Tribeca restaurant guide: The best places to eat now

The Tribeca restaurant scene is constantly shifting—our critic-approved selection includes trusty favorites and the latest hot spots.

Veteran restaurateur Drew Nieporent—who co-owns neighborhood fixture Tribeca Grill with Robert De Niro—and chef David Bouley are behind several of the area’s best eateries. But the Tribeca restaurant landscape continues to evolve. In recent years, De Niro launched Locanda Verde in his luxury hotel with TONY Food & Drink Awards 2012 winner Andrew Carmellini. Bouley’s Brushstroke and low-key Sushi Azabu now outshine Nobu as the best Japanese restaurants in the area.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to Tribeca, New York

Bouley

Critics' pick

With an outpost on every corner, Duane Street between West Broadway and Hudson Street is very literally David Bouley's world. While the city around has hit the skids, the chef—driven by optimism or simply denial—has been charging ahead with his expansion plans. The eponymous Bouley—the newly relocated airy flagship of his growing empire—exists in its own fantastical bubble: a place where the Dow still surges and expense-account spending never dried up. The original Bouley, once one of the city's great haute cuisine destinations, has over the years becomet increasingly marginal—the chef's dated devotion to an opulent late-'80s aesthetic is as unwavering today as it was when the restaurant first opened 22 years ago. The new locale is a tricked-out version of the old one (where the sprawling Bouley Market now is). The aromatic apples that greeted diners as they walked through the door are still at the entrance—but now there are more of them, a whole wall on wooden shelves. The vaulted ceilings have also returned—constructed from scratch and given an over-the-top coat of golden paint. The restaurant makes no concessions for the new economic realities. Instead, excess abounds, from the hand-carved wood door and stone floors (imported from a quarry near Paris) to the gilt-edged porcelain, silver candelabras, velvet chairs and massive velvet-framed Provence scene pastels—you won't find this much velvet outside of the Liberace Museum. The buttoned-up service and setting—the brigade o

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Brushstroke

Critics' pick

David Bouley’s name may be behind this venture, but the star chef is not in the kitchen. Instead, he has handed the reins to talented import Isao Yamada, who turns out some of the most accomplished Japanese food in the city. The ever-changing seasonal menu, which rotates through 5,000 dishes that Yamada spent years testing, is best experienced as an intricate multicourse feast known as kaiseki. A meal might start with muted petals of raw kombu-wrapped sea bass, before building slowly toward a subtle climax: asparagus tips with pristine lobes of uni leading to earthy stewed pork cheeks with cider reduction and green-apple puree. In keeping with the basic tenets of this culinary art form, the savory procession concludes with a rice dish—top-notch chirashi or seafood and rice cooked in a clay casserole—and delicate sweets such as creamy soy-milk panna cotta.

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Corton

Critics' pick

Veteran restaurateur Drew Nieporent’s white-on-white sanctuary focuses all attention on chef Paul Liebrandt’s finely wrought food. Sweet bay scallops anchor a visual masterpiece, featuring wisps of radish, marcona almonds and sea urchin. Order the sweetbreads and a server arrives to show off the eggs used in the dish—pastel-hued specimens so gently poached, it takes less than a pinprick to unleash their yolks. Desserts are no less striking: Choose the riff on French toast, with brioche, passion-fruit curd, brioche-infused ice cream and a pungent smear of Stilton.

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Kutsher’s Tribeca

Critics' pick

For those among you whose viewings of Dirty Dancing tally somewhere in the hundreds, Kutsher’s should have a familiar ring. The Monticello, New York, hotel often credited as an inspiration for the cultish ’80s flick is one of the last survivors of the borscht belt—a cluster of Jewish resorts that thrived in the Catskills through the 1970s. It’s also a recently opened downtown restaurant, buzzing with flush Tribecans and food-world first-responders—but more on that in a moment. First, let’s dispense with the nostalgia. The Catskills as imagined in Dirty Dancing told of sexy, trangressive cha-cha instructors and scheming bungalow bunnies. But when my folks finally hauled me to Kutsher’s in the late ’80s, the place was well into its decline. The boom times, when Wilt Chamberlain was a bellhop and Jackie Mason played to packed houses, had given way to something resembling a community center for active seniors: bingo games, makeup demonstrations in the lobby and afternoon swims in a soupy indoor pool. Fittingly, it was in the big and cacophonous dining room there that I collided with some of the Semitic canon’s more timeworn foodstuffs. I recall sending my inaugural bowl of violently pink borscht back to the kitchen untouched (“It’s…cold,” I told the young waiter). None of this unfashionable food was any good, mind you—the sinewy boiled beef flanken, the gummy lox. But there sure was a lot of it. So you’ll understand why I rankled at the news that serial restaurateur Jeffrey Chodo

