Zara Mediterranean Cafe & Restaurant’s chefs fill patrons’ cuisine hangars with zesty Mediterranean bites served amid vintage ceiling tiles, antique-looking chairs, and vibrant rugs bathed in warm chandeliered lighting. Pairs or quartets of diners can nosh on one of 14 small plates or five salads such as the tricolor bean salad, grilled haloumi cheese sprinkled with oregano, or daily manti—petite ravioli pockets holding succulent meats and served by the restaurant’s mascot, Bob the Kebob. The entree roster includes white and dark chicken kebabs dressed in pilaf and cauliflower, as well as grilled branzino served whole or filleted. Zara Mediterranean Cafe & Restaurant is a BYOB establishment, so feel free to bring along a favorite wine, six-pack of beer, or boxed apple juice.
Rebecca's menu renders grumbling bellies speechless with steak- and seafood-based entrees served in softly lit rooms that "whisper romance" according to Susan Leigh Sherrill of Dining 201. The eatery's unique take on Cuban and Caribbean fare shines through in a grilled double-cut pork chop slathered like a love note to a scarecrow with roasted corn salsa. The espresso crème brûlée, a delicacy crafted from the chef's personal recipe, embellishes white linens indoors or tables strewn about the garden. Patrons swish their own libations while a cherubim fountain gurgles rock ballads to the surrounding flora-laced stone face.
Chef Michael Gershkovich’s story is a familiar one: a young man strays from tradition to forge his own path, discovers his true passion, and returns home to reconcile his past with his new way of life. With a future of strict religious study expected of him, the young Chef Michael left his Orthodox Jewish community to attend the Culinary Institute of America in New York. Diving head first into the culinary world, he followed the scent of fine foods to kitchens as far as Napa Valley and Hawaii, all the while weaving the cooking techniques he learned into a culinary style entirely his own. When he realized that his methods were perfectly compatible with kosher dietary laws, he returned home and founded Mike’s Bistro, where he creates elegant dishes under the traditional glatt kosher laws of food preparation.
The result is a cuisine that’s equal parts tradition and innovation. Braised boneless short ribs arrive at the table dressed in sun-dried-tomato barbecue glaze, and white-truffle oil and duck jus adorn handmade gnocchi. Chef Michael visits as many tables as he can during the night, whether it’s to recommend a wine pairing, to discuss his favorite menu items, or simply to tag someone because he’s tired of being It.
Despite being internationally renowned for his French-based haute cuisine, Jean-Georges Vongerichten swears his favorite food comes from the street carts of Thailand. The Alsace-born chef trained throughout France, but further honed his skills in Asia, slicing and dicing at luxury hotels in Bangkok, Singapore, and Hong Kong. He eventually crafted a signature French-fusion style, swapping out the heavy creams and stocks of traditional European cooking for the lighter juices, essences, and broths of Asian dishes. His inventiveness has launched a legendary career: he owns or collaborates on 35 restaurants around the world, has won two James Beard Awards, and was profiled on the Sundance Channel television show Iconoclasts. Described as the jewel of his empire, Jean-Georges’s eponymous restaurant glitters with the distinction of a four-star rating from the New York Times and three Michelin stars. Though it has risen to lofty ranks, the eatery stays grounded by shopping at local farmers’ markets for its seasonal menu. Dishes have included steamed flounder with roasted pumpkin seeds, spaghetti squash, and soy-yuzu broth, as well as Japanese snapper carpaccio with ginger, white radish, and olive oil. As the signature restaurant of the Trump International Hotel & Tower New York, Jean-Georges boasts a dining room with floor-to-ceiling windows that frame views of Central Park, Columbus Circle, and the city’s most affluent pigeons.
The Magic Pot's menu combines international sauces and chocolates in delicious molten blends. Slices of apples and bread can be slam-dunked into cheesy appetizer dipping bowls, including the queso, a blend of cheddar and monterey jack melted in apple cider with fresh cilantro, roasted peppers, and sweet onions. Burbling like a magma flow, The Magic Pot's entrees overflow with savory bites of beef, teriyaki pork, and honey-garlic chicken to dip in sesame, teriyaki, and Asian-chili sauces. The Magic Pot's dippy desserts are made with Callebaut Belgian chocolate. All fondue desserts are served with fruit, brownies, marshmallows, and rice-krispies treats for dunking. Couples can customize a three-course Magic Feast and bring their own bottle or Stanley Cup full of wine to wash it all down.
After Ithaka’s seven-year stint as the best Greek restaurant in Greenwich Village according to Gayot, chef Harry Hatziparaskevas decided it was time for a change of scenery. Northeastward he went, to Ithaka’s current location on the Upper East Side. He brought with him the same authentic menu, which Time Out New York praises for offering “perfectly prepared traditional Greek dishes," such as moussaka, kapamas, and kalamari scharas—whole marinated squid charbroiled with lemon and olive oil. The new locale is roomy and rustic, with exposed ceiling beams, brick floors, and dreamlike paintings of Mediterranean destinations hanging from white, textured walls.