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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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UNION SQUARE/ GRAMERCY  (14th-34th; East of 6th)
Sushi Sen-ninJapanese. 30 E 33rd @ Madison-Park; 24/19/$54; 889-2208; Fresh Fish, known for gorgeously prepared Special Rolls; Perfect for those preferring a la carte. Creative rolls that are delicious. Hasa sushi bar, Yakitori bar; Make your own rolls options; Fairly priced overall. Critics say it’s hit or miss; I love the endless menu and overall fresh quality.
Wolfgang’s Steakhouse: Steakhouse. 4 Park @ 33rd; 26/20/$84; 889-3369; Started by former head waiter at Peter Lugar’s; Incredible Porterhouse; Wildly popular; Vaulted ceilings;  Laid back, with old-school cool;  Gorgeous décor and fish-friendly menu as well; Gruff waiters; Creamed spinach & German potatoes are famous;  Bacon by the slice; Freshest Mozz; Sea Bass; Yellowfin Tuna; Rib Eye; One of5 Manhattan locations. Masterfully done steaks – top 3 in city.   
Hangawi: Korean. 12 E 32nd @ 5th-Mad; 24/24/$46; 213-0077; Vegetarian Food; Relaxing; Serene; Tranquil; Check shoes at the door. Only pure vegetarian place I have on this site; Just a very relaxing experience featuring great service; Try the dumplings to start and the Mongolian hot pot is excellent. There is a 6 course tasting menu for $40.
Mishima: Japanese. 164 Lex @ 30-31st; 23/13/$36; 532-9596; Sushi awesome here; Equally good cooked items; Peaceful, tranquil; Eat upstairs; Affordable costs close the deal. They have a huge menu though only about 10 special rolls; Try a dinner box: Miso soup & salad with 3 items of your choice and you choose from sushi, sashimi, tempura, rolls, teriyaki etc.
Water Club: American. East River @ 30th; Enter at 23rd; 23/27/$73; 683-3333; You come here for the amazing views of Brooklyn/Queens; Excellent menu featuring Grilled Bronzino; Amazing Shellfish; Crab Cakes; Lobster Bisque; Lots of seafood entrees; Scottish Salmon; Beef Wellington; and a Raw Bar; Steaks & Chops available; Brunch has amazing entrees – Seafood Salad, Smoked Salmon; Eggs Benedict with lump crab; Dinner entrees approx $30, Apps $15.
Breslin Bar: British. Ace Hotel; 16 W 29th @ 5th Av; 24/22/$53; 679-1939;  Michelin 1-star rated from the owners of Spotted Pig; Meat-centric menu; Dark hunting lodge setting; No Rez policy; Excellent people watching- advantage of being in a hotel; Overall – more of a gastro pub than anything else; Limited dinner menu but note lunch, breakfast and brunch available.
Riverpark: New American. 450 E 29th @ FDR-1st Av;  26/27/$68; 729-9790; Serene hideaway in an office park; Unimaginable views of East River and beyond; Tom Colicchio in command; Free parking; Seasonal menu; Brunch/lunch served; Menu includes Crab salad; Charcuterie Board; Hamachi; Pasta options; Whole Fish of the day for two;  NY Strip; Lamb Chops; Rabbit; Branzino and Scallops.  See menu.
Ben & Jack’s Steakhouse: Steakhouse. 255 5th Av @ 28th-29th; 23/20/$68; 532-7600; Business professionals; Amazing sides- especially the creamed spinach and German potatoes; 2 former Peter Lugar servers own it; Communal porterhouse; NY Strip, filet all great; Nicely charred steaks; Extensive wine list; Plain, yet spacious setting; Very attentive service. Bacon as appetizer & seafood platter; Prime Rib;  Kobe burger; Clams & Oysters;  Sea Bass; Lobster Tails or 4 pounder; All the usual cuts.  

Sahara’s Turkish Cuisine: Turkish. 513 2nd Av @ 28th-29th; 23/16/$35; 532-7589; Huge portions of authentic Turkish food;  Friendly, helpful service;  All at a great price with left overs for sure; Local neighborhood favorite; The Mixed Grill Kebab platter is yummy; Even have 5 fish entrees including Branzino and Tilapia; Perfect for lunch as well. Seafood salad, Pastrami Cigars looks great. 


