My Top 38 Restaurants in New York City

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After much begging, pleading, mooing and meowing, I finally succumbed to share a list of my personal favorite food haunts in New York City. And because not all meals are created equal – nor are all palates or pockets, I took the liberty of dividing the list into 7 convenient categories to help you retrace my foodie foodsteps. But before you proceed to cut-and-paste, there’s a caveat we need to be clear on:

While none of my restaurant or meal recommendations mentioned here are “one-dish-wonders”, I cannot accept any liability for sub-par experiences due to off-nights, falling standards, menu omissions, inflated hype or chef dismissals. The food was amazing when I ate there! Just sayin’.

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Le Bernadin “Egg”

In the new year, the only thing higher than legend-busting rents (au revoir Union Square Café, Barbuto, Costata etc.), will be the highest minimum wage for restaurant workers in the city’s history. So if someone else is footing the bill, let’s label the first category as EXPENSE ACCOUNT EXCESS.

Daniel $$$+

An immaculate, flawless and unforgettable experience. The service, the presentation, the food itself and (as sincerely as only he can muster) the traditional table-side greeting by Chef Boulud himself.

Eleven Madison Park $$$+

Daniel Humm finds the right balance between shi-shi molecular gastronomy curiosities and one of the best meals in the city today. Not your average cup of tea, so make sure your party can handle Carrot foam and Carrot Tartare.

 Le Bernadin $$$+

Also clutching his 3 Michelin stars, chef Eric Ripert is the consummate host and venerable architect of so many dishes that have inspired the careers of two generations of toques. His legendary “Egg” – while no longer on the menu is a must-have.

 

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Svizzerina (bun-less burger) from Via Carota

The next group of restaurants are literally mood-altering locations, that the mere thought of eating there instantly puts a smile on my face. These are my ALL-TIME FAVORITES

Upland $$

Great space, great vibe and the menu is replete with hit-makers, but the Duck Wings are to die for.

Via Carota $

Very vibey face-brick room decked out with antique shnick-shnack as a typical West Village backdrop for some sensational and affordable dishes like the Svizzerina bun-less burger.

Buvette $

I absolutely adore this little French bistro with Barbie-doll-sized tables, stools and dishes. Jodi Williams cranks out the most astoundingly delicious French mini plates. Great for brunch.

Momofuku Ssam $

Some might say this is David Chang’s ATM, but the guy puts an unbeatable Korean spin on anything he touches. Fun, friendly and flavorful. Great for lunch. Steamed pork buns were pretty much invented here. Spicy Pork Sausage rice cakes are also sensational.

The Musket Room $$

Only in New York can a big, beafy, tattoo-shmeared New Zealander use Kickstarter to open a chef’s favorite haunt with the most delicate and robust flavors. Berkshire Pork done two-ways, Southland Lamb done two-ways and the Passion fruit Pavlova are outstanding. (See earlier review)

Estela $$

There’s not much I can say that hasn’t already been said about this unpretentious hit-maker. Even the Obama’s have to stop in every time they’re in town. Beef Tartare with Sunchokes, Mussels escabeche, Burrata with salsa-verde, Lamb ribs and Rib eye. (See earlier review)

Marc Forgione $$

Dark, moody and filled with regulars. The Bell & Evans Chicken under a brick for 2 in this TriBeCa landmark is legendary.

Little Owl $$

With more dishes on anyone’s favorites list than any other kitchen of its size (and too many to mention here), this simple room of 20 or so seats is tough to get into, but well worth the wait.

Narcissa $$

Ask for a table on the kitchen side, so you can see the army of Veg-forward chefs put the final touches on the 5-hour Rotisserie-crisped Beets, or Carrots Wellington or Barley Risotto with Baby Clams. (See earlier review)

 

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Braised Halibut with Pink Peppercorn Sauce from The Clocktower

Creating a unique and unforgettable menu in tough enough, but when the location itself is dripping with drama and atmosphere, you have to be at a place that is COOL, HIP & HAPPENIN’

The Nomad $$$

Daniel Humm does it again. Each of the four lavishly gawdy rooms feels like you’ve just stepped onto the set of “La Traviata.” Don’t miss the incomparable (and pricey) Foie gras, black truffle and brioche stuffed Roast Chicken served two ways.

