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Manhattan & NJ (Bergen County) Restaurant Reviews

Ian Hunter's Guide to Manhattan and Bergen County, NJ's Best Restaurants, Bars, and Gourmet Markets

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FRENCH/ BELGIAN
 
La Mirabelle: French. 102 W 86th @ Amsterdam-Columbus; 23/18/$51; 496-0458; Old fashioned French Bistro; Excellent French food for a classic evening of top cuisine.  Excellent service from family-owned business. Older crowd, full of regulars; Extremely strong desserts; As it is an older crowd, perfect to take your parents here or for a quiet night out. Incredible service. Try the duckling.  Brunch served.  

 

Café Luxembourg: French. 200 W 70th @ Amsterdam-West End; 21/18/$56; 873-7411; There for 25 years, produces excellent French bistro food; Local institution; Sexy crowd and a great scene- Especially outdoors. Best French Onion soup in city perhaps; Best for brunch: 9am-4pm weekends; Dinner & lunch menu more limited but contain standard French fare. Nice bar scene;  Grilled Pork Loin; Moules Frites; Lobster Roll; Amazing burgers.

 
La Boite en Bois: French. 75 W 68th @ Columbus-CPW; 21/17/$58;  874-2705; Quaint, romantic restaurant; Lincoln Center pre-theatre favorite; Small in size – excellent service; Very enticing menu featuring crepes filled with seafood; Fish stew with monkfish, and seafood; Lamb stew; Veal scaloppinis; Roasted duck; Roast salmon; Smoked trout; Cod fish; Seafood focused; Pre-theatre prix-fixe menu- 3 courses for $49 (tons of choice); Weekend Brunch.
 
Bar BouludFrench. 1900 B-Way @ 63rd-64th; 24/20/$65; 595-0303;  From famed chef Daniel Boulud, this is his smaller, more affordable wine bar/ restaurant; Bistro fare; Perfect pre or post Lincoln Center; The steak frites stand out; Coq au Vin is yummy; Post modern setting with long bar and vaulted ceiling; Brunch and lunch is served. Massive wine list: 1,000+.  Dinner 3 course prix fixe is $48 or you can order off the menu.
 
Jean Georges: French. 1 Central Park W @ Trump Int’l Hotel @ 60th; 28/28/$165; 299-3900; Best French restaurant in NYC; Wildly expensive; Michelin 3-star rated; It does offer a $58 prix fixe lunch; Considered by all review sources a magical experience; Foodies ultimate dream; Celebrate your promotion (and ask for another to cover the bill);  Foie Gras, Amuse Bouche highest caliber; Dinner: $138 for 3-course prix fixe- large choice for each course. See website. 7 course tasting menu, seasonal, $218. Second mortgage to afford anything here. 
 

Nougatine at Jean-Georges: French. 1 Central Park W @ Trump Int’l Hotel @ 60th;  27/22/$70; 299-3900; Adjacent to Jean Georges – this much more affordable option is the way to go if you want money left over to pay the rent; They go the extra mile; Superb New French cuisine; Brunch and lunch available;  Tuna tartare; Meat and Cheese board; Crab cake; Sauteed Sea Bass; Veal Milanese; $98 tasting menu; Lunch tasting is $38- 3 courses. 

 
La Bonne Soupe: French. 48 W 55th @ 6th; 20/15/$34; 586-7650; Authentic French food; Bistro feel; Cheese Fondue on the menu; French soups including perfection in French Onion. Large place. Very casual spot that is almost an upscale diner; Menu also features lots of varieties of crepes and salads; Steaks and usual French fare available.  Good bang for the buck. Omelettes and Crepes as well. 
 
Le Bernardin: French. 155 W 51st @ 6th-7th Av; 29/27/$170; 554-1515; This Michelin 3-star rated restaurant, and #1 in Zagats 8 years running  always shines; Famed chef Eric Ripert shows off his best work when you order the $150 prix fixe at dinner- 4 courses; Seafood-centric dishes; Save money by going at lunch ($87 prix fixe). Issues: Besides the price, jackets required. See website for seasonal menu. Only on my website because it is #1 ranked every year.  You will spend $500/couple minimum  here with drinks.
 
