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.
When legendary chef Thomas Keller started telling patrons of his California dining mecca The French Laundry about plans for his new Manhattan restaurant, he said it wouldn't be the French Laundry “per se." Though vague, the summation was accurate—those who have visited the predecessor will recognize Per Se’s blue door and garden, as well as a pair of nine-course daily tasting menus inspired by seasonal ingredients or whatever the silverware is craving that day. Oysters and Pearls, pearl tapioca with oysters and white-sturgeon caviar, is lifted right from the Laundry menu, while the rotating dishes take inspiration from the surrounding region, such as a gateau of Hudson Valley Moulard duck foie gras. The restaurant, ranked as the sixth best in the world by Restaurant Magazine in 2012, has an urban edge over its Californian counterpart: Columbus Circle sits right outside the fourth-floor windows, which also allow for views of the Manhattan skyline and Central Park’s leafy canopies. Thomas’s taste for the culinary industry started early—as a youth, he worked in a restaurant managed by his mother in Palm Beach. His career quickly gained steam, as he studied at various Michelin-rated kitchens in France. He then returned to the United States, eventually taking over the reins at the French Laundry. Over the years he has nabbed consecutive Best Chef awards from the James Beard Foundation, was named America’s Best Chef by Time in 2001, and won Chef of the Year from the Culinary Institute of America. Now serving on the CIA’s Board of Trustees, he helps guide the school’s development while pioneering new ways to wear toques. In 2012, he was awarded the S. Pellegrino Lifetime Achievement Award.
Marea means “tide” in Italian, hinting at the restaurant’s concentration: seafood, especially seafood plucked from the four bodies of water that surround the bottom of the boot-shaped peninsula. The menu comes courtesy of chef and owner Michael White, who New York Times critic Sam Sifton lauded like so: “He cooks Italian food as if it were purely American: big and bold.” Though diners can select specific plates from the eatery’s extensive menu—fusilli with braised octopus, lobster ravioli, salt-baked Italian wild bass—the staff recommends the four-part, prix-fixe menu. This menu includes a crudo, ostriche, or antipasto; pasta; fish or meat; and a dessert, such as almond milk panna cotta with black mission fig or the semifreddo di niccola, with dark chocolate, piedmont hazelnut, and a partial serving of freddo. The highbrow reputation of Marea Ristorante’s cuisine is matched only by the restaurant’s atmosphere. The bar, backed by a rippled amber wall resembling underwater rock formations, competes for attention with white tablecloths that pop next to dark, wood-grained booths. Llittle touches add an extra-layer of refinement to the dining room, including silver-dipped conches and nautiluses that sit on the windowsills in shiny homage to the sea. It all adds up to an appealing eatery Zagat named New York City’s Best Italian Restaurant in 2012.
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.