The Clocktower $$$

Wow! Talk about making a statement! UK native and Michelin winner Jason Atherton has created a deliciously sexy space with a whole host of unstoppable dishes like the Dressed crab with uni and apples or the Hand chopped Steak Tartare au poivre or the Braised Halibut with pink peppercorn sauce as well as a collection of knockout signature cocktails.

Betony $$

The funny thing about Manhattan’s midtown is that even though it is the central focus of business and tourism, you can sometimes count blog-worthy restaurants on one claw. Bryce Shuman however serves up picture perfect dishes in an intricately carved space that feels like you just climbed into a plush picture frame. The chef’s tasting menu is an experience. (See earlier review)

Beauty & Essex $

I love bringing out-of-towners here. It’s impossibly irreverent, ridiculously popular and surprisingly satisfying. The door on the far side of a pawn shop opens into a sumptuous and heady lounge where you can barrage yourself with a litany of tapas plates including the Roasted Bone Marrow on toast, Grilled cheese and Tomato Soup dumplings and the Lobster Tacos.

 Untitled at the Whitney $$

The Whitney Museum’s recently unveiled, clean-lined, glassy architectural new digs is also home to Danny Meyer’s latest jewel in the crown which has become as popular and eye-catching as some of the artworks upstairs. What it lacks in views, it surpluses in modern dishes. Try the Roasted and Fried Chicken and the Lamb Meatballs with peanut sauce.

 

Jerk Chicken WIngs at Ma Peche

Even with 20,000 restaurants to choose from, New York still manages to squeeze out a newcomer every other day. But there are a handful of locales that for years and years have set unwavering standards without compromise, that constantly deliver on being SOLIDLY RELIABLE

Perry Street $

Jean-George protégé (and descendant) Cedric Vongerichten still packs them into this über-modern, airy space right on the Hudson river. The Perry Street Fried Chicken is remarkable.

Locanda Verde $$

The perpetually-popular Anthony Carmelini and Robert De Niro partner shop is one of the best bets in TriBeCa. The Sheep’s Milk Ricotta is one of a kind, not to mention the Duck Arrosto and the all-time favorite Paccheri with Sunday night ragu. (See earlier review)

Ma Peche $$

David Chang’s midtown Korean dim-sum palace looks a bit like an army med-evac tent, but when those little Dim-sum carts come rolling past bearing Jerk Chicken Wings, Roasted rice-cakes or the Habanero Fried Chicken, you remind yourself not to judge a book by its cover. (See earlier review)

Marea $$$+

The epicenter of Michael White’s Altamarea group anchors Central Park at this standout Italian-seafood showpiece. It’s a bit posh, but the food is very real. The Fusilli covered in red wine braised octopus and bone marrow is what it’s all about.

Dell’ Anima $

It’s intimate, packed with regulars and at times rather smokey, thanks to the all-in-one kitchen-dining room. The daily specials are always amazing, but the Bruschettas are legendary.

ABC Kitchen $$

Of all the all-natural locovore palaces in town, this one set the bar early and high. Jean-George’s spacious room continues to draw a crowd for dishes as varied as the days of the week.

Hudson Clearwater $

There are a bunch of cute, atmospheric bistros in the West Village, but few of them are as unpretentious as this one. Small menu, exceptional service, great food. I love the Grilled grass-fed Hanger Steak or the Pan-seared local fish of the day.

Annisa $$

Anita Lo’s little shop that could – always does. Very intricate dishes, brimming with flavor and imagination that span the globe like the Seared Foie Gras with Soup dumplings and Jicama or the Duo of Rabbit.

 

 

Husk Meringue - Cosme

Cosme’s Husk Meringue

In the NYC melting pot, it’s not surprising that chef’s from all over the globe abide by the adage: “If you can make it there, you’ll make it in Singapore, Vegas, London, Shanghai and Beverly Hills” Here are my current favorite authentic INTERNATIONAL KNOCKOUTS

Cosme $$$

It was no surprise that Enrique Olvera’s first foray in the US would be a sell-out hit, but I doubt even he realized just how nuts we would all be over his hyper-authentic, gourmet Mexican cuisine. If you’re feeling generous, splurge on the Duck Carnitas, and the (beyond incredible) smashed Husk Meringue. (See earlier review)

ABC Cucina $

On the north side of the block from ABC Kitchen, Jean-George points his magic compass towards the Iberian coastline for a super-sophisticated tapas bar with much curb appeal. I adore the Chipotle Chicken Tacos and the best Patatas Bravas in town. (See earlier review)

Bar Jamon $$

Just around the corner from Casa Mono, Mario Batali & friends’ incredibly authentic Spanish bistro is one of my favorite (and alas not so secret) mini wine bars in the city. Specializing in a broad range of known (and not so well known) Spanish wines, they also hand-carve a delectable Jamon Iberico along with any number of other traditional favorites.

