The weekend is finally here! To start it off right we suggest you check out Lavo. This midtown hotspot normally throws a great Thursday party but today is especially good since world renowned DJ Dash Berlin is spinning. Tickets can be purchased through Lavo here for $75 and we suggest arriving not after 11:30 as the door is always crazy. Get ready for a night filled of great house music, top notch special effects and a great crowd.
UPDATE: Ticket sales for this event have closed. Try your luck at the door by arriving early!
We actually ran into this problem not too long ago. It was our friend’s first time in New York and we had to give some recommendations as to where to go. We really wanted something that was unique to New York but not something that had a really tough door policy (we’re talking Provocateur status) that they would be discouraged to try anywhere else. At first we were a bit stumped since we wanted to “wow” our friends on their first night out without having them think New York is some pretentious place where you have to buy your “coolness” to get in. But after some thinking we thought of a few places that would be perfect for someone’s first night out on the town. [Photo via]
#1. Le Bain: As far as nightspots go, Le Bain is perfect for anyone who isn’t from America. Though on Tuesdays the crowd can be a little bit out there for some, on other nights the crowd is very international and you get to meet a very diverse group of people. Also, the hot tub in the middle of the club is something that you really don’t get at most places and the rooftop lounge has stunning views of the Hudson River and the rest of the city. We’d recommend Le Bain over its neighbor The Boom Boom Room since Le Bain’s door policy is much more relaxed than their pretentious neighbor (though we must say, as pretentious as it is, they do make some of the best cocktails in the city). Oh and you can’t leave without seeing the bathrooms. [Photo via]
#2: La Esquina: We know La Esquina is a restaurant but it’s also a great place to grab drinks after dinner. The atmosphere is unparallelled and the food is shockingly good. as well You can make reservations by calling 646.613.7100 and we haven’t had too much trouble snagging a table during the weekday at 8 PM or 9 PM. Through the door marked employees only and through the kitchen lies a restaurant that looks more like a chic Mexican dungeon. Grab a cocktail with Tequilla since that’s their specialty and make sure to order the Rotisserie Chicken with the Green Beans…and you might want to order a second side of green beans as well…because they’re just that good. [Photo via]
#3. Lavo: Let’s all be honest, there aren’t many big clubs in New York City and even fewer actually provide a good time. Strategic Group‘s Midtown Las Vegas import, Lavo, is one of those few big clubs that draws in a good crowd. The DJs that play at Lavo are some of the best in the city and the service provided at Lavo is outstanding as well. There usually is a cover charge and what ever you do, don’t leave your ID at home. Lavo is the closest thing New York has to a big and grand club and we’ve always had a great time whenever we come here. [Photo via]
#4. Not Your Standard Bingo: This really is one of the most, if not the, most unique party in New York City. Make reservations about a week to two weeks in advance for Sunday night bingo at The Standard Grill. This party is actually quite inexpensive and provides a great time that you really won’t experience anywhere else in New York. To participate in bingo, cards are provided for free and the only thing you pay for is alcohol (we recommend the punch bowls for $55 that can serve about 6-8 people). After bingo ends, the restaurant turns into a full on dance party so it’s almost like you’re getting to parties in one. You can make reservations by calling The Standard Grill at 212.645.4100. [Photo via]
#5. PDT: We know everyone and their mother knows about PDT (Please Don’t Tell) but you have to admit this is a pretty damn cool speakeasy. You enter through the hot dog shop called Criff Dogs and look for a phone book. You enter the booth, pick up the phone, dial 1 and wait for someone to open the other side of the phone booth. Once you’re inside you’ll get to sample some great cocktails in a cozy atmosphere. PDT accepts reservations but only for the same day which you can make by calling 212.614.0386. [Photo via]
I rarely head uptown, but when I do I go to Lavo. This Strategic Group power house knows how to throw a great party and last Saturday was no different. The ropes are guarded by Richard Wheeler who also is the founder of the clothing brand Hous. Once inside you’ll notice that, besides Marquee, this is probably the closest thing we New Yorkers have to a Las Vegas nightclub in the city. Leather booths, LED light screens and Co2 cooling air turn this nightclub into a full on rave (an elegant rave at that). But Strategic Group essentially turns Lavo into a huge production by hiring dancers (sometimes in LED lit robot costumes) and by bringing having bottles delivered by waitresses in carnival costumes. But on my recent visit I noticed a bit of a change to the decor. The lit up glass display that was behind the DJ booth has been replaced by a new LED screen and it appears that the two LED screens that were behind the VIP booths next to the DJ stand have now been placed on the ceiling above the dance floor. DJ Paolo provided the sounds for the evening and the club kept on dancing till early in the morning. In case you haven’t been yet, check out this video of Lavo New York!
