Category Archives: Midtown West

The Palm Court at the Plaza: tea time, anyone?

Justyn @ Plaza

Justyn @ Plaza

Scones, clotted cream, tea
Fancy forks and velvet chairs
Hellof expensive

I never thought I’d add high tea at the Plaza to my New York bucket list, but when my sister invited me to join her with her friend Nicole, it suddenly became a pre-move-to-SF priority. Plus, I grew up fantasizing about the Plaza as an avid Elouise fan. Before I could read, my sister would pretend that this said book was oddly written all about me, so imagining myself jumping around the hotel was often how I’d fall asleep. To be here today as an adult, sipping tea as a civilized New Yorker, happy and independent…well it just brought a warm and fuzzy feeling of nostalgia.

Until I was told we would be charged $20 per person to share any of the four assorted finger food selections. At $60 for an individual order, I should’ve assumed as much. Fortunately, my annoyance only slightly disrupted the beauty of the grand and uniquely ornate surroundings.  

We selected the afternoon tea and shared the New Yorker, which came with a selection of mini sandwiches, lemon scones with clotted cream, lemon and jam, and sweet treats, all a notch less fancy than the “Fitzgerald Tea for the Ages.” And while “they” call it “tea”, it soon became much more of a food test than a sipping tea fest. I sampled every sandwich (microscopic bites since we were sharing between 3), and the smoked salmon with endive was by far the best. The other two were delicious – roquefort with grapes, and a crispy prosciutto with mozzarella and pesto. The cucumber was not cold and crispy enough, and far too heavy on the whipped cream cheese.

Me & platter

Me & tower

Nicole & Justyn & platter

Nicole & Justyn & tower

The scone, a very important part of tea, was crumbly, buttery, lemony, and perfect with the clotted cream and sweet additions. It was enough dessert on its own, but that didn’t stop me from sampling each of the bite-sized desserts on plate 3 – the cream-filled profiterole was the best.

The best deal here, however, is the $30 Elouise tray for children. Nicole’s daughter lucked out with her own, 3-tiered tower filled with a PB&J, cucumber sandwich, strawberry sandwich, and a few others, a scone, and a ton of desserts that looked better than our adult ones (like a white chocolate dipped strawberry and a pink oreo…so unfair). I took a few bites here and there, and while the PB&J was a little on the stale side, I’ll say this much – if you can pass for an 11 year old, I would come here to order this and call it a day.

heaven for a child.

heaven for a child.

Will I be back? Not on my paycheck. Did I feel super sophisticated and rich eating there? Yes. Quintessentially New York? Absolutely. Was it worth it? Totally.

So America, here you have it. Tea at the Plaza Hotel.

a horrible photo of all of us.

a horrible photo of all of us.

Grade: B+ (food only)
Location: The Plaza. Do I even need to explain?
Website

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Filed under Brunch, Business Meal, Midtown East, Midtown West, Upper West Side

Ilili

I tend to avoid midtown-east restaurant establishments because I find them impersonal and fussy compared to my cozy West Village favorites. Ilili’s ambience didn’t necessarily prove me wrong, but the food was stellar. It’s pretty easy to win me over with complimentary freshly baked pita and pita chips with herb marinated cheese, and the hummus, chicken skewers with crispy chicken skin, pan seared tuna belling, fattoush salad and warm eggplant that followed were incredible.

pita

delicious hummus dip

crackers with goat cheese

warm eggplant

tuna belly

Ilili is a great place for a corporate event – they have a few rooms on the second level that can accommodate large groups, or a post-work sharable-plate meal. It’s also a great place to bring parents or adult out of town visitors. Though the food is great, I wouldn’t head to this area on the weekends unless you’re looking to be with an older, more mature crowd.

Grade: A-
Location: 236 5th Avenue between 27th and 28th Streets
Website: http://www.ililinyc.com

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Filed under Business Meal, Drinks & Apps, Family Style, Fun Group Dinner, Gramercy, Middle Eastern, Midtown East, Midtown West, Parents in Town, Sex & The City Swank

Bar Americain

Bar Americain

It’s not easy finding restaurants with character in midtown. You have your steakhouses, your power lunch spots, the hotel restaurants, and the chains. Today, I decided on Bar American, Bobby Flay’s Southwestern take on a typical French brasserie menu. With crab and coconut and mussels and fries with a green chile broth, Bar American is almost like a Tex Mix Balthazar, but without the young and scene-y atmosphere. Despite the flair, however, ambience is characteristic of the area – think business suits and Gen-X-ers.

Though the old-school Madison Avenue atmosphere isn’t my favorite, the food at Bobby’s restaurant is actually quite good. Lunch comes with a basket of hot and crispy cornbread (it’s got to be fried), and the menu has a wide range of interesting options. Just don’t expect to eat too lightly here.

