We started the Sisterhood of the Unbuttoning Pants because people were always asking us “where should we eat?” Our background, education, work experience and general swagger all contribute to our unique yet informed point of view that we apply when evaluating a dining experience. In the constant pursuit of answering the question “where should eat?” we present our round-up of some of our highs and lows of 2015. We eat out, A LOT, and it is not always the newest, hottest place, but we aim to have our finger on the pulse of the New York dining scene, and suffer through the arduous, grueling task of eating many delicious meals so that you will always know where, and what, to eat.
Best All Around New-Comer: L’Amico
Chef Laurent Tourendel has been through many incarnations in his career, but the bottom line is that he is an extremely skilled chef that turns out high-quality, well presented, delicious food. L’Amico, an approachable Italian restaurant in a rather grim part of town, is the restaurant for which we are most likely to offer a blanket recommendation. No matter what you order, the occasion, or the company, L’Amico is a no-brainer. the menu offers something for everyone; delicately flavored crudo (let’s not forget he is a master at fish), neapolitan style pizzas, rustic pastas and well-done meat.
Best Splurge-worthy Sushi: Shuko
There was no shortage of expense account sushi new-comers this year, including Kappo Maso, and O-ya, but it is Shuko rose above all the rest. Small and nuanced but far from expected, Shuko offers two omakase options that will blow your mind, not only your wallet. We eat a lot of sushi, and Shuko is the only extremely high-end new spot that we are excited to go back to.
Best Place for Special Occasion: Vaucluse
Pretty but not pretentious, Vaucluse is an upscale showcase for Michael White’s foray into French food. (Don’t worry, there is still pasta.) Loated in the original Park Avenue Cafe space, the overhaul is modern and sexy, with a feeling of poshness. Lobster ravioli and steak au poivre are menu stand-outs.
Place worth dropping names: The Polo Bar
As much as we hate the pretense of The Polo Bar, including the hostess who divulged that they google all guests who wish to dine during prime times because “Anna Wintour can’t eat with just anyone,” every time we go (humble brag), we can’t help but enjoy yourselves. The decor is predictably perfectly Ralph Lauren; clubby, rich woods, deep colors, which creates an atmosphere of warmth and coziness, with only a slight air of elitism. The food is just as yummy as the celeb sightings, classic American fare that is straight-forward but well-executed.
Biggest disappointment: Jams
Ugh, it kills us to say this, but we were extremely disappointed in the newest restaurant from Jonathan Waxman. To us, it just felt like a corporatized version of a downtown restaurant, devoid of he intangible charm and excitement of Barbuto. The food was uneven and service was spotty, which we could maybe chalk up to opening issues, but with so many quality restaurants in this city, we fear Jams might jam on into oblivion.
Most polarizing: Sadelle’s
Sadelle’s and the Pants had a hot and heavy relationship; it was love at first sight, then lust, then the flaws became apparent. Our recommendation is to go for lunch during the week, avoiding Sunday brunch at all costs. And speaking of costs, you will pay dearly. Saddle’s is typical of the Torissi empire, a glammed up version of comfort classics, but we live in New York City, where we have actual bagel places that offer the same quality fish without the fluff. The tuna melt, however, is crave-worthy, so yes, this truly is a love/hate relationship…
Best diet-buster: Black Tap Burgers
Black Tap has a strong social media presence, but these beauties actually taste as good as they look. Now with two outposts, Black Tap has a cool soda shop vibe, complemented by the availability of booze and fun tunes. We love the new inventive burgers (like the chorizo burger), as well as the properly dressed classics.
Best trend: Composed dining and plates
After years of farm to table restaurants looking like they belong on the farm, we are happy to see the return of more refined dining rooms and properly composed plates. Pretty food does not have to be fussy, but places like Gabriel Kreuther, and Betony ( we know this is not new, but it is revitalized and thriving) remind us that going out to dinner can be an event.
Most Instagrammed Restaurant: Emily
We love Emily as much as everyone else on the internet does apparently, judging by the amount play the burger and pizza get. This small place in Brooklyn has a big following, and the meal doesn’t really count if nobody on Instagram knows you went, so get those cameras ready…
Trend we are tired of: The closure of New York institutions because of increasing rents.
Come on! How many Duane Reade’s and TD Banks do we really need? Union Square Cafe losing its lease hit the city’s culinary scene the hardest, but it is just one of the many classic city restaurants that has been forced out for something flashier or more generic… or in some cases nothing at all (cough Mesa Grill).
Best trendy place that is now on Open Table: Cafe Clover
‘Nuff said…healthy trendy food with a night- life pedigree now available without offering an arm or leg for a reservation.
Best bite: Esther Choi’s Ho Cakes, Okonomiyaki from Mu Ramen (header photo)
We are having a serious Asian infatuation this year, kicked off by our introduction to Korean food from Chef Esther Choi at Mokbar. While her kimchi and ramen get a lot of play, she won us over with her version of Ho Cakes, porky, crispy, chewy cakes that are worth seeking out. Also knocking us out, the “okonomiyaki” from Mu Ramen in LIC, an indescribable bite of salty, smoky and sweet that impressed us beyond expectation. The ramen at Mu Ramen is spectacular also…
What will 2016 bring? The Conversation about Tipping expands…
With several high profile restaurants opting to increase their prices in lieu of tipping, expect this topic to come up again and again as more restaurants adopt the practice and more opponents decry it. Personally, we are excited to expand our knowledge and repertoire of Korean food…