Csar Ramirez is a former David Bouley understudy who turned up on a characterless Brooklyn corner, serving rich food to rich people in a grocery-store kitchen. This unlikely locale, annex to the Brooklyn Fare supermarket also serves one luxurious, daily-changing, 15-course meal to diners perched on stools around a stainless-steel prep table each night. It’s not a restaurant, really—a dinner party’s more like it, served five nights a week in a chef’s atelier.
In addition to the 8- to 10-course tasting menu in the dining room, you an order a more affordable tasting menu at the bar, which also offers snacks and cocktails (or choose from its 20,000 bottles of 4,000 wines). The seasonal menu is packed with hyperminimalist treats such as two foie gras dishes or a smoked sturgeon cheesecake with caviar. Regulars of the previous iteration will be happy to know that its signature savory black-and-white cookies are back in town.
New York dining mores have experienced a seismic paradigm shift in the past decade, toppling Old World restaurant titans and making conquering heroes of chefs that champion accessible food served in casual environments. But Le Bernardin—the city’s original temple of haute French seafood—survived the shake-up unscathed. 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.
When world-renowned sushi chef Masa Takayama arrived in New York, he offered what’s likely the most expensive dining experience in the city’s history (today, dinner for two can top $1,500). To be clear, Takayama doesn’t overcharge for his meals: He overspends, and the mystique of it all can be lost on a diner who doesn’t know the ins and outs. To serious food lovers (us included), this ritual is a priceless experience.
Expectations are high at Per Se, and that goes both ways. You are expected to come when they’ll have you and fork over a pretty penny if you cancel. You’re expected to wear the right clothes, pay a non-negotiable deposit and pretend you aren’t eating in a shopping mall. Thomas Keller’s restaurant, in turn, is expected to deliver a spectacular meal for even prettier pennies (the $340 nine-course tasting menu, for example). And it does.
In 1987, Aquavit introduced New York to modern Scandinavian cooking, and for the first few years, its elegant upgrade of the region’s stereotypically bland fare did well enough. But when Marcus Samuelsson, a Swede of Ethiopian descent, took over the kitchen in 1995, it signaled a new era for Aquavit. His food—integrating Asian, African and Middle Eastern flavors into the Nordic repertoire—transformed it one of the city’s most exciting restaurants.
“Wait, do I eat the rock, too?” It’s an admittedly odd-sounding question, but it’s a legitimate one to ask while dining at Aska, the revival of the Michelin-starred Scandinavian kitchen helmed by Swedish wunderkind chef Fredrik Berselius. “No, just the two leaves on top,” the server replies. The plating you might not immediately understand, but the taste you do. That inventiveness—rendering uncommon ingredients familiar (and common ingredients unfamiliar)—is what reaped Berselius much critical acclaim at the original Aska.
Portland, Oregon import Matthew Lightner, a James Beard Rising Star Chef nominee, offered a forager-driven, New American tasting menu at this reboot of the Compose. Now, chef Ronny Emberg continues his legacy.
Restaurants shoot to the top of our wish list these days via hushed word of mouth, like underground clubs, cult sneakers and hot IPOs. But is it really worth all the trouble, time and expense? At Blanca, the tasting-menu restaurant from the team at Roberta’s, the answer is mainly 'yes.' This modern white box, in the pizza joint’s asphalt garden, serves a 25-to-31-course menu available on 12 stools at a counter just four nights a week.
Five years back, Adam Tihany’s vibrant redesign brought Daniel Boulud’s classic restaurant into the 21st century. The food is as thought out as the decor, with unusually generous entrées that consist of seafood stunners and top-form nouveau French fare. Sure, Daniel is still a big-ticket commitment, but Boulud and his team make a powerful case for living high on the hog.
The big-box room of Gabriel Kreuther—the restaurant, not the man—is situated on the ground floor of the Grace Building, is too comfortably cream-toned to be considered “cool,” evocative of the Alsatian farm country where Gabriel Kreuther—the man, not the restaurant—hails. But Kreuther isn’t concerned with cool, nor should he be. The veteran chef joins the grand pantheon of name-bearing flagships with cooking that’s as personal as it is precise.
The 10-seat omakase bar that offers a constantly changing set menu of 18 to 22 courses paired with cocktails and boozy offerings now has this sushi counterpart in the same space from the eponymous Chef Ichimura.
