Chef Jamie's 2011-2012 NYC Restaurant Picks

One of my favorite things about living thru a miserably hot August in Central Florida is LEAVING every year for a few days and traveling to NYC!

New Yorkers feel the same way about their city in August, and usually have departed for the shore.  The result for myself and travel companions is a “not so busy NYC”,  which is ideal for traveling foodies.  First off this means not having to commit to dining reservations, which allows more spontaneity in regards to dining, sight seeing, shopping, shows, etc.,etc.

This opportunity worked out big time for us on the Saturday evening we were in the Big Apple.  The evening before we were invited to a friends home on Fire Island.  Not ever having this opportunity before, we graciously accepted and were relieved that we did not have to be concerned about canceling any hard to reserve dinner reservations on sought after Saturday evenings.

Our Fire Island excursion was amazing!  Gracious hosts, beautiful beaches, lots of libations, a perfect day.  We returned to the city about 9:30 pm and of course I had dining on my mind.  A quick shower, and “reservation” inquiry, and we were soon sitting in the very recently opened BOULUDSUD.  Another  exciting restaurant created by star Chef Daniel Boulud.  The restaurant located at 20 West 64th very near Lincoln Center is as architecturally  stunning as it is delicious.  The menu is divided into three categories, De la Mer/Seafood, Du Jardin/Vegetables, and De La Ferme/Meats.  The plates arrive in tasting portions which gives you the incredible opportunity to experience many different flavors.  A few of our favorites included: Sicilian Sardine Escabeche, Sea Urchin and Crab Tartine, Octopus ala Plancha, Charred Squid, Rabbit Porchetta, Capretto Orecchiette, and Crispy Artichokes.  I would highly recommend dinner at BOULUDSUD for an elegant dinner, a lite bite before a show, or as in our case a 10:45 pm craving for Chef Daniels ever changing and ever expanding culinary creations.

Our super star chef experiences also included another highly regarded chef Marcus Sammelelson and his newly opened Red Rooster in the heart of Harlem.  This is one of the toughest reservations to get in NYC right now, however, when my friends and I checked in with the maitre d on our Thursday night out with no prior reservation, he informed us it would be upwards of 50 minutes until he could accommodate us.  Twenty minutes later we were seated at a lovely table.  We wasted no time in ordering and were quite pleased with the plates that were placed in front of us.  Favorites included:  the crab cakes with spicy mayo,  fried yard bird, blackened catfish, and the sweet potato doughnuts.  I must mention, it was an eye opening experience traveling into Harlem.  Driving there  it really felt as though we had never even left Midtown,  until we passed the Famous Apollo Theater.  Not the Harlem that you once would  see and hear so much about, definitely worth the 20 minute drive.

There was one more newish restaurant that I was eagerly anticipating, however, I knew based on conversations with friends that it would most likely be impossible without a reservation.  I waited until late afternoon on the Sunday that we were hoping to dine at Beauty & Essex to call to see if they had had any reservation  cancellations for the evening.  The polite women that answered my call quickly reminded me that it was a rainy late August Sunday evening and that we would have no problem snagging a table any time that evening.  Needless to say I was very excited with that information.  The entrance of the restaurant is to say the least,  very unique.  I have to admit I did not even recognize it when I was standing at the front door.  This is due to the fact that you actually enter the restaurant thru a late 60’s inspired pawn shop!  Once you make your way thru the pawn shop a gentleman in a black suit opens a large door to what is actually the salon section of the restaurant.  The mystique of this all was tantalizing.  Experience tells me that mysterious  more often than not is a great prelude to what is certain to be an amazing dining experience.  We sat and enjoyed creative cocktails that included: The Honey Bee-Bombay Sapphire gin, honeydew, lemongrass, honey and lemon; The Masterly Touch-Grey Goose, lemon thyme nectar, & campari  pearls; and The Ruby Mojito-10 cane rum, St. Germaine, lemon, mint, & Luscombe raspberry lemon soda.

Our bellies’ were spoiled by Executive Chef Chris Santos with items such as Tuna Poke Wonton Tacos, Calamari a la Plancha, Heritage Baby Back Ribs, Braised Short Rib Tamales,  Black Bottomed Butterscotch Pot de Creme, Blueberry Crisp, and a “Box of Doughnuts”.  An incredible dining experience in an incredibly unique atmosphere.  Don’t skip Beauty & Essex on your next visit to NYC.

Now that the summer months have passed and New Yorkers are back in there city eating, eating, eating,  I would highly recommend calling to secure a reservation at most fine dining spots.   Reserving up to three weeks prior to your desired date usually guarantees an evening of exceptional cuisine.