Momofuku Ko (update), New York City, 5/4/19

open kitchen
open kitchen

We visited Ko one year ago and the entrance changed positions but not much else has changed significantly.   The seats at the counter seemed better spaced but the loud music still makes conversation difficult.  They offer 2 seatings in a night and they are staggered slightly so waiting wasn’t a problem.  They offer only the same tasting menu to all and it was surprisingly similar to what we were served a year ago.  They probably offer wine pairings but we chose to order our own wines.  They do have a couple tables for larger groups but everyone else is seated at the wood bar in acceptable but not super comfy seats.  They have purse hooks under the counter but it was so far under you’d never be able to retrieve your purse if you need anything.  Pacing was uneven and portion control was on the light side.  You do receive a menu at the end but many of the things I well recognized from our last visit.  I mentioned this to the chef who was a bit defensive that they’d made changes but they were minor to the diner.  Unfortunately this similarity made the meal less exciting to me. Continue reading

Frenchette, New York City, 5/4/19

building
building

We visited Frenchette for a Saturday lunch, where they also offer brunch foods.  They opened about a year ago.  You enter into a good sized bar area that is comfortable and friendly and you can also snag a seat there to eat without a reservation.   The large dining room held closely set tables some of which were matched to booth seating along a mid-room dividing wall.  Service was friendly and efficient.  The menu is not large but offers a number of tasty options.  Eclectic music played in the background, the yellowish lights were lowered and the place was packed.  They make their own charcuterie in house as well as pretzel rolls.   Continue reading

Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare (update), New York City, 5/3/19

building
building

We were at Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare in the fall of 2015, back when it was in Brooklyn.  It has since moved into the city and relaxed a few of the rules.  Chef César Ramirez now allows note taking and photos but still does not permit jeans and requires coats for men in the dining room.  I was not a fan of such policies back then and still am not but was willing to try the new location that was more under my terms.  The new place in still in the back of a grocery store but the room is beautiful, softer than the old one with a lot less stainless steel and more woods.  It is also much larger with 20 seats at the counter and 20 at tables around the perimeter.  This allows larger parties to attend and the comfortable counter seats have backs and are now spaced between parties.  Shining copper pots hang above the large open kitchen that has lots of people making preparations.  The rock music in the background was a bit jarring for the otherwise elegant setting.  It still is a surprise tasting menu only but they do give you a copy of what you had at the end of the meal.  Pairings are available.  Pacing was good but portions tend to the large size and are fairly rich. Continue reading

Marea (update), New York City, 5/3/19

entry
entry

It’s been 4 years since we ate at Marea, a 2 star Michelin restaurant that specializes in seafood with an Italian influence.  The food here is all very flavorful with out dots or smears – just plain good and fresh.  It is a huge place, elegantly appointed but with closely set tables and some noise issues when it is full.  At lunch it was packed.  There is a lot of art on the walls and windows to the street on two sides of the large dining area.  They also have a long bar area with a beautiful yellow glass wall running behind the bar.  The wood on the walls is polished to a high sheen and you’re likely to spot some bold name people dining with you or in passage from one of the private dining rooms.  (I spotted Michael Douglas as he exited).  At lunch they offer a selection of primi and secondi courses with a fixed price of $63 for the two of your choice, however some selections will have a supplemental charge and a 5 course tasting menu for $99 with optional wine pairings offered.  The tasting includes dessert and although the menu is already set they were willing to make some changes for us and we did not have to get the same things, so that is the deal to get.  We ordered our own bottle of wine and had a cocktail and still beat the cost of buying the pairings, but just barely.  Service was excellent, friendly and efficient.  Put this place on your list if you can. Continue reading

Keens Chophouse/Steakhouse, New York City, 5/19/18

exterior
exterior

Keens Chophouse is a large, dark place with closely set tables and the low ceiling is covered with old smoking pipes.  The dark walls are covered with photos, plaques and other stuff.  There is no music in the background but so many people are jammed in there talking you wouldn’t notice.  Tables had white clothes and napkins.   It has a clubby feel, with lots of tourists and groups of people celebrating something.  Service is friendly, efficient and helpful and the pacing of the meal was great.   Continue reading

