(Clockwise from top left; Alison Eighteen, Armani, Angolo Soho, Sushi Masaru.)
These dining rooms are as diverse in cuisine as they are in location, spread all over town and filling both intimate and soaring spaces. Our favorites were found in grand hotels, a designer emporium on Fifth Avenue, pauses through the Flatiron District and a little place on the Lower East Side.
Loi (208 W 70th St, 212-875-8600, RestaurantLoi.com) is filled with exploratory, fantastic fare in a soothing oasis that summons the Mediterranean. Slurpy spoons of creamy sea urchin are drizzled with fragrant olive oil, moussaka is slowly cooked with minced meat in béchamel sauce, and buttery Dover sole with charred eggplant, yellow peppers and zucchini is utterly captivating.
Dining in the beautiful Isola (9 Crosby St, 212-389-0000, IsolaSoho.com) at the Mondrian Soho hotel is nothing less than enchanting. Executive chef Victor LaPlaca mainly pulls inspiration from the Amalfi coast, serving porcini-stuffed ravioli love notes embraced by a heartbreaking veal ragu and a ravishing sirloin to be slowly savored like an indecent caramel.
Every Japanese dish presented by executive chef Masato Shimizu is a gift at 15 East (15 E 15th St, 212-647-0015, 15EastRestaurant.com). Cold soba noodles float in a rapturous pond of caviar, salmon pearls and sea urchin; sea urchin makes a poignant risotto with sumptuous matsutake mushrooms; foie gras and miso duck terrine borders on the obscene.
As the Olympics played on, we were thrilled to discover that Alison Price Becker returned victorious with Alison Eighteen (15 W 18th St, 212-366-1818, AlisonEighteen.com), offering velvety vichyssoise, lobster salad with citrus and yellow-curry-tinged yogurt sauce, hickory smoked Berkshire pork chops with peach-fig jam and outrageous polenta with wild mushrooms. Alison 18 scores an 18!
Housed in the Iroquois hotel, Triomphe (49 W 44th St, 212-453-4233, Triomphe-NewYork.com) is a classic New York supper club, led by forward-thinking chef Jason Tilmann: plump chicken livers with sherry-braised onions, scallops with melted foie gras butter, and richly red Chateaubriand with mustard laced béarnaise sauce to start; delectable chocolate croissant bread pudding with caramel toffee gelato to finish.
We swooned over the lobster at La Piscine (518 W 27th St, 212-525-0000, Hotel-Americano.com) this summer on the gorgeous rooftop at the Hôtel Americano. The crawling creatures from the grill are done to perfection, with a drizzle of fruity green olive oil. In between dips of hummus, tzatziki, baba ghanoush and taramosalata, take a dip in the pool.
During a torrential downpour, we lingered inside the starkly elegant Armani/Ristorante Fifth Avenue (717 Fifth Ave, 212-207-1902) over several glasses of excellent wine that prefaced tender stalks of white asparagus in silky chervil zabaglione and smoky duck carpaccio; sweet foie gras and duck agnolotti with sage and white butter sauce and olive-crusted lamb loin; ending with pristine orbs of white peach sorbet.
Grilled, moist quail at comfortable Angolo Soho (331 Broadway, 212-203-1722, AngoloSoho.com) certainly suited the fall season, so rich and full of warming spices, perched atop rugged, chewy faro and handsome dates. The pork chop was a meaty beauty, brilliant and of epic proportion, sharing the plate with caramelized fennel and heated cherry peppers.
We flew into Fatta Cuckoo (63 Clinton St, 212-353-0570, FattaCuckoo.com), having rescheduled reservations after Hurricane Sandy. A Pee-Wee’s Playhouse setting meets the Lower East Side with wonton-wrapped seasonal vegetable ravioli, juicy brined and battered fried chicken and a host of scrumptious desserts such as grasshopper mousse, made by owner Leah Tinari’s mother.
Owner and chef Henry Yang helped close out the year, transforming Chelsea’s Alpha into Sushi Masaru (169 Eighth Ave, 212-627-8887, SushiMasaru.com), a civilized dining room with the feel of an art gallery, befitting the beautiful plates of seared scallops with XO cognac and truffle oil, foie gras with supremed oranges, tuna tataki and fluke with seaweed and marinated rice.
First published in part in Next magazine. Photo credit: Gustavo Monroy.