New York Restaurants
Aquavit, in the bottom of a glass tower on East 55th Street, is designed in sleek Scandinavian style with modernist furniture. Try the herring plate, four types of herring accompanied by a tiny glass of aquavit, distilled liquor not unlike vodka flavoured with fruit and spices, and a frosty Carlsberg beer.
The seafood branch of the BLT empire, is actually two restaurants with two kitchens. The downstairs is a moderately priced seafood shack serving the much-in-demand lobster roll. Upstairs is the elegant (and higher-priced) dining room. Here you can sit watch an army of servers with huge platters, where whole fish sit, dressed up beautifully, ready for consumption.
Blue Hill near Washington Square presents fresh produce from the owner's farm upstate. The meat-heavy menu includes Berkshire pork with creamy basmati rice, grass-fed lamb with chickpeas and pesto, all with farm vegetables. The fixed-priced tasting menu is excellent value.
Boathouse Central Park
Gondolas and swans drift by the Boathouse Central Park, located beside the park's peaceful lake. Start with tasty Thai crab cakes, followed by hearty Boathouse burger or basil-crusted halibut. The informal Bar and Grill in summer has light barbecued snacks, a good choice for informal alfresco dining. Locals love its smart decor and good service.
Housed in a former Victorian iron foundry, Brooklyn Brewery is a most see, especially with those who have tasted the legendary Brooklyn Lager. Free guided-tours are available on Saturdays from noon and visitors can pop-by on friday nights for happy hour when an assortment of beer including Brooklyn Lager and Pilsner can be enjoyed in the 200-seat tasting room.
Cafe Asean in Greenwich Village has a whole range of Asian tastes, especially from Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia and Thai. It is an informal, friendly little restaurant with wooden tables, red paper lanterns and tiny garden. Try the curried shrimp or laksa, a huge bowl of spicy coconut soup with seafood and noodles.
One of many Indian buffet restaurants, Chennai Garden in Gramercy Park serves a variety of fresh, vegetarian food. Try typical South Indian dishes like masala dosa, spicy stuffed pancakes, or rich Punjabi dishes like bhindi masala and spicy sauteed okra with a fluffy paratha (bread). The restaurant has a loyal following and is popular with local office workers.
Clinton Street Baking Company
The queues can be long at Clinton Street Baking Company, one of New York's most popular brunch venues. Located on the Lower East Side, it serves pancakes with wild Maine blueberry, a substantial eggs Benedict or Southern breakfast complete with cheese grits (ground corn). For quieter times, choose weekday early breakfasts or dinner with burgers, fish or fried chicken.
The multi-award-winning Gramercy Tavern in Gramercy Park is one of New York's finest restaurants. Executive chef Michael Anthony creates dishes like veal cappellacci, and smoked lobster and blackfish with spaghetti squash. Service is superb, and wooden floorboards and white tablecloths are well complemented by tasteful murals. Less formal dining is available in The Tavern.
Patsy Grimaldi has been making pizza since 1941 (when he was 10) and it shows. Illegal in Manhattan, the massive coal-fired brick ovens that he uses at Grimaldi's near the Brooklyn Bridge produce the extreme heat required to make his distinctive and much sought-after pizzas.
A New York institution since 1880, Katz's Deli in Lower East Side is famed for its mammoth-sized pastrami-on-rye and traditional Russian-Jewish recipes. A crowded and brash diner, this is not the place for a serene dinner or impeccable service, rather for its hearty matzo-ball soup, pickles, knishes (potato dumplings) and blintzes (cheese-filled pancakes).
An informal and popular trattoria in Greenwich Village, Lupa serves traditional simple dishes from Rome. In typical Italian style, starters include antipasti of truffle scorzonera (vegetables) and Parma ham. Daily specials can range from Lupa rabbit sausage to ricotta gnocchi, but save room for the cheese selection.
