The most influential restaurant of the past ten years isn't the most famous or the one with the most stars. It's Craft, a huge hit for Tom Colicchio in the early aughts but no often discussed in NYC in recent years. But so many great chefs have come out of Craft, and remained true to its principles, that the Craft Mafia constitutes a web of influence, the secret sinews of the New York chef fraternity .
Get it straight: there isn't a better, more straight-forward chef in New York than Marco Canora, whose restaurant is utterly committed to simple, perfectly prepared season food of the very highest order. Also, don't miss out on pasta, which is the open secret of Hearth's greatness.
Momofuku Ko might have been the most praised, hyped, and discussed restaurant in New York over the last ten years, and its nominal chef, David Chang, the most lionized. So it's hard to get into, but the food is really good. There is no service or comfort level to speak of.
Just a perfect restaurant. The food is superior, if not great; the room is sunny and electric, and the lunch, dinner, and dessert programs are all equally perfect. The ultimate Manhattan casual Italian restaurant.
Tom Colicchio's post Craftsteak restaurant is just as big, just as nice (big and well lit) and has the same great service as before, but cheaper, better, and more approachable food. Well, at least in the front lounge section. The main dining room is more ambitious. But both sides are very comfortable.
Former Per Se chef Jonathan Benno brings his precision and brilliance to the famously informal food of Italy. It should be a mismatch, but both sides benefit from this odd marriage, and Benno's commitment to changing the menu from region to region adds another level of interest. A truly special restaurant.
From the outside, La Esquina looks like a simple taqueria with a small dining room in back. But the real action is downstairs, where boulevardiers and beauties hobnob over custom cocktails, and chef Akthar Nawab directs one of the best Mexican kitchens in Manhattan.
Formerly the late, lamented Bill's Gay 90s, Bill's styles itself in the old New York model of its predecessor, but is in different in both tenor and food: this is now a celebrity watering hole with very sophisticated steakhouse food.