The Gobbler’s friend, a well-traveled aesthete and gentleman, called the other day on his way from the airport to ask for a list of newer dining establishments where he could find a civilized meal. The Gobbler told this friend (let’s call him Maurice) that civilized dining was no more in Manhattan. The grand old French restaurants have been routed from the field, replaced by an uncertain rabble of fusion joints, haute Italian pasta palaces, and pork-centric dining bars. Maurice was aghast. “I want a minimum of four waiters for the table,” he cried into his gleaming Treo. “I want to pay $500 bucks for a bottle of Burgundy, I want a tea sommelier, I want to feel like I’m having an EXTRAORDINARY DINING EXPERIENCE.” This peevish outburst got the Gobbler thinking about old-fashioned (read “Continental”) opulence, and where you can find it in this fickle, pork-obsessed town.
1. Le Bernardin
Still the venue of choice for Henry Kravis and the rest of the Maurice crowd. And the four waiters hovering over your table will be better than any you’ll find in Paris.
2. Per Se
Thomas Keller aims to dazzle Maurice and his friends with multiple courses of painstakingly articulated high-American cooking. It’s a strained performance, but the chef usually succeeds.
3. Jean Georges
If the master’s home, there’s no greater venue for Maurice and his friends to experience the pleasures of postmillennial, cutting-edge cooking.
5. The Modern
Why doesn’t the Gobbler rank Daniel this high? Because Daniel’s dining room doesn’t look out on MoMA’s Sculpture Garden, that’s why.
6. Del Posto
Why does the Gobbler rank Batali’s ersatz, Vegas-style opulence over Daniel’s Continental class? Because Italian is the new French, that’s why. Also, Vegas is the new Paris.
The Gobbler actually prefers Café Boulud to this impeccably run, though overlarge, Maurice hangout. But if you wish to whiff the last embers of the French culinary empire, this is the place to do it.
True, the Gobbler bestowed four stars on Terrance Brennan’s newly renovated restaurant. But the lack of big-money extravagance (call it “the Maurice Factor”) bumps this great restaurant down a notch or two here.
This midtown establishment boasts a tea sommelier for Maurice’s pleasure. More importantly, young new chef Christopher Lee is a master at making old-fashioned dishes into something fresh and new.
Maurice will find his $500 Burgundies here, and then some. Chef Shea Gallante’s cooking makes the investment worthwhile. — Adam Platt