forget that Pearl is closed Sundays and only serves weekday Lunch. Mary's is also closed Sundays, but does serve lunch Monday through Saturday.

                                Lafayette is brand new and similar to Balthazar, in the old Chinatown Brasserie space. Same chef as Locanda Verde & the Dutch. The Dutch also does a nice brunch.

                                Also look at the Little Wisco restaurants for brunch. Joseph Leonard, Perla, Montmartre. Perla's brunch in particular has some interesting items.

                                Not sure if Union Square Cafe was serving brunch before you left, it's a relatively new addition.

                                See also:
                                http://ny.eater.com/archives/2013/04/...

                                1. re: kathryn

                                  Thanks Kathryn!

                                  Sunday will be our last day in the city, and I certainly won't wait that long for lobster rolls and steamers, so no worries with regards to that but thanks for the heads up nonetheless!

                                  Lafayette looks lovely but has some pretty poor reviews on Yelp; not that I necessarily take Yelp reviews seriously. Have you actually eaten there? It seems to be harshly criticized from all ends - food, cost, value. The Dutch looks fantastic though; I don't think I've ever been! I'm going to add it to our short list. We'll definitely be having brunch at either Locanda Verde or Joseph Leonard as well - thank you so much!!

                                  Is Perla traditional Italian or more of a modern Mediterranean restaurant? We're already doing Babbo for dinner one night, so I wouldn't want to add a second Italian restaurant to our itinerary. How is Montmarte as a dinner option btw?

                                  Thanks again for the great suggestions!!

                                  1. re: OliverB

                                    Did Lafayette for lunch last weekend, and my review is here:
                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/901846

                                    It's new, so I kind of expect some aspects to be a work in progress. Really enjoyed the space, atmosphere, noise level, food, and service.

                                    Perla's chef is ex-Babbo and ex-Manzo (both Batali), so that's kind of an indicator of philosophy. I was going to point out the foie gras pancakes on the brunch/lunch menu but (d'oh) they are now gone. Argh!

                                    Had an excellent dinner at Montmartre a few weeks ago. Loved the hamachi with kaffir lime. The wax bean salad is awesome, as well, has sort of a Thai peanut dressing. Also liked the blood sausage. And we adored a smoked chicken dish with ratatouille, though it looks like the preparation has now changed.

                                    1. re: kathryn

                                      Thank you so much, we'll probably add Montmarte to our dinner line-up!

                                      Would you say that Perla is stronger than Babbo these days?

                                    2. re: OliverB

                                      I just looked up cheap restaurants in my neighborhood (East Village and environs) by Yelp rating today, and I wouldn't pay any attention to good Yelp ratings, as there are a bunch of places that I think suck or are at best mediocre that get 4 or 4 1/2 stars. It's really absurd.

                                      I would pay more attention to bad Yelp ratings, though, I think.

                                    3. re: kathryn

                                      Could you also tell me how Locanda Verde and Perla compare to say, Babbo, Maialino, Scarpetta, etc? Do they turn out more rustic Italian fare; less pasta focused?

                                      Also does Salumeria Rosi offer a sit-down area for proper (casual) dining or is it more of a counter order place? It's also been on my short list for lunches. My wife eats salami, despite not doing red meat.

                                      1. re: OliverB

                                        It's my impression that pasta is a big deal at all of the ones you noted.

                                        Yes, Rosi does have a sit down part. Make a reservation, it's not very big. I believe they also offer outdoor dining, if you wish to dine on the sidewalk.

                                        1. re: OliverB

                                          Like Kathryn says, Salumeria Rosi is small, but it does have the feel of a genuine restaurant, not just a meat counter with a couple of tables, in my opinion. I definitely recommend it.

                            2. So far...

                              Wed. 06/26 - Dinner @ Tamarind in Flatiron.

                              Thu. 06/27 - Dinner @ ???

                              Fri. 06/28 - Dinner @ Kyo Ya - (need to call for res. tomorrow)

                              Sat. 06/29 - Lunch @ Eleven Madison Park / Dinner @ ???

                              Sun. 06/30 - Dinner @ Babbo

                              ** Still need to fill Thursday and Saturday dinners **

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: OliverB

                                You will love Michael White's new Italian-Costata-esp if you like steak and great pasta dishes!!!

                                1. re: UES Mayor

                                  The OP's wife does not eat beef.