Vaucluse

**** (4 stars)

Just as this space has been elevated far above that of a traditional brasserie, so, too, has the food achieved a polish not often found in a simple brasserie. That is not to say that the dishes aren’t traditional, for they are. But everything from plating to ingredients seems top notch.

A standout was the salad Lyonnaise, the best I’ve ever had, with an absolutely perfect poached egg and sinfully good fried croutons. And the pomme frites that came with the burger were superb, crisped with duck fat, and almost hollow.

A compact selection of wines by the glass manages to offer a little of something for everyone. The “house” Altamarea wines are a good bet, especially the Oregon pinot noir.

Service is well intentioned and professional, if not quite at the polished level of the food.

Vaucluse
100 E 63rd St
New York, NY 10065
(646) 869-2300
http://www.yelp.com/biz/vaucluse-new-york

ABA Turkish Restaurant

**** (4 stars)

This Turkish restaurant is bustling with locals, so it’s definitely got the stamp of authenticity.

We tried the cold appetizer sample, which was a great assortment. Favorites were the eggplant and the tomato and vegetable mixture. Interestingly, they were served with crusty bread rather than the traditional puffy Lava? Turkish bread.

The hot appetizers we tried included falafel, which was crispier and a different shape that we were used to, and some excellent zucchini pancakes.

We also shared one entree that was an assortment of all the meats, and thought each was very well prepared. The lamb chop was my favorite, as it had a nice char.

Service was friendly and efficient, especially considering the restaurant was completely full.

ABA Turkish Restaurant
325 W 57th St
New York, NY 10019
(212) 655-9368
http://www.yelp.com/biz/aba-turkish-restaurant-new-york

DB Bistro Moderne

**** (4 stars)

We really like db Bistro for late night dinner after the theatre. It’s a short walk from Broadway, and an 11pm reservation is no problem.

The interior  is stylish and well lit, and quite late in the evening, although I’m sure it can get loud earlier.

Service is friendly and efficient, and the menu offers a limited but interesting range of choices. The burger is famous, but because it is stuffed with short ribs and topped with foie gras, it is very rich, and should only be attempted if you are very hungry.

On this visit we started with some seared shishito peppers, these were smaller than usual and nicely seared, served with a soy dipping sauce.

My peekytoe crab appetizer was pretty, but didn’t have a lot of flavor. However the sunchoke soup was rich and full of flavor.

Amish chicken is tender and succulent, and served with an interesting pickled cabbage slaw that complements it well.

An nice variety of wines are available in 5 or 8 ounce servings.

DB Bistro Moderne
55 W 44th St
#1
New York, NY 10036
(212) 391-2400
http://www.yelp.com/biz/db-bistro-moderne-new-york-3

Eleven Madison Park

***** (5 stars)

I had the greatest meal of my life at Eleven Madison Park. I also had the second greatest here. I also had a disastrous one that featured lame table-side magic and a carrot grinder.

But I’m pleased to say that the restaurant has nearly returned to its past glory. Our latest meal still didm’t quite include those one-bite orgasmic wonders of their first menus, but every course was a home run, and the service was impeccable–perfectly timed, efficient, flexible, welcoming and friendly.

Highlights of our most recent meal included an assortment of delicious oyster preparations (high praise since I’m not a huge oyster fan); caviar served like miniature eggs benedict that you assemble yourself; a wonderful sea bass; celery root cooked in a pig’s bladder; and a chocolate guessing game for dessert.

They have started opening their older wines with port tongs, which may be a bit over the top but does provide an entertaining table-side show, and it certainly gets rid of any cruddy corks!

The biggest change is that instead of 16 or so mini courses there are now eight somewhat larger ones, and many course offer several selections. This allowed us, as a party of three, to sample nearly everything on the menu.

I like this new format, and the more professional level of the service overall. Say a happy goodbye to the magic show, and give it a fresh try.

Eleven Madison Park
11 Madison Ave
New York, NY 10010
(212) 889-0905
http://www.yelp.com/biz/eleven-madison-park-new-york

La Grenouille

***** (5 stars)

La Grenouille is still doing things the same way as when they were founded in 1962, and that’s a good thing. I remember when the world was full of restaurants like this: posh, refined, attentive, traditional, and oh so French. Now it is the last of its kind.

The three course menu is pricey at dinner, but not absurd, and essentially the same food is available at lunch for less than half the price.

The wine list is mostly French (of course) and offers some values for those who browse carefully.

One thing you wouldn’t find on the 1962 menu was the sea bass tartare we started with, which was refreshingly limey and served on an avocado base.

Soufflés are the specialty here, and the cheese shuffle was superb as a main course. The Dover sole was extremely traditional, but perhaps not worth the upcharge, as cooking styles for fish have changed, and left this old standard seeming overdone and bland.

A half dozen or more soufflés are also on offer for dessert, and are a great choice. Alternatively, the cheese plate offered a great variety. A basket of madeleines and other pastries, and some truffles finish things off.