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Landmarc Tribeca

Critics' pick

This downtown dining destination quickly distinguished itself among Tribeca restaurants by serving heady bistro dishes (bone marrow, crispy sweetbreads) until 2am, and stocking the wine list with reasonably priced half bottles. Chef-owner Marc Murphy focuses on the tried-and-true: frisée aux lardons, boudin noir and several types of mussels. Metal beams and exposed brick add an unfinished edge to the elegant bi-level space. Those who have little restraint when it comes to sweets will appreciate the dessert menu: All desserts come in miniature portions and cost $3 a pop; a tasting of six goes for $15.

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Locanda Verde

Critics' pick

Robert De Niro is no restaurant-biz neophyte. It’s true that Ago, the train-wreck trattoria he opened last year in Tribeca, was savaged by critics. But like a savvy restaurateur, instead of tweaking the place into the ground, the impresario-actor simply scuttled the project and started over from scratch. Locanda Verde—its new blockbuster replacement—features a refurbished dining room that’s much more inviting than its predecessor, with wine-bottle-lined bookshelves, aluminum lamps, big baskets of fruit on the bar near the kitchen, and tables that are no longer so tight together that the waitstaff can’t help but topple your glasses. But the most dramatic change is in the kitchen. De Niro tapped Andrew Carmellini, one of the city’s most talented (then) out-of-work chefs, to bring his food and considerable following down to Tribeca. Instead of Ago’s insipid spins on Italian standards, A Voce’s former top toque sends out dishes so gutsy, you’ll wipe your plate clean and wish for seconds. Only the sneering reception at check-in may remind you of its amply hyped forerunner. The restaurant, more swamped on a recent visit than a Chelsea club on a Saturday night, employs a host as impassive as a velvet-rope bouncer. Once you make it inside, however, the ambience and service are incongruously warm. The food is so flat-out seductive—and reasonably priced—you understand quickly why so many diners are clamoring, like asylum-seekers escaping a war zone, up near the front door (the restaura

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Sushi Azabu

Critics' pick

This stealthy sushi shrine—tucked away in the basement of Greenwich Grill—attracts solo diners who happily hobnob with the talkative chefs while popping exceptional nigiri morsels into their mouths. You can order à la carte, but the $58 prix fixe is a generous bargain: First-rate sashimi and grilled salmon starters are followed by half a roll and seven plump pieces (among them luscious chutoro and sweet, silky raw shrimp). For dessert: Try the classic Mont Blanc chestnut parfait. Unorthodox in this setting, but delicious.

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Tamarind Tribeca

Critics' pick

A stunning spin-off of the original Tamarind in the Flatiron District, the Tribeca location convincingly draws from all corners of the subcontinent with its sprawling menu. Beyond the requisite chicken tikka masala (one of the best we’ve had), the dishes delight at every turn: A lamb appetizer (Nizami Keema) combines tender grilled strips with soft minced meat and pillowy nan, while Punjabi Mutton—actually made with goat—falls off the bone in a rich, vibrant curry. But the most consistent pleasures come out of the twin tandoor ovens, visible from the main dining room; superlative lamb chops—tangy, spicy and tender—and moist sea bass slathered with thick yogurt and a subtle blend of roasted spices that enriches the flaky fish without overwhelming its delicate flavor.

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Tribeca Grill

Critics' pick

This neighborhood veteran, set in a converted warehouse, achieves coziness on a grand scale—an antique wooden bar anchors the huge room, and paintings of Robert De Niro Sr. (the famous Jr. is one of the owners, along with restaurateur Drew Nieporent) hang on the brick walls. The food is classic and competent, if not groundbreaking: Seared sea scallops bear a caramelized crust, and king salmon is served with a pristine salad of Asian pear, fennel and celery root. Flag down one of the skilled, apron-clad servers to help you negotiate the epic wine list, which offers more than 300 Châteauneuf du Papes alone.

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