New York Restaurants and Bakeries
Here’s a round-up of places I visited in New York City. One big change (which is also happening in other cities in America) is the proliferation of excellent bakeries. While Americans don’t buy bread daily, as the French do, you can get terrific bread and pastries if you know where to look.
Bâtard is what modern French (and European) cooking should be. Respect for tradition, but using it as a jumping off point for creating more contemporary fare. I was hard not to wolf down the stellar housemade brioche buns but we saved room for seared scallops in saffon sauce, Arctic char with spring peas and favas, and finishing up with a soufflé (a riff off Salzburger Nockerl) baked over a confit of perfect strawberries. Kudos to pastry chef Julie Elkind for creating a dessert that has me thinking about it weeks later. The seedy bread they serve with the brioche, also made on premises, is one of the best breads I’ve had.
It’s hard to say whether the sausage & kale pizza with young pecorino and stracciatella, braised short ribs under a pile of herbs and shaved asparagus, or shrimp marinated in tomatoes and garlic with jasmin rice was the top dish of the evening, but a relative of mine said the shrimp was “probably the best thing I’ve ever eaten in my life.” As memorable as most of the meal was, I’d have to agree with her. The cookie plate for dessert was also an embarrassment of riches. Rumor has it that the cheeseburger at lunch is one of the best in the city. That’s on my docket for my next visit.
I’ve been wowed by the food at Via Carota every time I’ve been here. I’m happy to try everything but the Cacio e Pepe pasta really stands out for its simplicity and perfection in a bowl. Everything here is pretty perfect, including the deceptively simple green salad. I also like that they have small (25cl/1 cup) pitchers of wine, which are perfect for sharing at lunch. One downside is the restaurant doesn’t take reservations, so go for lunch, preferably at off-hours.
(The team that owns Via Carota just opened Bar Pisellino across the street. I wandered in one afternoon while waiting for friends, and got the sense they should have someone on the floor directing things. Once I got to the bar, I had a terrific White Negroni on ice and Cacio e Pepe-flavored potato chips.)
Normally a tough reservation, lunch opens up entirely new possibilities, and tables, making it possible to get into this pasta hot-spot. Missy Robbin’s pastas are justifiably revered. The Corzetti with mint, Italian broccoli, and pinenuts, is a favorite, are the Spinach and Mascarpone tortellini in brown butter with dried ricotta and Buffalo-butter slicked Fettuccini with aged Parmesan. The Grilled baby artichokes, when in season, served with mint salsa verde are obligatory to order as a starter. Finish with housemade Mint stracciatella gelato, please.
I’m not completely enamored of the Chinese food in Manhattan and Brooklyn, in spite of people passing on les bonnes adresses to me. But Han Dynasty usually delivers. This mini-chain offers up Szechuan specialties which include Dan Dan noodles, sauteed pea shoots (which Romain keeps asking why we don’t get them in Paris), and wontons in chili oil. (You can skip the Kung Pao chicken.) Lunch is a deal.
This may be my favorite restaurant in the U.S. right now. If I told you that it has a Michelin star, you might be tempted to blow it off. But don’t. Mexican food is one of the great cuisines of the world, and the food at Claro! is rooted in Oaxaca. I had mezcal-like cocktail made with Estancia Raicilla, which can’t be called mezcal, but its smokiness lent an alluring backbone to my cocktail. The star was the Yellowfin tostada (above) with Cara Cara oranges, kumquats, pasilla chile, and chicharrón (crunchy pork skin) on a housemade tortilla. The wild mushroom memela with goat cheese, epazoté and pasilla was also superb. This isn’t a taco joint but it’s not fancy either (hence my apprehension about touting its Michelin star) – although it’s tempting to order everything on the menu, the food is quite filling so just remember, you can always go back.
We hit this hotspot the first week they opened. Some of the restaurant is devoted to walk-ins, including the breezy outdoor space out back (with a pétanque court). The specialties here are French/Japanese mash-ups. Yakis (skewers) make up the main courses, but the firsts really blew us away. I didn’t know ducks rillettes could taste so good. (Like, wow, where they good!) Lowly escargots are a lot more interesting with herby shiso butter. (Sorry butter and garlic…) When I ordered the puffy Pommes Dauphine, the waiter assured me I made the right choice. And the warm, house-made baguettes with yuzukosho butter I could eat every morning for breakfast. Nothing on the menu is more than $10, subject to change.
Some say the New York deli is dead. This family-owned deli in Greenpoint offers smoked fish, smoked and braised meat. I assumed people on Instagram that the well-piled pastrami sandwich I posted, I was sharing, to stave off any questions about how I eat so much, but if no one was watching, I could probably polish off a whole one.
