Turning the page on eating out in NYC

Every now and then (out of pure nostalgia) I re-read some of my older restaurant reviews. But lately I’ve been rather astonished by how many of them have unsurprisingly fallen victim to the palaver of the pandemic. I could certainly dedicate a tribute to the tragic demise of New York’s most beloved dining rooms – where bold dishes launched global careers of talented toques, or I could wallow and grieve over how their narrow doorways once buckled under the clogged throngs of noisy hopefuls willing to trade their offspring for a 4-top, are now replaced with soundless 3-foot “For Lease” signs, but I’d rather dedicate this blog to those supremely brave entrepreneurs who defied the writing on the wall (or perhaps looked the other way while capitalizing on new rental incentives) and opened some of the most exciting eateries this city has seen in ages.


While kitchens have been born and re-born all across the length and breadth of Manhattan, the Gramercy/Flatiron neighborhood has been dished up a disproportionate embarrassment of new dining riches. Former Betony star-chef Bryce Shuman opened a sizable space inside the Park South Hotel with his new trendy venture Sweetbriar – a wood-fired spin on American classics underscored by an 80’s nostalgia soundtrack of Springsteen, Men at Work, Duran Duran and Billy Joel. His unassuming but ridiculously more-ish and curiously cheese-less Mangalitsa Ham pizza, topped with pickled chili and honey all but outshines his (now famous) gooey, sticky, heavenly Smoked black pepper Duroc maple glazed ribs with slaw. A finger-licking, chin-smearing, toothpick-requiring, napkin-staining delight.

Who can forget the media hullabaloo around the opening of Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas’ Indian hotspot Sona a few doors down from the (thankfully) ever-enduring Gramercy Tavern? But beyond the hype and the over-Instragrammed dining-room artwork, the kitchen delivers handsomely. I still catch myself drooling over the wondrously tart and umami Stuffed Chicken Wings spiked with a Tangra curry and a lemon aioli dip – the perfect precursor to a pair of succulent and sublimely smoky Tamarind Barbecue Lamb Chops.

And right across the street, the 9th descendent of Tokyo’s Horii family opened the newest branch of their 233 year-old udon noodle franchise Sarashina Horii. Aside from their über-authentic (surprisingly white) Japanese buckwheat noodles which are the unparalleled main attraction, one of the standout hot appetizers is an elegant Miso Roasted Eggplant – about as delectable as it is surprising with hints of deep, dark and earthy sweet & sour thanks to the Mirin, Saki and who knows what else… But dipping that birds-nest tangle of shatter-crisp Shrimp tempura into a steaming bowl of hearty bone broth is where dark winter’s night memories get made.

Replacing the shuttered Simon and the Whale from the corner spot at the Freehand Hotel on Lexington Avenue is a reincarnation of the 2012 Greenwich Village pan-Latin hotspot Comodo. The menu reads like a “best-of” Peruvian, Brazlian, Mexican and Argentinian hit parade with big, bold flavors and a wide variety of meat, fish, poultry and veggie options in a super-chill, apres-ski-chalet-like environment. The Trout Ceviche Tostada is a mouthful of contrasts: smooth & crispy, sweet & tart, mild & hot. The hockey-puck-sized Wild mushroom al Ajillo Tacos deliver a smoky combination of at least 6 different mushrooms in a dark but approachable chili, and the wondrously moist and picante Achiote Chicken is perched on top of a creamy, dreamy herb-rich Latin Risotto.

Truffle Jjajangmyeon, Jua

Long before chef Hoyoung Kim was able to launch his long-awaited tasting menu at Jua, the 8 tidy tables nestled into the turning lane on 22nd street served as his a’ la carte springboard for yet another example of sensationally meticulous Korean gastronomy. Not only did Kim succeed in opening his new shop just a few weeks after lockdown ended, but his 7-course $150 menu (which varies from week to week) earned him the neighborhood’s most recent Michelin Star.

Further afield, the East Village has also become a fertilized sprouting ground for a bevy of new kitchens including Shenarri Freeman’s sensational vegan micro-menu at Cadence. With influences from her upbringing in Virginia, she upends traditional dishes with multi-dimensional tastes using local and seasonal vegetables and ersatz non-protein meats. Here’s what I mean: Instead of yet another rendition of the overplayed crab cake, she whips up a Palm Cake patty of similar texture from creamy hearts of palm and chunky chickpeas and serves it with a smoky-spicy slaw. And instead of a square stack of layers of pasta and sauce, her Southern Fried Lasagne is a crispy manicotti curled around a vegan bolognaise with pine nut ricotta, which makes for the ultimate symphony of crispy, tangy, rich and fabulous.

In and amongst the sordid selection of mediocre dumpling, falafel, bubble-tea, tattoo and piercing bars along St. Mark’s Place, the Da Shan group must have spent half a dynasty creating the magnificently photogenic Shanghainese palace CheLi. With an ornate menu as long as the waiting line outside, steaming dishes of semi-translucent Longjing Shrimp and the bamboo boxed and edible-ink stamped Song Dynasty steamed bun elicit shrieks of delight and nostalgia from the Chinese expats who relish the authentic tastes from the Jiangnan region.

Cardamom roll, Caneles and Croissant, La Cabra

Even though East Village coffee shops can easily out-number CVS drugstores, the coffee maven team behind La Cabra have imported their connoisseur bean-and-brew expertise from Aarhus, Denmark. The intimidatingly fastidious, white lab-coat-wearing, super-serious baristas who use scales and thermometers and “aeropresses” to pour carefully crafted cups of Joe are a jolting reminder that we’re not in line at Starbucks anymore, Toto. But all that painstaking brewmanship is almost entirely over-shadowed by the remarkable in-house bakery under the supervision of former Brooklyn Bien Cuit pastry sous chef Jared Sexton. The Butter Croissants are entirely beyond question or debate the absolute best that this city has to offer (and I have done 10 years of very exhaustive research in this arena. Blog to follow.) Amongst the 8 other oven-fresh or pre-baked (and mostly unfamiliar) Danish pastry items is the Cardamom Bun. A tangy, sweet, syrupy, cinnamony, soft twist of sticky dough knockout – guaranteed to postpone any carb-free new year’s resolution until Easter.