Service was very French and very professional, yet managed to also be welcoming and conversational. Let’s hope that La Grenouille can continue to carry on its tradition for another fifty years.

La Grenouille
3 E 52nd St
New York, NY 10022
(212) 752-1495
http://www.yelp.com/biz/la-grenouille-new-york

A Voce

**** (4 stars)

Our first experience at this restaurant was during a busy brunch. We wanted to enjoy multiple courses and several bottles of wine, and it didn’t go well. The chef insisted we place our entire party’s order at once, and then proceeded to cover the table two layers deep in plates of food. Something about the concept of fine dining seemed to have been lost in translation.

A recent mid-afternoon weekday visit was much more successful. The place was almost empty, we had a lovely table by the window, and we selected from the three course lunch menu. The raw Fluke appetizer was the highlight of the meal, and worthy of a Michelin starred sushi restaurant. By Bronzino entree was perfectly crisped and seasoned, although I was less enthusiastic about my companion’s steak, which was nicely cooked but not particularly tender or flavorful. The desserts were also quite good.

Service was friendly and attentive.

My advice: go during an off time to enjoy this restaurant to the fullest.

A Voce
10 Columbus Cir
3rd Fl
New York, NY 10019
(212) 823-2523
http://www.yelp.com/biz/a-voce-new-york-3

Momofuku Ko

***** (5 stars)

What a phenomenal experience. We loved the ambiance of this place, which is both romantic and trendy, vibrant yet conducive to conversation, epicurean yet accessible.

Not every course was a hit, but there were certainly plenty of home runs. But the friendliness of the wait staff, the chefs, and especially the sommelier, Chase, Sinzer, are what really made this a remarkable evening.

I suspect most people her opt for the wine pairings, which we often do, too, but if so they are missing a terrific wine list, with exclusively great producers, and some very reasonable prices.

Truly a special dining experience, and one I look forward to repeating.

Momofuku Ko
8 Extra Pl
New York, NY 10003
(212) 203-8095
http://www.yelp.com/biz/momofuku-ko-new-york-3

Caviar Russe

Caviar Russe 1

Caviar Russe 2

Caviar Russe 3

***** (5 stars)

Even without the caviar this would be a stellar restaurant, but for anyone who enjoys caviar it is an absolute must visit.

The dining room is elegant and intimate, and service is friendly and professional.

Food preparation is meticulous, complex, inventive and surprising. We had the caviar tasting menu, which began with a spoonful of each of six wonderful caviars, mostly osetras. The differences were in some cases surprising, yet subtle enough that it was great to be able to familiarize ourselves with the flavors unaccompanied (except for wonderful blinis–really more like crepes) and creme fraiche.

Then we were served six courses incorporating the same caviars. Our favorite courses were all the cold ones, including the oyster, tuna, and ice cream.

The caviar tasting menu is an amazing deal, as the caviar alone would cost more than the entire meal.

Wine pricing is also extremely reasonable. We had a half bottle of Krug Champagne and a superb bottle of Puligny-Montrachet. I doubt you could find these wines at a better price at any restaurant in the city.

Needless to say, Caviar Russe is on our must-visit list for our next trip!

Caviar Russe
538 Madison Ave
2nd Fl
New York, NY 10022
(212) 980-5908
http://www.yelp.com/biz/caviar-russe-new-york

Morimoto

***** (5 stars)

Morimoto offers an upscale sushi experience at a surprisingly reasonable price. The dining room is elegantly trendy, and although large, sounds treatments keep it from being deafening.

Sushi and sashimi are top notch. We had the omikase, which is different than other restaurants I’ve been to, because the emphasis is not on sushi or sashimi (although there is a course of each) but rather cooked foods. We particularly enjoyed the smoke from the burning herbs that accompanied the scallop, and the lovely wagu beef.

Service was efficient, and the wine prices, while not inexpensive, offer a number of nice selections that aren’t exhorbitant.

Morimoto
88 10th Ave
New York, NY 10011
(212) 989-8883
http://www.yelp.com/biz/morimoto-new-york

Jean-Georges

***** (5 stars)

For more than a decade we’ve been coming here, and it remains our favorite restaurant in New York. The dining room is elegant and uncrowded, a rarity in the city.

The food is delicate, complex, and constantly evolving. The best deal in the city is lunch at Jean George, where you can assemble your own multi-course meal or choose a tasting menu for a fraction of the price of dinner.

The wine list pricing is excellent, and there is a nice selection of high quality wines by the glass or even half glass, making it easy to assemble your own wine pairings.

Service is professional, friendly and knowledgable, and even though we’re probably outnumbered by the staff, it never feels overwhelming, just perfect.

Jean-Georges
1 Central Park W
New York, NY 10023
(212) 299-3900
http://www.yelp.com/biz/jean-georges-new-york