These two bars are the best of the genre, with very, very good cocktails, and bar food that meets the quality of the drinks. Both places have oyster happy hour, where fresh oysters are only $1 a piece, hours listed on their websites. Both places have inventive cocktails, with those at Maison Premiere incorporate French spirits, so I always feel right at home. Grand Army takes reservations and I suggest you make them if you want to get a seat.
One of the great things about New York is that there are lots of places to eat outside. And since smoking is forbidden, you can dine smoke-free. Romain always wants to eat overlooking the water, which isn’t always possible in New York but Fornino on Pier 6 in Brooklyn offers up wood-fired pizzas not far from the water. Warm weekends it gets quite crowded and it’s less pleasant during the week, especially when the pizza over (and bar) get backed up.
I met up with Rhulman, a ne plus ultra drinking and dining buddy, and his wife Ann Hood for drinks and dumplings. The wontons in spicy peanut sauce are a must-order. The Manhattans are pretty good as well.
The website says Bar Sardine is “laid back” but when I went with my friend, spirits writer Brad Parsons, the place was hopping. Famous for their Bloody Marys, extra-friendly bar direction Brian Bartels wrote the book on them, at 10pm it seemed a little late (or early). After a cocktail tasting at Momofuku, I went with orange wine, something you don’t get in Paris, which was the right choice with the especially crisp pig ears with hot pepper jelly and deviled eggs with chickpea puree, which we followed up with Fedora burgers served with bbq mayo, smoked cheddar, and les frites. A good time was had by all.
While I like Miss Korea (warning: website opens with music, which scared the kimchi out of me), and it’s fun to hit the salad bar-style Woorjip, but I think it’s good to mix things up and hit The Kunjip for lunch. Lunch menus in Koreatown offer bargains and my Kalbi beef (above) was $19 and came with six banchans, soup, and cold buckwheat noodles. The young woman next to me, who was also dining alone, was startled when the server came over with a tray over side dishes, soup, etc., protesting she didn’t order it, until they explained it was all included. She didn’t eat as much as I did.
Tip: A number of people on social media asked about getting into high-demand restaurants. Restaurants that are on RESY will let you set a notification and will send you a text if a table opens up on the date and time(s) you requested. I was on the notification list for a lunch table at Misi, which was completely booked the day I wanted to go. I got four notifications of openings, one of which I jumped on.
Bakeries and Sweets
I was in New York to tape a few television shows and in the green room, others on the show insisted I stop in at Stick with Me. When I looked at the website, I wasn’t so sure: colored chocolates don’t usually do it for me. But I had to admit, once in the shop, these were gorgeous and perfectly presented. Each was creamy inside, but had the intensity of the intended flavors, from guava-passion fruit to peanut butter & jelly.
Supermoon Bakehouse is a happy place in New York City, with boldly-flavored croissants,
I loved meeting French baker Gus Reckel, aka: Monsieur Gus, who starts baking at 4am to prepare a line-up of breads that beat many of the bakeries of his homeland. His Chocolate chip cookies have won kudos for being one of the absolute best in the city, beating the locals at their own game. We tried his new vegan version, which was also absolutely delicious.
This American outpost of a Danish bakery serves up open-faced sandwiches and pastries. My chocolate-covered marshmallow puff, on a crisp shortbread, was light, fluffy, and sweet. The rugged bread that was solid grains was hearty and filling. Open from breakfast through dinner.
The former chef at Breads bakery presents his own babkas and rugelahs, as well as a selection of bite-size Middle Eastern-inspired pastries. The feta-filled puff pastries treats would have been best if hot from the oven, but it was nice to sit in the
Sweden is also well-represented in New York at Fabrique. The cardamom rolls were delicious but I was into the granola bar; a solid block of seeds and grains, with dried cranberries providing some tartness. A little off-the-beaten-track, with a line up of nice-looking breads and croissants, this is exactly the kind of bakery you want in your neighborhood.
My search for a great Black & White cookie led me here. (There’s a recipe for them in my book, Ready for Dessert.) Doughnuts made with everything, from salted butter caramel to bacon lined the shelves, but I went with the Black & White. The cookie was HUGE; literally big enough to feed four. It was quite thick, and a good one. But if they made them thinner, which would tilt the ratio of icing to cookie more in favor of the frosting, I probably could have finished it off by myself. A big plus was the terrific salesperson, who kept calling me “honey.”
My friend Renato, who founded Baked bakery, is striking out on his own with an Italian-accented cafe and bakery. They’re still building the bakery, but you can follow their progress on their Instagram feed, and I’ll see you there, when they open.
I always get a pepperoni square at Prince Street Pizza, and discovered the Scarr’s Pizza, meant to replicate the old-style New York pizzeria. (Well, old for the 1980s.) Another favorite is the Roni Supreme at Emmy Squared, a Detroit-style pie with pepperoni and Calabrian chili paste.