Where to eat…and where not to in New York

by Sasha Wilkins on December 21, 2007 · 6 comments

In this city where restaurant meals are so often a medley of gastronomic cliché and mediocre execution, finding a plate of food that transcends the pedestrian is a hard slog. But there IS some exciting food to be had in New York. And, for a Londoner paid in pounds, it’s staggeringly cheap. Even a three course, Bordeaux and Armagnac fuelled grand bouffe at the hottest restaurant in Manhattan, the Waverly Inn, which surely has the most overpriced, expensive wine list in America, costs £50/$100, including 20% service. This is a short list of some of the best – & worst – places I’ve eaten in the past year.

Maze at The London: Gordon Ramsey’s secondary joint at The London after Restaurant Gordon Ramsey. More relaxed, and the tapas style menu means you can graze at will. Truly delicious. Truly expensive. (Try not to flinch when reading the wine list which competes with Waverly on the add a couple of zeros mark up front.)

The Jackson Heights Diner: Proper, authentic Indian food way, way out in Queens. Total cost: $10

Casa Mono: Mario Batali’s tiny, perfect, modern take on tapas & raciones. Delightful in every way.

The Spotted Pig: Manhattan’s first and only gastro-pub tucked away in the Victorian West Village. Chef & co-owner April Bloomfield has, quite simply, one of the best palates in Manhattan.

Public. A former library in sexy Nolita, this Peter Gordon twin serves up interesting AND delicious Pacific fusion plates, with a stonking wine list, fab cocktails and a hot clientele. My favourite go-to NY restaurant.

Lil’Frankies in the East Village for the best pizza I have ever, ever, ever eaten in laid back Downtown surroundings. Great music piped in from East Village radio next door. (Jesus & Mary Chain last visit) Award-winning wine list & Italian al forno specials too.

Schiller’s Liquor Bar: The poor man’s Balthazar from the same stable. Faux French bistro on Lower East Side. Super sexy boys drinking at the bar, buzzy atmosphere, clever wine list, and the food’s not half bad either.

The Carlyle: Old world, grown up Sunday brunch. Immense amounts of delicious food, Champagne, exemplary service, and Upper East Side regulars in furs & pearls in the corners.

Allen & Delancy: Neil Ferguson (ex-Ramsey Holdings) finally sets up on his own in a dark & sexy LES room. Hearty dishes, and well-meaning service.

I also enjoyed Waverly Inn, Morandi, Takahachi, Pop Burger, The Modern and Shake Shack. God I enjoyed Shake Shack.

The worst:

Grimaldi’s: Consistently voted best pizza in New York. We slogged over to Brooklyn to queue for an hour to eat burnt, over cooked pizza with disgusting, almost inedible mozzarella. Really, really bad.

The Elephant: Incomprehensibly well reviewed and way over-priced East Village Thai gets it all wrong. Green papaya salad with no chilli – and no taste. Inedible pad thai.

Kittichai at 60 Thompson: Eye-wateringly over priced Thai, with model eye candy and designer room in fantastic SoHo hotel. One for palate dead fashion victims.

Savoy: I so wanted to like it. Great service, interesting room. Sound ethics. And horrid food which was way too clever by half. There was one ingredient in every plate of food that was distinctly off key, so you grimaced at every other mouthful.

Pastis: Sacred cow of McNally empire (Balthazar etc). Abominable in every way. Inept service, stroppy management, tourist-Mecca. Omelette aux fines herbes on a par with the offering at an English service station cafeteria: a rubbery, three inch high, pallid oval lump of dry solidified scrambled egg.

Soho House: Possibly the most unexciting menu in New York at its price point. Well-meaning but useless service. And, unforgiveable in a city of faddy eaters, barely anything for vegetarians bar the odd salad or bit of goats cheese.

Café Felix: Otherwise known as SoHo’s Euro-Central. If you can fight your way through the over-excitable crowd of Eurotrash at the bar to a table, I’d stick to olives & drinking spirits. Until Felix I thought it was impossible to balls up a plate of moules-frites. And the wine. Eurgh. It’s unacceptable to serve vin de table, pretend it’s a glass of Sauvignon Blanc & then treat us like fools for pointing this out.

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