I suppose relocations shouldn’t really count as “new” restaurants, but I am nonetheless grateful that David Chang found a new (and rather glitzy) spot for wildly popular Momofuku Ssam in the South Street Seaport, and after shuttering Barbuto in SoHo in 2019, Johnathan Waxman reopened in a much airier space in the West Village where I can still get my all-time favorite Roast Chicken with salsa verde, and the crispiest roast Potatoes in the Western hemisphere. Similar kudos to Dominic Ansel who launched his newest outpost Dominic Ansel Workshop on the edge of Madison Square Park. Not quite as tirelessly prolific as his West Village original (which still commands a steady stream of out-of-towners anxious to bite into their first Cronut), but a slam dunk answer to the “what shall I bring for dessert?” question.

Bulgogi Cheesesteak Bao, Umma

After shutting down Noodlelove for a few months, Philadelphia-born toque Natalie Camerino re-conceived her fast-casual Asian menu to include a few comfort-food mash-ups as a tribute to her Umma (mother). And while a Bulgogi Cheesesteak Bao might summon images of a Korean tourist stuck at the Philadelphia Greyhound station, just one ever-so-scrumptious familiar – yet unfamiliar, spicy, sweet-and-sour bite is all it takes to wonder why no-one ever thought of this before.

Other newcomers still high on my “To try” list:

British seafood bistro Dame’s classic Fried Fish, Danny Meyer’s Veal Milanese at his new far-west outpost Ci Siamo, Brooklyn’s Gage & Tollner who apparently make a Bone-in rib-eye and Baked Alaska to platz for, pretty much anything on the menu at Semma and Dhamaka, and whatever “shaker-inspired food” might taste like at the two-month-old Commerce Inn, from the Jody Williams and Rita Sodi dreamteam (who brought us super-hits Bavette, I Sodi and Via Carota).

Eat up!


Atomix review

Arctic Char with grape glaze and white asparagus and a Spring green salad, Atomix

When I think of Korean food, my mind simmers about an assemblage of little sauces and dips with varying degrees of kimchee-ness surrounding those quirky little bronze barbecues draped with wafer thin medallions of beef, chicken or pork that sizzle and shrivel in direct contrast to my swelling appetite. And while New York can boast the gamut in Korean kitchens from laid-back to lavish, only two have earned a matching set of twin Michelin stars – Jungsik and Atomix – and both have benefited from the hands of master food scientist Junghyun Park. As an elevated second act after his highly popular, casual-minimalist bistro Atoboy, Park’s career-defining Atomix transcends far beyond esculent Korean cuisine while also challenging every notion of what dining out in New York City means.

Atomix, East 30th street

The staunchly residential, tree-lined block of brownstone townhouses provides no clue that there may be a business – let alone a $250-a-plate, 11-course culinary tour de force – waiting within.

The multi-level, softly-lit, stone and beach wood tones exude a formal, understated yet unavoidably sexy, modernist elegance which completes the transition from Murray Hill to Seoul as you take one of 14 seats (only 8 during COVID) at the granite, U-shaped chef’s table. Aside from the astonishingly bespoke ceramic dish ware, the most surprising sight within the narrow, functional kitchen is the distinct lack of cooking staff. Chef Park and only 2 sous-chefs spend their entire day picking, prepping, poaching and plating for two sold-out nightly sittings.

Another refreshing contrast to most big ticket, chef’s table soirees is that each course is introduced by a decorative printed card that allows Park to share his personal perspective on what each dish means to him, while also listing the entire compliment of ingredients from glaze to garnish.

Menu and ingredient cards, Atomix

(In case you were wondering, there’s negligible risk of anyone rushing out to plagiarize his creations, as many of the ingredients are not just unavailable, but also largely unpronounceable).

Red Seabream with Lemongrass meringue, Atomix

The delightful team of dark grey, smock-wearing servers is yet another twist on other hoity-toity, multi-course tasting establishments. Taking their sociability and hospitality cues from Park’s wife and business partner Ellia, the fresh-faced group seems encouraged to share their jocular personalities. But make no mistake: even if the serving-staff refuses to take itself too seriously, the food is nothing but.

King crab donut with Myeongran & salted strawberry ketchup, Atomix

With quarterly rotating menus that depict the seasons, our selection of fundamentally fish-forward dishes featured many species imported from Japan, Scandinavia, Europe and of course Korea, exploring tastes, textures and radical flavor combinations seldom seen on other downtown menus. And by radical, I’m referring to equal parts brave and brilliant ingredient combinations like a flat meringue made from lemongrass supporting a morsel of Red seabream.  Or a fried King crab donut with a salted strawberry ketchup and chili sauce.

Langoustine with doenjang caramel and parae gim powder, Atomix

A few other delectable standouts like the delicately battered Langoustine with a doenjang caramel, and an unbelievably umami Sea Urchin Juk (rice porridge) with spinach and jalapeño, or even the julienned Tilefish sashimi paired with aged Comte cheese sauce and quail eggs are a constant reminder of the depth and brilliance of Chef Park’s repertoire and prowess.

Sea urchin juk with spinach & japeño and a side of horse mackerel, Atomix

If “Ato” means “gift” in Korean, then Atomix is unquestionably the best gift of global flavor combinations ever to be bestowed upon this city.


Pork jowl, eel and baby turnip with pea shoot vanilla rice, Atomix

Greenwich Village, fork-by-fork

For centuries, New York’s Greenwich village has been a capital for bohemia, a magnet for the arts and a springboard for social protest. But nowadays, apart from being the most desirable neighborhood in Manhattan where the 1% can rub shoulders with NYU undergrads, it’s also home to an astonishing overabundance of dining options rarely seen anyplace else.

With COVID precautions snugly in place, those restaurants still clutching to their survival with heat lamps and blankets have erected endless corridors of wooden “street-eries” that flank both sides of the narrow tangle of sidewalks from Broadway to the Hudson River.

During a recent “home swap week” we put up a valiant effort to squeeze as many local dining favorites into 3 meals a day. The quality, variety, originality and authenticity of options is carefully baked into the longevity of some of New York’s oldest and most historic institutions. Categorizing them is easy – there are only 2 types of restaurant in Greenwich Village: Italian, and everything else!

