The conventional mode of seduction, or so I am told, involves an elaborate dinner, complete with cocktails and wine, leading up to....what? I don't know about you, but after a big dinner with wine, all I want to do is die. I am certainly in no shape to "close the deal." But lunch, lunch is a different story....
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.
For all its asian inflections and supremely elegant simplicity, the food at Le Bernardin is potent to the point of richness -- a testament to chef Eric Ripert's vision and balance. Service is impeccable and the sommelier, Aldo Sohm, the best in the country.
Precise almost to a fault, this expression of eponymous chef Jean George Vongerichten provides one of the most buttoned-up, elegant, and thoughtful taste experiences in America -- and sometimes, the most surprising.
As I always warn when writing up a sushi restaurant here, ignore all the negative reviews. An overwhelming majority of diners know nothing about sushi, and are conditioned by strip mall restaurants. Sushi Yasuda is one of the best sushi restaurants in America. Pure, stripped-down, expensive, and not disposed to currying favor with dragon roll-loving yahoos, you go there, put yourself in their hands, and say thank you afterwards.
The big prestige restaurant in the Mandarin Oriental hotel, Asiate has what is undoubtedly one of, if not the best view in New York. It's utterly weatherproof, so watching a storm here is an especially perverse pleasure, one that makes you feel almost godlike in your power. It's great on a nice night too. But plan on bringing a bag of krugerands to pay for your meal.
Jean-Georges Vongerichten's biggest, prettiest restaurant was a joint effort with the great Gray Kunz and its brilliant Asian-fusion menu, a tribute to the street food of southeast asia, has some of the most sophisticated food of any such restaurant in town, despite all the tourists. The vegetarian tasting menu is one of the best in town, and the only one that can really be called cool in any sense.
This rustic temple to seasonal cookery in the old Rockefeller estate has been called the culinary Storm King, but really, it's closer to a local food holy site. It's unspeakably beautiful and the food is well worth the long ride, but there's a certain seriousness of purpose here that sort of take away the fun for me.
Sushi restaurants tend not to be romantic. It would be closer to the truth to say that they are closer in spirit to operating rooms. But Zenkichi is a rare exception, a Williamsburg sushi restaurant of very fine quality which is, a the same time, one of the most romantic settings to be found in the city -- a perfect place for a date, especially given how easily good sake goes down and how un-filling great sushi is.
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.
When it was announced that Daniel Humm and Will Guidera of Eleven Madison Park were going to do the restaurant at the Nomad hotel, everyone assumed it would be ultra-refinedd modernist food, as at EMP -- but no! Instead Humm has gone for an understated, urbane, and traditional menu, albeit one prepared with immense behind-the-scenes innovations. The atmosphere is swanky and the food perfect every time out. I actually like Humm's food in a more dressed-down form. The Library lounge is a can't miss drinking spot.