The last time I visited Tao was at least 3 years ago, and many times before that, and it was generally a positive experience. I used to go to Tao often as it was really one of the few restaurants uptown that could combine both style and great food into one restaurant. However, on my recent visit to Tao I’ve noticed the restaurant has taken a turn for the worse. The restaurant is still beautiful and the giant Buddha sitting at the front of the main dining room is still as impressive as it was when Tao opened back in 2000. The restaurant has taken much more of a club vibe by featuring dancers and electric violinists during dinner service.
However, the menu has had a few changes over the past few years and the cuisine has changed from Japanese and Chinese to much heavier Thai influence. There is still a full sushi menu as well as several Chinese options, but I do see a much larger portion of the menu dedicated to Thai and Vietnamese dishes. Unfortunately Tao cannot fully guarantee there will be no cross-contamination with the food so I had to stick to the sushi menu just to be safe. Since I was apart of a large group, we were served a platter with everything off the sushi menu so I did get a chance to sample everything Tao offered. The sushi was a bit disappointing and I do remember it being much better on previous visits. There was an unnecessary amount of rice in the individual pieces and the fish was not as fresh as it used to be. The tuna specifically was a bit tough and the yellowtail was fishy though the salmon was a safe option. In regards to the cooked food, though I did not get a chance to try it on this visit the presentation did look a bit sloppy but I didn’t hear any complaints from the other diners at the table.
Perhaps Tao Group has put more energy into their newer restaurant Lavo across the street or perhaps with time Tao is beginning to deteriorate. While it remains a solid option when looking for a lavish restaurant in Midtown/Upper East Side, the kitchen definitely has seen better days and perhaps Tao could create a peanut/nut free menu since their regular menu is now a lot more dangerous for those who have nut allergies.
On the roof of the relatively new Armani flagship store on 5th Avenue sits a modern Italian restaurant mainly built for the tourists that come in and out of the store. The restaurant itself has its own separate entrance from the store itself but during store hours you can access the restaurant through the store’s elevator. The restaurant’s location within the Armani store looks as if they had a bit of extra space left over and didn’t know what to do with it as it takes up a bit less than half of one floor. However, the restaurant itself is decorated very simply with modern looking black chairs and white tables and a few circular booths scattered throughout the restaurant. Its a very chic and modern decor and matches the rest of the store perfectly. There is, however, a bit of a pretentious vibe given off when you first enter the restaurant by the maître d. Even though the restaurant was half empty during my lunch visit, we still had to wait 10 minutes for a table for two but then again when visiting an upscale Italian restaurant there’s a bit of attitude is to be expected.
The menu features refined Italian dishes that would please any Park Avenue housewife. Of course you have the essentials for any upscale Italian restaurant such as Beef Carpaccio and an array of salads to choose from but what is surprising is the $33 pre-fixe lunch menu. However, since I was having dinner at Sushi Gari later that evening I chose to save my appetite and just get the Bavette Sul Pesce and the Spaghettini. The Bavette consisted of Bavette pasta, similar to linguini, with an array of seafood in a light sauce. The bavette itself was very al dente, though some people do prefer it that way, and the portion size was far too small to justify the $28 price-tag. The sauce was also very oily and left a very greasy feeling in my mouth afterwards. The Spaghettini was similar to the Bavette except it had sea urchin in it as well. This dish was mediocre at best and featured such a small amount of sea urchin that it was laughable.
Since I haven’t heard much about Armani Ristorante I suppose I should not have set my expectations so high. While the space is beautiful, the service is a bit pretentious and the food leaves much to be desired. My suggestion is checking it out once if this is a place you are very interested in or if you really need a nice place to have a quick lunch while shopping on 5th avenue. Frankly the food is not good enough to make this my regular Italian spot. For this price range I’d much rather Sfoglia, Cipriani or even Nello.
