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.
At Pescatore, chef Kenneth Johnson and his team honor the deceptive simplicity of Italian cuisine's commitment to culinary fundamentals. The restaurant's menus showcase the importance of using a base of simple, vibrant ingredients, then adding flair and complexity. This is evident in dishes such as the eatery's ricotta appetizer, which is accented by chives, hazelnuts, clover honey, and mint, and its roasted red- and yellow-beet salad, dotted with pickled shallots and dressed with champagne-honey vinaigrette.
Competing on a National Stage
Whether he's cooking for a crowd of diners or competing on national television, Johnson uses basic techniques to craft delicious dishes. So, when faced with the daunting task of preparing a dessert using spiral ham, spiced rum, green plantains, and water chestnuts, he created a traditional streusel. Sticking to a straightforward dessert netted Johnson a first-place finish on the Food Network's Chopped?his second victory in as many appearances.
Key Ingredients at Pescatore
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.
At City Lobster and Steak, north-Atlantic lobsters from a dramatically lit tank join a menu of fresh seafood from around the country. Maryland lump crab cakes mingle with Alaskan king-crab legs, and a section of the restaurant's 45-foot bar boasts a display of raw oysters harvested from both coasts. Asian flavors influence many other menu items, such as appetizers of spring rolls and dumplings or entrees glazed with soy ginger and teriyaki port-wine sauces. When they're not moonlighting as marinades, wines pour from an extensive selection of bottles that garnered one of Wine Spectator's Awards of Excellence in 2012.
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.