Saturday, February 2, 2008

Restaurants in New York - on a budget!

Here is an eating page for the not-too-well-off traveller in the Big Apple. Just for fun.

Photo: Columbus Circle at Jean-Georges (Museum Arts and Design in background).
Now I am not sure if this is really fair. True New York “restaurants”, at least for dinner, are almost off limits many for financial reasons. We have been taken to a number of interesting and costly places by generous hosts but to recommend them over others might be unfair with such limited experience. See warnings below.

After 15 years of monthly visits, we might now be called EXPERTS in the cheap, ‘prix-fixe’ lunch which most of the fine restaurants do for between 20 and 40 dollars for 3 courses in a limited daily menu. The ones we have tried are:

* Jean Georges Nougatine (Trump International Tower ground floor at Columbus Circle - enter from Central Park West = 8th Ave) opposite the new Time-Warner building (also fascinating architecture and with the world’s best supermarket in the basement – just go down the front escalators after looking over Sonoma Williams kitchen things – and maybe a cooking demo if you are lucky). Jean Georges: Tel 299 3900 Often need to book a few days ahead for the cheap lunch. The food is extraordinary, sometimes in its simplicity always with a brilliant conception such as same/contrasting colours, flavours, related vegetables, spices, etc. Not always kosher choices but can always order from regular lunch menu which is not exorbitant. NOT TO BE MISSED!!!

* Café Luxembourg (70th St and Broadway at 10th Avenue) essentially New York style eatery like the Chelsea Grill and a hundred other such places.

* Otto Enoteca (212) 995 9559 1 Fifth Ave, NYC @ 8th St, 10003 Best pizza in the world! Lovely atmosphere. Huge wine list from Italy.

* San Domenico’s on Central Park South close to Columbus Circle. Excellent high class Italian food, mostly northern. It was Pavarotti’s favourite. Horses smell awful out the front taking people in carriages around Central Park! Only place I have ever had a par-cooked egg in a ravioli case! (with caviar, of course!)

* La bonne soupe. 586 7650 48 W 55th St, NYC (Excellent busy French Canadian fare). Cheap lunch special including glass of wine?$16.95. Always need to add tip and taxes in NYC.

* Cocktails at sunset in the new Mandarin Oriental Hotel high above Central Park in Time Warner building (entrance on 60th St at Columbus Circle). Cannot book, but you often get lucky in the big apple. Rainbow Room at Rockefeller Center has re-opened and is probably worth a try, too, especially at sundown.

* Rosa Mexicana (co-owned by a doctor from Beth Israel NY MC) is just across the road from the stage door of the Lincoln Center State Theater and the Fordham Law College. It is quite dear but original and almost ‘obsessive’ Mexican fare. Guacamole made to order at your table. Wicked cactus cocktails, etc. Great appetisers like pancakes. Possibly the best slow-cooked beef ribs in the world (HUGE helpings). Near ?63rd and Ninth Ave. Check on web: also has another branch elsewhere in Manhattan I think.
* Café des Artistes is an old New York institution. The only place I have ever had French champagne served in a carafe! Lots of movie scenes occur in this place. 212 877 3500 1 West 67th St, NYC (near Central Park West).

* Near Opera House: Shun Lee Restaurant (Cantonese spoken) Tel: 595 8895 43 West 65th St, NYC (just off Broadway) Two separate dining rooms: choose the cheap and cheerful one on the right (you probably won’t get into the other one anyhow!). Probably better and cheaper food in Chinatown (here or there – have you been to Marigold lately? Wonderful fish, pork, vegetables we had last weekend). Must book at Shun Lee if you are trying to get to the opera/ballet or concert. Service is quite quick as it is dim sum style even though they never do that in the evening back home in Canton!

* The Hudson Hotel (356 West 58th Street New York, New York 10019) MOST interesting architecturally, but relatively pricey. 5 choices of gin (have you tried “Plymouth Gin”?). There was a story about the building, the ivy, the chef and possibly an unsolved murder – all lost in the mists of time. Look up the contact for Hudson Hotel.

* A sensational and very ‘different’ Japanese restaurant is in mid-town near Grand Central. “Aburiya Kinnosuke” 212 867 5454 213 E. 45th St., New York, NY 10017 (nr. Third Ave) They cook everything on skewers stuck in a large sand heap with a fire in the centre. Exotic house cocktail of type of Japanese vodka and pink grapefruit juice you make yourself at table. 213 East 45th St (between 2/3 Ave) Ph: 212 867 5454 Expensive but extraordinary. Not a white person in sight until we showed up, vitiligo et al, with our generous Jewish hosts!

* Great value and authentic, next to Rockefeller Center in old brownstone Wu Liang Ye Restaurant (Szechwan is the old British Post Office spelling but Beijing now prefers ‘Sichuan’). Ph 212 398 2308 36 W48th St, NYC (5/6 Ave). They have pork, beef, chicken etc, cooked with their own unique peppers rather than chillies, done in the authentic way. If adventurous, try beef tendon, tripe and tongue - a sensational mixed dish they do for regulars. Order beer with it – or better still, miles of Chinese tea (ask if they have “Bo-lay” tea and they will titter but find it – just another variety of jasmine but darker looking but NOT stronger tasting. Limited English (which does not matter as most of their patrons are Asian) but one or two waiters speak haltering Cantonese (others from south-west China only Mandarin and dialects).

* ‘Turquoise’ is an Israeli restaurant staffed by Australians. Quite unusual to find such an establishment on the ‘old money’ upper east side. The whole Israeli ‘St Peter’s fish’ was splendid as was carpaccio of grouper and sesame seed shrimp (king prawns). 240 E 81st St (2nd & 3rd Ave) Ph: 212 988 8222

* Petrossian (corner 7th Ave and 58th St, Tel 212 245 2214). This is in the corner entrance of the most ornate building I have ever seen. Worth a photograph during the day. Dinner menu is probably terrifyingly expensive the lunch quite feasible. It is an institution and most interesting modern French based cuisine.

* Café Boulud 20 East 76th St, NYC Tel: 772 2600 Worth a visit for a quite, sexy meal in classy surroundings. Their web site says it all. Make sure somebody else is paying unless it is the fixe-pris luncheon but with alcohol even that may be over-the-top.

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