Golden Latte, Citizens of Bleecker

Starting with breakfast, a relative newcomer to the neighborhood is one of 4 outposts of Australian brunch hotspot Citizens of Bleecker. If Melbourne has managed to influence Manhattan in only one way, it has to be for producing the perfect Flat White coffee. But thanks to Citizens, my newest all-time favorite hot beverage fetish, the Golden Latte, is a frothy, almondy, gingery, turmeric-y foam-party in a cup – which pairs impeccably well with their tasty woven spiral of scrambled egg curds known as Rose Eggs.

Croissant, Mille Feuille

If coffee and croissants are your quotidian kick-starters, then Parisian transplant Olivier Dessyn’s patisserie and baking school Mille Feuille is where you’ll find one of the top 3 Croissants in New York City. Just flaky enough. Just buttery enough. Just brown enough. Not too heavy on the sponge, but not flatulent with air pockets either. One is good. Two are spectacular.

Oat Meals

If you’d prefer a wholesome bowl of oatmeal but refuse to stand, stir and stare at a pot in your Greenwich village micro-kitchen, you can pick up one of the 30+ varieties at Oat Meals.  The pappa-bear, mamma-bear and baby-bear-sized porridge bowls of perfectly cooked oats come with toppings so inventive and amazing that Ben & Jerry & Baskin & Robbin would all drown in their own cherry-sprinkle drool. Sure, they have all the usual suspects like berries, bananas, nuts, honey, peanut-butter, granola and brown sugar, but how about pineapple, dried pomegranate seeds, crystallized ginger, poached eggs, parmesan, bacon and soy?

NY Dosas

One of my all-time favorite lunch options is NY Dosas. Sri Lankan born Thiru Komar has been serving up vegan Masala Dosas from his impossibly small cart in Washington Square Park for two decades. Village regulars and fans of Padma Lakshmi’s Hulu hit “Taste the Nation” line up for hot coils of delectable wafer-thin chickpea crepes that clutch a generous dollop of turmeric spiced potatoes. An unsurprising Instagram sensation, Komar serves a few other delights, like Samosas and Pondicherri, but nothing beats a crispy-on-the-edges, spongy-in-the-middle Dosa in the shade of the Washington arch.

Masala Dosa, NY Dosas

Another village veteran Mamoun’s, has been churning out authentic Mediterranean street-food fare for 45 years. There mere thought of their lamb Shawarma trapped inside that fluffy pita, dripping with salad and tahini and topped with a blast or two of their nuclear strength red-hot sauce brings tears to my eyes, sweat to my brow and joy to my tastebuds.


The sandwich to end them all is a heavenly Muffuletta from Faicco’s. Piled high with layer upon layer of exceptionally fresh, house-made salami’s, cheeses, oils and tapenades crammed into a blonde hero roll that can feed an entire construction site for a week.

Classic Rekka Ramen, Ramen Danbo

When it comes to eating outdoors in mid-winter, some say there is no such thing as bad weather – only bad clothing. I would add that the spicier the food, the less any of it really matters. Ramen Danbo offers a highly customizable bowl of umami goodness, guaranteed to warm the coldest and pickiest of hearts. You can select the thickness and doneness of your noodles, the ingredients and spiciness of your broth (from pork all the way up to vegan) and what accoutrements you’d prefer to see floating around as you spoon away the mere suggestion of sub-zero.

Steak au Poivre, Raoul’s

A quick glance across the cluster of tables under a dark tarp in front of Raoul’s validates what to order: a Martini and a Steak au poivre. Sure, you can probably find a decent Steak au poivre from Harlem to Wall street, but few restaurants have served them quite so consistently since 1974. Taking advantage of a very unique cut of fat-less New York strip, every creamy peppercorn and brandy covered morsel is tender, moist and sumptuously delicious.

Muffuletta, Faicco’s

There are more Italian restaurants in Greenwich Village than in the entire city of Perugia. Just let that sink in that in for a moment. So, finding the best one or two is a futile exercise in subjectivity. There’s literally something for every eye, every taste-bud and every pocket. My suggestion is to find a local you trust, and then taste the neighborhood from their perspective. Well, that’s what we did anyway. Here are some of the highlights…

Gnocco Frito, Rafele

For a semi-transparent slither of aged prosciutto clinging to the top of a gently fried balloon of crispy, flaky, crackery dough otherwise known as Gnocco Frito, head straight to Rafele. This inexplicably delicious combination of salt, sweet and savory crunch is the absolute definition of a hot “appetizer”.

Veal Parmigiana, Carbone

My favorite red-sauce restaurant in all of New York is still Carbone. If you can look beyond the prices, their crisp, tart and creamy Caesar Salad is sheer poetry, and no-one can pound and crumb a disc of Veal Parmesan into such a perfect suntanned circle, dripping with marinara and melting mozzarella and topped with a crisp slither of fried basil. Yuh-hum!

Fiesta Pizza, Arturo’s

If you tell a Greenwich villager you went to Arturo’s for the best pizza, there’s a 50/50 chance you’ll start an argument, but I’m a believer now. There’s nothing subtle about this place. Its utilitarian charm permeates from having witnessed 5 decades of Houston street history. While regulars dominate the tables in shifts, an endless peloton of hot-box laden delivery riders scatter in every direction. The Fiesta Pizza is most likely why everyone is here. Thin-crusted, black-edged, multi-colored, tomato-y, chunky, chewy and heavenly cheesy.

Torta de la Nonna, Bar Pitti

If you still have room, head over to Bar Pitti for a slightly indulgent but utterly authentic slice of Torta de la Nonna. Just the right amount of lemony, custardy, pine-nutty, biscuity scrumptiousness that conjures up memories of those roly-poly hills of Tuscany on a late summer’s afternoon…as you sit in your frigid winter coat reality, separated into plexiglass cubes while being blanched by the overhead heaters.

Still high on my favorites list (with just not enough meals to go around this time) there’s also Il Mulino (the original red sauce palace), I Sodi (sensational Lasagne), Via Carota (heavenly bun-less burger), with Don Angie & L’Artusi to round things out.

Buon appetito!

Dining in the turning lane.

These days, sitting at a dinner table in New York City directly facing oncoming traffic is a bit like climbing out of a rollercoaster in mid loop-de-loop. In order to survive you need a severe case of cabin-fever, a high tolerance for risk, a great relationship with your bladder, a healthy appetite…and a face-mask of course.

