There's nothing like the fall season in New York City! Everyone's back from their summer vacation and there's a hustle and bustle in the streets, shops, theaters, and restaurants. The trade and media wine tastings start up in September and I always enjoy seeing my industry friends again. My birthday happens to fall smack in the middle of fall, and while I am not enamored with getting older, I do enjoy all the love that comes my way, particularly in the form of food and celebrations in great restaurants! The birthday dinners have even been known to stretch into the winter months.
Fall is also a time for restaurant openings all over the city. Here are three new restaurants which are terrific additions to the NYC dining scene. Check them out and report back to me as I've only dined once at each of them. I would love to hear what you think. Bon Appétit!
18 King St, New York, NY 10014 - (917) 825-1618
This cozy, charming restaurant opened in early September in West Soho and is run by three women who hail from London: chefs Clare de Boer and Jess Shadbolt, alums of the highly esteemed River Cafe and the General Manager, Anni Shi from The Clove Club.
The front area has a few tables alongside a small, marble-topped bar. The friendly bar staff make it a great place to sit and enjoy a pre-dinner martini or even your whole meal. In the back of the restaurant is the square-shaped, simply decorated, and bustling dining room with an open kitchen on one end. The vibe and the food at King is simple and seasonal, yet also refined and elegant with dishes like whipped salt cod with grilled polenta and chili, and chicken with lentils, celery, and sauce ravigote. The flavors of the food are inspired by Italy and the south of France and, with the daily-changing menu, you can always try something new no matter how many times you go here.
And one more thing, be prepared to feel like you're at a house party and chat with your neighbors if the mood strikes you. King is a fun place!
126 West 18th Street, New York, NY 10011 - (646) 395-3978
This is the new (and in my opinion, improved!) Rouge Tomate, now located in a landmarked carriage house in Chelsea. The original location, on the Upper East Side, was a much bigger, fancier, more formal spot. It was a lovely space for a special dinner, yet not as warm and welcoming as the new place. My first visit to this somewhat rustic, visually stunning restaurant was at an industry event for people in the wine business. The beverage director and partner, Pascaline Lepeltier was mingling in the crowd which was happily sipping many selections of her mostly organic, biodynamic wines. It was a late-night event and I had already eaten dinner so I left there curious about what the food would be like.
Luckily I had made plans with a friend to celebrate my birthday at Rouge Tomate two weeks later. We sat at the long copper bar and dined on beautifully-presented food that includes a lot of fresh vegetables and flavors that pop in your mouth. The menu, divided into Snacks, Small Plates, Large Plates and Dessert, features many fish and vegetable selections, with less choices for poultry and meats. We both opted for seafood and vegetable dishes, although my friend had previously had the venison and chicken and loved both. We enjoyed everything: wahoo crudo, mushrooms with fingerling potatoes, cod and snapper. It was all beautifully presented!
The staff is warm, welcoming and very professional. The owner, Emmanuel Verstraeten, a charming Belgian gentleman, stopped and chatted with us at length about life in the restaurant business and the friendly General Manager, Rachel Palczynski, came over to check on us a few times. This restaurant is on fire and I suggest you get your reservation now!
138 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10013 - (212) 271-4252
Shortly after my husband and I were seated at a plush banquette for my birthday dinner at this stunning and luxurious restaurant, I noticed the two woman seated next to us were drinking a sparkling wine being poured from a beautiful vintage decanter. Was that Champagne in a decanter? Highly unusual, I thought. I didn't want to bother them but my curiosity got the better of me! I'm glad I asked because it was indeed Champagne and we chatted briefly about the merits of decanting it. (For more on the debate about decanting champagne, click here). She then called the waiter over to have 2 glasses sent to our table so my husband and I could have a taste. Le Coucou is that kind of place, where sharing with your neighbors comes naturally.
It turns out our dining neighbor was Victoria Kulinich, the Wine Director at The Restaurant at Meadowood in Napa Valley and she was in town to accept an award (an impressive "Grand Award" from the Wine Spectator) honoring restaurants for extraordinary wine lists. When she told us her profession, we realized that she had been the one who had helped us pick out a wonderful wine (a red wine from Champagne!) when we had dined at Meadowood this past summer! And now here we were, chatting with her and tasting her wine at this lovely new restaurant in lower Manhattan!
We also spent time talking with our neighbors on the other side who shared with us their thoughts on the best dishes on the menu — pretty much everything they had eaten! Although Le Coucou has a refined, opulent feel with grand, gold-gilted mirrors and many large, beautiful, glowing chandeliers, it is not stuffy. It's an accessible French restaurant, one to have fun in, not just a serious temple of fine dining. But fine dining it is! I can't wait to go back and try other menu items like the Quenelle de Brochet, Sauce Americaine (pike quenelles with lobster sauce) — such a classic French preparation! We started off with a lively and fresh dish of poached endive with a grapefruit vinaigrette and crispy Iberico ham. It woke up our appetites and made us want more of Chef Daniel Rose's amazing cooking!