Dhaba: Indian. 108 Lexington @ 27-28th; 25/17/$29; 679-1284; Lively feel; Probably the best of the Curry Hill restaurants; Very popular with locals;  Long, exciting menu. $12 lunch buffet. Tremendous bang for the buck here as it is dirt cheap for the quality; Heavily spiced dishes – vindaloo will burn you;

Bollywood like décor; Very popular and well reviewed. Menu has it all- endlessly long.

Turkish Kitchen: Turkish. 386 3rd Av @ 27-28th; 23/17/$40; 679-6633; So good; Under radar; Known for Sunday Brunch buffet; Succulent kebabs;  Funky red-everywhere décor; Unique martinis; Zucchini pancakes; Grilled Talapia; Sunday Brunch all you can eat $25; Lunch Prix fixe for $16 or $20; Website is great – pictures of all the dishes. Great bang for the buck.  Really a must-try in the genre.


Ilili: Lebanese. 236 5th Av @ 27th; 25/23/$47; 683-2322; One of the better restaurants of its genre offering small and large plates best designed for sharing; Date-friendly, sexy décor; Lounge feel; Huge menu of truly authentic preparations; Prix-fixe available for lunch or dinner; Lamb Makloubeh and Duck Shawarma are a must as are Brussels Sprouts. Trendy, date friendly décor.


I Trulli: Italian. 122 E 27th @ Lex-Park; 23/20/$56; 481-7372; Gorgeous place; Inside fireplace; Outdoor seating in a lush garden; Sleek and inviting. Brilliant wine list; Close to an institution; Homemade past with Rabbit Ragu- yum; Brunch, lunch and dinner served; I prefer it as a lunch option in the summer; All the pastas are homemade & incredible. Pricing is fair; Superb wine list – place can be seen as a wine bar.


Blue Smoke: BBQ. 116 E 27th @ Lex-Park: 23/17/$47; 447-7733;  Danny Meyer’s upscale rib house;  Best BBQ in city; Live Jazz; Smokehouse; Melt in your mouth ribs; Excellent Sides; Excellent beers to choose from & excellent Bourbon bar; Pulled pork outstanding; You must try the Mac n Cheese; Lively setting; Perfect for the whole family. Battery Park City location as well. Deviled Eggs;  Great for a party.


Pippali: Indian. 129 E 27th @ Park-Lex; 24/15/$35; 689-1999; Former Tamarind chef brings excellence to Curry Hill; Nonstandard menu; Helpful service although mundane décor;  The classic Chicken Tikki Marsala with some Naan is always a safe bet;  Truly a huge menu with everything organized nicely; Affordable pricing from an excellent chef. Absolute excellence in food quality. 


Hillstone: American. 378 Park Ave @ 27th; 22/19/$58; 689-1090; Upscale pub highlighted by an excellent bar scene; Major after-work scene; Chicken fingers- off the menu; Upscale entrees and even sushi offered (multiple special rolls); Great place for a within-budget American meal. Other standouts: Spinach & Artichoke Dip, Veggie Burger, Grilled Artichokes, Rib Eye, Arctic Char, Crab Cakes.

Dos Caminos: Mexican. 373 Park @ 26-7th; 21/21/$43; 294-1000; Great upscale Mexican, though becoming more of a chain; Sexy, young, hip setting in all locations; Energetic scene perfect for Dates or larger groups; Margaritas will put you under; Guacamole is tremendous; Steve Hanson empire journeys on. Can be loud and service a bit iffy. Best of the mid-level Mexicans.
A Voce: Italian. 41 Madison Av @ 26th; 25/22/$61; 545-8555; Michelin 1-star; New York Times’ highest 3-star rating; Seasonal Italian masterworks; Huge buzz about the place so reserve well in advance; About 16 entrees and 6 or 7 appetizers – mouthwatering descriptions on the menu; Chef Missy Robbins nails it; Check website as each location has different entrees (also Columbus Circle). Affordable for its quality.
Park Ave Summer/Autumn/Winter/Spring: American. 360 Park Av @ 25-26th; 951-7111; Giant, airy flatiron space; Seasonal menu (and restaurant name change); Foodies galore; Excellent wine list;  3course dinner with unlimited wine after 8:30pm daily for $65/person;  Brunch is $32 prix fixe with $13 Bloody- incredible menu; Dinner this summer includes Burrata, Yellowfin Tuna, Branzino, Halibut and Scallops. Lovely sides, desserts and ‘land’ dishes as well. Cocktails at dinner $16. 


