Easily my top pick of the neighborhood, from breakfast through dinnertime. Andrew Carmellini (formerly of A Voce, owner of another favorite of mine The Dutch, in Soho) dishes up delicious rustic Italian fare in a buzzing, brasserie-style space in de Niro's Greenwich Hotel. Specialities include the seasonal crostini, pastas and porchetta, while breakfast/brunch includes my favorite riff on eggs benedict (The Uova Modenese, with cotechino hash and tomato hollandaise) in the city, as well as some of the best muffins and pastries around.
Daruma-Ya / Sushi Azabu
428 Greenwich St, betw Laight and Vestry.
This understated izakaya is a true gem, having quietly replaced Greenwich Grill early 2014. Everything we had off the mouthwatering menu was delicious, and a bonus is all the sushi comes from Sushi Azabu downstairs, so it's top-quality fish at reasonable prices.
Advanced reservations are absolutely necessary, and gaining entry is a bit cloak-and-dagger. The quality is up there with the other sushi temples in the city, but their Koi dinner special (10-piece nigiri selection with soup and starter for $35) is easily one of the best sushi deals around.
157 Duane Street, nr cnr of W Broadway.
From Marc Forgione and his chef de cuisine "Phet", this is Laotian Southeast Asian cuisine served with French wines and delicious exotic cocktails. Everything is bursting with flavor and generally VERY spicy, so if you can't handle the heat, make sure to tell your waiter (and there's plenty of beer to fan the flames). It's a compact menu and everything was great the night I came: coconut sticky rice, the Kona kampachi salad, fragrant Laos style sausage, grilled ginger quail, and the house specialty (every table seemed to have one) banana-wrapped snapper.
If you've got a craving for pastrami and latkes, this is your place! This is refined, modernized Jewish American food, inspired by the 100-yr old Kutsher's Country Club in the Catskills (think Kellerman's). Standouts include the latkes (the best rosti-style potatoes I've had in the city) topped wtih sour cream and fish eggs, crispy artichokes, the Delicatessen (assortment of pastrami, smoked brisket, chopped liver), grilled Romanian steak and duck schmaltz fries. It's heavy stuff but delicious.
135 West Broadway, betw Thomas and Duane.
While there's better food in the area, it's hard to beat this place on a cold winter day, when you're more than happy to rub elbows with your neighbor while the cozy fire crackles and pops. Summertime you're better off upstairs, which has a simple bar and larger tables with plenty of light streaming through the windows. Signature dishes include the meatballs with garlic toast and the kale salad with apples, walnuts and shredded gouda.
For a traditional, transporting Italian dining experience, this $70 prix-fixe only Chatham NJ original (in the original Bouley space) really delivers. We came for an anniversary dinner and just loved the authentically delicious, generously portioned food in an inviting and lively atmosphere. In a city where restaurant decor is getting increasingly minimalist, loud and uncomfortable, this cozy spot really stands out.
Restaurant Marc Forgione
New American. Next Iron Chef winner Marc Forgione (son of culinary legend Larry Forgione) cooks up an eclectic mix of seasonally inspired dishes, such as squash blossom BLT and Long Island striped bass with Asian red curry. The chic industrial-style space is softened with reclaimed wood, exposed brick and butcher block tables.
Nobu/Nobu Next Door
Tribeca. Opened in 1994, this is legendary Nobu Matsuhisa’s flagship restaurant with partners Robert de Niro and star restaurateur Drew Nieporent, designed by David Rockwell. The signature dishes inspired by training in Japan and stints in Peru, Argentina and beyond have spawned limitless imitations worldwide. Nobu Next Door helps accommodate the overflow.
With 175 seats spread over a 11,000 sq ft split-level space, Tamarind Tribeca is bigger and badder than it’s hugely successful predecessor on East 22nd St, and still offers a similar range of classic and modern regional Indian dishes - though with a hefty price tag.
American/French Bistro. One of my all-time favourites (originally a Keith McNally spot, though he's now long since moved on): great food, strong martinis in a faux-brasserie setting.
339 Greenwich St, cnr of Jay.
Famous for their preserves and baked goods, the Tribeca branch of this city-wide chain of restaurants is one of my favorite lunch spots if I'm in the neighborhood to meet up with girlfriends with or without the kids (it's very family friendly). I always get the seafood Cobb salad.
American. A Tribeca institution for breakfast/brunch, serving up classic Southern-inflected home cooking (cheese grits, fluffy pancakes, pies). It’s definitely hit and miss (some of the worst poached eggs I’ve had, while the lunchtime salads are delicious), but don't even bother trying to fight the weekend crowds. New Meatpacking branch now open right next to the Highline on Gansevoort.
Macao Trading Company
Chinese/Portuguese. From the team behind Employees Only, it’s a popular drinking spot but also has a nice array of Asian tapas.
ON THE RADAR
221 W Broadway, nr corner of White St.
I've been a huge fan of Floyd Cardoz' food (Tabla, North End Grill), so I can't wait to try his new place, which is getting rave reviews.
163 Duane Street
I was impressed with the lunch I had at his original location many many years ago, but haven't been back since he relocated to 163 Duane in October 2008.
Kaiseki, sushi and tasting menus from chef David Bouley and one of Japan's Tsuji Culinary Institute. Sushi and tasting menus starts from $160/170.
77 Worth Street, nr Church St. 212 226 1444
20-course tasting menu?!?! Matthew Lightner's place has gotten rave reviews all around, but this is strictly for foodies and/or business dining. It's all very conceptual, esoteric stuff with a healthy dose of molecular gastronomy, so it really depends if you're in the mood for it or not.
North End Grill
104 North End Avenue, betw Vesey and Murray.
This was one of my all-time favorites when Floyd Cardoz was in charge (I always craved his uppma polenta with mushrooms fricassee) but he left and set up his own place (White Street), which is now high on my radar.
Japanese. A true pioneer when it opened, with its huge 14,000 square foot space in Tribeca featuring an enormous 700-pound replica of a Nara Japan temple bell hovering over a 5 foot Buddha ice sculpture. Unfortunately, it now just feels a bit tired and dated, especially compared to its newer competition like Buddakan and Tao Downtown. It's not cheap ($125 "umami" prix fixe menu) and you can get better sushi elsewhere.
Sushi of Gari
Avoid this branch of this popular modern-style sushi chain. The omakase-only sushi bar is located on the second floor, out of view of the main dining area which is a no-no for me, and had a rank smell both times I tried to eat there recently.
I was shocked at how bad this place was, considering the chef is a Top Chef alum - while the salsa and guacamole samplers were both tasty and inventive, the margaritas were tooth-achingly sweet and the tamales special tasted like Chef Boyardee. In a city that has a lot of decent Mexican, this place did not measure up.
TRIBECA / BATTERY PARK CITY