Eleven Madison Park (update), New York City, 5/19/18

exterior
exterior

It’s been several years since we visited Eleven Madison Park, a 3 star Michelin, because their focus seemed to shift to an emphasis on theater over taste.  Recent reviews indicated that there had been a new change in philosophy and I agree that that is the case.  There’s a lot more taste and less gimmick to their meal.  It’s not all gone but what’s left is okay because underneath is a foundation of flavor.  Also they re-did the dining room about 4 months ago and it is brighter with much more comfortable seating in a rich blue velvet.  They changed the bar set up also, so the staff no longer line up on the wall and watch your every move, which I found off-putting.  There is some nice background music, high ceilings and lovely large flower arrangements to enhance your experience.  Tables have good space between them and are set with fine linens.  Service is friendly and not too formal but very attentive, now without being intrusive.  It is an 8 course tasting menu only with choices on several of the courses (same at lunch and dinner).  There are no supplements but they do offer wine pairings and do give you a printed version of your menu when you are through.  The pacing and portion control of the menu are very good.   Continue reading

Atera, New York City, 5/18/18

entrance
entrance

Atera is made up of 12 seats at a u-shaped bar surrounding an open kitchen.  There is an additional table in the back for a group of 6.  Chef Ronny Emborg was in the kitchen with several other chefs but most of the interaction is with the service staff who are a delightful bunch.  The chefs presented and described the dishes but the kitchen doesn’t have much banter.   Lots of good smells greet you when you enter the room as well as old rock music and lowered lighting.  Wood walls and ceiling are matched with dark curtains – all of which help dampen sound – give the room a cozy yet elegant feel.  There is very little noise in the room and conversations tended to be hushed and private throughout the evening.   It is a surprise tasting menu only, a copy of which is given to you when you leave.   Two seatings are offered every night at this 2 star Michelin restaurant which nicely scales the portion sizes of the 18 course menu.   Continue reading

The Grill, New York City, 5/18/18

entrance
entrance

The Grill is in the Seagram Building in the space previously occupied by the Four Seasons Restaurant.  It is a large second floor room surrounded by windows covered with sheer curtains and beautiful wood walls.  The brown of the wood is matched by the carpet and reddish tinted brown upholstery of the seating.  Some of the seating is on low sofa like benches matched with comfortable chairs on the other side of the table.  Waitstaff are formally dressed and nicely spaced tables are draped with heavy white clothes.  It all contributes to an elegant clubby feel.  A beautiful display of fruits, flowers, cakes and vegetables covered a table at the entry.  The menu is not huge but does offer a couple special items at lunch, but otherwise offers many things that are available for dinner.  Everything is very high quality with a price to match.  Service was excellent, friendly and helpful.  It is worth a trip just to see the room but the food is also wonderful.  They offer an extensive selection of cocktails and do a good job with them.   Continue reading

Momofuku Ko (update), New York City, 5/5/18

entrance
entrance

It’s been a couple years since Frankie and I visited Ko, a 2 Star Michelin restaurant and they are still a place worth a visit if you’re in town.   A few cosmetic changes include the entry now being a different door so that you enter into a segregated bar area and then walk through to the dining room.  Still a large U-shaped bar around an open kitchen. The glassed in cabinets on one side seemed fuller, holding lots of aging meats and vegetables. Fairly loud rock music plays in the background and service is friendly and helpful, but there is limited interaction with the cooking staff.  No menu is given for the surprise tasting that all guests have, but one is presented at the end of the meal. They nicely offer a warm wet cloth before you start your meal which is thoughtful as several first bites are finger food.   Continue reading

