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Chris Hennes

High-End NYC 2016

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In light of Pete Wells' recent evisceration of Per Se, it seems like now is an opportune time to re-examine the high end of New York's dining scene. What is still good, and what has fallen out of favor? I had a great meal at Eleven Madison Park a few years ago, for example, but it was before the big format change. In terms of high-end NYC dining, what do you all figure the current top five are?

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EMP has supposedly recently changed their format, yet again.... but I haven't heard anything about it yet.

 

My wife was at Le Bernardin a few months ago and said that it was stellar, as good as it's ever been.  She was also at Del Posto, but in one of their private dining rooms, so it's hard to say... but she did say that she was, in general, underwhelmed by it.

 

I was at Jean Georges over the summer, and I was underwhelmed by it for the prices... although, I will say that it was consistent with other times I have been there over the years, so I wouldn't say that it has gone downhill at all.

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EMP was fun in its last incarnation, but fussy & full of gimmicks and staff interventions. 

 

Le Bernardin is incredibly overrated in my opinion - yawn city.

 

Del Posto - 14 courses of extreme boredom punctuated by yet more inter-courses to keep you full

 

Nakazawa is an overhyped joke. Neighborhood places in LA serve better fish.

 

I have never been to Jean Georges.

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On 1/15/2016 at 9:56 PM, patrickamory said:

EMP was fun in its last incarnation, but fussy & full of gimmicks and staff interventions. 

 

Le Bernardin is incredibly overrated in my opinion - yawn city.

 

Del Posto - 14 courses of extreme boredom punctuated by yet more inter-courses to keep you full

 

Nakazawa is an overhyped joke. Neighborhood places in LA serve better fish.

 

I have never been to Jean Georges.

 

But other than that, you love 'em all! ;-)

 

What restaurants in New York have you liked lately?

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Yeah, fair enough. I think I hate most of the fine-dining scene in NYC these days. I ate at La Grenouille this week and it was fantastic. If I could eat there every night for the rest of the year, I think I'd be happy.

 

I'm dining at Shuko this week and will report back on that. I'm also on the waiting list for the wine dinner at Lupa on Tuesday - will also report on that if it comes through. I was never was crazy about the vibe at Lupa unless I was seated in the back room, though the food was good - but this will be my first visit in about 5 years. The closely spaced tables and the noise are a complete vibekiller for me.

 

Omokase at the reopened Ushi Wakamaru in Chelsea is excellent. I think that place was underrated when it was on Houston Street (and the comparatively cheap deals at the tables were some of the best sushi deals in the city - just great fish and great rice, and it worked even with table service).

 

Il Buco original location remains one of my favorite restaurants in the city, even if the menu is somewhat ossified. The food is more original and probably more original at Alimentari, but the communal tables and deafening atmosphere are a complete turnoff.

 

Other places? For actual eating-out dinners, I'll happily eat at Diner, Il Mulino, Acme, The Four Seasons, Donohue's, Bamonte's, Queen, Bobby Van's 46th street (mundane surroundings but generally supreme steak), Luger's when it's good (unfortunately up and down, though when it's up it's the best), Ssäm Bar, Takashi, Gene's, Le Perigord. Of course add less casual places and the list explodes into dozens of spots.

 

I know I come off as a naysayer, but there are three things I really have zero interest in: (a) tasting menus, (b) the noisy, "happening" atmosphere and (c) anything that the Major Food Group are involved in. I want to be coddled, quiet, left alone to enjoy the food that I have chosen, and not lectured during supper. That does tend to rule out 90% of the current faves. A tasting menu - man am I over that. With wine pairings - even worse!

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Thanks a lot for your reply! No, you definitely don't come across as a naysayer. My feeling was that since you showed you have high standards, the places you would recommend would carry more weight from you than from some other people.

 

I really hope your experience at Lupa is better than my last time there. I had a pasta that was so salty I almost sent it back, and I don't plan on returning.