El quinto Piño $

There are a curious number of adorable little Spanish bistros in Chelsea, that range from tragic to traditional. This is one of my favorite spots that is super simple, but the food is full of flavor without the fuss. Everyone loves the Uni Panini or the Bocadillo de Calamar. (See earlier review)

Babu Ji $

Curiously enough Jesse Singh’s authentic Indian cooking is attributed to his Grandmother who hailed from Bombay, but his business is a replica of his hugely successful curry shop in Melbourne, Australia. It’s nothing more than a jumble of a room in Alphabet City with a “serve yourself” beer fridge in the corner, but the food is beyond inspired. I recommend the Chef’s Tasting Menu which highlights with vegetable filled puff-pastry balls called Pani Puri, a Lamb Raan, Butter Chicken and end off with Kulfi ice-cream bars flavored with cardamom and honey.

Haldi $

Of the forty or so Indian restaurants that comprise “Curry Hill”, Haldi is the reigning champion. The menu boasts just enough traditional Calcutta fare, while leaving room for a plethora of gourmet dishes never before seen on South Lexington Avenue menus. The Chicken Tikka Masala is legendary, while the Creamy Shrimp with carom seeds is stunningly surprising.

Bar Bolonat $

Ainat Admony’s modern Israeli-Arab menu is chock full of mega hits. Whatever you do, bring an appetite for the Jerusalem Bagel that you dip into oil and Za’atar spices and the equally delicious teardrop-shaped Hudson Street Kibbeh or the Shrimp in Yemenite curry, but leave room for the Fried Baklava Ice cream which melts out and mixes in the pistachio syrup. (See earlier review)

Han Dynasty $

Searing hot success story from Philly, the Szechuan peppercorn-heavy menu won’t disappoint. The Dan-Dan Noodles are a must, and if you can stand the heat, you have to try the mouth-numbing Dry Pepper Chicken Wings. (See earlier review)

Tuome $

A micro-bistro with Asian influences from an accountant turned chef. Try the Egg – which is panko fried with pickles, or the Pig which is a checkerboard of delicious pork morsels, or the duck-fat infused Rice. (See earlier review)

Carbone $$

The Torrisi Food group’s masterful red-sauce restaurant is close enough to Little Italy without feeling like a carbon copy of any other Italian restaurant in the city – and there are hundreds! Order the Caesar salad and the Veal Parm or go home. (See earlier review)

Marta $$

If you love thin-crust pizza, then you will adore Marta almost as much as me. Nick Anderer (via Danny Meyer)’s double pizza ovens seem to hold up the roof in the open-plan lobby of the Martha Washington hotel. The pesto flavored Arancini appetizer and the Potate alla Carbonara pizza are my favorite orders. (See earlier review)

Khe-Yo $

Intimate, dark and full of atmosphere. Chef Schwader (Marc Forgione protégé) shows off his Laotian prowess. If you like flavor forward, you’re in for a treat. The Sesame Beef Jerkey, Chili Prawns and Berkshire Pork ribs are a must, and don’t be shy to re-order the Sticky Rice. One helping is just not enough. (See earlier review)

Wallse $$

Kurt Gutenbrunner has a network of Austrian bistros all over town, but the best Wiener Schnitzel in the city has to be had at Wallse. If you want to savor the best in Viennese coffee bars, try his Café Zabarsky inside the Neue Gallerie for a Große Braune and a slice of Sachertorte.

 

 

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Fried Chicken Sandwich with Fu-ket Peanut sauce and slaw by Fuku

My expectations have no relationship to the size of a dish. Even a between-meal munchie or an informal, inexpensive supper needs to be the best there is. Here are some that offer QUICK, CHEAP & CHEERFUL

FukuFried chicken sandwich

Bianca – A cash only, no reservations, super inexpensive treat. Lasagne to end all Lasagnes.

