For years, New Yorkers shied away from Midtown restaurants, instead opting to head down south once the office closed up shop. But now, something miraculous has happened. Dotted among the Michelin-starred heavy hitters like Le Bernardin - easily one of the best restaurant in the city - and Marea - often named the best Italian in the Big Apple - downtown chefs began to bring their coolness a little further north.
Celebrity chef David Chang shocked all when he opened Ma Peche in all of its Asian-inspired, hipster glory, and even Eric Ripert took note with his opening of Aldo Sohm Wine Bar, a casual off-shoot of Le Bernardin complete with comfy couches and bookcase lined walls.
While it's true that you'll never fully be able to channel the downtown funk of Manhattan into Midtown's sometimes-sterile streets, this list of the ten best restaurants in Midtown will have you wondering if you ever really need to leave. In true 10Best fashion, below you'll find something for every budget, every taste, and most shockingly for still-wary New Yorkers, every style - no matter whether you're a downtown socialite, a group of ladies who lunch or a banker with a company card and a roster of rich and famous clientele.
Upon entering Sushi Yasuda, one is immediately aware of the absence of art, decorations, or anything that might attract the eye. It is minimalist to the extreme with bamboo-plank walls and open spaces. This simplicity is reflected in Chef Naomichi Yasuda's cuisine as well. The fillets of fish are custom-cut for each order, as pre-cut fish begins to break down almost immediately, losing some of its delicate textures and flavors. The pure and clean dishes are built out of respect for tradition have helped this restaurant to earn a three star review in the New York Times, and numerous accolades on lists like these ones the city over. (212-972-1001)
There's something to be said for staying power, and Le Bernardin certainly delivers. Celebrity chef Eric Ripert has created a New York space that's romantic, refined and seductive, while still managing to infuse his French-Spanish influence into every corner. Le Bernardin, regarded by many as the best restaurant in NYC, has received more James Beard Awards than any other restaurant in the city, and holds four New York Times stars, in addition to three Michelin stars. The food, as you might imagine, is impeccable. Simple preparations and respect for the ingredients trump any type of frou-frou experiments, though the cuisine still manages to shine with creativity that can only come from years of intense love and attention-to-detail. If you love seafood, put Le Bernardin at the very top of your culinary bucket list. (212-554-1515)
Aldo Sohm Wine Bar
If you're interested in Le Bernardin but aren't so keen on the price tag, allow us to introduce to you Aldo Sohm Wine Bar. Opened at the end of 2014, this living room-esque venture is the latest from the Eric Ripert camp and pays homage to who else but Aldo Sohm, the longtime sommelier of Le Bernardin. While you'll still spend a pretty penny on food here, you'll leave significantly heavier in the wallet than if you dined at its sister spot, and you'll get a chance to see what puts these two restauranteurs at the top of their class. The focus here, of course, is on the wine - specifically pairings to match whatever your palate finds appealing. And like any good wine bar, if you're not sure which direction to head, there's a staff of highly trained somms to lead you down the right path. (212-554-1143)
Totto Ramen opened a new location in Midtown East, so if you're on the right side of the island, you'll be happy to know you can get a fix nearby. Both locations are open late, so take solace in the fact that your soup fix can be served (almost) until the clock strikes 12. The name of the game at Totto is of course, ramen, a Japanese soup laden with wheat noodles and served with accouterments ranging from bean sprouts and nori to salted kelp and spicy pork. Regulars rail against the impossibly long waits during dinner, but despite their protests, you'll still find them lining up in droves to slurp this local favorite. (212-582-0052)
Shake Shack - 8th Avenue
Danny Meyer's Shake Shack has taken over the world. That may sound like a bit of a stretch, but we can assure you it's true. After the first location sprouted up in Madison Square Park, New Yorkers adopted the Shack with a fervor usually reserved for front row tickets to a Beyonce show. After conquering New York, the chain has now spread to Vegas, DC, Chicago, even Russia and Turkey. The menu here is impossibly simple: burgers, fries and shakes. Don't expect any frills at the Theater District location aside from floor-to-ceiling windows where you'll be able to watch passerby drool over your double with cheese as they make a mad dash for the nearby train. (646-435-0135)
What Peter Luger is to old-school steakhouses, Quality Meats is to the modern wave of beefy hotspots in New York City. While you'll find nearly all of the same cuts here – bone-in rib-eyes, strips, filets – you'll recognize immediately that this trendy space defies the norm of what a steakhouse is known to be. For one, steel meat hook chandeliers dangle from the ceiling, a nod to pushing the boundaries. The menu follows suit, with dishes like Hamachi sashimi with Black Mission figs and Thai chili vinaigrette, or the Cajun short rib with potato gnocchi and burgundy truffles. Luckily, the chefs in the kitchen hold their own against the cool vibe of the space, turning out near perfectly executed cuts of meat on the regular. (2123717777)
What do you get when you mix an ingredients-driven, award-winning Italian menu, impeccable service, and a fantastic wine list with more than 750 selections? The answer is Marea. Meaning "tide" in Italian, Marea is manned by Chef Michael White and has earned three stars from The New York Times, two stars from Michelin, and a city of devoted regulars who claim that this is the best Italian seafood in the city. Dishes like dressed blue prawns with carrot crisp and tarragon to share, or choose from the Crudo al Taglio, or sliced raw fish and shellfish or choose from four different types of caviar, starting at a mind-boggling $150 per ounce. Our recommendation: opt for the 4-course prix fixe, a modest $99 affair that allows you to sample a crudo, pasta (fatta in casa, or homemade), main and dessert. (212-582-5100)
For those who eat gluten-free, Bistango is something sent straight from the heavens. The decor here is modest, even homely, but the food more than makes up for it. From gluten-free stuffed pastas to breads and cakes, the restaurant prides itself on offering foods that gluten-free diners thought were lost to them forever. While the restaurant used to fly under the radar for years, it's been thrust into the spotlight thanks to the internet, so we'd recommend reservations for busy weekend nights. During the summer months, take a seat on the sidewalks - a perfect spot for some prime people watching. (212-725-8484)
Head down to the underground world of celebrity chef David Chang's Ma Peche to immerse yourself in a world of pork buns, ramen and fried chicken. Ma Peche is the place you go when you're uptown, but want to feel downtown. The interior is crisp and clean - more reminiscent of an Ikea than an Asian eatery, but with enough personality to keep you intrigued. Ma Peche's signature is its passed plates - served up table side and meant for sharing. Don't overlook the pork buns with hoison, cucumber and scallion, or the lobster rice with sesame. Feel like sweets? Stop by the Milk Bar on your way out for some of Chang's famous Crack Pie. (212-757-5878)
Hidden down a set of stairs, Goggan is a slice of Korea bundled up and tossed among the other heavy hitters in the Midtown restaurant world. It's rustic and modern, with an eccletic menu that will have even the most adventurous diners excited to dive in. Start with the ginseng salad with persimmon, blood orange and wasabi, then move on to one of two different pancakes: one with fresh seafood and another with kimchi, pork belly and perilla, an herb reminiscent of mint. The chef's signatures include Korean-style fried chicken wings, and the Japchae, sweet potato noodles stir-fried with veggies. Purists will also be happy with the large selection of bibimbap, and oven delicacies like the pig's trotter. (212-315-2969)
About Andrea Wien
Andrea Wien was bitten by the travel bug from an early age, and has lived in New York, Seattle, Cleveland and Sydney, Australia since 2007.
When she's not traveling or planning a trip, you'll likely find her eating tacos while throwing darts and watching the Cleveland Browns.
Read more about Andrea Wien here.
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