If there's any chef in NYC associated with an over-the-top attitude from classic French cuisine masters, it's Alain Ducasse. With Adour, which opened at the beginning of 2008, this legendary restaurateur adds to his legend with a plush, intimate environment perfectly suited to his reputation. Design guru David Rockwell has unveiled a grand, aesthetic ambience that equals Ducasse’s gastronomical vision.
Employing various baroque affectations of "le restaurant classique" as envisioned in classic cinema, the back-to-basics menu themes are embodied in Adour's look and feel. Executive Chef Joel Dennis is particular in using the finest ingredients in his seasonal menu. Foie Gras Ravioli makes for an ever-rich starter. The succulent Duck Breast or tender Pork Loin, are excellent entree choices. Pear Clafoutis, embellished with honey ice cream, is perfect to satisfy the sweet side of the palate. Expect to be pampered with the impeccable service.
Named after the Adour River which flows near Ducasse’s hometown in southwestern France, just as the best wines flow here as well, with over 600 fine selections.
At the St. Regis Hotel, 2 East 55th Street 212-710-2277
The clean lines of Nordic design and cool furniture makes this venerable Scandinavian restaurant feel very modern, with dark wood tones lending warmth, and cherry blossoms in vases offering a minimalist touch. The restaurant's homemade aquavits are displayed along the wall, like pieces of art, in luminous square tankards. With an upscale business crowd in the dining room and more casual diners in the newly re-positioned cafe, Aquavit feels like the quintessential Euro restaurant in NYC.
Chef Marcus Samuelsson's excellent dishes nourish the palate with the delicate simplicity of the Scandinavian aesthetic. Foie gras ganache--cake with a gooey, duck liver center--combines wonderfully with octopus and smoked trout companions; hot smoked arctic char is enhanced by the sharpness of a green apple horseradish broth and the earthiness of black truffles and grilled asparagus; a "lobster roll" features shellfish neatly wrapped in a thin layer of tart green apple. For a closer, a goat cheese parfait with blueberry sorbet lends a light touch to the meal that never makes it feel weighty.
Samuelsson has stocked the café menu with traditional Swedish favorites such as Beef Rydberg (diced sirloin with sweet onions and raw egg), bites of herring flavored with vodka or curry and apples, and an eccentric, salty-sweet mound of egg salad and anchovies called "Gentleman's Delight." Of course, there are the aquavits. The oddest of the flavors is roasted-pumpkin-and-espresso.
Evoking a classic Parisian brasserie, Balthazar offers a French menu prepared by chefs de cuisine Riad Nasr and Lee Hanson. With an extensive wine list, raw seafood bar, breads and pastries from its own excellent bakery, Balthazar serves traditional bistro meals from breakfast through late-night supper.
Opened by master restauranteur Keith McNally in the spring 1997, Balthazar is also renowned for its airy design being housed in a converted leather wholesaler's warehouse; over 200 people can be accommodated in the dining room and at the zinc bar.
Balthazar is McNally's benchmark, a touch of Paris in downtown Manhattan where diners can try the house salad with baby greens, fennel, asparagus and haricots verts draped in white-truffle oil; duck confit with wild mushrooms; skate with raisins and capers; the requisite steak frites; "Le Balthazar" plateau de fruit de mer; tender braised short ribs; shepherd's pie made with duck or grilled dorade ringed by roasted eggplant and peppers. Weekend brunches draw bustling foodies hungry for savory crepes, puff pastry stuffed with scrambled eggs (doused with hollandaise sauce), and French toast made with homemade brioche.
Bouley, the restaurant, represents a landmark in fine dining and exquisite cuisine, that Chef David Bouley has worked hard to establish. As the flagship of Bouley's Tribeca restaurant empire, the level of quality serves to proclaim him as a legendary, world-renowned restaurant stylist. Now in its newer location, Bouley has put aside his boutique breads, the oven, and cafe to make room for lots more seats.
Loyal Bouley fans relish in the degustation menus that focuses on the freshest seasonal ingredients. But that's not all. Bouley's strength lies in layered flavors that don't overshadow a dish's essence. Silky black bass with porcini mushrooms carries smoky, earthy and buttery overtones that never overpower the fish; whole-roasted baby pig that's been braised for 24 hours in five spice-ginger glaze, still retain its meaty taste. A colorful terrine of lobster, mango and artichoke wrapped in Serrano ham and drizzled with a passionfruit, coconut and tamarind dressing represents the chef at his best.
The decor suggests a country-styled restaurant, low-keyed and friendly, in haute bohemian Tribeca. There's a plush feel to all that makes the place less stuffy than many restaurants of this caliber, but the service is no less polished. The sommelier will expertly pair wines from a superb list. For those on a budget there are tasting menus.
On quiet 76th Street, around the corner from high-profile Madison Avenue boutiques, is the setting for Café Boulud. Reminiscent of an elegant little dining room found in Paris during a simpler epoch, this restaurant from master Chef Daniel Boulud underscores the idea that fine dining should be a relaxing and luxurious experience. Now a temple of global gastronomy, it still looks and feels like a quiet Upper East Side space best suited for hushed conversation and romantic dispensations.
