NYC Dining Guide 2010 from The Travel Provocateur

Last week has been crazy busy for me, with all of us in the family getting sick with flu-like symptoms. But there can be no rest for a mother (a 24/7 job) nor a blogger like me (I am always writing, editing, collecting ideas, dreaming, etc.)

Thus, I took this opportunity to collate notes, articles, and reviews on some New York dining establishments that we’ve been to. I put it all together in my (other) travel blog, The Travel Provocateur. The Travel Provocateur is the other platform where I report on destinations, restaurants, hotels, and unique experiences in a news format, versus the more personal approach I take at this blog.

I hope you can support The Travel Provocateur the same way you are supporting Folie à Deux. If you enjoy my Travel Provocateur travel articles, please consider subscribing to my feed or subscribing to The Travel Provocateur by email. With an email subscription, regular updates will be delivered straight to your inbox, and you can unsubscribe anytime you are not satisfied. Also, I do not send spam emails; only the latest news and reviews in travel!

In the meantime, I am republishing my NYC Dining Guide 2010, originally posted here. I welcome comments and suggestions, so I hope to hear from you!

New York City, New York – With nearly 19,000 eating establishments in New York City, the 8 million locals, 7 million outer borough residents, and 45 million visitors a year are spoilt for choice in the city that never sleeps. The sheer breadth of New York City’s culinary offerings is simply mind-blowing. When it comes to global cuisine, it bows to no man. French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Greek, German, Scandinavian, Hungarian, Polish, Turkish, Ukrainian, Jewish, Middle Eastern, Persian, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Malaysian, Ethiopian, Moroccan, Caribbean, Brazilian, Argentinian, Peruvian, Mexican, American, or any combination thereof…you name it, the city’s got it!

The Travel Provocateur has relentlessly eaten its way through New York, weeding out the bad and reaping the good, to bring you this guide. However, restaurants change and chefs tend to sometimes play musical chairs with their career, so naturally, we will edit this guide to reflect the ever-changing scene. Although we aim to represent many types of food, budget, and experiences, we realize that this is not always possible. But since this is only our first installment, we will be adding to this list as we see fit. Nonetheless, here are our picks for essential New York dining experiences, so read on.

110 Waverly Place, NY 10011
212 777 0303

Opening to great acclaim in 1998, Babbo remains, today, one of New York’s top restaurants. The food is classic Italian with a modern spin, featuring local ingredients from the finest purveyors in the country. The menu showcases traditional Italian dishes that have layers upon layers of bold flavours. Don’t be surprised to see fresh sardines drizzled with rich lobster oil – there’s always an extra oomph! in Mario Batali’s Babbo dishes!

80 Spring Street, NY 10012
212 965 1414

Granted, this SoHo eatery is like a sophisticated Disneyland for chic European expats and wanna-be’s more than the bonafide brasserie it purports to be. Yet despite its reputation, Balthazar remains a valiant place to nosh on Paris-style comfort food amidst a raucous setting. As well, the bakery next door peddles a variety of breads and pastries that are just to-die for. Don’t forget to book your reservations, as the dining room gets pretty busy on any given day or night.

The Breslin
16 West 29th Street, NY
212 679 1939

They’ve recently earned their 1st Michelin star in 2010, which I’m sure is quite expected when you have April Bloomfield as a partner. The Breslin is a nod to the Meatpacking District’s The Spotted Pig, and just like its older sibling, the kitchen utilizes lots of meat – from head to toe. Popular cuts will go on the menu as mains, and the trimmings into terrines and sausages. The dishes to try? The Terrine Board, Crispy Sweetbreads with Curried Lentils, and Pig’s Foot for 2. Watch out for this gastropub’s meteoric rise!

Casa Mono
52 Irving Place, NY 10003
212 253 2773

Chef Andy Nusser has been cobbling together wonderful tapas-style dishes at Casa Mono since opening in 2004. Service here can be terse at times, but what comes out of the kitchen is a wonderfully eclectic and inventive Spanish fare. Some standout items are Pan con Tomate, Duck Egg with Mojama (salt-cured tuna loin), Sepia a la Plancha, and Bacalao Croquetas with Orange Aioli. Be prepared to wait for a table, as this place gets packed easily.

45 Tudor City Place, NY 10017
212 599 5045

Chef and master pasta maker Michael White hits all the right notes with Convivio. Focusing on soulful Southern Italian food, Convivio’s chefs diligently crafts gorgeous pastas with equally gorgeous sauces. Interesting enough, sfizi are featured on their menu, a kind of pre-antipasti. We loved the Arancini (saffron risotto croquettes) and Melanzane (eggplant, agrodolce, onions) sfizi. Basically, you can’t go wrong with any of the pasta dishes, and their fish and meat entrées are particularly strong.