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Pan, I think I'm a little bit jaded, and there are many marvelous restaurants here that I can't abide because my job involves a lot of entertaining, often in lavish fashion, at the sorts of restaurants that get huge accolades for one thing or another - often some kind of taste sensation in huge variety, often a scene of one sort or another - but they are not complete dining experiences for me. I look at my posts above and they might come off as small-minded. So much of what I want when I dine out in New York is simply to be taken care of - of course the food must be delicious, but delicious food does not offset other qualities. You're an East Villager so you are in the heart of it - I know that when non-New Yorkers visit, they might want something totally different from what I do when I go out for a meal.

 

We'll see how it goes at Lupa.

 

Thanks.

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I haven't been to Lupa in ages...  in all my past experiences there, the food was always really good but I stuck to their wheelhouse of pastas and charcuterie.  The reason I haven't been back is because it's always a pita to get there and then have to wait around for an hour at the ridiculously crowded bar, constantly getting jostled and bumped, only to be shown to a table and be jostled and bumped from time to time as well.  Unless, of course, you enjoy dining at 4PM....  It's also sad to hear that the last time you were there, Pan, the pasta was that salty...

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And yet "salting" and "seasoning" is very dependent on the individual. What one person finds perfectly seasoned is TOO SALTY to another. And so it goes. As for "Restaurant Food"/"Professional Chefs' Tastes" versus everyone else --- hasn't it been said that professional chefs throw salt, salt and MORE SALT into everything? That the "secret" to Restaurant Food is MORE SALT? In a related sense there has even been commentary about how many chefs/sous-chefs smoke and how that might blunt their sense of taste, and why that might contribute to their tossing mountains of salt into dishes.  There are also regional differences - Mid-Western food, in my experience, is HEAVY on the salt; North-Eastern USA food much less so - and so on and so forth. A dairy-farming background, non-refrigeration background, etc etc all factor into it.

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Very true. I just spent a week de-salting my life to attempt to recalibrate. After just one week I'm toning down everything in the kitchen.

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Always thought Lupa was too salty and actually prefer Otto's pastas.  The wine dinner sounds good though.

 

Patrick: since you listed some Bklyn places on your post, I might as well weigh in & put in my usual plug for trying both Henry's End (non-fussy straight forward American menu w/an excellent wine list) & Noodle Pudding (fresh, friendly & non pretentious Italian) on Henry St in Bklyn Hts.  Since my wife and I are regulars & well known at both (& get comps regularly), I won't pretend to total objectivity, but think the world of both.  Feel free to name drop (Steve & Ginny) and hope that their love for my wife overshadows their disdain for me & my food boards.  And, while I'm at it, my own take is that Queen ain't what it was (I live 4 blocks away & have gone there for well over 30 years), while Bamonte's seems to have risen from the ashes to a be a solid red sauce choice.

 

 

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I think @patrickamory and I have roughly opposite tastes in dining! In particular I love tasting menus. Being forced to choose just a few things to eat, and then being stuck with a whole plate full? No thanks. In a tasting menu if one course is not to your taste, you shrug and wait for the next one. If you are only getting one entree and it is too salty, it ruins the entire meal. I particularly like the various "seasonal vegetable" tastings that some restaurants have taken to offering. We enjoyed a really excellent one at Grammercy Tavern a couple of years ago, for example. I think both Per Se and Daniel still have such things. Where else can I find a good one?

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I too like tasting menus.  It allows me to try what chef thinks is their best morsels of food.   As for wine pairing, it is almost always too expensive and too much alcohol for me.  I can order a cocktail and a glass of wine during dinner and that works fine for me.

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17 minutes ago, Chris Hennes said:

Where else can I find a good one?

I think Blanca is a good one, not 2 Michelin stars good, but 1 for sure.

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I think Blanca is a good choice too... but I think it is best in the spring and summer to really show off the produce they grow themselves. 