Mile End – Canadian style Smoked Beef Sandwich bar with a delicious Poutine

Smith and Mills – Little plates and cocktails in a former carriage house

Salvation Taco – Gourmet tacos

Umami Burger – (See earlier review)

 

 

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Chef’s menu platter from Babu Ji

And finally because there are only three meals a day, many of which I choose to cook myself, I find myself collecting an ever-growing STILL “TO-TRY” LIST

Batârd

Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fair

Contra

Dominic Ansel Kitchen

Little Park

Lupulo

Mission Chinese Food

Oiji

Russ & Daughters Café

Sadelle’s

Sushi Nakazawa

Salvation Burger

Santina

Semilla

Shuko

Hudson Street Kibbeh - Bar Bolonat

Hudson Street Kibbeh from Bar Bolonat

http://www.danielnyc.com

http://www.elevenmadisonpark.com

http://www.le-bernadin.com

http://www.uplandnyc.com

http://www.viacarota.com

http://www.ilovebuvette.com

https://reservations.momofuku.com/login

http://www.themusketroom.com

http://www.estelanyc.com

http://www.marcforgione.com

http://www.thelittleowlnyc.com

http://www.narcissarestaurant.com

http://www.thenomadhotel.com

http://www.theclocktowernyc.com

http://www.betony-nyc.com

http://www.beautyandessex.com

http://www.untitledatthewhitney.com

http://www.perrystrestaurant.com

http://www.locandaverdenyc.com

http://www.marea-nyc.com

http://www.dellanima.com

https://www.abchome.com/eat/abc-kitchen/

http://www.hudsonclearwater.com

http://www.annisarestaurant.com

http://www.cosmenyc.com

http://www.casamononyc.com

http://www.elquintopinonyc.com

http://www.babujinyc.com

http://www.haldinyc.com

http://www.barbolonatny.com

http://handynasty.net/east-village/

http://www.tuomenyc.com

http://www.carbonenewyork.com

http://www.martamanhattan.com

http://www.kheyo.com

http://www.kg-ny.com/wallse

 

 

Mapo Galbi, Los Angeles review

Mapo Galbi

As downtown Los Angeles increasingly evolves into a hip canvas for new toques to show off their kitchen prowess, diners are just as increasingly tempted to cross the 405 and 110 Freeways after dark, in search of some of the city’s most acclaimed food. But as you head east from the familiarly popular restaurant rows of Fairfax Avenue or West 3rd Street, you venture through an oddly exciting (yet unnervingly foreign) neighborhood, which is home to some 120,000 Korean residents. And without GPS and a solid phonetic recommendation, finding an authentic and satisfying meal in K’town can be a bit of a long shot. You see, with the overabundance of brightly illuminated Korean signs screaming for your attention, what you hope might be a good steakhouse…could turn out to be a good gynecologist instead.

Mapo Galbi

Mapo Galbi

As far as first impressions go, Mapo Galbi is a slight jolt to the expectation system. But don’t let the indecipherable Korean sign, nor the rather nondescript storefront or any of the interior choices of functional vinyl, 70’s wood veneer and sensible mirrors sway you. When you sit around one of the 10 gas-griddle tables, and slip on one of those cute, red aprons – you realize that you are about to venture more than a few feet outside the box.

Dak Galbi Stage 1 - Mapo Galbi

Dak Galbi Stage 1

As our evening progressed, the hostess seemed to grow measurably more charming – even as we careened repeatedly into our substantial language barrier. When I mentioned that I had “wanted to try this restaurant for some time,” she obligingly pointed to the restroom door. The very succinct menu was equally tricky to navigate, but with the aid of hand gestures, charades and the translation services of a neighboring table in between a gush of giggles, we somehow managed to order the highly popular Dak Galbi (spicy chicken with vegetables).

Dak Galbi Stage 2

Dak Galbi Stage 2

Our appetizers included a sliced cabbage salad with a creamy dressing, and a small dish of Water Kimchi, which consisted of a few submerged crunchy carrot and radish sticks under a milky, briny yet pleasantly refreshing, fermented broth. At this point, our griddle pan arrived, and the dish assembly began with alacrity. The ingredients started with rather simple chunks of marinated chicken, sweet potato chips and short ropes of rice-cake. Once browned, these were followed with coarsely chopped cabbage and a most unstinting helping of Gochujang (chili, sugar, sesame, garlic) sauce.

