New York's hot 40 restaurants

RICHARD VINES
Last updated 13:03 20/08/2013

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New York has it all when it comes to food and drink. Here are 40 restaurants and bars, from the smart and sophisticated to late-night dives.

Alder

This casual restaurant and bar on Second Avenue is the baby of Wylie Dufresne, known for his innovative food at WD- 50. There are quirky cocktails such as the Hey Rube, with Pimm's, gin and rhubarb in an enamel beaker with cucumber. The cooking is creative. How about fried quail with banana curry, Chinese broccoli and pickled turmeric? It's accessible and fun.

Balthazar

This buzzing brasserie is so popular with tourists and fans of "Sex and the City," it's easy to lose track of how good it is. Restaurateur Keith McNally has created a celebrity hangout with food you want to eat at prices you can afford. It's democratic glamour. These days you're more likely to sit next to an out-of-towner than a star.

Le Bernardin Lounge

Chef Eric Ripert's midtown restaurant is one of the world's best. How about the lounge? It is excellent. The snacks - oysters, ceviche etc. - are tempting, the room is quiet and sophisticated and the service discreet and assured. This is a great place to start the evening.

BLT Steak

This group of American steak houses is popular and it can be difficult to snag a table. I got a seat at the bar at the East 57th Street branch and was pleasantly surprised by the warmth of the welcome. The gruyere popovers are a great way to start a meal and they came out free while I waited for my New York strip.

Blue Hill at Stone Barns

You need to book well in advance to eat at this restaurant on a farm almost an hour by train from New York City. You may need to save up, as well. The menus are USD$148 ($183) or USD$208 ($257.6), with wine pairings at USD$110 ($136) and USD$150 ($185.7). If you can afford it, it's worth it. You can explore the farm and then taste Dan Barber's dishes, which draw on the farm's produce.

Charlie Bird

This is the new Midtown brasserie of chef Ryan Hardy and wine director Robert Bohr, formerly of Babbo and Daniel. The menu is Italian, with a raw bar. It's a fashionable establishment with beautiful diners enjoying small plates such as fried zucchini flowers with anchovy and ricotta. Expect a crush: It's scene-and-be-seen.

Costata

This is a modern steak house where chef Michael White serves pasta dishes and raw seafood alongside the meaty cuts that you might expect. From the abstract art on the walls through to the cocktails, it's a refreshing change from more traditional restaurants. Costata is smart and can be expensive. If you like somewhere classic, this may not be for you.

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Creative Juice

This is the new idea of Danny Meyer, the restaurateur behind Gramercy Tavern and Shake Shack. My eyes start to glaze over and then to roll when people tell me about detoxing with juice. Fortunately, the juices and salads taste good.

DBGB

This bar and kitchen in the Bowery is a lively place where chef Daniel Boulud takes his inspiration from the French brasserie and gives it an American twist. A meal might consist of oysters, a burger and peach tart, with draft beer. The interior is dark and the place can get crowded and loud, so avoid if you want a quiet bite on a Friday night.

Eleven Madison Park

Daniel Humm won the James Beard award for outstanding chef after taking the top restaurant accolade. I'd go further and argue it is among the best in the world. The standout dish? Carrot tartare with spicy carrot vinaigrette, mustard oil, pickled quail yolk, English pea mustard, toasted sunflower seeds, smoked bluefish, grated horseradish, fresh snap peas, sliced chives, mustard seeds, Amagansett sea salt and toasted bread.

Ellington

This venue on the Upper West Side terms itself a gastropub and even features a chef, Lester Almanzar, who worked at the Punch Bowl, in London. I just sat outside for a few drinks. This is a very pleasant local bar in which to hang out, far from the frenzy of Manhattan's hot spots.

Employees Only

The noise level and crush at this West Village bar mean the experience is akin to a rock gig. If that's your thing and you don't mind struggling to get served, it's a good crowd and the cocktails are worth waiting for. The inspiration comes from Prohibition-era speakeasies.

Fatty Crab

This tiny and cramped Malaysian restaurant in the West Village still draws the crowds. It's overcrowded and the music plays at a volume that rules out casual conversation. If you are prepared to shout and go with the flow, Fatty Crab can be fun. The service can be surprisingly prompt for somewhere so rock 'n' roll.

