Under the full-sized antlers that crown hanging lamps in Cowgirl Sea-Horse, exposed brick and mismatched strips of wallpaper watch as forks sink into seafood and creative, Mexican-influenced American fare. Live music marinates in the sunlight spilling through multiple sets of French doors, which whisper Parisian nothings as margaritas and clink atop the rustic bar. Brunchtime bellies greet French toast crusted with Capn' Crunch, and on Taco Tuesdays, $2 soft or crispy tacos sail on pico de gallo seas to smuggle beef, chicken, or beans into gullet ports. During lunch and dinner, side dish-stuffed Beach Baskets showcase white fish reubens and Creole crabcake sandwiches goosed with jalapeno tartar sauce, while collard greens join whiskey pork chops and salads arrive under a drizzle of Sea-Horse pineapple citrus vinaigrette.
In 2011, the Michelin Guide recommended Vareli for its upscale and creative Mediterranean fare, crafted by chef and Gramercy Tavern veteran Amitzur Mor. Chef Mor uses sustainable and organic ingredients whenever possible to inform Vareli’s ever-shifting local menu, which has featured such rich meats as Hudson-Valley duck and Pennsylvania lamb. Resident sommelier Richard Bill draws from his experience at Beacon and Ouest to complement each succulent entree with a wine list of 20 wines by the glass and 100 wines by the bottle. From Thursday to Saturday, Vareli’s kitchens remain open until 2 a.m., so patrons can sip vino and draft beer or rouse sleepwalking roommates with wafts from cheese and charcuterie boards late into the night.
On the ground floor of Vareli, a polished copper bar runs for 20 feet below a rustic arched ceiling, as wide stools belly up to the bar and to barrel-shaped plates. In the upstairs dining room, wide windows look out on treetops and burnished walls support velvety banquettes and lantern sconces. During the summer, couples close in on an intimate outdoor patio for fresh air from nearby Central Park, while colder days invite diners to gather around a cracking fireplace that the New York Times lauds for creating a cozy atmosphere.
An Italian-Educated Owner and Chef
Inside his open kitchen at IL Tesoro Ristorante, owner and chef A.J. Black sears ahi tuna, grills Colorado lamb chops, and crowns fresh black linguine with seafood. Drawing on his training at the Italian Culinary Institute and inside the kitchens of the five-star Grand Hotel Plaza in Rome, Black combines Old-World Italian flavors with modern cooking techniques and plays matchmaker by serving plates of spaghetti for two composed of only one noodle.
Seasonal Dishes in an Authentic Atmosphere
The menu showcases fresh, seasonal ingredients and rotating daily specials, such as Chef Black's signature risotto alla pescatora saut?ed with clams, mussels, shrimp, and scallops and finished with cherry tomato sauce. The wine list collects Italian wines carefully selected from both large and boutique wineries to pair with menu selections. Fresco paintings decorate the plastered walls with Tuscan scenery alongside antique artwork, intricate woodwork, and prospective diners with their noses pressed against the windows.
Chefs knead pasta dough and form slick spheres of mozzarella for melting onto pizzas or bowling toward zucchini pins at Acqua at Peck Slip, a Zagat-rated Italian restaurant that was recently featured at the Italian Wine & Food Institute's exclusive Gala Italia event. Executive chef Ivan Beacco fills ravioli with walnuts and radicchio, sears swordfish fillets to pair with fennel salad, and braises short ribs for plating with potatoes and root vegetables. Because it wouldn’t be classic Italian without wine, an onsite sommelier keeps the wine list flush with varietals from the country’s famed vineyards. The bottle collection lines a wall adjacent to tall arched windows that appeared in a restaurant scene from The Adjustment Bureau.
Fishtail by David Burke's yellowfin-tuna and swordfish steaks don’t arrive at the door frozen and packed. They come from local fish markets, sustainable farms, and the restaurant’s own boat, which works out of Brielle, New Jersey. Entrepreneur and celebrity chef David Burke, working with Executive Chef Ed Cotton, prioritizes seasonal, sustainable ingredients in cuisine that blends tradition with clever gastronomic technology. The latter bursts to the forefront at the ends of meals in options including a molten "Can O' Cake"—underbaked to order and tricked out with a variety of tableside toppings—and cheesecake lollipops with raspberries and impossible-sounding bubblegum whipped cream.
But for all its play with dessert, the restaurant's heart is in the sea. Crain's New York Business praised the "pristine" raw bar selections, "superb swordfish steak," and "sensational baby halibut," all starring on an enormous menu navigated with the help of "attentive waitstaffers."
Chef Cotton, runner-up on season 7 of Top Chef, drizzles basil oil and curry vinaigrette over scallops and lacquers Angry Shanghai Lobster with Asian-style barbecue sauce. The kitchen's sense of fun overflows into the bi-level dining space, hung with paintings of outrageously colored fish and glass chandeliers that look like conceptual art. Meanwhile, a stately townhouse exterior keeps the rest of the block's vintage row houses from gossiping behind the restaurant's back.
Genaro Morales is no stranger to New York's restaurant scene; his first Puerto Rican restaurant, Sofrito, still draws diners to its midtown Manhattan and White Plains locations. Sazon marks Morales's first venture into the crowded, hip market of downtown eateries, and he's already made his mark, attracting celebrity patrons such as Adrian Grenier. The authentic Caribbean dishes, such as mofongo and ropa vieja, earned a rating of "very good to excellent" from Zagat as well as a spot on Gotham magazine's list of must-visit Tribeca eateries.
Inside the two-story establishment, multitiered chandeliers and bright orange quilted walls bathe diners in a warm glow. The curvaceous bar wends serpent-like through one end of the space, covered in small tiles patterned to resemble snakeskin. Behind the scenes, chefs stuff plantains with beef picadillo or grill up slabs of spicy churrasco sausage to complement fruits of the sea such as calamari, shrimp, and red snapper.