As I savor my chorizo-crusted cod while the sanitation truck idles right beside me churning garbage from the upper-east side, or as I splash Negroni all over my chin when the M101 bus suddenly blasts an impatient horn at a stopped SUV, I begin to wonder whether motorists from out-of-town are even aware that what used to be a turning lane – is now a dining room. While this respite from apartment cooking is certainly welcome, it’s merely a matter of time before the headlines read: “Three casualties as Range Rover ruins birthday dinner”, or “Texting driver rams couple during dessert”. 

It certainly has been disheartening to witness one staple institution after the next throwing in the napkin as a consequence of the lockdown. But then I find myself inspired by the resilience and determination of others who are trying to keep their wood-ovens burning despite all the new safety rules and regulations.

If I had to score how well restaurants are maintaining COVID safety measures? I’d give them a solid “D” for “it Depends”. Some have QR code menu’s with contactless bill-pay and sterilized, pre-packaged silverware, while others still clutch sticky, plastic menus under sweaty armpits, or hold your glass with an ungloved hand for water refills. But despite the chorus of complaints that most restaurateurs are still not able to eke out a living with sidewalk dining, others have won the jackpot as they can now exploit the motherlode of self-promotion and appetite persuasion by giving passers-by delectable temptations with some of their freshest, most desirable offerings in real time. Yes, even I have stopped and admired a dish of steaming Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe and promptly planted my rear-end into the nearest available seat.

Other advantages of dining in the parking lane include the diminishment of those irritatingly hoity-toity dress-codes like “business casual” or “cocktail attire” for the ever-so democratic “no mask – no service!” And obscure, hole-in-the-wall establishments are holes-in-the-wall no more, as their tables have crept up and down our sidewalks faster than rats on the subway.  Half of me is thrilled for these entrepreneurs who can now accommodate exponentially more diners per sitting than in pre-COVID times, but my heart goes out to their micro kitchens bursting at the seams, trying to satisfy quadruple the appetites. 

Scaffolding, formerly the ubiquitous feature along Manhattan’s streets, has been upstaged by a strange outcrop of little outdoor “areas” that defy description. Are they tents? Are they shacks, cabanas, marquees, food caves, sukkah’s? Regardless, there are no two alike. Some are merely umbrella-covered matchstick frames with a handful of morosely overwatered begonias. And if they have more elbow room, others have ensconced attractive hedging to keep diners apart. But every time I find myself sandwiched between those ridiculous plexiglass screens, I can’t help feeling like a hungry puppy in a pet shop window.

Even scaffolding-fronted bistros have made the best of their visual impediment by transforming their sidewalks into Disney-esque, theme park sensations. When clustered together on pedestrian-only cross-streets amid jazz bands and buskers, these shacks have somehow fashioned a uniquely warm and astonishingly festive ambiance which has become the newest nightlife attraction in a city formerly famous for not sleeping. Think: Oktoberfest – meets Chilli-cookout – meets travelling circus – meets Christmas market. 

As temperatures begin to plummet, many lightweight structures are getting overnight makeovers with sturdier materials including roofing, rain gutters and solid side-paneling (heat lamps are on the way) – quickly transforming them into enclosed “rooms” which will undoubtably beg the question: “Is this still considered “outdoor dining” or have we merely transplanted the restaurant’s interiors onto the sidewalk?” (If Governor Cuomo want’s my opinion on the matter, he knows where to find me.)

As we edge closer to the former normality of indoor dining, I have mixed feelings about whether folks will show up and risk infection or whether they might continue to dine al fresco even if the new dress-code includes coat, scalf, gloves…and face-mask.

Veronika, review



The group that brought you Upland, Le Coucou, The Clocktower and Pastis just unveiled their latest scene-stealer – Veronika. Named for the patron saint of photography and located on the second floor of the newly debuted Swedish photo-museum Fotografiska, this über-elegant dining room with unfathomably high ceilings, elaborate brass candelabras, solid marble tables, Fabergé egg-shaped lamps, touches of gold in the tiles and wall panels, speckles of white marble mosaic here and there between the oak floors is going to be the next match that sets the Flatiron dining district on fire once and for all.



After your eyes adjust to the caramel-colored ambiance, you’re confronted with an impressive beaux arts bar pyramiding upwards well out of the bar tenders’ reach but still not quite touching the ever-evasive ceiling. You forget you’re on Park Avenue South and for a solid minute you can’t help waxing sentimental about one of Vienna’s grand coffee houses like Landtmann, Schwartzenberg, Diglas or Central.


Poppyseed milk bread with butter and dill oil, Veronika

But Veronika is not just Viennese. What she lacks in dusty nostalgia and disdain for the bourgeoisie, she more than makes up for in gold leaf and polish. Fortunately, Stephen Starr is far too hip to cutesify the space with odious waltzes or operatic orchestrations, and so the cool rock track keeps things somewhat unexpected and undefinable.


Potato Pierogi, Veronika

As is fairly customary these days, the magnificently gilded Rosenthal porcelain chargers are removed almost immediately, but they get replaced by even larger and more elaborate versions of themselves which encircle Instagram-able dish after Instagram-able dish in meticulous baroque frames. The silverware feels well-worn, heavy and historic, as if this very knife and fork have been cutting schnitzels and piercing goulash for a good hundred years.


Chicken Kiev, Veronika


The menu connects central and eastern Europe as effectively as a night train from Paris to Budapest – with border stops in Zurich, Vienna and Berlin along the way. I’d define this as the quintessential cold-climate restaurant with shamelessly hearty dishes like a soft and foamy cheese Souffle Suissesse freed from its ramekin and drenched in a decadent gruyere-laden sauce Mornay, or a scattering of soft-as-ravioli Potato Pierogis that take on a royal austerity when dolloped with a jolt of whipped caviar cream, or a perfectly fluffy pillow of Wiener Schnitzel that breathes a sigh of delight when you pierce it’s golden crumbed balloon, or the way the never-ending puddle of parsley-flecked melted garlic butter dribbles out of the immaculately sealed torpedo of Chicken Kiev nestled against a floral garnish of pomme purée. Even though this kitchen appears to be drowning in continental confidence, it’s hard to find a flaw.