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With regard to tasting menus, I think it has to do with what you want out of a meal. I find the profusion of courses and tastes to be overwhelming, and find a classically balanced meal with, say, 3 courses (if French or Italian) or a multitude of simultaneous yet complementary courses (as in the case of many Asian cuisines) to be not only more satisfying as a whole for my tastebuds, but also more conducive to conversation, atmosphere, conviviality and a sense of occasion. All of which I generally seek when dining out. As always, chacun à son goût & that's what makes life great, etc.

 

Steve, I know and appreciate Henry's End and have been going there for years. It has been a little while though. Since I have a friend who lives on Remsen Street now, maybe I'll return in the near future. Queen - I happen to have had a great meal there two months ago. The owner was charming and the scarpariello (always a litmus test for me at old-school Italian) really delicious. Maybe we lucked out?

 

Agreed that Bamonte's has had a bit of a renaissance in recent years. You have to choose carefully of course - they actually do a terrible veal piccata - but that massive, tender pork chop with hot & sweet vinegar peppers is one of my favorite meals in New York.


Edited by patrickamory (log)

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Steve, in the past, I found that things were intermittently oversalted at Lupa, but the last time I was there, it was awful. I agree that Otto is better in that regard. I had a very good meal there last spring.

 

gfron1, if you are now doing low-salt cooking, we have things to talk about in the Cooking thread, as that's exactly what I'm doing now, too, and therefore, I'm not eating out much at all, at least for now (my BP is down nicely, but I'm still on medications and also need to lose more weight). The only places where I eat are places that can actually make things for me that are without salt, and that's mostly not really worth doing except at places that are cheap and convenient.

 

I think tasting menus can be great, but I don't like it when they're only 2 bites of each course. I think the best "tasting menu" I ever had was probably the 10-course kaiseki at Kyo Ya, back in 2012 or so. No wine pairings, just a couple of great sakes with the meal. It was very expensive, but it was worth doing once (and again someday, if I come into more money). I also had a very good tasting menu, also not with wine pairings as such but with several wines (at least 3 pours, but we might have had a dessert wine, too) chosen in consultation with the staff at Degustation the previous year. I remember having wine pairings somewhere, but I don't remember where. I guess I feel like tasting menus are fine when they're a real event. This isn't something I can do regularly, and it also isn't something I'd want to do often, as my experience was that they are very filling (though I've read accounts of tasting menus that somehow are not).

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3 hours ago, patrickamory said:

With regard to tasting menus, I think it has to do with what you want out of a meal. I find the profusion of courses and tastes to be overwhelming, and find a classically balanced meal with, say, 3 courses (if French or Italian) or a multitude of simultaneous yet complementary courses (as in the case of many Asian cuisines) to be not only more satisfying as a whole for my tastebuds, but also more conducive to conversation, atmosphere, conviviality and a sense of occasion. All of which I generally seek when dining out. As always, chacun à son goût & that's what makes life great, etc.

 

Steve, I know and appreciate Henry's End and have been going there for years. It has been a little while though. Since I have a friend who lives on Remsen Street now, maybe I'll return in the near future. Queen - I happen to have had a great meal there two months ago. The owner was charming and the scarpariello (always a litmus test for me at old-school Italian) really delicious. Maybe we lucked out?

 

Agreed that Bamonte's has had a bit of a renaissance in recent years. You have to choose carefully of course - they actually do a terrible veal piccata - but that massive, tender pork chop with hot & sweet vinegar peppers is one of my favorite meals in New York.

 

I really hope that your meal at Queen was not luck, but a sign of their return to what they were.  Please go back 3 or 4 more times and make sure, ok? :). By the way, was the charming guy the short front of house manager?  He's been there forever but he's not the owner - it's owned (last I looked) by the sons of the original chef/owner, one of whom is quite a talented chef in his own right & who I'm not sure is in the kitchen these days.

 

While we're on the topic of pork chops w/peppers (we are on that topic, aren't we?), the best used to be found at 2 Toms on 3rd Ave off Union.  Their pastas sucked but boy did they have chops.  Wonder what's up there these days.

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