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David's NYC Restaurant List

David Ronis

These are upscale, expensive (usually between $50 - $200 a person including wine) restaurants in NYC.

Tabla, in the Flatiron neighborhood, expensive, but excellent. We were pleased with the tasting menu in May 2001. It's one of Danny Meyer's (Union Square Cafe) restaurants and the chef, Floyd Cardoz, does what someone at Zagat calls "Indian-accented" preparations -- creative cuisine that uses Indian spices and sensibilities a lot. If I'd fault them, it would be for the meat dishes (the fish were really really terrific) -- the night we were there there were one or two things that didn't seem up to the same standard as the fish, but mostly I was quite pleased.

Nobu. Sometimes it's hard to get a reservation but worth a try.. If you can't get a reservation when you want, there's a great alternative that they opened up two years ago called Next Door Nobu, which is, of course, right next door. Virtually the same menu and same kitchen but no reservations. It opens at 5:45. You go at 5:30, get in a little line, and waltz right in. On weeknights, I've seen it not too crowded even at 8, but if you don't want to wait, go early. The food continues to be some of my favorite in NY. Don't go there expecting just another Japanese restaurant and DON'T go there and just have sushi and nothing else. The brilliance of the chef is mostly in the fantastic and innovative dishes on the main part of the menu. And the titles of the dishes don't prepare you for the amazing creations that arrive. Try the black cod in miso sauce. Unbelievable!

Grammercy Tavern seems to have consistently excellent food. I've been twice in the last 6 months and both times have been great. The atmosphere there is quite easy, not so formal, but the service is terrific. In the front of the restaurant, there is a bar area that has a slightly different, cheaper menu that I've heard is equally excellent. (Tabla has a downstairs area that I'd imagine is the same, although I don't know anyone who's been there.) I very highly recommend it.

I love both Bouley Bakery and Danube, David Bouley's Viennese/Hungarian themed place around the corner. Although there is that Viennese theme going on in the menu, don't expect just another Wiener Schnitzel. On the contrary, the food is creative and delicious -- it's just Bouley's interpretation of what he'd envision that cuisine to be. The room is gorgeous and I had a very, very good meal there last Oct.

March on E 58 St. Just went there last week. Quite expensive but the food was uniformly excellent. But bring an extra pocketbook. They had tasting menu alternatives of 5, 6, 7 courses. 5 courses was $90, 7 was $126. Now the tasting menu at Tabla and Grammercy tavern are around 7 courses and each $90, I think. March also offers to include different wines for each course with the tasting menus but this also is expensive. For the 5-course tasting menu with wines, they wanted $145. We had a party of six who decided to do the 5-course menu. I figured that we had a wine "budget" of $330 when compared with doing the $145 wine-inclusive deal. So we decided to order our own wines which was perfectly fine with them. We spent about $180 on 4 bottles (a couple of Swiss wines that are very hard to find in the US were terrific) and were very happy and saved money.

One of the most expensive restaurants in NYC has always been Le Bernardin, an all-seafood restaurant in midtown. I had an excellent meal her a few years ago and I'd expect that it's still tops. But again, bring your Swiss bank account.

For a traditional New York blow-out meal, you might try the Four Seasons. I haven't been there for a very long time but it consistently gets high ratings from critics.

I've never been to Chanterelle but have always heard good things about it. Does anyone want to treat me? It's right down the street from Nobu in Tribeca.

I've also never been to Jean-Georges, but the reports I've heard from friends I respect a lot have been less than glowing. I can't say from personal experience, but if I were blowing a lot of money on a meal in NY, I'd think twice before going there -- although there are lots of people who love it......

I've also never been to Union Square Cafe, but I've always heard very good things about it. I don't know if the menu is as cutting-edge as some others, but I bet you'll get a good meal here.

Cafe Boulud and Daniel are both run by Daniel Boulud. I had a meal once at the old Daniel (which is now the location for Cafe Boulud on E 76th St, or is it 75th?). We had an excellent meal here. His cooking is modern but still very much stylistically French. What I didn't like about Daniel is that I had to turn summersaults just to get a reservation. It's a long story. In short, my friend, another opera singer, had to write M. Boulud a personal letter (or maybe it was 2) after dealing with the incredibly snotty people you encounter on the phone when calling to reserve. She also sent him a CD of hers and wrote the entire letter in French. Only after seeming months of manipulations and crap did we get a reservation.

Ok. That's it for expensive, upscale restaurants in NYC. There are many, many more. These are just the ones that I know something about, either from personal experience or respectable opinions of friends.

David Ronis is a classical singer, actor and translator living in New York City. www.davidronis.com

David Ronis, 2001

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