As a veteran of the New York blogging corps, I know better than most how ephemeral the fame of a hot restaurant is. It's hyped even as it is conceived, followed closely as it is constructed, swarmed upon opening, on everyone's lips for a few seasons, and then vanishes into obscurity, there to labor along with all the not-hot restaurants in the war against rent. But that doesn't mean they stop being good.
Alfred Portale helped transform food into show business at this immensely influential restaurant, where food rose up into towers and new flavors knocked out diners in the 90s. He, and it, are still around and still producing great food day in and day out. So why haven't you gone there?
There are Nobus all over the place now, and they are no different than the New York original -- because the original wasn't very New York. But then, it wasn't Japanese or Peruvian either. It was and is a unique vision of one man, and the flavors don't taste like anyone else's. And if you aren't into the ceviche, the sushi is some of the best in town.
The days when Tribeca Grill was the cat's meow, the gathering place of the glitterati, are long gone; but that doesn't mean that Drew Nieporent's flagship isn't a very solid, very comfortable restaurant with a big wine list and first-class service. The food was never the point, but it's pretty goddamned good.
This is the bistro where Jean Georges Vongerichten's genius first emerged. While the chef has since then moved on to grander things the intimate, casual feel here suits his food better, and brings back memories of when this was THE place to eat in NYC.
I sometimes wonder what people want from Cafe Boulud. Andrew Carmellini has been gone years, but Gavin Keysen, the current chef, is a James Beard Award winner in his own right and has been practicing his own elegant, composed cuisine for a long time. The room isn't what anybody would call exciting, and the average age of the guests is 78, but that doesn't mean the place isn't great!
One of Keith McNally's first, and coolest, restaurants, this downtown brasserie still has exactly the same Parisian shabby-chic vibe as it did when it opened, and while it's since be eclipsed by Odeon, Balthazar, and Pastis, its intimacy has something the others lack. The steak frites couldn't be any better at any of them, or the other bistro standards either.
Prune was an original, and its whole aesthetic -- the no frills decor, the funky, unvarnished food, the cool music -- has been imitated endlessly. But there's something special that adhere's to the original, and the food has never declined (or gotten better). In its own way, Prune has become as much of a New York institution as Katz's across the street.
Contrary to popular believe, Jack's Luxury Oyster Bar is still open and still one of the best tasting menus for the money in New York City. The food, now as when it opened, is orderly, tidy, concentrated bursts of flavor, served in a jewel-like romantic space. A contemporary classic.
Jonathan Waxman, though not a name to conjure with anymore, is still a true chef's chef and a giant in New York cooking history. His current restaurant, Barbuto, features superb simple American food (particularly a famous roast chicken) in a former garage on a beautiful corner.
Danny Meyer's restaurants are all great, but none have had the urbanity and social cachet of this superb effort on the ground floor of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Modern is so good, with such original cooking and such impeccable service, that it would automatically be the best restaurant in nearly any other city.