Wiener Schnitzel, Veronika

The four cakes that make the rounds from table to table via a glass and brass trolley include a tidy but predictable Lemon Tart which felt a tad home-grown for such European surroundings, and the Sacher-torte-adjacent referred to as a Viennese Chocolate Cake (leaving dark-brown moustaches all around the room), has been overly Americanized. I’m hoping that with fewer layers, a less bitter chocolate (at least for the glaze) and a brighter Marillen (Austrian apricot) jam filling we might be within lip-smacking distance of one of Austria’s most popular perishable exports.


Omelette Norvegienne, Veronika

The other three desserts required more kitchen prep including the oddly familiar Omelette Norvégienne, (aka baked Alaska) – clearly on loan to round out the menu from Soho crowd pleaser Le Coucou. The two-man table-side flambee performance is about as dramatic as some of the Klimt-like, gold-framed photography glaring down at us with veiled looks of typically Austrian indifference. “Ah geh bitte” (give me a break already), they seem to whisper under their photogenic breaths. But biting through the gloriously tight froth of rum-toasted meringue into the velvety salsify ice-cream and spice-cake biscuit, who even gives a damn.


Viennese Chocolate Cake, Veronika



Maison Yaki, review


Maison Yaki

It’s always endearing to hear someone speak with a foreign accent. Even if the words are right, they somehow take on a more interesting nuance. (How do I know? I speak English without an American twang.) But when a foreigner speaks an even more foreign language than their own, it becomes a whole different lobster meatball. Take Maison Yaki for instance – far more than just a gastropub with an edge, it’s like a pedigreed Frenchman who speaks perfect Japanese.


Baguette with yuzu kosho chili butter, Maison Yaki

You’ll know what I mean when you bite into a chunk of Parisian baguette smothered with whipped butter infused with yuzu kosho citrus chili, which instantly reminds you that your table is located right in the best of both worlds, as chef Greg Baxtrom marries them together masterfully. His skewers feel, look and taste authentically Yakitori-esque, but they get an elegant upgrade with an assortment of classic old-school French sauces.


Clockwise from top left: Lamb leg & Herbes de Provence, Scallops & Sauce Maltaise, Lobster & Sauce Américaine, Duck a l’orange, Ribeye & Bordelaise, Pork belly Dijonaise, Maison Yaki

The chop-stick-holder menu offers snacks, app’s and skewers, where nothing rises above $9. The service is chop-chop, and the delights emerge as they are cooked. The portions are small, flavorful and utterly delicious, and if you’re not careful you can end up ordering practically everything. (We did!) From scallops to lobster, chicken wings to duck breast, lamb loin to pork belly…all draped in astonishingly complimentary sauces like Dauphine, Maltaise, Américaine, A l’orange, Dijonaise, Herbes de provence and Bordelaise. Incroyable!


Pommes Dauphine, Maison Yaki

But it does beg certain questions regarding the need for the one or two gratuitous bistro items on the otherwise unique list of bites. (Will Escargot seriously slither onto menus again? Will Frog’s legs leap back into vogue? I doubt it.)


Salmon Mimosa Tartare, Maison Yaki

The lively, colorful and compact bar-bistro with a back garden feels more like an homage to the back-alley Yokocho’s in Shibuya, versus a white-aproned-waiter-with-an-attitude bistro on the left bank. Located right across from his sensational breakout success Olmsted, Baxtrom is clearly on a mission to elevate Brooklyn’s Park Slope into the next dining destination in New York. But what might be good for Park Slopers, is tough for Manhattanites. Most of the knowing crowd are walk-in’s, with an area slightly larger than a pack of Gauloises Blondes for reserved tables that are pilfered up to a month in advance.


Crown Shy, review


If you live in New York and you still have a pulse, the terms: Nomad and Eleven Madison Park will indubitably mean something to you, but I doubt very much if you could conjure up much recognition for the name, James Kent. Pity. What you don’t know is that Mr. Kent was the executive chef at The Nomad and chef de cuisine at 11MP before going it alone at Crown Shy. But if you think his first solo venture on the darker side of Wall street is anything like his prior kitchens – think again.


Crown Shy

I’m hesitant to add any additional commentary to that head-scratcher of a name, but suffice it to say that Crown Shy is not a reference to a reluctant member of the royal family, nor is there anything remotely bashful about this newcomer to the Manhattan food scene. Located on a narrow FiDi side-street anchoring an impressively well-preserved art deco temple, you pass through a lobby clad with an entire quarry of ornamental marble framed with brass trimmings and lanterns before stepping into a subdued, contemporary (hip-as-hell) loft with concrete floors, 16-foot ceilings and windows that stretch out between them. Despite the oodles of bold design choices, nothing seems to fight for dominance here. The granite bar is really cool, but so is the open kitchen, but so is the brushed leather seating and so are the exposed steel columns. A quick scan of the menu might also seem like the 16 or so dishes are about to stage a knock-down, drag-out fight for attention, but they end up proving to be a harmonious and complementary ensemble of colorfully cosmopolitan characters from every corner of the globe. Only the UN represents more nationalities on a single page.



Olive Tapenade loaf-let, Crown Shy

The evening’s sole impediment was our more curt than courteous server (probably a symptom of catering to the buy-low sell-high trading-floor crowd, versus the plenty-of-time-to-kill Sunday-night-laid-backers). While she might have thought of a dozen other places she’d rather have been, we on the other hand were thrilled to have landed a much-coveted booth and hoped to prolong the experience indefinitely. But her chagrin was quickly overshadowed by colorful dish after colorful dish that descended from the darkness above. The first being the much-blogged about bread “loaf-let”. As shiny and brown as a new Ferragamo oxford, this adorably box-shaped challah is not only topped with dried olives, but someone had conveniently sandwiched olive tapenade in between each doll-sized slice.



Gruyere Fritters, Crown Shy

While sharing “family style” becomes ever more de rigueur, what restaurateurs don’t realize, is that it initiates a dreary game of “Who has the most manners?” where everyone stares at the food and waits for someone else to go first. Crown Shy smartly delivers their dishes in batches of three or four at a time, encouraging diners to start digging into whatever is closest to them while everything is still hot. Speaking of sizzling, I doubt if a single table has ever been turned without at least one helping of Gruyere Fritters. These finger-length churros, oozing with melted cheese and a dusting of lime and chili are a little bit French, somewhat Mexican, entirely delicious and unavoidably Instagram-able.



