In honor of the Fourth of July holiday, we've rounded up stories on top destinations nationwide.
by Andy Lynes, The Telegraph, March 27, 2018
Fellow restaurant obsessives will understand the exquisite pain of planning a trip abroad. That desperate need to ensure you’ll dine in the “right” places; those “hot spots” identified from newspaper articles, Instagram feeds and tips from industry insiders. Imagine my angst, then, when at short notice I landed a two-night trip to New York. So many possibilities, so little time.
With about 45,000 places to eat and drink and 200 new openings a year, New York has a truly dynamic restaurant scene. But as I trawled through reviews, I had a sinking feeling. Nowhere really appealed. Not the “epic charcuterie” at Sunday in Brooklyn, recommended by Steve Plotnicki, founder of cult website OpinionatedAboutDining.com; not Simon and the Whale at the Freehand hotel in Gramercy, on eater.com’s list of “hottest restaurants in Manhattan right now”. They sounded great, just not “New York” enough.
For once, I landed at JFK without a spreadsheet full of reservations. At Mr Purple, the chic rooftop bar of the Indigo Hotel on the Lower East Side, I sipped a thyme-infused vodka and lime cocktail and pondered my options. Maybe it was seeing the iconic Empire State Building, but I realised I’d been looking for a quintessential NYC dining experience in all the wrong places. Instead of chasing the new – which, however great, would likely reflect global trends already available in London – I should focus on timeless classics.
Over the next two days I covered 13 miles on foot, attempting walk-ins at some of the city’s best-loved restaurants. First stop, Union Square Café. Opened in 1985 by Danny Meyer, the restaurant relocated in 2016 to the busy intersection of Park Avenue South and East 19th Street, but little has changed about the look and feel of the place with its double height ceiling and mezzanine level, polished wood floors, crisp white linen-covered tables and walls hung with works of fine art. It feels like the sort of place where deals are done but also where marriages are made. Most of all, it feels like New York.
I settled on a stool at the dark wood bar with a glass of bone-dry New York State riesling and a plate of sweet and briny East Coast oysters. I was tempted to ask for a table to explore the menu, which included lamb chops “scotta ditta” (marinated and grilled Italian-style) but I felt the need to explore the city further.
After a concession to new-ish New York at the six-year-old NoMad hotel on 28th and Broadway (where I sampled chef Daniel Humm’s meltingly tender braised veal cheek with pickled turnips and a frothy mustard sauce), I headed to Gramercy Tavern on East 20th Street. It’s a New Yorker’s interpretation of a Provencal auberge, with abundant flower displays and colourful wall murals.
At 3pm, the bar crackled with life and, appetite sharpened by all that walking, I savoured grilled octopus with aioli and pine nuts, and couldn’t resist a glass of fresh, floral albarino.
Next day, I was happy to settle on one lunchtime destination – the Gotham Bar and Grill in Greenwich Village. For 34 years, Alfred Portale has headed up the kitchens and resisted the temptation to launch a global empire; this is the only place in the world where you can eat his food. In those three decades, the decor hasn’t changed much. The room, which has a timeless elegance, is a big space with an expansive bar and a main dining area flooded with natural light from a row of huge leaded windows. The three-course “market menu” features slightly scaled-down versions of the more expensive à la carte dishes, perfect for lunch. At $38 (£27), it’s one of the city’s fine dining bargains.
It was a faultless meal of intense flavours and quality ingredients cooked with accuracy: chicory, apple and squash salad; sea bass with blood orange emulsion; lemon parfait with matcha sable and mandarin sorbet. Such dishes aren’t going to grab the headlines as the menu from the latest hot chef in Brooklyn might, but this place transcends fads and fashion.
On my flight back to London I knew that, after all that angst, I had found the “right” New York restaurants. I could sleep easy.