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Our sample NY itinerary


Simon_S
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Hi folks,

My gf turns 30 at the end of April (and I turn 31 the following day!) so we're planning a trip to NY to celebrate and, of course, to eat. Now, without wanting to jinx things too much, we were fortunate enough to find ourselves at elBulli for her birthday last year, so we're going somewhat all out on this trip. We haven't been to NY since 2000, and we can't wait to get back and sample some of the better restaurants.

Okay, so I've put together a sample itinerary that at the moment is a work in progress. I would obviously like some opinions on it, but while I'm here, I really want to find out is it realistic. I have us going to Daniel on a Friday night and WD-50 on a Saturday. What's more, we both hate to eat too early or too late, so ideally we'd be looking for a table at 7:30 at the earliest, to maybe 9:30 at the latest. I know the NY scene is probably a little different to what I'm used to (!) but is this even remotely possible? Is there anything I can do to help secure reservations? I should stress, I'm not too proud to beg if that would help! :smile:

In any case, we want to include a good mix of NY restaurants. I'm not so bothered about getting to Ramsay or Ducasse, as I can sample their empires closer to home. Per Se is probably an obvious choice, but we *really* want to go to FL at some later point and don't want to spoil the surprise. Here's the list, let me know what you think:

Arr Thurs 26th April

Lunch: Whatever we can grab on our way in from the airport

Dinner: Gramercy Tavern, possibly in the Tavern room. We're looking for a suitably New York first night, but will probably be too jet-lagged to appreciate Fine Dining.

Fri 27th April (Hazel's birthday)

Lunch: Pizza/Slice somewhere TBC.

Dinner: Daniel.

Sat 28th April (my birthday)

Lunch: Katz's

Dinner: WD-50

Sun 29th

Brunch: TBC

Dinner: Grand Sichuan (which one?)

Mon 30th

Lunch: Jean-Georges

Dinner: Aeroplane food! :sad:

How does that look?

Any advice would be gratefully received, as I've plenty of time to think about this plan. The last time we were in NY we made horrible food choices (can't remember where we ate) and we don't want to repeat the mistake. If anyone has any top tips for getting difficult reservations, I'd be chuffed to hear them!!

Thanks,

Si

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Simon, that looks eminently doable. You shouldn't have a problem getting reservatyions at any of those places as long as you don't wait until the last minute. Based on how far along you are already, I don't think that is likely. :smile: I think WD-50 is a natural choice for you and J-G a great choice for lunch prior to your trip home. The other choices should be fine, though I am curious as to how you chose them.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Hi Doc, you're quick on the draw!

To be honest, Daniel pretty much chose itself after the Michelin thread here, and other Michelin reporting elsewhere. I suppose on the one hand we're looking for a reasonably high-end experience for Hazel's birthday, in the Michelin 2-3 star range, but on the other we don't want an excessively French experience. (Proximity to France means we get to experience that more often than the NY high-end.) Even the vague idea that Michelin doesn't "get" NY dining by not granting Daniel 3 stars means I need to check it out!

Katz's is on the list because of FG's comment somewhere (I'm paraphrasing) that if you don't like the pastrami at Katz's then you just don't get pastrami. In truth, I barely know what pastrami is, so I've got to sample it. Plus, I've always found those full-to-bursting deli sandwiches a classic NY image, so I need to get my hands on one.

Grand Sichuan I chose in an attempt to finally exorcise the demons of a spectacularly bad Chinese meal on our last visit to NY. Plus, we love Sichuan food, love the peppercorns, and we needed a somewhat inexpensive dinner somewhere along the way.

Gramercy Tavern is the one that I'm least sure about. I've seen it on lists of "good" restaurants before, it has a cool name, and I thought it might be a classic intro to NY on our first night. It sounds silly, but the phenomenon of "eating at the bar" doesn't exist over here, and I'd quite like to try it!

Notable absences on the list include a good NY steakhouse and a good Japanese restaurant. In truth, time and cost are both factors here, in addition to the fact that we can have steak anytime (I know I know, possibly not like this, but still), and we don't know enough about Japanese food to really appreciate it.

Thank you for your feedback. It's good to know that I'm at least on the right track. And don't worry, I won't be leaving it too late to book. :wink:

Si

[edited to add: when I say that eating at the bar doesn't exist over here, I don't mean that people don't eat in bars. What I mean is that, for the most part, good restaurants don't have bar areas, so if you're eating in a restaurant, you're at a table. I don't know why this captures my imagination in any way, shape or form, but it does!!]

Edited by Simon_S (log)
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It sounds wonderful, Si.

I'd agree that most of those are pretty much the ones that I would target if I were to do the same. I know that my sister and her boy went to Babbo for his 30th. Think they did Babbo and Balthazar, so not quite as "fine-dining" as you, but still fairly new yorky.

I'dd do an amazing sushi experience if I could (and was travelling with someone other than my husband, who doesn't like it - how did I manage to marry someone who doesn't like sushi?) - yasuda, I think. I'd nix the chinese, I think, but that's probably just sheer stupidity on my part.

