Anyone who has lived in New York for any length of time knows how much pressure comes down when it comes time to take out the parents. You are supposed to be the expert. They are paying. So where do you go?
Whether you swoon for its 4 star food, or find it, as I do, somewhat over manicured, there is no question that this is one of the great restaurants in America. The room itself has a grandeur that is unmatched and the level of service is unparalelled. So is the price, so maybe come here on an expense account or with a wealthy uncle.
What can you say? It never changes, it never falters, and it's always jammed. If it wasn't such a slavish tribute to Paris brasseries, you could even call it the ultimate New York restaurant. Certainly, it's a hell of a lot better than the places in Paris that it emulates.
No one talks about it anymore, but Molyvos reigned for a long time as the city's best Greek restaurant. And maybe it still is. Certainly the place took Greek cooking and modernized it before anyone else has. The food is elevated by homey and the room always comfortable and the service tight. The price is right too; a great choice in midtown.
There are basically three great seafood restaurants in New York: Marea, Le Bernardin, and Esca, and the latter is by far the most comfortable and casual of the three -- not to mention the cheapest. Chef David Pasternack's relationship with local fishermen is legendary, and he has mastered the art of getting out of the way. There is no simpler, or better, seafood anywhere.
One of Mario Batali's first, and still one of his best, restaurants. Lupa is Super Mario's take on Roman food and never became a mob scene the way Babbo did. Which is lucky because it's as good in its way. Lupa just never stopped being a great neighborhood restaurant, to it's great credit.
Tom Colicchio has become so famous from Top Chef that you could be forgiven for assuming that his flagship restaurant is just another phoned-in cash cow. But in fact the restaurant still strives as hard, and with the same religious devotion to the ingredients, as it did when it opened ten years ago. It's not the liveliest room in town, but
A sister restauant to the better known little owl, Market Table is small, quiet, and serves very beautiful American food at a pretty reasonable price. Just a special restaurant. Go at night when the big window on the corner really gives the place a New York zen you seldom find anymore.
Pretty the much the perfect New York neighborhood restaurant. It's hidden away on a curving sidestreet in the west village; it has a perfectly preserved art deco decor; a great drink program; and, most important, one of the best chefs in New York, if not the country, in the criminally underrated Harold Moore. It can get noisy though, so come for an early dinner.
The cool thing about Scarpetta is that it seems hipper than it is. I mean by that that there are a lot of meatpacking types there, and it's very big and buzz-y, but the food is really very refined and elevated. It's closer in spirit to the old San Domenico than to the other club-like restaurants in that area.
Everyone talks a big game when it comes to seasonal cooking, but to my mind this place and Gramercy are the final word on the subject. I'm not completely in love with the room but the food is good in winter, glorious in spring, inspiring in summer, and very good in fall.
Chinese food, at least in New York, rarely earns the compliment "creative," and there's good reason. It's always the same old crap. But Joe Ng, the city's resident dim sum genius, has really taken his game to the next level and there are very few dishes you will easily recognize. You have to go at least once; there's nothing else quite like it.