Cornbread

"hot" chips with dip

We started with the tuna tartare andhot potato chip with blue cheese dipping sauce. The tuna was basic and well prepared with finely chopped garnishes, and the hot chips were incredibly thin, light, and delicious. With the oozing chunky blue cheese dip, they were highly addictive.

tuna tartare

I attempted to order healthily and had the Southwestern Cobb Salad for my main course, but with bacon, egg, cheese, and avocado, I felt like I had eaten a burger by the end of my meal. That said, it was a solid salad and definitely classically prepared.

cobb salad

Dessert was the major show-stopper. I could have made a meal out of the red velvet brownie with homemade cream cheese soft ice cream and the profiteroles with vanilla soft serve and pralines. David Chang, move over – Bobby would definitely win the contest of best chef-created soft serve. The red velvet brownie somehow incorporated the classic flavors of a perfect red velvet cake, but had the density and chocolate richness of a delicious brownie. Just as I had imagined, my two favorite desserts combined transformed into something out of this world.

red velvet brownie

profiteroles

I left much fuller than I should be after lunch, but I was actually quite pleased with my overall meal at Bar Americain. I wouldn’t come back from an intimate or particularly unique dining experience, but it’s a perfect fit for client or older-crowd entertaining.

Grade: A-

Location: 152 West 52nd Street between 6th and 7th Ave

Website: http://www.baramericain.com

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Filed under Business Meal, Cajun, Latin American, Midtown West, New American, Parents in Town, Southern

DB Bistro Moderne

Just yesterday I found a pleasantly surprising email in my inbox announcing a 20% discount for Google employees at DB Bistro Moderne, Daniel Boulud’s restaurant widely known for its $100 truffle and foie gras stuffed burger. I forwarded the email to my friends Lauren and Nicole, and within minutes our low key Thursday night plans to cook turned into a glamorous rendez-vous at a classy French bistro.

front room

The space feels exactly as the name describes – modern and sophisticated, with a tinge of retro, catering toward a mature after-work dinner crowd. We stood out as the youngest people in the front of the house, and there were at least 4 solo diners surrounding us, in addition to the actor who played Niles Crane in Frasier.

In our element or not, we felt right at home when perusing the obscene number of enticing menu options while sampling the variety of breads (including pretzel rolls – my favorite) in our basket. This is no place for small bites and light appetites – the starters are substantial in their ingredients, substance, and price, and each comes with a chorus of accompaniments that make choosing an entree a complicated task.

french rolls, pretzel rolls and olive bread

Despite the incredible lobster salad and squash soup de jour options, we decided to stir up conformance and order something dainty as an appetizer – the original DB burger stuffed with short rib on a parmesan bun. The burger was incredibly rich, and the short rib added a sweet flavor and an interesting texture with the thinly sliced tomato and subtle shredded lettuce. Regardless of its originality and quality, I prefer a classic $10 burger from Bill’s. The fries, however, were hot, crispy, and well seasoned.

burger sliced in fourths, as requested

I was immediately impressed upon the arrival of our entrees – though we ordered differently, their beautiful plate composition, glistening sides and wafting aromas made each appear better than the next. My eyes darted left to right as I examined the precious details of each dish. The food very closely resembled that of Daniel Boulud’s finest restaurant, Daniel, but with a rustic edge.

My sauteed skate meurniere with hen of wood mushrooms and spinach came out impeccably seared. It was a beautiful piece of fish, and the spinach, though creamy, had a quality of lightness to balance the oils of the fish and mushrooms. The fish was delicate, buttery, and cooked in classic French fashion.

sauteed skate wing

Thanks to our different tastes, I was able to try three other dishes by trading bites across the table. Lauren’s crispy duck confit was fantastic. It’s so difficult to find a truly crispy duck, but this one came with a generous heaping of tender duck on the bone that was just perfectly sauteed.

duck confit

Our friend Nicole’s organic chicken breast with Moroccan cous cous was anything but the boring chicken dish on most menus – it was deep, flavorful, and rich all the while succeeding at simplicity in perfectly pan roasted chicken.

pan roasted chicken breast with lemon chicken jus

Though we were beyond full as the intensity of the deceptively rich food crept on us, the gorgeous apple mille-feuille could not be resisted. The pastry was executed to perfection, with piped fresh cream and “apple confit” between them. This twist on a classic apple tart tatin brought me right back to my mother’s visit to Paris during which she had her first true French napoleon. Despite my chocolate obsession, the contrasting textures and light sweet cream cannot be beat, and Daniel Boulud truly captured that luxurious combination.

apple mille feuille

I assume with every discount there’s a caveat, but I couldn’t place a finger on it during our meal. As we stood up to exit with hands on our stomachs in shameless content, however, I noticed one thing unique about our tables: the lack of mignardises. My fullness couldn’t stop me from begging for more, and I brought the mistake to our waiter’s attention. He quickly reconciled by rushing back to the kitchen to fetch a small box of chocolates to go.