Unlike so many of its vaunted peers, Jean Georges has not become a shadow of itself : The top-rated food is still breathtaking. A velvety foie gras terrine with spiced fig jam is coated in a thin brûlée shell; a more ascetic dish of green asparagus with rich morels showcases the vegetables’ essence.
Korean-born Jung Sik Yim honed his haute-cooking chops in New York (at Aquavit and Bouley) and Spain (at Michelin-starred Zuberoa and Akelarre), before returning to his hometown of Seoul to open the first location of Jung Sik to much acclaim. He circles back to New York with this spin-off of the Korean restaurant—a wood-paneled 55-seat spot decorated with small hanging globe lights and an undulating ceiling.
He was anointed in 1989 as the “Chef of the Century.” The most-awarded chef alive, the late Joël Robuchon has collected 32 Michelin stars to date and has mentored Gordon Ramsay and Éric Ripert. At the second iteration of his NYC namesake, the magic never relented. The food, elegantly high-minded as it is, arrives as a natural, comfortable extension of a delicate dance. Our palates so enjoyed these pirouettes that L’Atelier is almost more ballroom than restaurant.
The serene Scandinavian spot is incongruously set amid the commuting cacophony of Grand Central Terminal. It’s part of a multipronged takeover by Claus Meyer, cofounder of the world-shaking Copenhagen dining room Noma, inside the terminal; there’s also that Danish frank stand parked next to Agern’s entrance, as well as a Nordic marketplace across the way in Vanderbilt Hall.
New York restaurant-scene darling Michael White expanded his budding empire with this Italian-Mediterranean restaurant, inside the swank Setai Fifth Avenue hotel. For his fifth venture, White assembled an all-star team in his dark-wood dining room overlooking Fifth Avenue.
Although there’s a significant Portuguese enclave across the river in Newark, the homeland’s cuisine has never made much of an impact in New York. George Mendes, the Portuguese-American behind Aldea in the Flatiron District, makes a subtle case for his culinary heritage, offering modern cooking that quietly telegraphs Lisbon, the Algarve and the Douro wine region.
Atomix has no menus; instead, you collect a series of cards throughout the 10-course, $175-per-person tasting menu, served at 6pm and 9pm seatings. The meal began with a letter from chef JungHyun Park, who introduced his mission to embrace traditional Korean cooking while putting his modern spin on every dish. With each course, another card arrived at the table as if turning the page to the next chapter of the gastronomic story.
Supposedly one of the best Italian restaurants in the city, Mario Batali’s Babbo is certainly among the hardest to get into. The warmly lit, white-walled townhouse is alive with reggae, rock & roll and the ambient chatter of diners who enthusiastically lift pasta-laced forks and wineglasses to their mouths.
The name of the Japanese joint means “universe,” which is apt, considering how its immersive environment is designed to sweep visitors to a world far from Eldridge Street. The 10-seat omakase bar offers a constantly changing set menu of 18 to 22 courses made with the freshest seafood imported from around the globe. Those worried about their food’s frequent flyer miles can rest assured that produce is hyperlocal: Several ingredients are harvested from the rooftop garden.
Drew Nieporent is back—well, sort of. It’s not like the revered restaurateur ever really left. But this latest venture changed gears, enlisting a new chef to infuse a multicourse European tasting menu with touches of his native Austria. France dominates the wine list, with a solid lineup of white varietals from the restaurant's namesake, Bâtard-Montrachet.
More than a mere crusader for sustainability, Dan Barber is also one of the most talented cooks in town. He builds his oft-changing menu around whatever’s at its peak on his Westchester farm (home to a sibling restaurant). Start to finish, there’s a garden on every plate. Once among the most sedate little restaurants in the Village, this cramped subterranean jewel box has become one of the most raucous.
Feel perfectly at home in this experimental and educational spot brought to you by a Michelin-starred chef. Chefs cook up a $225 eight to 10-course tasting menu at your table right in front of you.
Caf Boulud has been an uptown mainstay for more than a decade, a power room with a loyal neighborhood following and its own seating hierarchy at dinner and lunch. Though the menu combines young whimsy with an older French understated refinement, the restaurant remains a reflection of the icon whose name adorns the marquee.