Masa is not one of the most expensive restaurants in New York, it is the most expensive restaurant in New York. With Masa’a pre-fixe menus starting at $400, a dinner at Masa will cost you no less than $500 (especially with the manditory 20% service charge that doesn’t count towards the tip on your bill). But what many people don’t know is that right next door there is Bar Masa that shares the same kitchen as Masa. The only difference is that Masa’s chef is Masa Takayama himself but for those who want a glimpse of what Masa has to offer (such as its Seasonal Sushi Tasting and Quail meatball with foie gras miso skewers). While Bar Masa is not by any means cheap (its about double than whatever you’ll pay at Nobu and triple whatever you’re going to pay at SushiSamba) it is certainly less expensive than the $400 pre-fixe menu you’ll find next door. Bar Masa is quite small but very elegant and simple in design. The Japanese wood bar and ultrasuede banquettes are a good backdrop for the simple yet over the top Japanese food.
Bar Masa takes the idea of Masa but translates it into a cheaper a la carte form. You still get to enjoy all of Masa’s unexpected Japanese dishes with truffle and caviar but the portions are bigger and the prices are a lot lower. However the quality of the food is most certainly not the same since it is not prepared by chef Masa Takayama himself but quite frankly this is the next best thing considering Masa and Bar Masa share the same kitchen. To start I had Akami (lean tuna) Saki (salmon) and Kanpachi (amber jack yellowtail) sushi to start. The sushi was very fresh at Bar Masa but then again what else was I to expect. Considering the rest of the menu, Bar Masa’s a la carte sushi and sashimi menu is actually reasonably priced for an upscle Japanese restaurant. After I had the Salmon and Avocado Roll with Tempura Flakes and a Yellowtail Scallion roll. The rolls at Bar Masa is where I feel the pricing is a bit overboard. I can understand the 4 small skewers priced at $29 because they use foie gras and I can understand the Masa Toro with Caviar roll being $68 because they use both Toro (which in some cases can be up to $70 a piece) and caviar in one dish. But $18 for a plain Yellowtail roll is a bit absurd. Nobu, who is quite overpriced for what they offer (I love the place but I’m the first to admit it), charged $7.50 for a Yellowtail roll. Bar Masa charges more than double what one of the most expensive and well known Japanese restaurants in Manhattan charges. I guess that’s what makes Masa the most expensive restaurant in New York (it even beats Per Se).
I was happy to visit Bar Masa especially since now I kind of have an idea of what Masa would be like. Bar Masa is the next best thing to the $400 pre-fixe menu. The food was fresh and the decor was nice though it is pricey. I can’t say that it impressed me more than Sushi Seki (which is still for me the best sushi restaurant in Manhattan) but it is a good option especially if you want to see what Masa is all about!
Oceana is a Michelin stared restaurant that I’ve had my eye on for quite sometime now but it wasn’t high enough on my list of places to go to make me pay $40 for a grilled salmon fillet so I waited for Restaurant Week. My first impression of Oceana was that it was a more upscale, pretentious version of Dock’s Oyster Bar. The maitre d didn’t really want anything to do with me and the restaurant was filled mostly with older business men. Though the restaurant is pretty with its all marble raw bar and glass wine rack in the center of the dining room, the food nor the service matched the decor.
I ordered the Scallop Sashimi to start and the Grilled Bluefish as an entree. The portions actually weren’t that small for a Restaurant Week menu. The Scallop Sashimi was paired with a peach chutney which went well with the dish. The scallops were cooked well, which is very important for me since I usually dislike scallops because of their texture, and I liked the sweetness of the peach chutney with the scallops. The Grilled Bluefish sadly wasn’t as good. The bluefish was just grilled and tasted like any ordinary grilled fish that comes out of a Greek restaurant in Astoria and the beefsteak tomato didn’t help the dish at all. The service also felt rushed and my food was bought of very slowly and the waiter seemed too overwhelmed to care enough about me, though they did take my food allergy seriously which was good.
Oceana is known as one of those “under the radar” restaurants that no one really goes to unless they’re in the area and now I know why. While the restaurant is beautiful, the food isn’t anything to rave about and is priced at least twice as much as its worth and is mediocre at best. For good fish go to Thalassa which is just as pleasing to look at as Oceana but the quality of food and service is much better.
This Cipriani outpost has the same exact menu as the Cipriani Wall Street, prices and all. Though at this Cipriani I feel the only thing they could do differently is lower their prices a tad as, personally, I don’t feel you’re getting the “full” Cipriani experience here. Yes you get the yellow table cloths and the baby blue menus with the tassels at the end, but I want the Europeans air kissing right in the entrance so no one can get in and the host that barley speaks English and pretends to know your name for the 2 hours that you’re there. At the Cipriani Dolci you get none of that. Here you get frumpy business people and the occasional tourist who comes in with the sweat suit they wore on their 3 hour train ride to New York and the beauty of Grand Central…that’s it. With all that said the food is as good as the Cipriani Wall Street. The Dodge Salad was fresh and light and the pastas are good, though I still prefer the Cipriani Downtown. The biggest change of the menu at the Cipriani Dolci is the addition of a bar menu which consists of an array of slightly cheaper small dishes, which is a good addition if you need a quick lunch or just sitting at the bar.