White Bean Hummus, Crown Shy

Another crowd pleaser is the smooth, pale, creamy and passport-bursting take on a middle-eastern White Bean Hummus, spiked with spicy, red blobs of Spanish ‘Nduja sausage to be scooped up and enjoyed with a trio of tear-apart Indian Puri bread balls.



Romaine Salad, Crown Shy

Of the two salads we tried, the stack of Romaine leaves luxuriously slathered with tangy green-goddess dressing and toasted breadcrumbs felt more flavor and texture perfect than the pleasant but unremarkable Tomato and Peach salad with dots of feta on a puddle of basil puree.


Charred C arrots with Razor Clams, Crown Shy

I did wonder if pairing a row of tangy Charred Carrots with razor clams might be a little on the brave side, or that the one would overshadow the other, but the lemon-thyme flavored bubble bath they all sat in provided a perfectly neutral playground for both to yield a sapid layer of salty umami. Similarly, adding sweetcorn to accompany the candy-shaped, goat-cheese stuffed Caramelle, kicked an otherwise neutral chanterelle-butter sauced pasta into an entirely different universe of satiny delight.


Roast Chicken,  Crown Shy

And despite this city’s obsession for the best roast chicken, chef Kent has dared to move the goal posts yet again. His version of a tarty, zesty, grilled citrus-marinated half-bird, (almost as brown as the one paraded around at The NoMad) proves to be several notches more moist and tender than any other in the tri-state area. Most of it arrives obscured under a leafy green and pink radish camouflage, with just the claw creeping close to an auburn dollop of home-made, spicy, sweet, sour, tangy hot sauce, which I would happily apply to anything and everything I might ever eat again. Even ice-cream.


Satsuma Orange Ice-cream, Crown Shy

Much like chef Kent, dessert maestro and fellow Eleven Madison Park alum Renata Ameni reaches for flavors and textures with little concern for their origin or expected preparations. Her tart and tangy Satsuma Orange Ice-cream is topped with a shaving-foam puff of toasted meringue, which adds warmth, softness and height, while a side of crispy, crunchy, toasted honeycomb delivers an extra layer of sweetness. She also uses yoghurt in her Cheesecake, which is shingled with a ring of cherry farthings, a pistachio crumble topping and a hidden surprise of sorbet somewhere beneath.

And just like that, with the clang of the closing bell, Manhattan just gave birth to its newest foodie neighborhood.



Caramelle pasta, Crown Shy


Bistro Pierre Lapin – review


Once upon a time…hit-maker chef Harold Moore opened and closed a hugely popular West Village roast chicken hotspot called Commerce. And then one day…he orchestrated yet another charming mega-hit with Bistro Pierre Lapin. This time, chef Moore decided to focus his kitchen on staunchly Parisian classics to satisfy any Francophile yearning for a nostalgic sit-down at a small table with tall candles. Dripping with charm and oozing with atmosphere, the only thing needed to complete the bedtime storybook view through his rod and gingham-shaded windows of the tree-lined brownstones outside, would be a good foot of snow. But the portraits of Peter Rabbit (the restaurant’s namesake) suffice amiably to set the fairy tale scene.


Amuse Bouche: home-made baguette, butter, cured olives, country pate, Pierre Lapin

The L-shaped room is about 2 degrees tighter than what I’d refer to as “cozy” or “snug”. Even “intimate” feels a smidgeon too generous, but this is how I imagine a restaurant must look down a rabbit hole. A litter of small tables usurping every possible square inch, requiring considerable effort to hold in your butt and belly as you curl your way around a warren of shoulders and knees, without sending one of the 4 artisanal cocktails careening to the floor, or bumping a steaming chunk of heavenly house-baked baguette smeared with a greedy dollop of creamy house-churned butter, or a chunky slab or house-cured country pate out of a fellow diner’s hand and onto the adorable rose-garnished wallpaper beyond.



Soupe aux Oignons, Bistro Pierre Lapin

But I digress. The all-day dining menu reads like a French Top 20 from Croque Madame to Steak-Frites, or Cote D’Agneau to an overly dramatic, high-angled table-pour of Pomme purée, but the Soupe aux Oignons is probably one of the reasons we’re all crammed in here. A tangle of tart caramelized onions, as dark as Hermés luggage, lie waiting in a sumptuous umami broth until you bore your way through about an acre of melted Gruyere that manages to stretch itself onto every gluttonous spoonful, delivering a creamy, salty and surprisingly sweet bouillon of delight.

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Le Ravier Salad, Bistro Pierre Lapin

One of the incredibly attentive wait staff deftly dodged his way through the maze of chairs to sidle up a tray of seven dish-lets, each containing a different seasonal vegetable dressed in vinaigrettes. The Le Ravier salad includes tomatoes, asparagus tips, celery roots, carrots, marinated mushrooms… A crispy, crunchy rabbit’s feast stolen from Mr. McGregor’s garden!


Duck a L’orange, Bistro Pierre Lapin

Although not on the menu, the Duck a l’orange is a frequent seasonal guest at Pierre Lapin. The magnificently tender duo of breast slithers served medium-rare with crispy skin and perfectly balanced flavors of juice and Grand Marnier, are a testament to kitchen confidence without the citrus overkill under less capable hands.


Coq au vin, Bistro Pierre Lapin

I couldn’t help feeling similarly about the astounding Coq au vin – which despite being considered “ruin-proof” by many toques (I should have a mastication medal for every time I’ve made my way through a wine-soaked breast, as dehydrated and flaky as shards of Halva) chef Moore manages to evoke all the flavors from Burgundy to bacon while maintaining a succulent and tender bird that succumbs easily to both knife and tooth.


Carrot Cake Madeleines, Bistro Pierre Lapin

And looking past the colonnade of calories from the likes of Crème Brulee or Passion fruit Pavlova, we deduced that any good rabbit would probably go all in for a trio of delectable Carrot Cake Madeleines topped with warm frosting of white chocolate as the perfect end to a fairy-tale meal, where no-one ever went hungry, and we all lived happily ever after. The End.












