You could argue that classic food is boring and outdated, but Le Bernardin proves otherwise. This Midtown restaurant has been open for more than 30 years and is a well-oiled machine that has been adjusted to perfection. The service here is impeccable, and the large rectangular dining room has soft spotlights that impact exactly where the plate goes. The real glamor of this restaurant, and the main reason why it's still an incredible place to eat after about three decades, comes from the seafood.
You can find Geoduck Chawanmushi with soft and crunchy green beans in pork dashi, buttered prawns and leeks in American sauce with New Orleans flavor, and lightly smoked sea trout tartar. Book a reservation at Le Bernardin mainly to get these. We loved our meals at Uncle Boons over the years, but we can't help but think of Thai Diner (from the same owners) as the restaurant that Uncle Boons always aspired to be. The interior of this place literally shines like a disco ball, with the golden light of Nolita illuminating its woven bamboo walls and its bakery full of cakes and pastries.
The large booths come equipped with hangers, the bar stools are attached to the floor and the waiters enter through swing doors with restaurant concoctions that we thought were only possible with the help of psychedelics at a pajama party in Bushwick. Most importantly, every section of the Thai Diner menu has an undeniable “damn, yeah” energy. Order the nightclub fries topped with Massaman curry, the cabbage rolls stuffed with turkey and jasmine rice and the Sai Oua breakfast roti, whose mix of textures would win Project Runway. In New York City, standing in line for pizza is one of the most ridiculous things you can do.
It's like waiting for sand to arrive in the middle of the Sahara. But not only will we arrive in Lucali before the restaurant opens to secure a table, but we will also wait several hours at a nearby bar until the table is ready. Lucali makes us do irrational things, because Lucali serves the best pizza in town. Its crust is thin, crunchy and a little chewy, and it maintains an impeccable posture while holding a velvety tomato sauce and three types of cheese.
This is a simple pizza done really well, and it's more than the sum of its parts. Fresh basil is key. Once you enter your name, grab a bottle of wine. This place is BYOB, which is yet another reason why we eat nonsense here.
In a hypothetical scenario of the Restaurant Olympics, we would nominate Estela to represent New York City. Instead of releasing records like the giants of Ancient Greece, the restaurant featured raw scallops on crushed dates with a touch of university in the middle. Instead of doing a double setup with two twists on the asymmetric bars, Estela turned an endive salad into a food worthy of a last meal on Earth. And they would do everything with seductive ease, since that's exactly the way you dine in your dining room on Houston Street.
Even after a decade of operation, Estela is one of the best restaurants in New York. Most of the dishes at this small place on Houston Street accentuate whatever it is in season, which means you can find celery and cuttlefish in hot beurre blanc or dried shrimp on slices of Cara Cara Cara orange. Always order the veal tartare and the endive salad (the most glamorous in the world), and don't hesitate to try new additions to the menu. From the moment you walk into La Mercerie's palatial dining room, you'll know that a special experience awaits you.
The Soho restaurant always serves excellent classic French bistro food in an opulent setting that is ideal for a surprisingly wide variety of uses, from a random breakfast from Monday to Friday when you want to feel a little elegant to Christmas dinners and meals for special occasions. It's very difficult to choose a favorite food here, but if you push us, we'd say it's actually breakfast: start with a hot pain au chocolat and a perfect latte, and then enjoy their impressive full buckwheat crepe. For dinner, you can't stop ordering the foie gras torchon with brioche, as well as the most perfect roasted chicken in New York. Hwa Yuan was one of Chinatown's most popular restaurants until it closed in the 1980s and is credited with introducing cold sesame noodles to New York.
Choosing a favorite restaurant in New York City is a fun task with countless possibilities depending on occasion, mood, and even time of year. Luckily for all of us, we've rounded up some of our favorite restaurants under one roof at New York's Time Out Market. This place has one of the best natural wine lists in the city; it feels lively and frantic like every restaurant in New York City should; and its sepia-toned dining table for two in its dining room is one of our favorite options for a night out.