Raoul’s Restaurant, New York City, 5/5/18

exterior
exterior

Raoul’s is a medium sized place that is filled with interesting things and closely packed tables.  In the back room there are some booth seats and the walls are filled with photos and paintings.  In the front room there is a good sized bar with stools as well as some small tables that take advantage of bench seating.  The lighting is pretty dark, the ceiling is tin, jazzy music is in the background and the tables are covered in white clothes.  There are windows to the street but it doesn’t add much natural light.  It has the cozy look and feel of a place that’s been there a long time.  Service was relaxed, helpful and friendly.  They made you feel really welcome to be there.  It is a fairly small menu with some specials posted on a blackboard way in the back.   Continue reading

Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Pocantico Hills, 5/4/18

entrance
entrance

Blue Hill at Stone Barns is located about a 20 minute train ride and 10 minute taxi ride from NYC.  Blue Hill opened this location in 2004 based on the satellite operation in the Village of NYC (one star) that opened in 2000.  It is a surprise tasting menu only and we were told that it does vary between tables.  No written menu is provided at dinner but they promised to email me one which they actually did, however it didn’t contain a lot of detail, which you will see at the end of this article.   The large dining room had a barrel vaulted ceiling, well spaced tables and a massive table of flowers in the center of the room.  On one end of the room is a huge mural that about spans the width of room.  It was originally a dining room for the Rockefeller family in the 1920’s.  This building was where the cows were kept. Lighting is nice at the beginning when much natural light pours into the room but as the evening wears on the candle only lighting makes photography difficult.  The portion control is good but the pacing is uneven.   Continue reading

Fusco, New York City, 5/4/18

front
front

At Fusco you enter into a large bar area where there are tables as well as bar stools.  The dining room is in the back and is a good sized, with background music, elaborate chandeliers that reflect into the mirrors, and well spaced bare wood tables.  There is some bench seating in the middle of the room and a couple roundish booths in the corners.  We went at lunch and while there were minimal servers the room was also pretty empty.  They only started serving lunch last February, however the dinner times are much fuller according to the server.  They also serve dinner in the bar area which has windows that open to the street.  The menu was a la carte with an option for a fixed price 2 or 3 course lunch.  They offer antipasti plates of 3 or 6 (which would include all options) choices.  They also have special wine-by-the-glass at lunch which is a good value.   Continue reading

Pasquale Jones, New York City, 5/22/17

exterior
exterior

Pasquale Jones is a medium sized place packed with small tables and a number of counter seats.  There is background music that adds to the noise level produced by hard surfaces and lots of people.  One wall of the restaurant is the open kitchen that houses 2 wood fired ovens and 2 other walls have windows out to the street.  There are some outdoor tables but the rain that day made them un-usable.  The lighting is low and the pace is rushed as they really want to turn the tables several times in an evening.  Service is included in your meal and they also offer complimentary house filtered and or carbonated water.  Servers are friendly but not particularly attentive.  There is a large wine list with one section devoted to reasonable but interesting wines.   Continue reading

Union Square Cafe, New York City, 5/23/17

front
front

Union Square Cafe has been in this new location for 6 months after having been closed a year for the new building to be readied.  It is a huge attractive place with multiple levels and seating configurations.  There is also a large bar area with stools and tables that accommodate walk-ins.  The tables are nicely spaced and there is a lot of art on the walls.   No background music keeps the noise level at a good level, which is surprising with the high ceilings and many hard surfaces.  Service was excellent, which is one of the things the restaurant stresses.  Our nice waiter Tomas, was happy to give advice and serve or split dishes as we desired.   Continue reading

Le Coucou, New York City, 5/21/17

exterior
exterior

Le  Coucou is a large place spread over several rooms, with one of those having the open kitchen.  It has been open for just under one year.  It has a pretty dressy feel with nice linens and lots of candlelight, however the small tables are fairly close together and there is a slight level of noise to contend with.  There is a combination of seating arrangements with some tables and chairs and also some bench seating along partitions.  There was no background music.  Service was nice but not overly friendly.  Reservations are a must and they do turn the tables.  All the food was rich with tasty sauces, but do go hungry as it is heavy food.   Continue reading