Is the Cipriani Dolci better than the Cipriani Downtown: no. Is it better than their Wall Street location: no. Is it better than the Cipriani Le Specialita: they’re about the same. The only reason why I may choose Cipriani Dolci over Cipriani Le Specialita is because the Cipriani Le Specialita gets packed and its very hard to find a seat. Quite frankly the Cipriani Dolci’s prices are a bit too high for what the place offers. Its kind of a half a Cipriani for the full price. The only reason you should go to the Cipriani Dolci is if you are on a business lunch and need to stay within a 5 block radius of your office and specifically want to go to the Cipriani. If that’s not the case, please take the 6 train from Grand Central and head down to Spring Street and walk over to the Cipriani Downtown.
I was around the Bryant Park area this Tuesday and needed something quick to eat, and knowing the Cipriani had an outpost across the street from Grand Central made my decision a bit easier. The Cipriani “chain” is known for its lavish decor and excellent Italian cuisine…and also for its astronomical prices. The Cipriani Le Specialita takes the traditional Italian food served at the three New York Cipriani restaurants and the breath taking decor and turns it into a take-out restaurant for the business clientele. This Cipriani is even smaller than the sit-down Cipriani restaurants and features maybe 3 tables along with a stand-up bar. In the summer there’s an additional 3 two-person tables outside. The menu changes daily and features a pasta and meat dish along with a side and dessert. There’s also a salad bar and an array of sandwiches and cakes to choose from if the three course menu doesn’t appeal to you. The service is above average for a take out place as the servers actually bring the food to your table but doesn’t compare to the actual Cipriani restaurants. The food is good enough to justify the price tag. A normal sized portion of Farfalle with tomato sauce and pancetta will cost $13.50 (half the price of the Cipriani Downtown and almost a third of the price they charge at Harry Cipriani on 5th Avenue). The pasta is good, not the best like I said but good, and its cooked well with a sauce that wasn’t heavy or thick. Overall the Cipriani Le Specialita is a good option for those who aren’t willing to pay the hefty price tags of $26.95 for a plate of Penne with Veal Ragu at the Cipriani Downtown or $57 for Veal Milanese at Harry Cipriani or the Midtown business workers looking for someplace quick to eat. But those looking for the full Cipriani effect should look to dine at the other three Cipriani restaurants in Manhattan.
I visited Alto last week for Restaurant Week as it was one of the restaurants I had to visit (the other two were Aureole and Mr. Chow. I did pretty good this Restaurant Week I’d say). Alto his one of Michael White‘s three New York Italian restaurants (the other two are Marea & Convivo) and all 3 have at least one Michelin Star. Alto is tucked away, hidden by the Thomas Pink store at 11 East 53rd Street so don’t worry if you don’t find the restaurant at first. A small bar and coat check are at the front of the restaurant and down the stairs are the dining rooms. The first section of seating isn’t as attractive nor as elegant looking as the seating area towards the back over looking the wall length wine cases. But none the less the design is clean and sophisticated no matter where you sit. The service is very cordial and responsible about food allergies, as a restaurant of Alto’s caliber should be. Bread is offered on a large tray with multiple options just in case you didn’t like the first type you chose before your appetizer. Since I got the Restaurant Week menu my 3 course lunch was only $24.10 as opposed to a 2 course lunch at Alto being $36. I had the Crudo as an appetizer, the Vitello (braised veal cheek) as an entree and since all the desserts had nuts on the Restaurant Week menu I had to go with sorbet. The Crudo while no larger than the size of a half dollar, was very good. The blood orange paired with the fluke perfectly and it was a good way to open up your palate for the rest of the meal. The Braised Veal Cheek was, first off a much larger portion thankfully, fantastic. The veal was moist and what Alto calls a “Tuscan Farotto”, essentially a large grain in a broth, went with the veal wonderfully to make for a great dish. The sorbet, while not a big deal, was adequate and quite frankly “it was what it was”. I was served a scoop of Pineapple, Grapefruit and another flavor which I can not recall unfortunately. Overall my experience at Alto as very good. Though I slightly preferred Marea, Alto is a good option when looking for modern Italian food.