Lionelli Taberna – review


Lionelli Taberna, at the Evelyn Hotel

Twelve days ago, former Lincoln Ristorante chef Jonathan Benno launched the first in a triptych of dining enterprises that will round out the newly renovated Evelyn Hotel in New York’s NoMad district. Lionelli Taberna is the Roman-inspired casual bistro that will be sandwiched between Leonelli Focacceria e Pasticceria, a bakery coffee shop which opens today, and Benno the formal Mediterranean scene stealer which will be making a grander entrance later this year.


Lionelli Taberna

The taberna feels as much like a magnificent brass-and-glass treasure chest as an archeological discovery of original art-deco ornamentation. The L-shaped room wraps around a glass fishbowl kitchen, featuring gorgeous vertical lighting units and stained-glass accents, that complement the mix-n-match hardwood and semi-original remains of a terrazzo floor.


Saffron & Soppressata Arancini, Lionelli Taberna

The ample menu spreads a lot further than Rome as its geo-flavor-epicenter, with seafood, veggies and cheeses that whiplash across much of Italy, plus a rather odd layover or two in Mexico (for a Salsa Verde and a classic Caesar Salad which we all know has nothing to do with Julius Caesar) but you can rest assured that the wondrous Arancini’s, Carciofi, Bistecca and Pastas are as nostalgically authentic as you’d hope for.


Gnocchi alla Romana, Lionelli Taberna

While some dishes have yet to find some focus (the Lasagne Spinach with bolognaise ragú – which Benno lifted from his menu at Lincoln – doesn’t quite turn the lights on for me yet), the hallelujah hit has to be his Gnocchi alla Romana, which is a large, single shingle of fluffy gnoccho draped in the dreamiest stew of braised oxtail, that took everything I had not to squeal out loud.


Lionelli Taberna

While we were watching the uniformly bearded and maroon baseball-cap toting chefs do their meticulous thing, wrangling rotisserie chickens or searing wild salmon, we didn’t realize that the maître d’hôtel was watching us (me) struggle to free a few precious morsels of mint-infused meat from the utterly delectable yet excessively fat-engulfed Elysian Fields Farm Lamb steak. Just as I was ready to cry “uncle” on the entire mission, she stepped in to apologize for my melee and promptly erased the item from the bill. Now, that’s how you spell “customer-satisfaction-with-built-in-loyalty-for-life” my friends.


Torta di Limone, Lionelli Taberna

Armed with a knapsack of complimentary homemade Italian cookies – even after gorging on the delicious Torta di Limone with Strawberry Sorbet – we munched our way home planning, promising and predicting our very next visit.



Focaccia with tomato, Lionelli Taberna

My favorite New York restaurant

When folks hear that I write a food blog, their first reaction is always one of shock and surprise. (Notice how I said “shock and surprise” and not “shock and awe?” That’s because there’s nothing that awesome about writing a food blog. It’s just something I happen to do.) After that, the most popular request that gets volleyed my way is to “name my favorite restaurant”. Then for some bizarre reason I become as tongue-tied as a toddler.

(You know that moment when you have just bitten through a slice of toasted baguette, but the generous slither of prosciutto refuses to be halved by your incisors, your canines, your molars or even your wisdom teeth? And so it stretches out of your mouth like a celebrity red carpet between the piece of toast on your tongue, and the piece you were hoping to return to your plate. Then, despite the fact that you are in public, you override good manners and decide to shove the entire thing into your pie hole anyway – not realizing that if the prosciutto wasn’t easy to chew when your beak was empty, it’s going to be darn near impossible now that it’s full.  And so, with cheeks puffed and lips stretched beyond their endurance with a corner of toast already crowning, someone asks you a question.)

That’s exactly how it feels when people ask me…that question.

So, as an attempt at answering it once and for all, I’ve decided to lay out a menu of all of my favorite dishes and where they are served around the city, as though this were to be my very last meal on earth. (Clearly in my case there would have to be a temporary stay of execution just to get through them all – but hey, what a way to go!)


I’d probably start with a greedy handful of House roasted red peanuts with chilies from Pok Pok NY, and then help myself to at least 3 light, fluffy and utterly devourable amuse bouche Cheese Puffs from Benoit before anyone notices they’re missing.

Then I’d tear off a couple of chunks of Nur’s Jerusalem Sesame Bagel before dipping each into that heavenly Lima Bean and Za’atar mouse. Next, I’d use a piece of crispy Italian country bread to scoop up the puddle of olive oil in the middle of Locanda Verde’s smooth and creamy house-made Sheep’s milk Ricotta, while saving some room for a bite or two of the splendiferously yummy Grilled Nueske’s Bacon with peanut butter and Jalapeño jelly from Quality Eats West Village.


While I have a lengthy list of establishments that hand chop a great Beef Tartare, (Estela covers theirs under a forest of yummy crispy sunchoke chips, and Cote serves theirs with equally crispy chimichurri-like puffs), only the incomparable Gabriel Kreuther serves a staggeringly delicious and audacious Lobster tartare. I’ll use any excuse to go to Le Bernadin for Eric Ripert’s perfectly circular Yellowfin Tuna Carpaccio, dotted and dashed with all sorts of interesting nic-nacs like pickles, Iberico ham chutney and olive oil. And speaking of which, you can’t deny me at least a few bites of Il Buco’s magnificent olive oil Fried Artichokes.

I’m always up for a few slithers of sea urchin speckled Crab Nachos with a rich aioli “queso” from Empellón, or I could grab a handful of Indian Accent’s butter, pepper and garlic baptized Crab Claws to accompany a floret or two of the most delectable of all Indo-Asian fried cauliflowers called General Tso’s by Babu Ji.

Something noodley? It would be hard for me to pass up a nice coil of Han Dynasty’s Dan-Dan Noodles served with ground pork and chili oil, or (because I have such a proclivity for the theatrical) I’d wait and stare while someone heaves and twists the vintage duck press at The Grill to flavor their immaculate Pasta a la Presse with duck, pheasant, squab, bacon and vegetables.

If you know me at all, you’re probably wondering why there are no chicken wings on this list yet. Well, wonder no more: Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings at Pok Pok NY always do it for me. And one size up from chickens, at least one of those finger-licking-salty-lemony Crispy Duck Wings from Justin Smillie’s Upland shall forever have my name on it.