Sagaponack: American/Seafood. 4 West 22nd @ 5th Av; 25/19/$45; 646-760-9682; Hidden gem from this Long Island transplant; Excellent Raw bar; Spicy seafood flatbread; Great salad options; Long Island Duck; Bucatini Seafood Pasta to die for; Seafood Paella; Pappardelle with Korean shortribs; Lobster Roll;  Happy Hour 4-7pm; Lunch served;  Relaxed, casual atmosphere;  Affordable pricing to boot. 


BLT Prime: Steakhouse. 111 E 22nd @ Lex-Park; 25/23/$84; 995-8500; Steakhouse from chef Laurent Tourondel; Artful-contemporary setting that is date friendly; Very strong food- Kind of formal;  Double Cut Bacon, Seafood Platter, Steak or Tuna tartare; Crab cakes are featured apps; Kobe beef available; Rib Eye, Hanger Steak, Short Ribs, Rack of Lamb all cry out; Excellent wine list. Experts on cutting up a cow. Branzino; Ahi Tuna; Short Ribs; Roast Chicken as well.
Novita: Italian. 102 E 22nd @ Lex-Park; 24/19/$55; 677-2222; Elegant, always improving fare; Standard and inventive fare; Great anniversary date spot. Tight-ish space (60 seats); Fresh Mozz; Bruchetta; Kobe beef carpaccio; Grilled shrimp with crabmeat; tuna rolls; About a dozen ultra fresh pasta dishes – all yummy such as Rigatoni with seared Yellowfin Tuna & Black spaghetti with seafood fra diavolo;

Maialino: Italian. 2 Lexington Av @ 21st St; Gramercy Park Hotel; 24/23/$67; 777-2410; Another Danny Meyer restaurant production; Signature roast pig dinner; Excellent breads and olive oils; Features an extensive menu with something for everyone; Huge wine list – many reasonably priced; Great scene as well; Weekend brunch; Spaghetti Carbonara & Sea Bass stand out; Cheese plates. Gorgeous interior.


Via Emilia: Italian. 47 E 21st St @ Park Av; 23/16/$41; 505-3072; Known for outstanding food; Try the candy-shaped pasta or the Ravioli con Caprino (spinach, tomatoes); Bruschetta appetizer; Old school cooking and affordable; Gnocco Fritto is the signature appetizer; Giant menu focusing on homemade pasta dishes; Lamb Shank, Pork Chops – light on seafood. Cash only.


Gramercy Tavern: American. 42 E 20th @ B-Way-Park; 28/26/$70 or $135; 477-0777; Flawless food, service; New Chef Michael Anthony; Cheaper by the front Tavern which has own menu & a cool bar scene & amazing drinks;  Expensive here b/c this place is an all-time NYC institution. Memorable evenings. Tasting Menu - $165;  3-course is $125 in dining room;  Danny Meyer owned. Cocktails $19, beer $12. Do the tavern…  1 Michelin star.  Non-tipping;  Tavern has better menu and apps $20, main $30. 


Mari Vanna: Russian. 41 E 20th @ BWay-Park; 21/24/$65; 777-1955; Try not to have too many flavor infused vodkas before you eat so you can enjoy the authentic Russian food here; Chicken Kiev or Beef Stroganoff;  Gorgeous elegant dining room – extremely fancy looking; For $75/ person you can get 4 cold appetizers, 2 hot, 1 soup and 2 entrees and 2 desserts; Order a la carte as well. Lunch available.  Like dining in a Russian palace.  Love the menu here. 


La Pizza Fresca Ristorante: Italian. 31 E 20th @ B-Way-Park; 23/18/$42; 598-0141; Casual, excellent Neapolitan pizzas; Endless varieties to choose from; Pizza is made in the tradition of Naples; Wonderful imported bufala Mozz used in pizzas and for an appetizer; Have many amazing pasta dishes available in full and half portions. $7/ beer; Nice wine list; Naples has found its way to Union Square


Mizu: Japanese. 29 E. 20th @ B-Way-Park; 23/16/$363; 505-6688; Incredible sushi; Young, hip; Creative menu featuring both classic rolls and unique combos; Younger crowd enjoying saki. Best thing I like about this place is they have about the largest list of sushi rolls/ special rolls (all affordable) I’ve seen; Also have cooked items, Teriyakki etc. Just a huge selection which I appreciate. 


