In New York it’s hard to keep up with the restaurant scene because in even in a recession there are plenty of new openings. In a city with some 18,500 restaurants, there’s no excuse for not expanding your dining horizons. But I think the real secret to a memorable experience is to follow the buzz instead of the herd.
One of my favorites is Braeburn in the West Village, where a contemporary American bistro aesthetic prevails: Stained light walnut wood covers the floor, and the windows of the entrance and dining room are adorned with alder wood branches. If it’s chicken pot pie night you’re in for a treat, and on any night, the apple cider doughnut holes are not to be missed.
Though always buzzing with a hip international crowd, there always seems to be a table ready at Delicatessen, which of course is not really a delicatessen. It is, rather, a sleek downtown cafeteria for the 21st century. Expect the likes of Cheeseburger Spring Rolls (bechamel sauce is involved), grilled mahi mahi tacos, Prince Edward Island mussels and Grandma’s Meatloaf.
Terminally trendy though it may be, the food at the gorgeous Chelsea spot Buddakan is excellent. TV addicts might recognize the restaurant’s 35-foot Chinoiserie, the chandelier-lit, opulent dining room that contains a central communal table seating up to 30 people, from an episode of Sex and the City. Signature entrées include Clay Pot Chicken with bamboo shoots, eggplant and pickled lotus; and Szechuan Crusted Ribeye with turnip fries and homemade Hong Kong steak sauce.
For a real splurge, head to Midtown and Gilt. The gilded walls and cathedral ceilings of this space (location of which inside the New York Palace Hotel confers hidden-gem status) date from the 1880s and were given a modern makeover by Frenchman Patrick Jouin. Start with a rabbit terrine with Meyer lemon and quince before moving on to Tandoori-spiced black cod with roasted eggplant and toasted coconut, suckling pig with olives, cardoons, fregola and cipollini onions. For dessert, try one of pastry chef David Carmichael’s works of edible art: huckleberry crème brûlée, passion fruit pavlova with mango tarte tatin or maybe his Sicilian pistachio millefeuille with orange-scented cream.
How about nightlife? New York’s gay bars are generally going strong, even in a downbeat economy, but where can you go to get your inner mirror ball spinning? I spoke to Sy Boccari, the cute lead singer from Naked Highway, and he says it’s all about the parties. “Most parties in NYC last a few months to a year at best, and there are always lots of cool one-time events, so it's best to your research the week before you arrive!” he says. But as of April 2009, he recommends:
- Monday: Therapy in Hell’s Kitchen (PsychoBabble with Mimi Imfirst and DJ Kevin Graves).
- Tuesday: Good night to hop to Brooklyn. Stop at Barcade followed by Karoke at Metropolitan (Metropolitan Ave in Brooklyn).
- Wednesday: Le Raunch @ The Hose on Ave B (Formika Jones party). Eastern Bloc on 6th and Ave A is usually packed on a Wednesday.
- Thursday: Good night for dinner with friends, maybe a hooka lounge. Hade Bade hooka lounge in the East Village is good. And there’s usually something going on at Happy Ending in the Lower East Side.
- Friday: Mr. Black – House of Stank are the resident DJs — my fav DJ team right now — or SNAXX party.
- Saturday: Anywhere you go is a hot party. Mr. Black or Studio B in Brooklyn are good.
- Sunday: The Greenhouse in Tribeca with Suzanne Bartsch and open bar 10-11 p.m.
Of course, in New York, the hard part is what to choose when the choices are so many. But I’ll side with Sy on Monday and Sunday: both Therapy’s and Bartsch’s parties come out ahead for that cool New York edge that doesn’t grow on trees – not in today’s Manhattan, at any rate.
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Anthony Grant created the first travel blog for TV station France 24 in Paris and is former senior editor at Forbes Traveler (where he now contributes features) in New York. For more of his wanderer’s words and whims hit http://voyagiste.wordpress.com/