Chez Napoleon: French. 365 50th @ 8-9th Av; 24/17/$52; 265-6980; Old fashioned setting; Great service; Large menu with all the French classics; Excellent food! Pre-theatre; Family-owned- like dining at an old friend’s home; Steak au Poivre stands out; Been around since the 1960s; Great Martini menu and very affordable wines; Massive menu with every possible French classic; Just love this place.
 
Marseille: French. 630 9th Av @ 44th; 21/20/$51; 333-3410; Mediterranean influenced; Unique menu with classics and innovative dishes; Spacious setting with a nice pre-drink bar area; Sexy scene. Cool décor; Mixed reviews; Try a standard such as Steak Frites and you’ll be pleased; $35 3 course prix fixe available; Menu truly is wide and varied and I enjoy this place; 
 
Chez Josephine: French. 414 W 42nd @ 9-10th; 22/23/$55; 594-1925; Tribute to Josephine Baker; Fine French food; Elegant and welcoming. Fun decorations reminding one of her day; Large menu; Live piano on occasion; 25+ years in existence; Brunch available; Menu tends towards the New-American end of the spectrum; Fabulous soups.  Escargot to die for.
 
Tartine: French. 253 W 11th St @ W 4th St; 21/15/$30; 229-2611; Dirt Cheap French Bistro; BYOB policy & no Rez;

Saucy chicken in garlic white wine; Packed always; Simple classics. I suggest coming here for a terrific brunch $15 for a large selection of items; Served 10am-4pm; Main courses feature about 15 appetizers and a dozen entrees – all the typical French classics found in a bistro setting.  Cash only; 

 
Le Gigot: French. 18 Cornelia @ Bleecker- W 4th; 25/19/$54; Small place, only 11 tables, but cozy location; Incredible food; Not a huge menu but contains classics – duck, escargots etc; Parisian experience. Great staff. Very romantic environment; Lobster always on the menu; Lunch and Brunch menus available as well.  Seafood Salad;  Beef Bourguignon. 
 
CamaJe: French. 85 MacDougal @ Bleecker-Houston; 22/16/$42; 673-8184; American twists to the food; Bistro feel and setting; Walls adorned with artists’ works; Romantic, like a Paris street. Lamb stew amazing. Menu is very eclectic with tons of varieties and categories of food including Mac N Cheese; Paninis; Cheese and meat plates; and seafood;  The chef offers cooking classes;  Offer Dinners in the Dark; Small location and cheap; Brunch served; Sea Bass; Crepes; Wonderful cheese plates;
 

Bourgeois Pig: French. 127 MacDougal @ W 3rd; 23/21/$48; 475-2246; Café feel yet sexy and enticing; Mimics the bourgeois lifestyle in décor; Top drawer Cheese Fondues; Cheese plates; Basically a cheese specialist. Known for excellent wines and cocktails- especially the champagne punch; Giant list of specialty drinks – amazing; Brushettas & Cheese & wine or cocktails! 

 

Minetta Tavern: French. 113 MacDougal @ Bleecker-W 3rd; 25/21/$75; Michelin 1 star rated, NY Times 3 stars; Keith McNally’s best restaurant; Ultra cool & trendy Village environment; The $26 Black Label Burger is amazing; This place keeps getting better; Known for Bone Marrow as well; Braised Short Ribs; Basically, the place is like a French steakhouse meets a NYC tavern. Beer $10, cocktails $17.  Brunch served with 5 types of Bloody Marys; 

 
Bouley: French. 163 Duane @ Hudson; 28/27/$150 or $65 (L); 964-2525; Might bankrupt you but Michelin 1-star rated and NY Times 3-star rated food will always impress; Owned by master chef David Bouley; Country cooking at its finest; Ever-changing menu- see website; $59 lunch 5 course tasting menu the way to go; Tasting menu for dinner is $195;  Dinner 3 course prix Fixe is $135;  Gorgeous setting and impeccable service; Go on- try it! Dungeness Crab appetizer. Jackets sadly required for dinner; 
 
Raoul’s: French. 180 Prince @ Sullivan-Thompson; 22/23/$58; 966-3518; Truly authentic first-rate French fare in an authentic bistro setting; Been around since 1975;  Always popular and just like dining in Paris; Romantic ambiance; Back garden; Can’t go wrong here; Steak au poivre; Duck breast are amazing. Your meal will be good or great here – never off;  Medium sized menu. 
 