Although there are nods to the rustic in the décor of Mas, there is also an atmosphere of sophistication. The dishes are innovative and the ingredients fresh, many supplied by upstate New York farms. The trout Piscator, rainbow trout, stuffed with watercress and smoked trout and topped with a tangy apple-and-horseradish dressing, is especially recommended.
Masa was conceived by chef Masa Takayama to be an event and performance art theatre in Midtown. With a fixed menu costing several hundred dollars for two - not including wine, tax and tips - this meal is designed to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Book ahead and sit at the bar to enjoy the spectacle.
Tiny Moustache in Greenwich Village has great-value Middle Eastern dishes, with locals packing in for fresh falafel sandwiches and spicy merguez sausages. Starters include smoky aubergine babaganoush with pitta bread followed by ouzo (chicken in filo-pastry) or pitzas (pitta dough with meat or herbs and olive oil). There's a café-like ambience here and it's always friendly, even when it's busy.
Pala's not your typical New York City pizza. The owners studied how pizza was made in Italy and have replicated it back home. Try a zucca pie (oblong-shaped and topped with sautéed pumpkin, pancetta, and smoked scamorza cheese) along with a few slices of a bufala cruda (buffalo mozzarella, cherry-tomato sauce, and fresh basil).
Per Se at Columbus Circle makes an extravagant night out and there are spectacular Central Park views from any of its 15 tables. Michelin-starred chef Thomas Keller creates luxurious dishes like oysters and pearls, sauteed foie gras and butter-poached lobster, all served by attentive suit-clad waiters. Smart dress and reservations essential.
Pure Food & Wine
Everything at Pure Food & Wine in Gramercy serves flavoursome and beautifully presented raw vegan food. In a sleek setting, organic and seasonal ingredients create chilli lime tortilla wraps, lapsang-smoked portabella mushrooms and biryani with curried vegetables. Try the five-course tasting menu.
With a loyal fan base from around the world, Sylvia's in Harlem serves up her famous barbecue ribs, grilled catfish and fried chicken, all accompanied by black-eyed peas and collard greens. This busy family-run restaurant has been going for generations, and Sylvia herself often oversees the cooking. There's live jazz every Saturday afternoon.
Tabla Bread Bar
Tabla Bread Bar in Flatiron gives an unusual twist to Indian dishes, a great choice for snacks and cocktails, or hearty dinners. Along with more formal dining at Tabla upstairs, this is the place for banana-leaf-wrapped cobia fish or tandoori black pepper shrimp with rosemary naan bread. Try the thali, which includes a selection of dishes such as rice, dal and meat or fish.
Tamarind, in the Flatiron district, creates innovative variations on classic Indian cuisine. In a modern dining room decorated with Indian textiles, diners can enjoy Tandoor-baked specialities like jhinga angarey - king prawns marinated in yoghurt, chillies and coriander. The Raji thali, an assortment of lentils, vegetables, tandoori salad, rice and relishes, is a vegetarian treat.
East Village's prized Tuck Shop wastes no time on decor - they know that its notoriety rests on the excellence of its pies. Flavours range from traditional meat to Thai green chicken and, of course, a vegetarian option. There are also special breakfast offerings as well as Australian beers and wines.
Union Square Cafe
Union Square Cafe has been a perennial favourite for New Yorkers, a place to enjoy bar drinks or lunch from the American-Italian menu. Try weekly specials like lobster 'shepherd's pie' or red wine-braised veal cheeks with butternut squash accompanied by a bottle from the international wine list. Lunch can be a ricotta gnocchi sitting up at the bar.
Virgil's Real BBQ
In the heart of Times Square is Virgil’s Real BBQ, a theme restaurant that actually has good food. The theme is Southern barbecue, and the restaurant is made to look and feel like a Southern roadhouse. The spice-rubbed ribs are slow cooked and meaty, but it's the Owensboro lamb (smoked slices of lamb) and the Texas beef brisket that stand out.