VOLANTE Lola Cristall visits some of New York’s finest, in part one of her look at the city’s best lunch, dining and dessert venues
For a supreme touch of chic and refined elegance, Wicked Jane (www.wickedjane.com), in New York's Greenwich Village, takes the dining experience above and beyond. Set as a neighbourhood destination, the inviting scene, dim lighting and simple décor provide a welcoming destination for all guests to enjoy.
Alvaro Mondaca, the stellar sommelier, takes guests on an exquisite journey as he shares his deep knowledge and understanding of wine pairing. The suggested wines, which are meticulously chosen by Alvaro, accentuate chef Zod Arifai’s culinary talent.
The self-taught chef incorporates fresh and seasonal ingredients to create magic on a plate.
Chef Arifai aimed to become a rock musician before realizing he was destined to rock his talent in the kitchen. The prix fixe menu provides six courses of intensely flavoured options that are sure to awaken the senses. Each course is an experience leading to the next.
From the first bite of baccala, enriched with flavours of red pepper as well as the subtle touch of yoghurt, to the deliciously delightful ocean trout, followed by mackerel embraced by a touch of miso, the elegantly plated dishes provide an explosion of tastes, consistencies and textures. Chef Arifai is a master at his craft, creating more than just a dinner to enjoy, but a memorable overall experience to appreciate.
Like Wicked Jane, there are many New York-based places that provide an elegant ambiance in an almost secretive location, and Riverpark (www.riverparknyc.com) in Kips Bay is one of them.
The exceptionally spacious restaurant provides endless views overlooking the East River. The staff provides to each guest’s needs and desires for an everlasting dining experience. Start with refreshing oysters before enjoying a crisp autumn harvest containing a mélange of beets, heirloom carrots, delicata squash and grilled artichokes that are delicately coated with a tangy honey basil vinaigrette. For a boost of intense flavours, the traditionally made bouillabaisse incorporates the freshest of seafood drenched in a deliciously seasoned saffron broth. For a side packed with flavour, the truffle potato strudel is an option that beautifully accompanies any entrée. Various other options include the celebrated dry aged burger, duck breast with crispy butternut squash tortellini as well as a roasted acorn squash with a variety of mushrooms in a green curry sauce.
The dessert menu provides a slew of suggestions including the coconut panna cotta with honey cream, the apple crostata and chocolate ganache cake. The choice of ingredients is seasonal, for truly delicious results.
We make our way to a traditional French bistro in the middle of town. The outdoor setting resonates with the vibes of a typical Parisian tavern nestled away within a busy city street, steps from the bustling vibes of Fifth Avenue. The staff is inviting, the ambiance is enchanting, and the food is delectable. Stepping inside Alain Ducasse’s Benoit (www.benoitny.com) in midtown, the ambiance is reminiscent of the highly expressive flair of a Left Bank destination in Paris with an enticingly designed bar, an elegant space with surrounding artwork, as well as spacious booths throughout. The bold aroma of moules frites fills the air while knowledgeable staff provide to each guest’s needs.
Ducasse is not just known as a French chef, he is also applauded for his high acclaim in the field of cuisine and lifestyle. Executive chef Alberto Marcolongo provides a truly exquisite experience that is the root of sheer culinary decadence. For a touch of French inspiration, start the culinary journey with the renowned escargots that are delicately drenched with a garlic and parsley butter, or opt for the tarte flambée, a thin crust that is topped with finely sliced onions and pieces of bacon. The onion soup gratinée is a beautifully intense escape for the senses preparing for the continued culinary journey. The delectable dover sole à la meunière is topped with a well seasoned sauce.
A range of options are provided to diners from various meats, vegetable-based dishes and pescatarian delights. No matter what the diner chooses, they are bound to appreciate the culinary creations.
While Benoit is a go-to for savoury dishes, the range of dessert options is just as intense. The baba-au-rhum is a fluffy pound cake that is generously drenched with a fine rum and topped with a dollop of silky-smooth whipped cream. For a fruit tart with a French twist, the tarte tatin is the way to go; the upside down thin-crust apple pie is accompanied by crème fraîche for a delicate touch to the overall sweet experience. For a bold and rich experience, the crème caramel, which is also known as a caramel custard, is joyously sweet and a profoundly delicious experience that serves as a sophisticated palate cleanser.
From appetizing starters, to fulfilling entrées and delicious dessert options, Benoit is also a destination for knowledgable sommelier and bartenders to suggest a delicious mocktail, a desired cocktail or a vintage wine to quench the diner’s thirst.