Under the firm command of rising star Chef Gavin Kaysen, the food suggests a deep knowledge of the classic French techniques, yet also touches of innovation. Given the long tradition that these dishes reflect, the nine-course tasting menu offers a chance to get of a sense of the breadth of history embodied in the authentic cuisine served here.
Boulud has given Kaysen the freedom to develop his own stylish dishes within the café's four themes: traditional, a seasonal orientation, the feeling that this is a foreign kitchen from Europe, and that these creations are market-specific. Simple dishes are given unique accents, such as the truly sumptuous and succulent Winter Squash Ravioli. The Penne with Lamb Merguez Meatballs is a rich collage of flavours. An extremely well selected and versatile wine list leans mostly towards French gems.
Executive Chef Gabe Thompson (formerly at Le Bernardin and Del Posto) and general manager Joe Campanale (a former sommelier from Babbo) have gotten things right with dell’anima. By sticking with what they know best --classic Italian cooking, using fresh products and seasonal fare--and then updated with some special touches of their own, they've built quite a following.
Their restaurant is the perfect place for intimate fine dining. A relatively new entry to top-flight NYC restaurants, this cozy and friendly trattoria mixes haute cuisine inspirations with the homey ambiance of the West Village. The praised dishes include crunchy Bruschetta (with five topping options), and the no-stir Risotto which maintains the rich flavors of the various ingredients. With a former sommelier as an owner, the wine list includes excellent Italian favorites.
If anything, dell’anima is sometimes a victim of its own success, accruing far greater demand for seats than can be accommodated in this small space, with reservations taken a month in advance.
As you step into Del Posto, there is this sense that you have entered the domain of a gargantuan personality, which is true, since it is the grandest addition to chef/entrepreneur Mario Batali’s empire (created with partners Joe Bastianich and Lidia Bastianich). With that in mind, this restaurant has both the opulent environs and menu that signifies the ornate style of a top-ranked, world-class restaurant.
The plush, softly glowing room with large columns and tall curtained windows suggest another era— like those you'd find in 19th century New York or Europe. As dinner unfolds, the servers address your every need. Beginning with the antipasti, the menu is stuffed with great dishes such as the Lobster Risotto for two, or an extravagant classic like Bollito Misto (a medley of rustic Italian offal products that are carved tableside); and the homemade Pastas are remarkably fresh. A sampling of the tasting menu provides a sublime experience in Tuscan-influenced Italian cuisine. And don't miss the tableside zabaglione for dessert. A great wine list features superior Italian selections. With Del Posto, Batali is determined to place Italian cooking on the same level as French haute cuisine, and succeeds.
Located in a former bank in the MetLife building, this huge space with high ceilings and grand lanterns mixes art deco with warm touches of comfy leather furniture, patterned insets and shrubbery that pull the feel of the park right into the room. Chef Daniel Humm's hospitality is reflected in the professional staff that are efficient and knowledgeable, without being stuffy.
Though the prices are overwhelming, the subtle and intricately flavored dishes are not. Many of the seafood dishes are knockouts from the rich prawn consommé to the supple salmon in fennel sauce; both offer a complexity of flavor that makes for the finest in this style of cuisine. A poached poularde with truffle and rillette accompaniment, and the soft suckling pig confit are exceptional. For a close, fresh blueberries with cornbread ice cream offer an earthy touch. Besides the 36 wines available by the glass, 11 Mad's cocktails also stand out. As part of foodie superstar Danny Meyer's empire, this place is stellar in every aspect from the exquisite food to the retro ambiance.
You've got to hand it to master chef, TV personality and entrepreneur Mario Batali, he keeps rolling out hit after hit in the gastronomic galaxy. With partner Joe Bastianich and chef David Pasternack, Batali has established Esca as another signature Italian restaurant/cafe, and has again found an opportunity to earn a gold star.
The menu emphasizes super-fresh homemade pastas like Spaghetti enhanced with fresh chiles, mint, and a one-pound Lobster, and seafood dishes from an herbal enhanced grilled and marinated Sardines appetizer to the Crudo (think Italian sashimi made from such sea creatures as razor clam), Alaskan King Salmon with sugar snap peas, or the Grilled Calamari with salsa verde-- specifically Italian but created with a flair that elevates to the highest of haute cuisine. The whole fish for two, baked in a sea-salt crust that's cracked at the table, makes for a performance suitable to the neighborhood.
With its patio allowing for folks to sit outdoors in warm weather, Esca has the touch of a rustic eatery in some Southern Italian town. The ambiance is quiet with the faint sound of everyday life adding to the authentic feel of the culinary experience. Perfectly matched wine list spotlights regional Italian favorites.
If any place represents a New York food experience, then the Four Seasons tops the list. Designed by architects Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson, this restaurant is a modern classic that has been redefining American cuisine since 1959. The Grill Room at lunchtime is the single greatest room to see members of the city's power elite gather along the banquettes as part of their daily ritual.
The Four Seasons has long attracted New Yorkers with such menu items as whole roasted pheasant, saffron aoli bouillabaisse, and filet of bison with foie gras and truffle sauce. Everything on the extravagantly priced menu—$55 for a steak, $48 for crab cakes—tastes much better when you're on an expense account. And without a doubt when you sit back and enjoy the spectacle, order the sturdy bison burger ($34) and a Bloody Mary or two.
99 East 52nd Street b/w Park and Lexington Avenues 212-754-9494