Taureau: French/ Fondue. 558 Broome @ Varick; 25/17/$45;  228-2222; Receiving amazing reviews across the board; Small place so go early or on a weekday; Features cheese, meat and chocolate fondues; Perfect date spot and very romantic; They have a dozen different fondues – affordable; You can order a prix fixe where you try 1 of each type of fondue – cheese, meat and chocolate. 
 
Bistro Les Amis: French. 180 Spring @ Thompson; 22/17/$42; 226-8645; Charming Soho French bistro with the usual classics plus some special preparations; Romantic, smallish place; Fair pricing & great service; $34 prix fixe; Steak Frites with herb butter. Excellent, huge brunch menu; Gravlax, French Onion Soup, Mozz & Tomato salad appetizers stand out; Coq au vin, healthy dinner salads, Lamb shank, Duck & Steak frites. Bronzino; Ahi Tuna.  Best for dinner
 
Balthazar: French; 80 Spring @ B-Way-Crosby; 23/23/$54; 965-1414; Insanely popular; Brunch specialist; Dinner date spot; Epic good; Keith McNally owned; Absolute spot-on Paris brasserie; Models, celebs, and tourists in crowd. Eggs Benedict & steak frites stand out; Large portions for French; Only downside is noise levels and tourists. Apps $15-$20, Entrees $24-$35; Can come anytime – lunch, late night too. Smoked Salmon; Brioche French Toast; Raw Bar 
 
Lucien: French. 14 1st Av @ 2nd St; 24/18/$53; 260-6481; Just first rate bistro classics; Slightly cramp but what a Parisian feel; Charming service; Try the rabbit over egg noodles; Steak Frites; Fish soup with gruyere; Salmon or Ahi Tuna tartare; Grilled Octopus; Escargot; Whole Lobster fra diavolo; Chilean Sea Bass; Grilled Quail; Roasted Chicken;  Just amazing selection on the menu.
 
Degustation: French. 239 E 5th @ 2nd-3rd Av; 27/19/$85; 979-1012; Small 16 seat tasting bar; Spanish-infused small plates, French style; 12-15 items on the menu – all epic in quality; Like sitting at a sushi bar. Ten course tasting menu ($85); Not for groups; You leave yourselves in the hands of the chefs when you come here (and eat in front of them too).  Striped Bass; Burrata.  Best if you do the tasting. 
 

Pardon My French: French. 103 Ave B @ 7th St; 27/27/$41; 358-9683; Old school French bistro meets modern European atmosphere;  Amazing cocktails; Rave reviews; Weekend Brunch is bottomless and amazing for $29 & features Bloody Marys/ Mimosas; Dinner entrees include Slow braised Oxtail; Mulard Duck breast; Moules Frites; Striped Bass and potent cocktails for $13. Only issue is limited dinner menu. Brazilian influence; Outdoor garden seating.

 
DB Bistro ModerneFrench. 55 W 44th @ 5th-6th Av; 24/20/$63; 391-2400; Chef Daniel Boulud’s attempt to go hip and cool which mostly succeeds; Signature $35 burger; $50 pre-theatre prix-fixe is the best deal; Contemporary setting and great wine bar as well; Breakfast, Brunch and lunch also served; Menu is actually very mouthwatering and affordable overall (barely).  Happy Hour at bar 3-6pm; 
 
Le Perigord: French. 405 E 52nd @ 1st Av-FDR; 23/22/$68; 755-6244; Old school classic French – catering to an older crowd; Huge place, like a banquet hall; Amazing baguettes and bread; Escargot to die for; Try the Lobster – prepared wonderfully with Coriander broth; Sea Scallops with Risotto;  $75 set price for 3-course meal; Tons to choose from; Ideal family dining setting;  Lunch served as well.
 