While continuing the theme of delightful destinations with highly skilled chefs throughout New York, we make our way to Sesamo (www.sesamorestaurant.com) in Hell’s Kitchen, where chef Sandy Hall adds a heavenly touch to his culinary delights as Russell Pangilinan unveils his expertise as a passionate mixologist.
The Italian–Asian fusion concept provides an appetizing array of options. The Anadama bread with honey butter and smoked sea salt combines sweet and savoury touches while the spice herb-crusted kabosha squash with a sweet meringue condiment further incorporates a sweet touch to the culinary palate. Roasted broccoli on a bed of peanut sauce is filled with texture while the lobster and ricotta stuffed tortelloni are deliciously accompanied by Thai basil mint pesto. Chef applies taste and flavours for distinct textures. While their menu is seasonally updated, they ensure to cater to a diner’s dietary needs, offering vegan and gluten-free options.
Julien Boulangerie (www.julienboulangerie.com) has taken over the New York bakery scene with a handful of locations throughout the city.
Julien Khalaf began his enchanting baking empire in 2020, opening his first location in Brooklyn, New York. From Le Blanc, France, Julien’s appreciation for deliciously crisp and buttery croissants, fresh and fragrant seasonal tarts, golden-crusted baguettes as well as supremely cheese-filled quiches are some of many attributes that his New York-based followers can also appreciate.
Walking into one of Julien Boulangerie’s largest locations on Third Avenue, the aroma of intense butter fills the room as the slew of colourful macaroons attracts the eye. The beautifully decorated cakes and appetizing pastries are reminiscent of a typical Parisian bake shop. Julien Boulangerie lures locals and tourists alike, many craving the taste and smells of a traditional French staple. From a bakery empire, Julien is prepared to introduce the world to his bistro in the city that is sure to provide a touch of French decadence to the gastronomy scene.
Alice (www.alicenyc.com), an Italian seafood and lobster bar in the West Village, is a quaint destination in the lower level of a traditional and historic brownstone building. Walking into the delightful space, the aromatic smell of fresh produce and seafood fills the air. Within the mysterious brick walls, a neighbourhood escape awaits amongst the dimmed lights and rustic furniture, providing a true touch of Wonderland.
The organic ingredients come together to create Italian takes on many traditional dishes. The fritto misto presents Long Island calamari, rock shrimp and delicate squash in a light batter to provide a crispy tempura option; for cheese lovers, the burrata is accompanied by fresh beets and roasted sunchokes with a hint of superbly flavourful pistachio pesto. As an entrée an endless list of pastas are available, including delicate handmade ravioli simply filled with grand cru pecorino and fresh black pepper or the handmade orecchiette with local lobster, tomatoes and burrata. The salt-crusted branzino with roasted potatoes and spinach is an experience on its own as Chef incorporates the freshest and simplest of ingredients to create masterpieces.
The insightful and hospitable staff ensures an experience for new and recurring guests to savour. Co-founder and restaurateur Emanuele Nigro, along with executive chef Riccardo Orfino as well as partner, creative director and chief designer, Waél Deek, have created a sophisticated and lavish experience with a wonderland of culinary curiosity like no other.
Head to Hudson Yards’ Wild Ink (www.wildinknyc.com) where the culinary creations are delicious, the service is impeccable and the views are wildly exhilarating. With electrifying views, the sun serves as the centre of attention as it discreetly sets over the Hudson River behind Thomas Heatherwick’s towering copper-clad Vessel, a hypnotic 16-storey honeycomb-like structure, an emblematic composition representative of Hudson Yards. Guests enjoy a meal as they indulge in a picturesque escape. The vast windows, the majestic bar and the open-space kitchen, with dedicated chefs hard at work, are set before a gorgeous backdrop. The space was designed in partnership with award-winning designer Robert Angell, a perfect complement to Wild Ink’s culinary creations.
Since it first opened in March 2019, Wild Ink has become an indispensable destination to obtain the freshest ingredients and appetizing plates. Handmade dim sum, fresh sashimi and extensively wide sushi options are just a few of the many delicious creations to choose from. Slightly charred shishito peppers, crispy chickpea spring rolls, mushroom-shaped and stuffed buns, crispy mapo or Berkshire pork dumplings are just a few of the many starters available to begin a meal. To fulfil the dining experience, an aromatic and sizzling rice pot, oakwood shiitake tortellini or a simple steamed black bass bursts with flavour. Chef Peter Jin delivers an everlasting, palatable voyage. •
Lola Cristall is Paris editor of Lucire.
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