Dak Galbi Stage 3 - Mapo Galbi

Dak Galbi Stage 3

Just prior to serving, sesame leaves and scallions were scissored in, giving the dish a fresh green accent.

Dak Galbi with Banchan (side dishes)

Dak Galbi with Banchan (side dishes)

The side dishes (Banchan) included a rather soft, sweet and chewy strip of kimchi fish cake, a wonderfully flavorful seaweed salad, roasted zucchini and a few very crispy taco-sized slices of pickled radish. Our challenge was to balance a portion of chicken, rice-cake and cabbage onto a radish slither – without dropping the contents during the chopstick-assisted journey toward the lips. (If the need for the red aprons wasn’t clear earlier, it was blatantly obvious now.) The delectable combination of the sweet, sharp, savory and spicy, warm chicken against the cold and briny radish was a perfectly restrained contrast of the foreign and the familiar. And the incredible texture variety of melt-in-your-mouth rice cakes on one hand with crunchy scallions on the other, took the rather simple and gimmick-free dish to a unique and unexpected level.

Kimchi rice stir fry - Mapo Galbi

Kimchi rice stir fry

And just when the evening began to wane, our hostess reignited the griddle and stirred up a small bowl of rice with chopped kimchi and a few black ribbons of dried seaweed, for a delicious post-course, sizzling stir-fry.

While I can happily vouch for the quality, I cannot speak to the authenticity of Mapo Galbi, but über-esteemed Momofuku chef David Chang not only can and does, but he even goes so far as to consider it one of his all-time favorites.

http://www.visitkoreatown.org/mapo-dak-galbi-restaurant/

https://wwww.facebook.com/…/mapo-galbi

Ma Peche review

Ma Peche - Scallop crudo

Scallop crudo

If New York City ever said its prayers before bedtime, it should include in its blessings that David Chang decided to move here from Vienna, Virgina, and that he didn’t choose any other US city to set up shop as one of the most celebrated and deservedly accoladed Korean-American gastronomic virtuosi of our time. His enormously popular East Village conclave of bars and restaurants, (which are all vertical adaptations and extensions of one another) are platforms for spotlighting his take on American influenced Southeast Asian street food. The philosophy behind serving fast-food that actually takes hours to prepare, is by no means taken for granted by his adoring fan-base, who would quite happily donate a tenth of their lives by standing in line in all sorts of inclement weather to sample his life-altering and award-winning cooking. At his midtown establishment Ma Peche, located within the rather hoity-toity Chambers hotel, Chang forces prospective diners to march right through his Momofuku Milk Bar (the ultimate willpower test to grab/not grab a slice of his now world-famous, butter-laden Crack-Pie) before descending into a windowless box-shaped room with colorless stretched fabric sails, covering identically colorless walls – more reminiscent of a pop-up med-evac tent on the front lines than a haven for impending culinary indulgence…but then the dim sum carts of international treats begin to arrive table side, and all is instantly forgiven.

Ma Peche - Lobster Rice

Lobster Rice

The ever-so-gently torched chunks of Scallop Crudo were resting in a refreshingly simple but delightful bath of yuzu lemon and olive oil when they pulled up beside me. The creamy risotto-like Lobster Rice accompanied by the robust, deeply layered and aromatic brown-sugary-cinnamony-clove flavored Jerk Chicken Wings could quite possibly jolt the earth off of its axis.

Ma Peche - Jerk Chicken WIngs

Jerk Chicken WIngs

 

 

The following cart delivered the delectable shredded Lamb Noodles, served over a thick lamb and onion roux with lemony cabbage and chili jam. And just when things couldn’t possibly get any better, the crispy, salty and impossibly delicious Roasted Rice Cakes with Spicy Pork (my all-time favorite item appreciatively borrowed from his Momofuku Ssam Bar menu) was on final approach.

Ma Peche - Roasted Rice Cakes

Roasted Rice Cakes

The biggest hit from the handful of á la Carte options was the addiction-inducing, shatter-crisp yet buttermilk-moist Fried Chicken, which easily steals the honors from anyone else brave enough (or silly enough) to enter the category.

This isn’t just a meal, people. It’s a sacred New York experience!

http://momofuku.com/new-york/ma-peche/reservations/

Ma Peche - Lamb Noodles

Lamb Noodles