Fette Sau

This Brooklyn joint isn't for the faint-hearted. You line up, order a chunk of meat - the brisket is a specialty - then settle at a shared table or at the bar and make your way through the large portions. It's some of the best barbecue you can eat anywhere. All the meats are smoked in house. There's no fancy decor to distract you, only whiskeys and craft beer.

Forcella

Giulio Adriani's Neapolitan pizza restaurant on the Bowery is a good spot for authentic pies, such as the Margherita Extra . Throw in a glass of wine and you are looking at about USD$30 ($37). Adriani grew up in Rome and is certified as a pizza master. His most famous creation is the Montanara, where the dough is flash fried before being finished in a wood- burning oven.

Gastronomia Culinaria

This neighbourhood Italian restaurant is better than you might expect. Chef Vincenzo Pezzilli, a native of Rome, graduated from Ecole des Arts Culinaires in Lyon, France, and has wide experience. The food he produces from the tiny kitchen is worth the trip to the Upper West Side. The hospitality is the icing on the cake.

Grand Sichuan

I visited the Seventh Avenue outlet of this mini-chain. While the room was dimly lit and unattractive, I'd go back like a shot for the food. The menu is eclectic and there are plenty of authentic, spicy Sichuan dishes alongside American-Chinese options such as orange chicken. The prices are low. I got out for under USD$40 ($49.5) after four small dishes and a beer.

Jean Georges

If it's a special occasion, this three- Michelin-star restaurant is a world beater in its combination of American, French and Asian influences. The ingredients, flavour combinations and presentation are all top-notch. The dining room, overlooking Central Park, is beautiful. Nougatine, next door in Trump International Hotel and Tower, serves great food at less elevated prices.

Lafayette

It's such a commonplace to compare this grand cafe and bakery to Balthazar, I wish I could come up with something else. Chef Damon Wise (ex-Monkey Bar) is here along with Andrew Carmellini. The food is mainly French-Mediterranean. On my visit, I wondered if the kitchen wasn't overwhelmed by the crowds. This NoHo establishment is becoming very popular.

Lincoln

This establishment in the Lincoln Center is easy to miss. It looks expensive and unwelcoming. Yet Chef Jonathan Benno is a real talent, his uncluttered Italian dishes are exemplary and the prices are not sky-high, especially for lunch. It's a calming place where you look out onto a reflecting pool. Chef Daniel Boulud is among the customers.

Macao Trading Co

The website says Macao Trading takes its inspiration from the 1930s brothels and opium dens of the then- Portuguese enclave. The dimly lit basement bar of this Tribeca establishment is a great hideaway for quiet cocktails such as Drunken Dragon's Milk (Charbay Green Tea Vodka shaken with young coconut puree, Thai basil and Macao five-spice bitters) at USD$15 ($18.5).

Mandarin Oriental Lobby Lounge

OK, this isn't a hidden gem. It is, indeed, the lobby lounge of a fancy hotel, with expensive (USD$19) cocktails. Yet the view of Central Park and the Manhattan skyline, plus the understated Art Deco sophistication of the Mandarin mean it is worth the elevator ride.

Maysville

This Flatiron American restaurant and whiskey bar was the best surprise of my trip to New York. Chef Kyle Knall, 27, is one to watch. His flavours are big and yet he cooks with finesse. His crispy grits with country ham and bourbon aioli alone justify a visit to Maysville. The 200 options on the whiskey list may be an incentive.

Mercer Kitchen

This is a low-key Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurant in the basement of the Mercer hotel in Soho. There's an industrial look, with exposed brick walls, and you might find yourself sitting at a communal table. The menu is eclectic, so you might start with soft-shell crab tempura followed by tuna pizza along with a cucumber martini.

Maison Premiere

The menu at this casual Brooklyn restaurant is simple enough: It's basically oysters and raw fish, and there are more than 30 choices. The wine list is heavily weighted toward France. Maison Premiere is very popular, so expect a crowd. It's worth arriving early to try for a table in the garden.

The Marrow

 This is a charming corner restaurant and bar in the West Village. I liked the menu, I enjoyed the cocktails, I loved the British waitress. The only shortcoming when I visited for lunch was the food, which was curiously short on flavour.

Mission Chinese

You line up outside this Lower East Side joint and might wonder why if you're expecting regular Chinese fare. Yet the gutsy dishes are loved by the food crowd. The menu may include lamb tongue and cuttlefish terrine followed by catfish a la Sichuan. It's a friendly place. Chef Danny Bowien won the James Beard award for rising star.

