Best Manhattan restaurants
Swiss chef Daniel Humm mans the kitchen at this vast Art Deco jewel, which began life as a brasserie before evolving into one of the city’s most rarefied and progressive eateries. The service is famously mannered, and the room among the city’s most grand. But the heady, epic tasting menus are the true heart of Eleven Madison Park, a format that spotlights Humm’s auteur instincts.
Siblings Gilbert and Maguy Le Coze brought their Parisian eatery to Gotham in 1986, and the restaurant has maintained its reputation in the decades since. Le Bernardin is still a formal place, with white tablecloths, decorous service and a jackets-required policy in the main dining room. But an overhaul modernized the room with leather banquettes and a 24-foot mural of a tempestuous sea by Brooklyn artist Ran Ortner.
When world-renowned sushi chef Masa Takayama arrived in New York, he came offering the most expensive dining experience in the city’s history. To be clear, Takayama doesn’t overcharge for his meals: He overspends, and the mystique of it all—his exquisite materials, his rare ingredients and his labor-intensive techniques—can be lost on a diner who doesn’t know the ins-and-outs. Takayama prepares each perfect bite-size gift, then places it in front of you on a round slate; you almost eat out of his hands, and the sushi seems to melt in your mouth. This process is, to some serious food lovers, a priceless experience.
A vibrant redesign by Adam Tihany has brought Daniel Boulud’s classically opulent restaurant into the 21st century. The food is as fresh as the decor with unusually generous entrees consisting of seafood stunners. Sure, Daniel is still a big-ticket commitment, but Boulud and his team make a powerful case for keeping the high-end genre alive.
The fashionably cookie-cutter decor—exposed brick, globe lights, hulking marble bar, you know the drill—suggests you’ve stumbled into another bustling rustic restaurant-cum-bar that’s not worth the wait. Far less common are talents like Ignacio Mattos, the imaginative chef cooking in this Mediterranean-tinged spot. Mattos has reined in his modernist tendencies at Estela, with an ever-changing, mostly small-plates menu that pivots from avant-garde toward intimate, bridging the gap between space-age Isa and the homey Italian he used to cook at Il Buco.
After decades of New Yorkers’ sushi shrugs, this one-stop Little Tokyo flips that script, and its revenge is a nigiri best served cold—and aged (Ginza hews to edomaezushi). Ginza’s seasonal omakase is not just freshly flown in from Tokyo’s prestigious Tsukiji market, nor is it dependent on exotic varieties. Ginza delivers fish the way a diamond delivers carbon: with spectacular flawlessness lush with luxury. This is fish that traps us.
Make it through the reservations ringer to gain access to chef David Chang’s minimal 12-seat spot. Here the chefs double as waiters, serving eight or so dazzling courses from behind a counter. The ever-evolving menu can feature dishes like raw fluke, in a coating of tangy, mellow buttermilk, poppy seeds and sriracha chili sauce. A frozen foie gras torchon is brilliantly shaved over lychee puree and pine-nut brittle.
Expectations are high at Per Se—and that goes both ways. You are expected to come when they’ll have you—you might be put on standby for four nights, only to win a 10pm Tuesday spot—and fork over a pretty penny if you cancel. You’re expected to wear the right clothes, pay a non-negotiable service charge and pretend you aren’t eating in a shopping mall. The restaurant, in turn, is expected to deliver one hell of a tasting menu even more pretty pennies. And it does. Dish after dish is flawless and delicious.
Enrique Olvera is the megawatt Mexico City talent behind Pujol, regularly ranked one of the 20 best restaurants in the world. His stateside debut Cosme, a bare-concrete Flatiron dining room, wasn’t met with the disregard that crippled his carpetbagging comrades. The response was the opposite: a bellow of buzz that hit before doors were even hinged, let alone opened.
It’s a scene out of Ratatouille: the open kitchen lined with copper pots and hand-glazed tiles, churning with chefs whose two-foot-high toques blanche skim the range hoods as they plate hazelnut-freckled leek vinaigrettes and foie-marbled veal terrines with an almost cartoonish hustle. It’s no movie—rather, it’s the animated stir of Soho’s Le Coucou, the graceful French spot from the prolific restaurateur Stephen Starr (Buddakan, Morimoto).
Last we saw Daisuke Nakazawa, he was toiling over egg custard as the modest apprentice in the film Jiro Dreams of Sushi, humbled by the rigors of an 11-year stint under the world’s most distinguished sushi chef, Jiro Ono. The pupil has emerged as the teacher at this sleek West Village sushi bar. Nakazawa swiftly sets each of the 20 or so pieces on your plate in succession. And the fewer the embellishments, the better.
With four-star ambitions and prices to match, Del Posto set the bar awfully high when it opened in 2005, but the cavernous restaurant has become nothing less than one of the city’s top destinations for refined, upscale Italian cuisine. The clubby dining room, serenaded nightly by a twinkling grand piano, feels like the lobby of an opulent grand hotel. The kitchen challenges its French competition in butter consumption.
The real surprise is how deftly Major Food has silenced such critics of a Four Seasons revamp with this dazzling remake of the famed Grill Room. And it’s not just the deference for the landmark interior. It’s also that Major Food has finally returned to form. Inspired by midcentury menus from Delmonico’s and 21 Club, chef Carbone reconstructs continental classics like filet Peconic, lobster Newburg and three iterations of Dover sole.
Super high-profile Japanese fare from the Michelin-starred chefs Hiroki Yoshitake and Yuu Shimano moved into midtown to serve "New Washoku" cuisine. Choose from either eight- or- six-course tasting menus with options like red shrimp and caviar or broiled cod in parmesan foam, or a la with options like braised pork belly with roasted chicory and cream cheese or roasted Wagyu steak.
The Italian-American supper clubs immortalized in mob movies and sepia-toned photos were never as dreamy as they seemed. The young guns behind Carbone, though, have moved beyond sentimentality in their homage to these restaurants by flipping the whole genre onto its head. The spot, rom tag-team chefs Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone, is a Godfather hangout on steroids, more fantastical set piece than history-bound throwback. Like Torrisi and Parm, their earlier projects together, it’s a hyped-up spin on a vanishing form, a restaurant where, bread sticks to bowties, everything looks, tastes and feels like much more of itself.
This cavernous cafeteria is a repository of New York history—glossies of celebs spanning the past century crowd the walls, and the classic Jewish deli offerings are nonpareil. Start with a crisp-skinned all-beef hot dog, then flag down a meat cutter and order a legendary sandwich. The brisket sings with horseradish, and the thick-cut pastrami stacked high between slices of rye is the stuff of dreams. Everything tastes better with a glass of the hoppy house lager; if you’re on the wagon, make it a Dr. Brown’s.
La Grenouille, which opened in 1962, is a window to when stuffy waiters and chateaubriand were considered the highest form of dining. It doesn’t get much snootier: jackets are required, cell phones and kids forbidden, and the electric red décor, full of mirrors and flowers and deco details, has the feel of a Mad Men power lunch. That said, La Grenouille endures for a reason: the culinary execution remains near flawless.
Gramercy is the restaurant that transformed Danny Meyer from a one-shop restaurateur to a full-blown impresario, made Tom Colicchio a star and launched a citywide proliferation of casual yet upscale American eateries. It’s delicate constructions of vegetables and fish that dominate now. Ingredients-worship is evident as soon as the first course (of the main dining room’s mandated three-course prix fixe) is rolled out.