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October 7, 2014

6

4 Must Try New York City Restaurants

by Jason Dutton-Smith
Cognac Cheese Puffs

Manhattan – we’ve all seen the beautiful skyline pictures promising a city of excitement, glitz and glamour; and you will not be disappointed. When it comes to eating out in this enticing metropolis, you are spoiled for choice.  Research shows there are approximately 18,700 restaurants to choose from in Manhattan alone, let alone the exciting boroughs such as Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens where countless more options are available.

To try them all in one year you would need to eat 51 meals per day…..that’s a lot of chedda’ yo! So if you are going to make it in this highly competitive food industry, then you need to be good. And I mean really good!

To put the volume of food options in perspective, let’s look at how big Manhattan really is. The answer – 59 square kilometres (or 23 square miles) with 1.6m inhabitants. To put into scale, the total area of Australia’s capital Canberra is just over 200 square kilometres with 325,000 inhabitants.  This makes Manhattan 1/3 the size of Canberra, with a lot of mouths to feed in a comparatively small area.

Manhattan skyline from the air - Image copyright Jason Dutton-Smith

Manhattan skyline from the air approaching LaGuardia Airport – Image: Jason Dutton-Smith

On a recent visit I found four restaurants you simply don’t want to miss. In fact one of these I went back to for a second helping. It was just that good. You are completely spoiled for choice when it comes to food venues. From street carts selling hot dogs and warm pretzels, to a diner or deli on every corner to Italian food that will make you swear you were in Italy.

Famous five-star establishments such as The Russian Tea Room and 3 Michelin-Star establishments like Restaurant Daniel are always worth a visit to exercise the credit card. Whatever your choice, there is a place to nosh, chew, drink and repeat on every corner.

Root and Bone

I have a confession, I ate here twice. I couldn’t help it. There are so many wonderful places to try in this city yet this tiny restaurant with up to a 2 hour wait drew me back for a second helping. What makes it so special? Three words; Southern… Fried… Chicken. I know what you’re thinking. We are not in the south here, but this is no ordinary fried chicken. In fact many in the south may even disagree with the adaption of their traditional dish.

Root and Bone dining room - Image copyright Jason Dutton-Smith

Root and Bone dining room – Image copyright Jason Dutton-Smith

Executive Chefs and owners Jeff McInnis and Janine Booth (who is originally from Perth, Western Australia no less) have taken a unique approach to traditional southern food by adding a New York City twist.

Southern Peach Caprese Salad - Image copyright Jason Dutton-Smith

Southern Peach Caprese Salad – Image copyright Jason Dutton-Smith

Grilled sweet corn cob - Root and Bone - Image copyright Jason Dutton-Smith

Grilled sweet corn cob – Root and Bone – Image copyright Jason Dutton-Smith

The secret recipe revealed…
Why is it so special here? It’s all in the preparation of the chicken. Chicken pieces are soaked in a sweet tea brine, for 48 hours, before hand tossed in a seasoned flour coating infused with dill, then pressure-cooker deep fried to perfection to retain its incredible moisture – or so I’m told by the ever friendly waitress. The piece de résistance though, and what makes this dish complete – a dusting of dehydrated lemon before being served piping hot and crispy.

I’ve learnt that recipes like this one are closely guarded, so a slight variation I’m almost sure is involved. You’re drooling, am I right? This is why I returned for a second helping and why you need to add this restaurant to your New York dining list.

Root and Bone Southern Fried Chicken - Image copyright Jason Dutton-Smith

Root and Bone Southern Fried Chicken – Image copyright Jason Dutton-Smith

Root and Bone - Buckwheat cheddar waffles - Image copyright Jason Dutton-Smith

Root and Bone – Buckwheat cheddar waffles with whiskey maple syrup are a must – Image copyright Jason Dutton-Smith