I want pictures. I know it's not for months and months. But I've been obsessing about a new york trip for a while now.

One of my favourite new york moments was a pretzel in central park surrounded by snow (mid-feb 05), the afternoon we arrived. Had I been wearing a neon flashing sign saying "overexcited tourist" it couldn't have been more obvious.

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Simon, I can't argue with your itinerary based on your reasoning. I agree with catriona about the sushi. It would be a good choice for your first evening as it is a relatively quick meal. An omakase dinner at Yasuda at his station will take only around one hour. It is extremely efficient, fun and delicious as well as what has become classic New York. It is also not outrageously expensive for its quality. You could then have Chinese for Sunday brunch whether at Grand Szechuan or dim sum at a place like Chinatown Brasserie with dinner at Gramercy Tavern or equivalent Sunday night. Another possibility for the Sunday night would be a steakhouse. There certainly are enough to choose from now.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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If you're looking for a bar-like dining experience, only cooler, go to Bouley Upstairs. It's relatively cheap and, like at Gramercy Tavern front room, you'll probably end up waiting for a table, too. I'd also suggest the Bar Room at the Modern for a very New York chic but casual dining experience. Upstairs and the Bar Room are radically different from one another, but both are much cooler than GT tavern room.

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A number of places mentioned were on my longer short-list. In the interests of full disclosure, here are the extras that I have written on the back of the writing pad on my desk:

Peter Luger's (or some other steakhouse), ADNY, Ramsay, Eleven Madison, Per Se, Bouley, Danube, Cru, Blue Hill, Nobu, Babbo, Balthazar, Spice Market, Spotted pig.

As for sushi, well...eh...I *like* sushi, but I don't *love* sushi. At least, not with my current levels of experience of it. It's just not something I'd actively seek out, and it's quite possible that I could eat the best sushi in the world and just not get it. Of course, the opposite is also possible, but I didn't really want to take the risk on such a short and rare trip to NY.

More to the point, I suggested it to Hazel and she nixed the idea straight away. I know which side my bread is buttered!!

Having said all of this, I haven't totally ruled it out and Doc's plan may not be a bad one...

Catriona, one happy memory of our last trip was standing in the p***ing rain in Central Park eating a slice of pizza and watching squirrels. There we were in the most cosmopolitan city in the world, surrounded by all the trappings of modern living, and we're standing watching squirrels. Over-excited tourist doesn't even begin to cover it. Sheesh!

Bryan, the first night dinner is definitely up for discussion, and those two sound like excellent suggestions. I'll add them to our increasingly large pot of ideas!

Susan, it's a kind offer, but I'm not sure that Hazel would understand. :biggrin:

Si

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Simon, correct me if I am wrong, but my impression is that you actually wish to dine at the bar at Gramercy Tavern and not necessarily just in the tavern room or a "bar-like experience". At Bouley Upstairs you could potentially sit at the bar right on top of the kitchen. If David Bouley is there cooking it could be particularly fun and a good value. the problem may be waiting for a spot. Just on food alone though, I would choose Blue Hill over Gramercy Tavern. Babbo is a quintessential New York experience, though I have become less a fan of Batali since he opened Del Posto. I would suggest focusing at least one of your meals on a restaurant that highlights New York area produce. Blue Hill would fit that bill. Others would include Mas(Farmhouse) and Savoy. With these restaurants you may get a taste of the terroir. :smile:

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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I just had dinner at the bar last week at Gramercy and it was amazing. Some of Chef Anthony's dishes ae starting to make their way on the menu. Also they have some fantastic cocktails to sample as well.

I second doc, Spice Market you can pass on. I also like Blue Hill, Chef Barbers place. They have a very small bar ~8 seats, but I have had many a great meal sitting at the bar there. They serve the full menu.

Ramsay looks like it could be good, especially for lunch. The initial reviews ae promising, I am going there for dinner Monday so look for a dinner report sometimes Tuesday.

A Voce could be anothe choice if you want a dining at the bar experience.

John

John Deragon

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As for sushi, well...eh...I *like* sushi, but I don't *love* sushi.

Having said all of this, I haven't totally ruled it out and Doc's plan may not be a bad one...

If you are considering Yasuda but don't want to use a dinner slot (and drop serious cash) the lunch special might work. I think it's $20 pp. A major steal at a fraction of what dinner will run you.

That wasn't chicken

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your itinerary is terrific.

for your first night Yasuda would be a great pick.

as would Bouley Upstairs or Bar Room at the Modern.

I also would suggest dining at the bar at Perry Street as another option.

most under-the-radar great restaurant in the city imho.

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Simon, I don't know what or where your previous sushi experience has been, but if you don't like the sushi at Yasuda, you can definitely say that you don't like sushi.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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One geographical note: Katz's is about a 90-second walk from WD-50. Do you plan to spend the whole afternoon until dinner on the lower east side? If not, it might make more sense, from the tourism standpoint, to do those two on separate days. You could, of course, do Katz's on your first evening. Not relaxing, but not intellectually challenging either.

