Midtown East

Lupulo

Gooseneck Barnacles, Lupulo

Of all the cuisines available in New York City, Portuguese was probably not something you realized you were missing. Yet like the Eventi hotel it occupies, Lupulo, a new restaurant by Portuguese chef George Mendes, has sprung up on the overlooked corner of 29th and Sixth Avenue where seemingly nothing was before. The open space, defined by an a huge marble horseshoe-shaped bar under a hatchwork of interlocking metal bars and lights suspended from the ceiling, has a very European feel, as if you had suddenly stumbled into Les Halles on the way to Penn Station. Kitchen staff shuck oysters plucked from large piles of ice, the place buzzes with conversation at the packed bar, and the smell of saffron is in the air. (more…)

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Bill’s

Though a number of historic New York restaurants closed over the last year, a lucky few were given new life. One that rose from the ashes is Bill’s, formerly Bill’s Gay Nineties. The 1850s brownstone it occupies, a five-story anomaly crouched next to a skyscraper in Midtown, was leased by John DeLucie and the Crown Hospitality Group, who have a knack for collecting beautiful old New York spaces (the Lion, Crown).  (more…)

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Lunch: Ai Fiori

A restaurant on the second floor of a Midtown hotel may not sound promising, but Ai Fiori has couple things going for it. Not only is it the latest project by chef Michael White, it’s such a zen, air-conditioned oasis that you will forget you’re on the second floor of a hotel in Midtown.

This is particularly good if you work in Midtown and can take advantage of the discounted Restaurant Week lunch happening there now. Step out of the steamy city, up to the second floor of the Setai and into an elegant, minimalist, flower-bedecked space that recalls the old days of hotel dining, when many of the best restaurants were in hotels. It’s like walking out of the urban jungle and into civilization.  (more…)

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Tenpenny

Not everybody can be gifted with the bones of a gorgeous West Village townhouse – and sadly, Tenpenny, the new-style Italian restaurant in the back of a bland Midtown hotel lobby, was not dealt the best hand at birth. She’s not a looker from the street, since she’s practically invisible, and the boxy space doesn’t immediately shout “romance.”

Interior, Tenpenny

But the walls are painted just the right color of saturated brick red, votive candles twinkle throughout the room, the bar is long and inviting, and a skylight lets in the last light for an afterwork crowd that’s spent the entirety of a summer day in an office. She may not be a little boite on a charming side street in Venice, but Tenpenny’s doing the best with what she’s got.  (more…)

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The National

What’s in a name? The National – not the indie café on the Lower East Side, but the latest endeavor by Geoffrey Zakarian in Midtown – is one of about five places now named “the National” in New York. And in that way, the name says it all: This restaurant seeks to capitalize on the comfortable tiled American bistro trend started by smaller restaurants, package it and remarket it to the Midtown crowd.

The National, Exterior

The space is pleasant enough. Tile floors plus wood-paneled walls plus flattering lighting create a nice environment for an after-work dinner or a quick bite if you’re staying in the Benjamin hotel above. The National is definitely an improvement on existing options in the area. But about halfway through the meal you might notice a certain emptiness – there’s no art on the walls, no sense of a singular personality behind the design or food, and a focus-grouped feel to the final product. (more…)

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Le Relais de Venise L’Entrecote

“It’s like the Ray’s Pizza of Paris,” I said to Marie Fromage, trying to describe the complicated history of L’Entrecôte. “There are several of them, and each one claims to be ‘the original.’”

Unlike New York’s various “original” Ray’s Pizza shops, however, all of the L’Entrecôtes of Paris dish out steak frites with a delicious mystery sauce from the same grandfather’s recipe—they are just owned by different branches of the same Gineste de Saurs family. They all have a rabid following in Paris, though there is some debate as to which one is “the best.” Now L’Entrecôte is finally in New York.

Le Relais de Venise L'Entrecote, Interior

The one off note that kept us from going until now was the location. The Le Relais de Venise L’Entrecôte, with locations in Paris and Barcelona, landed on the bottom floor of a brutish Midtown office building, a far cry from its charming centuries-old building in the 17th arrondissement. Inside, New York’s L’Entrecôte is cheerful, with bright lighting, as in Paris, a mural of Venice on the wall, as in Paris, banquettes, glass partitions, and no bar, also as in Paris. Once you’re inside, the most jarring difference is the absence of a thick haze of cigarette smoke floating above the tables – that and the fact that there are no lines or hour-long waits. We walked right in with a party of five and were seated immediately. (more…)

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Monkey Bar

monkey-bar-6Back in the mid-’90s, when investment banking ruled the day, Monkey Bar was the place to see and be seen. There was a certain type of guy who gravitated here – the one who would wear his Brooks Brothers suit and Hermes tie out at 11pm rather than change. But on a recent late night, a group of white collar guys who huddled around their beers were stripped down to their undershirts – a suit isn’t exactly the badge of pride it used to be.

Is it strange that Monkey Bar of all places has been resuscitated now? Perhaps, but if anyone who could get glamorous media types and bankers together in Midtown, it would be Graydon Carter. (more…)

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