What we ordered:
Crispy whole free range bucket of bird – $42 (including the waffles)
Buckwheat cheddar waffles with whiskey maple syrup
Southern style cornbread – $6
Grilled sweet corn cob with fresh popcorn – $8
Mac-n-cheese – $8
Southern Peach Caprese salad – $14
(Yes there was left-overs between three of us)
Value for money: The quality of the food and service is outstanding. Great menu with a diverse range of options while not breaking the piggy bank.
Ambiance: Small and cosy with limited number of tables. They could easily be double the size and still have a wait time out the door. Outside tables weather permitting would be a good addition but with open windows the noise was limited even though tables are intimate and close together.
Address: 200 East Third St (corner Avenue B)
Open 5:30 to 11:30 every day for dinner and 11:30-3:30 for weekend brunch.
Website: www.rootnbone.com


Sardi’s Times Square

Not normally one for tourist traps, Sardi’s is unquestionably a Broadway institution. For over 90 years the kitchen has been delivering a consistent menu to multiple seatings – packed houses if you will – every night. Located in the heart of the theatre district the menu features a full al-a-carte option or a pre-fix 3-course option to get you to your show in time or for a post-show late supper.

Sardi's dining room - Courtesy Sardi's Facebook

Sardi’s dining room – Courtesy Sardi’s Facebook

You have most likely had a glimpse of Sardi’s in many movies. With its walls famously covered in caricatures and sketches of every famous person who has graced the Broadway theatre stage. With barely any wall space left, these colourful portraits spill into the hallways, the bar, waiting areas, even the bathrooms.

Sardi's Club Bar 2nd floor - Courtesy Sardi's Facebook

Sardi’s Club Bar 2nd floor – Courtesy Sardi’s Facebook

I chose the pre-fix 3-course dinner including tea or coffee. My seating was at 6:30pm and thanks to the attentive staff and fast kitchen turn around, I had plenty of time to make my 8pm curtain call. The food is simple but well done and delicious. This is also my second time at this restaurant and I would definitely go back again for not only the food but the great service and lively atmosphere of the theatre going crowd.

Sardi's main dining room entrance and bar - Courtesy Sardi's Facebook

Sardi’s main dining room entrance and bar – Courtesy Sardi’s Facebook

What we ordered:
3 course pre-fix for $50 (plus tax, tip and drinks)
Starter – fresh caprese salad of tomatoes, mozzarella, torn basil leaves and basil oil
Main – Grilled 8 oz. New York Steak served with haricots verts (beans), wild mushroom duxelle whipped potato and bordelaise sauce
Dessert – New York Cheesecake (of course!)
Pot of tea
Value for money: The quality of the food was great and for the price it could not be beaten. I certainly walked away full and satisfied and enjoyed the old school charm surrounds.
Ambience: Cosy with a high buzz of chatter with tables reasonably close together. Easy to hold a conversation without being washed out by the noise though and the pre-show crowd gives it a lively atmosphere.
Address: 234 West 44th Street, just off Broadway
Open lunch and dinner Tuesday to Sunday serving supper till late.
Website: www.sardis.com


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Brassiere Cognac de Monsieur Ballon

With a motto of ‘Toujoures la Fete’ which translates to ‘always a party’, this was an apt motto for the lively atmosphere and friendly service found here. The room was filled with elegant touches of authentic French décor. The French staff added to the atmosphere with their lovely accents and attentive service. The menu was expansive and typically French and included brassiere favourites such as Croque Monsieur, steak frites, beef bourguignon, escargots and their famous Gougeres cheese puffs.

Cognac Restaurant main floor - Image courtesy Cognac Restaurant

Cognac Restaurant main floor – Image courtesy Cognac Restaurant

The dining choices include an outdoor side walk cafe, the main elegant dining room, an original French bakery, a lively bar/lounge area or the private Cognac Room which features over 100 varieties of Cognac. Full of business suits, tourists and locals alike, this is a great dining experience giving a touch of French culture and cuisine in the heart of Manhattan

Cognac French Bakery bread tower - Image courtesy Cognac Restaurant

Cognac French Bakery bread tower – Image courtesy Cognac Restaurant

The menu also included a large tea selection which was refreshing to see. Hot tea is not popular in America and is hard to find a place that serves (and understands) the delicate dance of the tea. Extra points from this tea lover!