Il Mulino

This is an old-fashioned, expensive Italian restaurant. The room is dark and would be a good place for assignations if there weren't so many other diners packed in. (I had a torch, so was able to see the menu.) Il Mulino, which traces its history back three decades, specializes in the cuisine of the Abruzzo region. It's a throwback, and a good one.

Nancy Whiskey Pub

Village Voice featured this Tribeca establishment as one of New York's best dive bars. There's a good range of beers and whiskeys and a friendly welcome, yet it may be the shuffleboard and the jukebox that bring you back. Nancy Whiskey feels like it might be a tourist attraction, while it's a genuine neighbourhood bar.

Nomad

This restaurant and bar in the Nomad Hotel on Broadway is so popular, you have to run the clipboard gauntlet to get in. It is worth it. The quirky rooms are remarkable and the food is first class and the whole-roasted chicken for two (USD$79/$97.8)) is a showstopper - one of the great dishes of New York. This establishment is the baby of Will Guidara and Daniel Humm.

North End Grill

 There's a $39 weekday lunch menu at this Danny Meyer grill, where chef Floyd Cardoz has a garden on the roof. The menu may include chilled cucumber soup with radishes and cherry tomatoes and rice-flaked halibut with watermelon, watercress and lime. The cooking is modern and refined, the ambience a bit corporate, the service first class, as it is with Meyer.

Peter Luger

If you like your meat red, you should try to get to Peter Luger at least once in our life. This Brooklyn restaurant traces its history to 1887 and is entirely focused on steak. It's an old-style restaurant without fancy decor or lighting. While the waiters will happily banter with you, don't expect any fuss or for service to be over-attentive.

Pod 39

This is the rooftop bar and lounge at Salvation Taco. The views are great and it's a lively crowd. The drinks are pretty good, too, if you can get them. You may find yourself in line even to get to Pod 39 and then face a long wait for service at the crowded and understaffed bar. It's worth it - just. This is a great bar to hang out in if you are not thirsty.

Red Rooster

This restaurant and bar reflects Harlem's cultural diversity and the neighbourhood's evolution toward fashionability. More than that, it's a fun place to hang out and enjoy cocktails such as the Brownstone - nutmeg-infused Bulleit Bourbon, Cherry Heering, St. Germain - and Chef Marcus Samuelsson's comfort food. Gospel Sunday brunch is also a hit.

Rye

This Williamsburg neighbourhood restaurant's happy hour features cheeseburgers and old fashioneds at USD$5 ($6) a pop between 5:30 pm and 7 pm Monday through Friday. It's also worth going later for chef-owner Cal Elliott's menu, which features dishes such as Long Island duck breast with Moroccan-style couscous, lemon confit, spinach and tomato chutney.

Salvation Taco

This is a lively, noisy, colourful and sometimes crowded restaurant in a former Salvation Army hostel in Murray Hill. It's not one for purists. The tacos include Moroccan lamb on naan and Korean BBQ. It's owned by Ken Friedman and April Bloomfield of the Spotted Pig. It's worth visiting for the vibe and the energy.

Schapiro's

This is a new cocktail bar and bistro on the Lower East Side. The name references a long-gone Jewish winery. The food is modern American with Jewish influences, featuring matzo ball soup and bagel on lox. It's the cocktails that may draw people. Ajax Kentish, the launch bar manager at Polpo in London, was serving the drinks when I dropped by.

Shahi Biryani & Grill

In the unlikely event you find yourself out and about in Manhattan Valley in the early hours with a hankering for Pakistani dishes, this inexpensive Halal joint may be for you. The food is authentic and unfussy and the place is open until 2 a.m. Information: 71 West 109th St. (between Columbus and Manhattan Avenue) NY 10025.

Tribeca Grill

Drew Nieporent, whose restaurant this is, is also one of the owners of Nobu, along with Robert De Niro. This is an unpretentious establishment, good for steak and salad, crab cake or seared sea scallops. It's easy to overlook a spot like this, with good service, regular food and a fine selection of American wines. Tribeca Grill doesn't need to be fashionable.

Trix

I wandered into this corner bar in Brooklyn after interviewing chef Paul Liebrandt, whose new Williamsburg restaurant is the Elm. According to the website, the owners collaborated with artist James Johnson to pay homage to Belinda's go-go lounge, which occupied the site in the 1980s. I didn't eat, just sat outside for happy hour drinks.

- Bloomberg News

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