Barbounia: Mediterranean. 250 Park Av S @ 20th; 21/23/$51; 995-0242; The setting has a lot going on- formal yet fun

and high energy;  Gen X crowd; Service is excellent; The bread is legendary- famous flatbread; Hip cliental; Cocktails all $14, beer $7; Greek fondue on menu; Smallish, healthier looking portions; Extremely fresh; Charred octopus and beef carpaccio stand out; Fresh whole fish and some pastas as well; Lamb shank.  Brunch features endless champagne cocktails for $20;  Baked Branzino. 

Craftbar: American. 900 B-Way @ 19th-20th; 25/21/$52; 461-4300; Top Chef TV’s Tom Colicchio’s more casual sibling to flagship “Craft” down the block; Spot-on service; Nice mix of seafood/ shellfish and meat dishes with lots of appetizers and side dishes to choose from; Seasonal menu so check the website for changes; Brunch available - outstanding.  The brunch menu is to die for:  Smoked Gouda Grilled Cheese, what!  Closed Monday.  

Boqueria: Spanish. 53 W 19th @ 5-6th; 22/20/$46; 255-4160; Traditional Barcelona-style Tapas; No-Rez policy so go early; Extremely tasty small plates.  Ultra creative; Smallish place. There is also a Soho location; Brunch 12-5 Sat/Sun; Tapas served all day as well as Artisanal cheeses;  There is a market and lunch or brunch available.  Seared octopus; Garlic Shrimp;  Braised Oxtail; Lamb meatballs. Two paellas.

Craft: American. 43 E 19th @ B-Way; 26/23/$78; 780-0880; Flagship of Top Chef TV’s Tom Colicchio; Relaxing, sophisticated environment; Spot-on service; Try the beef short ribs; Nice mix of seafood/ shellfish and meat dishes with lots of appetizers and side dishes to choose from; Seasonal menu so check the website for changes; Most main courses under $35. Lunch Prix fixe $36 for 3 courses;  Original menu – check website.  Great scene. 


Bocca: Italian. 39 E 19th @ B-Way-Park; 23/20/$49; 387-1200; Same ownership as Cacio e Pepe; Fun, enjoyable vibe; Features a pasta served in a pecorino cheese wheel – a must; Comfortable booths available; Dirt cheap weekday lunch specials; Very friendly service; Artisanal cheeses available; Truly excellent pasta dishes and appetizers while limited fish and meat-entrée selections.


Union Square Café: American. 101 E 19th @ Park; 27/23/$78; 243-4020; New American; So good, so popular; Inspired cooking; Walk-in Bar/ lively scene. Voted #1 Popular in Zagats; Danny Meyer owned;  Seasonal ingredients; Down to earth yet perfect service; Every course will be cooked with inspiration; Freshest ingredients from the local markets; Brunch is awesome; Can eat at the bar; Lunch will run $25 a dish; Incredible pasta dishes as well. Non-tipping restaurant;  