Jubilee: French. 347 E 54th @ 1-2nd; 23/16/$44; 888-3569; Exactly the menu you want to look at in a French Bistro;

Mussels are the best here; Ultra French feel.  Older crowd;  Brunch and dinner available; Affordable menu; Fish soup with side of Swiss cheese; Crab cake; Escargot; Yellowfin Tuna tartare; There are a dozen varieties of mussels to choose from; Poached salmon; Soft Shell crabs. Brunch (sat, sun 12-3) for $28 includes 3 Bloody Marys or Mimosas and 2 courses. 

 
Brasserie 8 1/2: French. 9 W 57th @ 5th – 6th Av; 22/23/$59; 829-0812; New French in an amazing atmosphere; Has both intimate dining available and a happening bar scene in the spacious setting; Huge place with a spiral staircase- impress your friends; Insane $34 Brunch Buffet- GO. Endless Mimosas for $14;  Incredible dinner appetizers, Mac n Cheese side; Seafood Plateau and Oysters bar options. Delicious.  Dinner features $42 prix fixe.
 
Le Cirque: French. 151 E 58th St @ Lex-3rd; 24/26/$50; 644-0202; Nearly 40 years old – an institution at this point; Gorgeous décor featuring tons of celebrity photos with famed owner Sirio Maccioni; $28 lunch prix fixe to save; Jackets required in main dining room; There is a more casual café- MUCH cheaper; Most of the dishes have a seafood element to them; Daily specials – see website; In the Bloomberg building;  Suggestion – Le Cirque Café $38 dinner prix fixe;  Main dining room is 4 courses $125. 
 
JoJo: French. 160 E 64th @ Lex-3rd Av; 25/23/$67; 223-5656; From uber chef Jean-George Vongerichten; Classy bistro feel with nearly loving service; Duplex setting; $28 3-course lunch and brunch prix fixe; $68 dinner tasting menu; Tuna, Red Snapper, Rack of Lamb all stand out; Salmon, duck and veal also on the menu- which is seasonal. Not terribly expensive. 
 
Sel et Poivre: French. 853 Lexington @ 64-65th; 21/18/$41; 517-5780; What a lovely, unpretentious bistro; Even serves pasta besides excellent, not overly spiced French cuisine; Brunch as well; Been around forever- reliable. Excellent menu and wonderful service. There is better French food in the city but this place is solid. Brunch (includes a drink) and lunch served.  Try the Risotto, Escargot, Frogs Legs, Duck a L’Orange; or Brook Trout.  
 
B. Café: Belgian. 240 E 75th @ 2nd-3rd Av; 23/20/$44; 249-3300; Belgian bistro with amazing beer selection; Intimate

setting for Belgian fare; Moules frites is specialty; When you want a refreshing twist of classic Gaullic grub. Honestly – if you want mussels, you have to come here; There is an Upper West Side location; Brunch menu; Great looking Seafood Gratin; Grilled Calamari; Tuna Tartare; Fisherman Gratin. 

 
Cafe Boulud: French. 20 E 76th @ 5th – Mad; 27/24/$82; 772-2600;  Daniel Boulud at his best; NY Times 3-stars and Michelin 1-star rated masterwork in the Surrey Hotel;  Unforgettable French cuisine amidst a sophisticated, mature setting; Impeccable service; $39/$45 prix fixe lunch (2 or 3 courses); Adjoins a cocktail lounge called Bar Pleiades; There is an off-menu tasting menu; Seasonal & changing limited menu- see website.  Brunch menu – 3 courses $49. 
 
The Simone: French. 151 E 82nd @ Lex-3rd; 26/21/$75; 772-8861; Classy, formal French restaurant featuring spot-on friendly service;  About 8 appetizers and a dozen entrees – but the menu changes nearly daily; Rabbit, Duck, Lamb, Flounder, Sea Bass and Salmon Tartare are frequently seen; Closed Sunday;  Splurge and let the server pick wine for you on each course. 
 
Café d’Alsace: French. 1695 2nd Av @ 88th; 23/18/$44; 722-5133; Feels like you are in Paris at this energetic brasserie; 500 types of Beer- including a beer sommelier;  Outdoor seating; Tradition French cuisine. Large portions. Fun time in this laid back establishment; Best known for their epic Brunch which is 9am-4pm Sat/Sun; Weekday lunch menu amazing; Certainly worth a try – beer and apps for a light dinner.