Tim Ho Wan USA, New York City, 5/21/17

exterior
exterior

Tim Ho Wan serves dim sum and expect a wait.  Someone is at the front to take your name and they will text you when a table is about ready for you, so you don’t have to wait in the cramped waiting area. It is fairly large but judging by the crowds it could be much larger.  It has no cart service, everything is made fresh after you order it and therefore there are not as many options as many dim sum places but what they have is really good.  There is a check off menu on the table and after you hand that to your server the food will be brought out, usually one dish at a time.  There are even options on tea.  Tables are set with soy sauce and hot pepper sauce.   Continue reading

Joy Luck Palace, New York City, 5/21/17

exterior
exterior

The Joy Luck Palace is a huge dim sum restaurant.   It was very crowded with a waiting area full of people.  Also people were coming through to pick up orders of take out food.  Tables for 2 are often shared as was ours, with 2 older gentlemen.  There is no soy sauce, vinegar or hot sauce on the table.  Service is by cart and is fairly impersonal.  The place got some hype on the internet and was certainly well patronized but overall the offerings were bland and tasteless.  We left most of it on the table.  Below are pictures of the things we got.  The custard bun had gotten a lot of mention as it is known to squirt out the end.  I did not find that the case as the interior was mostly solidified and yucky.  It was a disappointing sweet entry. Continue reading

Aska, New York City, 5/20/17

building
building

Aska is a medium sized 2- star Michelin place with large well-spaced tables.  There is a main dining room, party room in back and patio out back.  An open kitchen is the focus of the main dining room and at times there were 9 chefs in it.  Chef and owner Fredrik Berselius took 2 years to find and re-do this space that opened in August 2016 in an old warehouse. His Scandinavian beginnings show in his cooking and the smells are a huge component in many courses. They offer a tasting menu only of 19 courses, however that includes bread, amuse and some really small bites.  Wine pairings are available however there is not a different wine for each course.   Continue reading

Mr. Donahue’s, New York City, 5/20/17

building
building

Mr. Donahue’s is a tiny place with a couple 2-top tables and 9 barstools for various counters.  There are some outside tables if weather permits.  A retro look is accomplished with the tile floor,  marble top tables, round stools and the interesting decorations all over, including signs with pictures of the food.  The one server was very helpful and nicely opinionated about what to get.  Vegetables are all fresh and desserts made in house.  Drink options are limited but adequate.   They offer a small menu of a main plate with 2 sides and a sauce for $19.99 or a couple sandwiches.  There is roast beef after 5:00 pm.   This is the second restaurant by the owners with the first being a Michelin starred Thai restaurant.  This is just good old American food.   Continue reading

Empellón Cocina, New York City, 5/25/16

Exterior
Exterior

The Kitchen Table at Empellón Cocina got off to a rocky start as the early seating and supposedly shorter tasting went overtime and delayed our reservation 30 minutes. Chef Alex Stupak was in the house though, as you could see him talking with the table for 4 that faces the kitchen in the back of the restaurant, so it didn’t seem so bad to have time to look over the main restaurant’s menu. (I’ve included a photo of the front end’s menu as it looks good enough to come back for, none of it is part of the tasting menu.) Then when we finally get to take our seats, Chef greets us and promptly disappears for the rest of the evening.   Continue reading

Gabriel Kreuther, New York City, 5/24/16

entry
entry

Gabriel Kreuther is a large bustling place with a design motif featuring the chef’s native Alsatian stork both in wallpaper and with a large Swarovski fixture  with dozens of the crystal storks hanging in formation (heading north to the place chef is from). They opened in June 2015 and offer 2 tasting menu options, one of 4 courses and the other a Chef’s Menu which they warn you will take about 3 hours.  They also have a Chef’s table, that is in the kitchen, but it needed 4 people to reserve it when we made our reservation but my understanding is that it now can be scheduled for just 2. Continue reading