Based on its location and price point, DB Bistro Moderne won’t be top of mind for a go-to recommendation, but with such a fine setting and menu, it’s the quintessential restaurant for parents, a week night out, or a classy date night in the area.

Grade: A-

Location: 55 West 44th Street btwn 5th and 6th avenue

Website: http://www.danielnyc.com/dbbistro

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Filed under Business Meal, French, Midtown West, Parents in Town, Special Occasion

Ma Peche

Ohhh David Chang. You just keep on getting better and better! I actually had no intention of visiting Ma Peche until my colleague proposed it as an idea for a client dinner. The fact that we didn’t have a reservation made me nervous, but we were pleasantly surprised by the exceptionally accommodating host upon arrival. We put in our name, requested a table for 8pm, and they eagerly put us in their book, happy to make it happen. Sure enough, we came back at 8pm after getting manicures, and were seated after 5 minutes. From the beginning Ma Peche impressed.

The vibe at Ma Peche is very laid back, but in a modern way. Light wooden tables, stiff, uncomfortable chairs, high, white-walled ceilings, and bright lighting give it a very sophisticated, classiroomy feel. The waiters are all very young, chummy, and evidently passionate about the food they’re serving. You can tell that everyone there, waitstaff and customers alike, all feel privileged to be a part of the Ma Peche experience.

Considering we were taking out clients, the sky was the limit with our menu choices – my favorite type of dining experience! We literally picked everything that caught our eyes on the menu, and it ended up being a complete success. And for this reason (and because I’m lazy), I’m going to describe everything we ordered in list form:

1. Squid salad with scallions, peanuts – light with bright, citrus-y flavors
2. Beef tartare, soy, scallions, mint – not my typical appetizer choice, but the accompanying shrimp chips were tasty
3. Asparagus salad with crab and egg yolk – perfectly al dente aspargus with a creamy yet delicate crab dressing
4. Pork ribs with lemongrass caramel – one of my favorites, crispy fried pork that falls off the bone
5. Huge scallops, seared with brown butter, lime, pea shoots – gigantic scallops, perfectly cooked and buttery
6. Rice noodles, spicy pork, sawleaf herb – the oddly shaped noodles, crispy on the inside, were not at all what I expected but a nice surprise. The fleks of pork added great flavor and texture to the dish
7. Short ribs with carrots and spaetzle – another hit – melt in your mouth cubes of short rib with a light yet flavorful broth
8. Fried calamari with scallions and fish sauce – a vinagary delicacy, I could eat a whole bowl!

Unfortunately, I didn’t take photos of the food, but I did get a chance to take photos of two equally stellar sightings: Neal Patrick Harris and Mark Summers, who were dining together amongst a large group of young men and one woman. After a cocktail and a glass of wine, I couldn’t resist asking for a photo upon their exit. Success! They were both incredibly nice, and pleased to take a photo with their fans (especially Marc Summers, Double Dare blast from the past). If you are dying to see food photos, though, don’t fret – about every blog out there is filled with Ma Peche slide shows – check out Grub Street for a sneak peek.
The experience didn’t end with dinner, of course, though for the unmotivated it normally would. Ma Peche doesn’t serve dessert in the main dining room. This, to me, is a huge setback. I don’t want to get out of my chair to get dessert, because that’s when I realize I’m too full to actually eat it. Ma Peche gives you two options – take dessert to-go from the Milk Bar that welcomes you upon entering with bright neon lights, or sit in the quiet upstairs lounge and order. We opted for the latter and pre-ordered four of the famous freshly baked Milk Bar Chocolate Chip Cookies, which take 10 minutes to bake. These were absolutely incredible, and washed down with a cold glass of milk, brought me more back to my childhood than Marc Summers and the classroom like setting did combined. Pure bliss. Warm, doughy, chocolatey, chewy cookies. We also ordered the Candy Bar pie, which is the perfect combo of salty and sweet, chocolate and caramel, hard and smooth textures.

Overall, Ma Peche was awesome and scored especially high on food and service. The host even left us with his card so we could give him a heads up on our future visits. He may regret that, because I will definitely be making this place a stop when visitors come to town!

Grade: A-
Address: Mezzanine of Chambers Hotel, 15 W 56th St between 5th and 6th
Website: http://www.momofuku.com/mapeche/

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Filed under Business Meal, Fun Group Dinner, Midtown West, Thai