New York Feasting, From Chinese Ice Cream to Spotted Pig

New York is such a great city for eating out, it can be difficult to choose where to go.

Here’s a dining diary of a recent trip from London to meet chefs and restaurateurs. I visited more than 20 establishments. While I got special treatment in some restaurants, I enjoyed others where I wasn’t known.

ABC Kitchen: Fresh, local, organic ingredients are assembled into simple dishes where the flavors stand out. ABC is owned by Jean-Georges Vongerichten, who made my booking. I had a lunch of pea soup with cheese puff and herbs, followed by a mushroom, parmesan, oregano and farm-egg whole-wheat pizza. I loved it. I could see ABC working well in London and other cities.

Baohaus: This Taiwanese street-food joint serves flavor-packed buns such as the Chairman Bao: Braised Berkshire pork belly, served with crushed peanut, cilantro, Haus Relish, and Taiwanese red sugar. It draws a young crowd, possibly because the hip-hop volume is turned up to 11. Conversation would be difficult. (Thanks to Ken Friedman of Spotted Pig for the recommendation.)

Battersby: This cramped and crowded Brooklyn venue offers an eclectic menu that changes daily, with an emphasis on the flavors of the Mediterranean. I’ve previously reviewed Battersby (along with Buvette) so I won’t write more here. Suffice to say it is good. (Thanks to Ed Levine of for the recommendation.)

Buvette: Chef Jody Williams must be proud of what she has achieved at this small venue, where you line up for a seat even before it opens and then feast on classic French fare such as coq au vin and cassoulet. The wine list is well chosen and there are excellent American cheeses, too. (Thanks to David Bouley of Bouley for the recommendation.)

Boulud Sud: I flew out from London with Daniel Boulud and he made the reservations for here and Daniel. The Mediterranean food at Boulud Sud is as fresh and accurately cooked as anyone could ask. The quality of the ingredients stands out. I just wish Boulud Sud attracted a younger crowd. I dislike eating with people my own age.

Chinatown Ice Cream Factory: This family-run business is Chinatown’s oldest, according to the website. I found the bright colors and the sweet flavors unappetizing but it’s worth an after-dinner visit just for the fun of it.

Daniel: Boulud made the booking for me, though as the food and service were first class when I dined there anonymously on previous occasions, I’m not sure that made a lot of difference. You come here for classic French cooking seasoned with American flair. The service is faultless. This is a restaurant for special occasions.

Eleven Madison Park: It’s my favorite restaurant in New York, followed by Le Bernardin. I had lunch at EMP hours after attending a party there in the early hours to celebrate Daniel Humm winning the top James Beard award for outstanding chef. For the sake of transparency, I should mention that I’m friends with Humm and co-owner William Guidara, who made the booking for me. I’ve reviewed EMP previously.

Hakkasan: This London-based, Abu Dhabi-owned Chinese restaurant is taking a beating from critics in New York, including my colleague Ryan Sutton. Hakkasan is one of my favorite places in London and the food in New York was just as outstanding. So were the prices. Lunch for one was $120.31, plus tip. (That’s including one $20 glass of wine.)

Henry Public: This is a new neighborhood bar in Brooklyn that’s handy for Battersby. It’s the baby brother of Brooklyn Social and is gaining attention for its short menu. I enjoyed the cocktails and the youthful crowd.

Hot Kitchen: A Sichuan restaurant that’s easy to miss unless you spot the crowd inside, which is mainly Chinese. It serves authentic fare at the kind of prices that make life difficult for Hakkasan. For somewhere so busy, the service is admirably attentive and efficient. (Thanks to David Chang of Momofuku for the recommendation.)

Keste: This restaurant didn’t write the book on pizza, it follows it. Keste is the official location in the U.S. of the Associazione Pizzaiuoli Napoletani whose mission is to protect and preserve the Neapolitan pizza tradition. While I couldn’t fault my Regina Margherita, my enjoyment of Franny’s in Brooklyn clouds my appreciation of everywhere else.

Maialino: This is Danny Meyer’s new restaurant in the Gramercy Park Hotel, and I came to meet Meyer for breakfast. I’ve known him for five years and I still marvel at the consistently high level of hospitality in his venues, from Shake Shack to Gramercy Tavern. I watched him cross the room chatting to guests at this neighborhood trattoria, and I want to go back.

Minetta Tavern: Keith McNally’s Greenwich Village bistro is a different animal by day and by night. At lunchtime, I enjoyed a quiet meal of Huitres et Crepinettes (truffled pork sausage with salt-pond oysters) and pasta with pancetta, sage, parmesan, and a fried egg. At dinner, the place was crowded, noisy and hopping like a nightclub. What was consistent was the quality of the food and the courteous service. I enjoyed it.

Monkey Bar: I’ve previously savored Damon Wise’s food here. Now, I know Monkey Bar is also a good spot for a late drink. The bar is open until 2 a.m. and it’s just how I imagine a classic New York lounge should be.

NoMad: This new restaurant, in the hotel of the same name, is supervised by Humm and Guidara. (Guidara made the booking for me.) The restaurant is spread over several rooms, including a bar and a library. It’s Humm unplugged and I prefer the decor to that of the mother ship. This was my standout new restaurant of the trip.

North End Grill: I went to this other new Danny Meyer restaurant with chef April Bloomfield and London restaurateurs Russell Norman and Richard Beatty. Meyer made the booking. So, this was never going to be an average lunch. Chef Floyd Cardoz (ex-Tabla) serves simple dishes such as burgers and pasta with a twist that takes them out of the ordinary. The bak choi has a ginger-lobster glaze, the fries are spice-dusted and the lamb merguez sausage comes with lemon confit.

Nougatine: I made the booking for this casual restaurant next to Jean-Georges and when I arrived, Vongerichten was there and offered to cook for me. It was an outstanding meal, one of the best in the past couple of years, with each dish showing flair and even flamboyance, yet never losing focus in terms of flavor and beauty. (Thanks to Angela Hartnett of Murano for the recommendation.)

PDT: The name stands for Please Don’t Tell. You reach this speakeasy-style lounge via a phone booth in Crif Dogs. I thought everyone was in on this wheeze until a customer in the hot-dog cafe stared in amazement as a friend and I passed through. While PDT is more about the cocktails and ambience -- it’s moodily dark -- than the food, the deep-fried mayonnaise (a Wylie Dufresne creation) on the hot dogs was a revelation. That crispy texture elevates the mutts to pedigrees. (Thanks to Sandia Chang of Bubbledogs for the recommendation.)

Spotted Pig: The top-floor bar here is akin to a private club, which is why the likes of Jay-Z and Beyonce can drop by to hang out. The restaurant is well worth a visit, though there may be a long wait. (I’m friendly with April Bloomfield, the Spotted Pig’s British chef.)

Sushisamba: There’s much excitement in London that this U.S. mini-chain is coming to town. The Park branch was dull on a Sunday, although the service was good and I hear that the place livens up in the evening.

Thelewala: This is a simple Indian street-food counter across MacDougal Street from Minetta Tavern. You can perch on a stool to eat wraps or get takeout. If I lived in the Village, I’d be going back all the time. I love Indian food and I hadn’t realized it could be so good in New York. (Thanks to Boulud for the tip.)

(Richard Vines is the chief food critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. He is U.K. and Ireland chairman of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards. Opinions expressed are his own.)

Muse highlights include John Mariani on wine, Martin Gayford on art and Zinta Lundborg’s interviews.

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