One of the great shifts in American gastronomy -- if not THE biggest shift -- has been the displacement of European traditions by home-grown innovation. The so-called "New American Cuisine" isn't new anymore, but the movement has become so dominant it doesn't even have a name. Here are some great chefs cooking great American food here in America.
Still, to my mind, the defining New York restaurant, Gramercy Tavern is the crown jewel in Danny Meyer's restaurant group, partially as the result of chef Michael Anthony's amazing greenmarket cooking, and partially because of its incredible service, great cocktails, and Nancy Olson's superb dessert program. One caveat: the front room is all air and color and excitement, and the back room is a drab dungeon.
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?
Owner Jimmy Bradley is in many ways the consummate New York restaurant guy, and the Red Cat is his consummate restaurant. Set on the far west side, away from all trends and traffic, and with an unpretentious but perfect American menu, this is a restaurant where New Yorkers eat well with other New Yorkers.
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
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.
Joey Campanaro's little gem of a restaurant is still one of the preeminent examples of a great New York neighborhood restaurant. The room is supremely cozy and romantic and the food simple but flawless. The burger, served only at lunch, is one of the city's very best.
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.
Though it has moved from its East Side townhouse and chef Charlie Palmer is long gone, Aureole still has much of its old authority as one of the preeminent exemplars of the so-called New American Cooking. Now that everybody does it, Aureole has responded by becoming more global and eclectic -- after all, it began with originality and originality drives it still. The room, it has to be said, is unmistakably sterile and corporate. Go anyway.
Talented, ballsy, and not afraid to experiment, the young eponymous chef is making as big a contribution to his generation's dining scene as his famous father did twenty years ago.
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.