Bouley Restaurant, New York City, 5/25/16

Exterior
Exterior

Bouley’s entry room is a signature -it’s filled with hundreds of apples releasing a divine fragrance to greet their hungry guests.  Then you open the door to the main waiting area and are immersed in a ornate room filled with cushions, red velvet and flowers that transport you to somewhere beyond the bustling streets outside. The main dining room is upstairs but there is also room for diners downstairs as well as a party room, a couple wine storage areas and elegant bathrooms.  Be sure to ask to sit upstairs with the vaulted ceilings rather than the lower ceilings of downstairs where the ambiance is just not the same.  At lunch there’s a 5 course tasting menu, with extras or an a la carte menu.  You pick your choices from a list for the tasting and it is a relatively good deal. They do also offer wine pairings. Continue reading

Del Posto Ristorante, New York City, 5/24/16

Exterior
Exterior

It’s been 5 1/2 years since we’ve been to Del Posto and it’s as excellent as ever. There were a few similarities to our last visit but overall the food, service and atmosphere are  all first rate. It is a fairly large place but a comfortable, well dampened room, with the tables spaced nicely and live piano music the afternoon we were there. The room is decorated such that you get a cozy feel even though the space is large.  At lunch they offer 2 tasting menus, of 3 or 6 courses. For the 3 course you pick your antipasto, second and dessert course (some of which have a supplemental charge attached to them)  and can add a pasta course for $10 (which I would heartily recommend). Continue reading

Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare, New York City, 10/17/15

Exterior
Exterior

Chef Cesar Ramirez runs a tight ship, to say the least. The reputation of this three starred Michelin restaurant made us really want to go but the hoops you have to jump through make it so that I would not go again. The place holds just 18 people around a spotless stainless steel square counter with one chef inside the square filling water glasses and cleaning plates but he does no cooking. There are also a couple of ladies outside the counter that help push in your closely quartered bar stool and fill your wine as well as

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Nomad Restaurant, New York City, 10/16/15

entrance
entrance

Located in the Nomad Hotel is their named restaurant and a couple very popular bar areas. It has 3 dining areas with the middle atrium room being the most noisy but all have a  significant buzz going.  A couple of years ago we had lunch in the atrium and had their famous delicious roast chicken.  The hot bread at the table was much better that visit, but the flavor does change regularly.  Service is very relaxed but then so is the atmosphere and that was nice as we stuck up a fun conversation with the couple at the next table. We started with the chicken liver mousse which didn’t taste much like liver but was tasty nevertheless but some of the rye bread was over-toasted for my taste.

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Katz’s Delicatessen, New York City, 10/17/15

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exterior

A NYC institution that is now contemplating a second location. We got there just after 11:00 am and got in easily but it didn’t take long before the place was packed. You have 2 options, either table service where you are waited on or order at the counter and find your own place to sit. The adverting of the latter is that you can see your meat cut and the cutter will give you samples of other meats if you want to try them.

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per se, New York City, 10/16/15

entrance
entrance

Per se is one of the finest restaurants in this country – the name meaning ‘unique’ or ‘in and of itself’- and it fully lived up to its reputation and name on this visit. We enjoyed the Chef’s Tasting Menu as opposed to the vegetarian menu that is also offered at lunch, and we took it as is and didn’t order either of the offered supplements. (That would be one objection I’d have: if you order the supplement you miss the

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Le Bernardin, New York City, 6/27/14

Exterior
Exterior

The place for seafood in NYC! Eric Ripert has led his team to a 3 star Michelin rating for several years now, and the accolades are well deserved.  The dining room is one large room with a bar/waiting area located on one side of a wall. The opposite end of the room is filled with a huge painting of a wave which perfectly sets the tone for the place.  Totally professional service is part of the what you’re paying for

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Gramercy Tavern, New York City, 9/19/14

Exterior
Exterior

WOW! I could write forever about this place – a wonderful experience on so many levels! The restaurant offers 2 tasting menus, one seasonal and the other vegetarian. They do not offer wine pairings but the staff were very helpful in advising on wine selection. In fact the staff was awesome and there was no pressure to eat and move on so the table could be turned.

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