For fresh risotto, nothing can touch the light and creamy Barley Risotto with Baby Clams from Narcissa, and when risotto makes its second-time-around appearance, I’m all about Nick Anderer’s adorable pesto flavored Arancini from Marta.

David Chang does two app’s that I could eat at just about any time of day: his Spicy Pork Sausage and Rice cakes from Momofuku Ssäm, and the absolutely ocean-stopping Sea Urchin with fermented Bean paste from Momofuku Ko.

The mere thought of a few strips of Sesame Beef Jerky with a healthy dunk into the fermented Laotian chili paste from Khe-Yo makes me about as weak at the knees as the pure, simple and garlicy red shrimp Carabineros with preserved lemon at La Vara.

And to round it out with a super spicy, lip-numbing Sichuan peppercorn dish, it would either be one bite of Danny Bowien’s Thrice Cooked Bacon and Rice Cakes at Mission Chinese Food, or one of the scaldingly hot Thai Papaya Salads from Somtum Der.


My main course favorites come in two basic categories: Roast chicken, and everything else. While some might think there’s nothing more ho-hum than a piece of rotisserie foul, very few can do it as crispily, tenderly and succulently as Le Coq Rico, Dirty French, Le Turtle or chef Jonathan Waxman who honed his poultry skills for years at Michael’s before turning me into a broken record about his astounding Roast Chicken with Salsa Verde at Barbuto. And you can’t blame me for having a very soft spot for Pinch Chinese’s garlic-blasted Wind Sand Chicken. But the king of them all has to be The Nomad’s Roast Chicken stuffed with brioche and foie gras served two ways after being paraded around lavishly like a trophy hen. The other piece of poultry that gets – and rightfully deserves – its own parade is the magnificent and mysteriously shoe-leather-brown Honey Lacquered Duck from Legacy Records.

Moving from roasted to fried, I would have to have one final bite each of the shatter-crisp Fried Chickens from Perry Street, The Dutch and Blue Ribbon – in that order. And it’s a toss-up for who makes my favorite Chicken Kiev between Mari Vanna (who serves it Russian-style with buckwheat) or The Clocktower (who serves it inside an adorable miniature credenza).

I definitely skew French when it comes to seafood and believe that no-one can die before they’ve tried Eric Ripert’s much lauded Paupiette of Sea Bass, which is wrapped inside the thinnest skin of crispy potato scales at Le Bernadin, and Le Coucou does a wondrously faithful and nostalgic Sole Veronique. But if you’re looking for a cavalcade of shellfish flavor, Alain Ducasse whips up twin Quenelles de Brochet at Benoit that are as light and fluffy as pike meringues.

This city is drowning in amazing pasta palaces, but I’ll have anything fresh from Osteria Morini or Café Altro Paradiso’s Garganelli with chicken Ragu, not to mention the stunning Saffron Linguine from Boulud Sud, or Locanda Verde’s dreamy Paccheri with Sunday night Ragu. And while some can’t live without Yesterday’s 100 layer Lasagne from Del posto (don’t get me wrong, I can’t either), I couldn’t imagine a world without Rita Sodi’s sensational Lasagna a Sugo at the nearly-impossible-to-get-into I Sodi.

If I were to choose one last hamburger before leaving the planet, it would probably be the delectable beef patty smothered with Comte cheese inside John Fraser’s Piedmontese Burger at The Loyal, with thanks in large part to the “22-step tomato” that covers, smothers, decorates and elevates it beyond all others in its class, unless I happened to be in the mood for April Broomfield’s Chargrilled Lamb Burger with feta at The Breslin.

I’m still busy wading my way through the morass of Ramen joints across the city, but the one that felt the closest to a real Tokyo train station broth bowl with pork and veggies was the ridiculously creamy and insanely flavorful Tonkotsu Ramen from Mu Ramen in Long Island City.

Before progressing to beef, I’d have to include both of my favorite breaded veals: Wallse’s outstanding Wienerschnitzel, and the most memorable (and expensive) Veal Parm in town at Carbone.

The last two entries will have to be a cut of The Grill’s Prime-aged Ribeye smothered in a green Peppercorn and cognac sauce, and the insanely delectable Beef Tenderloin Stir Fry in the darkest, richest, garlicky, soy and oyster sauce, smothered in fries and accented with chilies, avocado and crema, and served in a chive crepe at Llama Inn.


Just like the mains, I have 2 categories for desserts: those that have something to do with meringue, and those that don’t. I don’t know what it is, but when egg-whites and sugar get beaten into a foamy froth, it makes me abort every attempt at a diet without conscience. And it doesn’t matter what state it’s in either. Dominic Ansel Bakery uses meringue to cover his sublime Frozen Smores on a stick, while Enrique Olvera smashes 2 of them in his transcendent Husk Meringue at Cosme. The Musket Room somehow manages to shape it into a hollow tube that gets filled with cream and a tangy curd in their Passion Fruit Pavlova masterpiece, and vegetarian hotspot Nix spikes meringue with toasted almonds as a topping over their (off-menu) Grilled Pineapple Wedge.

I’m not much of a pie person, but my arm can be twisted without resistance by the meringue snake that gets torched on top of Llama Inn’s unsharably wondrous Graham Cracker Lime Pie. And I can’t decide between my two favorite alcohol flambéed Baked Alaska’s, (so I have to have both) – the classic one from The Grill, or the one called Omelette Norvégienne with pistachio ice-cream from Le Coucou. Neighborhood bistro Olmsted’s Lavender honey Frozen Yoghurt isn’t technically a meringue, but when they manage to whip it into a shaving-foam delight, it makes my list as something familiar, yet unique and spectacular. But the be-all and end-all of meringue desserts has to be L’Ile Flottante from Le Coq Rico, which is a pink pistachio and burnt sugar crusted island of fluff that is set adrift on a pond of vanilla custard crème.

As for the rest, I’d have to grab one more mouthful of those irresistibly hand-made Honey Butter Chips from Oiji – with or without ice-cream, and it’s a toss-up between Alex Stupak’s Avocado which is a sublime air-brushed recreation out of lime-flavored pudding, or his equally Instagrammably delicious Corn Taco Ice-cream – both from Empellón.

So next time someone asks me what my favorite New York restaurant is, they’ll just have to contend with: “It depends!”