It's not often that The New York Times is charmed by something being untrendy, but the publication said a few years back that Brasserie Swiss's lack of chicness "is the key to its appeal." The timeworn decor leaves glittering fixtures and pomp to new culinary kids on the block, and instead complements the restaurant's menu—a roster of traditional dishes such as fondue and snails bourguignon. Many of the meats come from a Colorado butcher, because the Geneva Conventions state that Swiss food can only be sourced from mountainous regions. These meats include the veal cutlets used for the sauteed wiener schnitzel, and the lamb chops that are paired with roesti, a crispy potato side. In true European fashion, the desserts are hardly overlooked: diners should save room for decadent creations such as chocolate mousse or coupe cherry Swiss steeped in wine.
As Rolf Baumgartner, co-owner of Brasserie Swiss for nearly 35 years, prepares the European-inspired meals, his wife Verena minds the dining room. "She's an enthusiastic interpreter of Swiss culture," the Times said adoringly. "Ask her about the large Alpine horns on the walls or about Swiss culinary preferences, and she will have stories to tell."
Red Hen Bistro's made-from-scratch menu revolves around the fresh, seasonal meats, fish, and produce in French and Californian cuisine. Francophiles will feel conflicted in trying to select only one dish, be it the croque madame, an upscale ham-and-cheese sandwich topped with a sunny-side-up egg ($10.95), or the salad nicoise, a hearty helping of organic greens crowned with roasted potatoes and hard-boiled eggs ($8.95). California dreamers can sample West Coast–inspired temptations such as tamales with braised pork ($8.95) and fish tacos served in crisp tortillas ($9.95). Simplicity seekers can opt for the tomato soup and grilled cheese ($9.95) while enjoying the restaurant’s attention to detail—evident in both the food and front-of-house service. With rich-red walls, large windows boasting street views, and touches of French country charm, Red Hen Bistro exudes an air of casual intimacy, though lacy nightclothes are discouraged.
Epernay’s executive chef Jayson Grossberg trained under legendary French chef Jean-Louis Palladin before attending New York’s Culinary Institute of America. Grossberg has used his pabulum-preparing powers for good and not evil, recently redesigning Epernay’s menu to add flavorful new dishes, such as the summer gazpacho with crab meat and lime ($10.95). Fresh-caught mussels come in three broths, such as the “a la Linda” with saffron and tomato ($15.95 single serving, $19.95 shared platter). If you'd like to keep your meal as light at a globetrotting eccentric's hot-air balloon, try a juicy beet salad with summer melon, arugula, and feta cheese ($10.95). Reward your stomach for keeping quiet during last night’s visit to the opera with an entree such as caramelized sea scallops with sweet corn, bacon, and tomato ($26.95). Or delve into the crispy duck breast with wild mushrooms, pistachios, and asparagus soaking in a sundried blueberry jus ($26.95) to enjoy a culinary harmony unseen since the California Raisins dominated the airwaves.
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.
It’s probably fair to say that Picholine chef and owner Terrance Brennan is obsessed with cheese. After all, inside Brennan’s 2,500-bottle wine cellar is a room he has affectionately christened the Cheese Cave. Here, controlled temperatures and humidity maintain the integrity of a variety of international cheeses, which a maître d’fromage presents on a marble-topped cart that Crain’s Gael Greene calls the “Tiffany of cheese carts.” In the European tradition, these cheeses are always presented at the end of the main course. They are an appropriate finale to a meal that celebrates French and Mediterranean culinary traditions in dishes such as sea-urchin panna cotta with caviar. Like a weatherman’s opinion on just about everything, the menus change every season, giving Brennan more freedom to use local and organic ingredients whenever he can.
Only months after its inception, French American Bistro—AKA “FAB”—grabbed the attention of The New York Times with its buttery croissants and fresh salads. Today, head chef Octavio Sandoval continues to mesh French and American flavors to elegantly plate dishes ranging from escargot to 10-ounce burgers on brioche buns. Patrons inside the upscale dining room can pair FAB’s seasonal menu with live musical performances and an eclectic selection of beers, wines, and water piped in from the Seine.