Cognac Cheese Puffs - Image courtesy Cognac Restaurant

Cognac Cheese Puffs – Image courtesy Cognac Restaurant

Cognac Scottish Salmon, truffled mash, organic baby root vegetables - Image courtesy Cognac Restaurant

Cognac Scottish Salmon, truffled mash, organic baby root vegetables – Image courtesy Cognac Restaurant

Cognac Tuna Nicoise Salad - Image courtesy Cognac Restaurant

Cognac Tuna Nicoise Salad – Image courtesy Cognac Restaurant

What we ordered
Starter – Gougeres cheese puffs – $15 (large table share serve with approximately 12 portions)
Main – Pan roasted Scottish salmon, truffle mash potatoes, organic baby vegetables and a veal jus – $26
Cognac Tune Nicoise salad – $24
Fresh brewed ice-tea with lemon – $4 (free refills)
Value for money: Excellent value for money for the quality of the food and service and the dining room ambiance. The dishes were beyond my expectation. No main dishes are over $35 with an affordable menu for all.
Ambience: Comfortable tables with crisp white linens and classic décor with rich woods. Large dining space so noise was contained well even though most tables were full when we dined.
Address: 1740 Broadway, New York. Just a few blocks north of Time Square.
Open 7:30am to midnight weekdays and 10am to midnight weekends.
Website: www.cognacrestaurant.com


Red Eye Grill

Just blocks north of Times Square and sitting opposite Carnegie Hall, this classic American fare restaurant is popular with diners throughout the day and late into the night. Warm tones, white linens and wood accents surround the large dining room, with low hanging lights illuminating the tables. Dulcet tones feature in the back ground as the nightly music and lounge singing fill the air.

The Redeye Grill Lounge Bar and piano - Image courtesy Redeye Grill

The Redeye Grill Lounge Bar and piano – Image courtesy Redeye Grill

The Redeye Grill main floor and circular cocktail, oyster and raw bar - Image courtesy Redeye Grill

The Redeye Grill main floor and circular cocktail, oyster and raw bar – Image courtesy Redeye Grill

This is my second visit to Red Eye and it was just as memorable the second time round. Two years prior we had attended a Carnegie performance by the Nashville Symphony Orchestra. Afterwords, we discovered this restaurant for a late night supper. The centre piece of the dining room is the elevated circular shaped sushi, oyster and raw bar doubling as a cocktail bar with drinks designed by local mixologists.

The Redeye Grill famed steaks - Image courtesy Redeye Grill

The Redeye Grill famed steaks – Image courtesy Redeye Grill

The Redeye Grill famous Banana Cream Pie - Image copyright Jason Dutton-Smith

The Redeye Grill famous Banana Cream Pie – Image copyright Jason Dutton-Smith

What we ordered
Prime aged rib-eye steak with optional gorgonzola sauce (which I recommend if you enjoy gorgonzola cheese)
Pencil asparagus with béarnaise sauce
Brussel Sprouts with toasted almonds
Jewish mashed potatoes with Gribbines (Gribbines are fried chicken skin in chicken fat with onions – optional topping which we opted not to add)
Banana cream pie – this is their famous signature dish. My tip; order one to share as the portions are big with enough for two people and ensure to leave room. It’s simply delicious.
Value for money: This is not on the low end of the scale with mains ranging from $30-$60 each. Steaks average the $50 price not including any sides which are all additionally ordered a-la-carte. The quality of the food is fantastic and the service was attentive and friendly. Perfect location for a special occasion or date night.
Ambience: Relaxed, clean, modern and inviting. I enjoyed the atmosphere of this dining room and the piano playing subtly in the background was an elegant touch. Although some tables are close enough to hear full conversations, we were fortunate enough to have had an end table. The décor is very pleasing.
Address: 890 7th Ave, New York. Opposite Carnegie Hall 3 blocks south of Central Park.
Open from 11:30am-11:30pm every night (except Monday until 10:30pm).
Website: www.redeyegrill.com

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