Ponty Bistro: Senegalese. 218 3rd Av @ 18th-19th; 23/17/$39; 777-1616; French inspired northern African cuisine; Value prices and extremely unique cuisine; Two for 1 house Martinis including Lychee martinis; Breakfast & Brunch also served; $25 prix fixe menu; Very friendly service and certainly worth a try to have a cuisine rarely found in NYC.
ABC Kitchen: American. 35 E 18th St @ B-Way-Park; 26/23/$72; 475-5829; Hotspot from super-chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten; Seasonal delicacies; Ultra-fresh ingredients from farm to table; Country setting; Less formal than other restaurant in his empire; 12-15 appetizers, 7-10 entrees; Extremely popular and decently affordable.  Brunch & Lunch available;  Pretzel dusted Calamari; Sea Bass, Lobster. 
Rosa MexicanaMexican. 9 E 18th St @ BWay-5th Av; 22/21/$48; 533-3350; Rosa remains a fun, hip-ish place to tak a ate and enjoy upscale Mexican; Guacamole made at table is best in the city, sorry Dos Caminos and everywhere else – love their formula; Pomegranate Margaritas top notch and strong;  Well decorated; There is a reason they became a mini-chain. 
Laut: Malaysian / Thai. 15 E 17th @ BWay – 5th Av; 24/14/$28; 206-8989; Massive menu – all extremely affordable; Large selection of soups for meals or appetizers; Dumplings galore; Dozen plus wok fried noodle dishes; Multiple curries, 2 dozen or so entrée specials; The focus is on different styles including Singaporean; Casual and low key; Can get cramp so go early or off-hours.  Great for large groups.
Aldea: Portuguese. 31 W 17th @ 5th-6th Av; 25/22/$97; 675-7223; Best of its genre in the city; Michelin 1-star rated; Modern setting, deft service, food made from the freshest local ingredients; Ask for a table by the open kitchen; Chef George Mendes prepares works of art; Delicious cocktails- all $12; 4-course prix-fixe for $85; Seasonal menu- see website. Dynamic open kitchen.  Expanded bar area.  
Casa Mono: Spanish. 52 Irving Pl @ 17th; 26/18/$57; 253-2773; Mario Batali’s take on Spanish cuisine; Negatives include the expense, size and elbow room; Positives include flat out outstanding Tapas; The Tapas range from $9 to $19 each and you’ll want to order at least 5 for a table of two; Just a delicious, perfect date experience best saved on a weekday or off-hours for greater attention. 1 Michelin star. Endless wine list and sangria options. 3 stars from NY Times.
Basta Pasta: Italian. 37 W 17th @ 5th Ave; 23/16/$43; 366-0888; Japanese-Italian fusion; Sushi dishes, amazing pasta dishes and main courses infused with both styles; Open kitchen; Adventurous, excellent pastas; Boring-ish (yet sleek) décor isn’t noticed when one is dining on pasta perfection. Signature dish is: Spaghetti with Parm & Prosciutto served in a half wheel of melted Parm cheese. Yum!
Blue Water Grill: Seafood. 31 Union Sq @ 16th; 25/23/$58; 675-9500;Perfect date spot at what I consider the best in the Steve Hanson owned family; Two levels – ideal décor; Incredible fresh fish & shellfish options; Snazzy drinks; Sushi options- rolls and sashimi; Jazz downstairs; Energetic scene; Brunch served; Stand outs include the Chilean sea bass, Lobster mashed potatoes, Mahi Mahi and the Sushi & Special rolls. Rare Yellowfin tuna;  Mini Lobster Rolls. 
15 East: Japanese. 15 E 15th @ 5th Av- Union Sq; 25/22/$79; 647-0015; Extremely high-end Japanese; Pricy but considered one of the top new places of 2008. Fresh beyond belief. Sushi/ Sashimi is outstanding; Try the exquisite Omakase; Also hot selections available; Very date friendly establishment; Authentic- closely reminding those in the know of Tokyo style sushi.

Tocqueville: American / French. 1 E 15th St @ 5th Av; 27/26/$93; 647-1515; Foodies delight at the gorgeous chandelier laden dining room; $29 lunch prix fixe; Always a special holiday menu online; Soft Shell Crabs in season; 5 course tasting: $110; Arctic Char, Tofu, Cod, Sea Scallops, Lobster, Trio of Beef featuring Oxtail; The menu is seasonal. Main courses: $38-$48.  Drinks will run you $16 a pop or more;  Five course tasting menu is $135; 


Da Andrea: Italian. 35 W 13th @ 5-6th Av; 23/17/$37; 367-1979; So good it’s scary; Homestyle, affordable cuisine; Treated like family; Mouth watering menu. Homemade freshly made pastas; Giant menu with all the classics and more; Very affordable; House wine is outstanding; Non-pretentious, date friendly and always reliable; Pretty much a no-brainer.

Babu Ji: Indian. 22 E 13th St @ 5th Av-University; 22/18/$52; 951-1082;  Australian take on Indian cuisine; Very unique offerings like a Naan Pizza; Incredible tasting menu for $62/person;  Try their version of Butter Chicken;  Duck Curry, Short Rib Korma;  They have a beer fridge that is self serve!  Fancier cocktails also available; This is something different and worth a try.  Dinner only.