239 East 5th Street, NY 10003
212 979 1012

If you are looking for modern Spanish food in the city, you really can’t go wrong with Degustation. Here, it comes down to this: the tasting menu. There’s a 5-course and a 10-course tasting menu that are a great value, allowing you to sample many of the chef’s creations. The venue is intimate with walls lined in sleek, black slate-tiles; a tiered wooden sushi bar doubles as the dining table; and an open kitchen performs for guests 6 nights of the week.

Eleven Madison Park
11 Madison Avenue, NY 10010
212 889 0905

Since the arrival of Swiss-born Executive Chef Daniel Humm in 2006, the restaurant achieved a Grand Chef Relais and Châteaux status, awarded four stars by The New York Times, and placed on San Pellegrino’s World’s Best 50 Restaurants. These are just three of the many accolades given to Eleven Madison Park’s elegant and refined cuisine that’s built on French classics. And we can’t see the momentum stopping anytime soon.

† Hop Kee
21 Mott Street, NY 10013
212 964 8365

With the closure of our number 1 hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant pick (which was Hop Shing on Chatham Square), Hop Kee takes over the spot. Easily. We love coming to Hop Kee for a quick, late-night fix – sounds dangerous, doesn’t it? But the food here is nothing of that sort. In fact, Hop Kee serves an excellent and reliable Deep Fried Spicy Squid, Salt-and-Pepper Pork, Snails in Black Bean Sauce, and Cantonese Crab.

65 4th Avenue, NY 10003
212 388 0088

This is not the ramen from your university days – remember that! While Ippudo NY is really part of the ramen chain that started in Fukuoka, Japan, their noodle dishes are as authentic as it gets on this side of the world. Tonkotsu (pig bone) broths are silky and hearty; the noodles are excellent; the kakuni (pork belly) topping is tender and flavoursome. Expect large crowds during peak times, as New Yorkers go ga-ga over ramen.

Jean Georges
1 Central Park West, NY 10023
212 299 3900

With hotel partnerships, cookbook deals, and new restaurant ventures all over the world, Jean Georges Vongerichten may be one of the busiest chefs in America. However, his namesake restaurant in New York remains a exemplary venue for JG’s innovative cuisine. Don’t call it fusion food, though, because it’s a hell lot more than combining East-West ingredients. His is a marriage of classical French and Asian techniques, which results in a lighter, contemporary fare.

La Esquina
114 Kenmare, NY 10012
646 613 7100

For quick, street-style tacos that are reminiscent of the ones found in Mexico City, La Esquina taqueria is a cut above the rest. Although they have a brasserie downstairs and a café next door to the stand, nothing compares to eating those sloppy, juicy tacos under their neon sign. We recommend their tacos bistec, picadillo, carnitas, and lengua (tongue). You can wash it all down with Mexican soda or guava nectar.

Little Giant
85 Orchard Street, NY 10002
212 226 5047

Opened in 2004 by Julie Taras and Tasha Garcia in the once bedraggled neighbourhood of Lower East Side, Little Giant is now a favourite meeting place for young families and artistic-types who have moved into the neighbourhood. The dinner menu is focused and well-edited: about half a dozen nibblers, half a dozen starters, and about the same number of sides and mains. However, our preferred meal here is the weekend brunch, where we have a slight bias towards their truffled grilled cheese sandwich, mac ‘n cheese, or any of the egg dishes.

The Little Owl
90 Bedford Street, NY 10014
212 741 4695

Every city needs a place like The Little Owl – a neighbourhood joint where the chef still cooks each and every night for his guests. It’s a charming 25-seater in the Village – by all means tiny for New York – but the place has a big heart. Chef Joey Campanaro, along with his small kitchen brigade, churns out delightful American and Mediterranean fare. They always have whole market fish on the menu, served with luscious lobster risotto. Meatball sliders, pork chops, fried chicken, and lamb are always well-executed.

39 Downing Street, NY 10014
212 255 1790
In Provence, a mas is an old stone farm house in the countryside. Although the restaurant of the same name in New York has a sleek and modern interior, glimpses of French Country emerge in little details such as barn wood slats, a sandstone bar, and hand-stitched pillows. The menu is equal parts modern (think emulsions and infusions) and elemental (think market-driven ingredients). The result? A New American Cuisine from an award-winning chef by the name of Galen Zamarra.

Per Se
Time Warner Center, 10 Columbus Circle at 60th Street, 4th floor, NY 10019
212 823 9335

If you had to splurge on a single experience, let this be the one. It pretty much doesn’t get better than Thomas Keller’s Per Se. Thomas Keller, the only chef in America with two 3-Michelin star restaurants (Per Se is one of them), is extolled for being on top of his game in his métier as a chef. Yes, the 5 US price tag for his tasting menu is seemingly exorbitant, but considering the high level of service and the number of dishes involved, it could be argued that the value is somewhat of a bargain.

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