Apart from Jean Georges, I don't think you have anything on the upper west side. Consider Telepan.

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Katz's is on the list because of FG's comment somewhere (I'm paraphrasing) that if you don't like the pastrami at Katz's then you just don't get pastrami. In truth, I barely know what pastrami is, so I've got to sample it. Plus, I've always found those full-to-bursting deli sandwiches a classic NY image, so I need to get my hands on one.

Grand Sichuan I chose in an attempt to finally exorcise the demons of a spectacularly bad Chinese meal on our last visit to NY. Plus, we love Sichuan food, love the peppercorns, and we needed a somewhat inexpensive dinner somewhere along the way.

Notable absences on the list include a good NY steakhouse and a good Japanese restaurant. In truth, time and cost are both factors here, in addition to the fact that we can have steak anytime (I know I know, possibly not like this, but still), and we don't know enough about Japanese food to really appreciate it.

In terms of an experience you shouldn't miss out on Katz's.. and a bursting deli sandwich (rye of course) might as well be on the City seal... if you're 2, get a corned beef and swap halves too...

You asked which Grand Sichuan, 23rd & 9th and 51st & 9th are the originals and have served me solidly for years....

While knowing a lot about Japanese food might make you a snob, not knowing enough about it doesn't mean you can't enjoy the great Japanese food available in NYC, it's really the best outside of Japan.

Question is, do you not love sushi because you haven't been to the right places, or you simply don't love it. If it's the latter, and your gf already vetoed it, best not to waste a trip to Yasuda. As for a sushi lunch, $20 can get you a more standard sushi set lunch (tekkamaki, salmon, tuna, tamago, etc.) but an omakase is gonna cost you the same lunch or dinner.

Additionally, sushi is just one very small subset of Japanese food. It caught on like wildfire here and for whatever reason, perhaps 1 out of 2 Japanese restaurants in the US are sushi restaurants, while 1 out of 20 might be sushi restaurants in Japan... you might want to try kaiseki @ Sugiyama where there are only a couple of sushi/sashimi courses, or try another of NYC's top-flight Japanese...

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although the prix fixe lunch at Yasuda is indeed rather standard (although including such items as the amazing salmon skin roll -- which Grimes rightfully compared to bacon), it works well as an affordable base. one can add a number of ala carte pieces on top of it and still end up under $40 a head.

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I still think that the Grand Sichuan on 9th Av. just north of 50th St. is overall the best (as always, if you stick to the Sichuan and Hunan menus and special menus like the fresh chicken menu and the dishes for the Prodigal Daughter).

If you don't mind taking the time to go to Flushing (and seeing a nice view of Manhattan from the train), Spicy & Tasty is better and a bit cheaper and has a much longer menu, without American-Chinese items.

Chinatown Brasserie was mentioned. They serve great dim sum items, but it's expensive and would throw the idea of saving money at a Chinese restaurant out the window. I don't know how good the dim sum is in England, but the dim sum at CB is probably the best I've had in the U.S. to date.

Oh, one other point: You may be able to bring your own food onto the plane and not have airline food. I've been known to bring a Katz's pastrami sandwich and a large cole slaw onto a plane. I haven't kept up with the current regulations on what you can bring on planes, however.

Edited by Pan (log)

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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As for a sushi lunch, $20 can get you a more standard sushi set lunch (tekkamaki, salmon, tuna, tamago, etc.)  but an omakase is gonna cost you the same lunch or dinner.

Should have made this clearer - this applies to most sushi bars, not just Yasuda. Most have a sushi set lunch. But similar sets are available at dinner too.

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For the N Y Chinatown experience I would recommend the "Great N.Y. Noodletown" on the Bowery. Never disappointed. No pretense here just the real thing. On our last visit we tried the pig stomach porridge, the duck, and I can't remember how many more plates - outstanding.

Jmahl

The Philip Mahl Community teaching kitchen is now open. Check it out. "Philip Mahl Memorial Kitchen" on Facebook. Website coming soon.

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I'll add my 2 cents here ... the only place on your list I'd reconsider might be Gramercy on the first night - and I only say might because they're in the midst of a chef-change right now, and April is a long way off. The other reason I'd stay away from the Tavern Room on the first night is the fact that they don't take reservations - same thing goes for Bouley Upstairs ... I love both of these places, but when you're just off the plane and if you don't want to eat too early or too late you're going to find yourself waiting for a long stretch. I agree with those who suggested the Bar Room at the Modern and Savoy in particular for a not-too-formal but still top notch food experience your first night. I'd also add to the list Hearth ... they have three bar seats at the pass where you can watch the kitchen up close and see Marco Canora (an incredible chef and a Gramercy Tavern alum) in action. I think everything else on your list looks great.

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