A Taste of the West Village
Dining out can be a challenge for the indecisive: Not only do you have to winnow down the choice of restaurants, but then you must select from the myriad meal options. Tasting menus and tightly curated fixed-price menus relieve you of most, if not all, the decision-making—and in the process expose you to flavors, ingredients, and dishes you might not otherwise consider trying. The West Village has a number of restaurants where you can relinquish control and let the chef select as well as prepare your meal.
99 Seventh Avenue South (between Barrow and Grove Streets)
With its bentwood chairs, Belle Époque posters, and glints of brass, Boucherie is unmistakably French. Should you have any doubts, a look at the menu will dispel them: cassoulet and boeuf bourguignon, pot au feu and coq au vin. If you reserve in advance, you can simplify the decision-making process by ordering one of three prix fixe menus. All start with cheese and charcuterie for the table and offer a choice of three or four hors d’oeuvres, including steak tartare and moules normandes; the most deluxe of the menus lets you choose from one of four soups and salads as well. The “classic” menu offers three entree options, and the “prime” and “joie de vivre” menus feature five, including the brasserie classic steak frites au poivre. Two more classics, tarte tatin and chocolate mousse, end the meal on a sweet note.
306 West 13th Street (between Eighth Avenue and West Fourth Street)
When dining at Coarse, your primary decision is whether to select the five-course “spontaneous” tasting menu with wine pairings or the three-course tasting menu—and on weekends you do not even have to make that decision, as the three-course menu is available only on weekdays. The selections that make up both tasting menus are determined by that day’s market selections and designed to complement each other beautifully. Vegetarians and vegans can easily be accommodated, as can many allergies and food aversions—hence the “spontaneous” element of the menu. In fact, often the chef will come to the table to discuss the various dishes with you, so you can inform him of any issues at that time. As for the type of dishes to expect, think raw hamachi ringed with avocado and topped with yuzu, oyster mushrooms topped with a soft -boiled egg and black truffles, heirloom carrots with Iberian ham and Greek yogurt, and fluke carpaccio.
529 1/2 Hudson Street (between West 10th and Charles Streets)
Located beneath parent restaurant RedFarm, Decoy is renowned for its whole Peking ducks, which are available only by reservation and as part of a fixed-price menu. Each duck (one for parties of less than six, two for groups of six or seven) is served with 10 whisper-thin pancakes and hoisin, cranberry, and sesame sauces, along with duck consommé served in shot glasses for sipping between bites. For beverages with a kick, you can opt for beer, cider, or cocktails from the bar; Grapeyard Shift, which mixes mezcal with green chartreuse, maraschino liqueur, and lime and grapefruit juices, sounds especially intriguing. You can also choose to add appetizers such as octopus salad with pickled cucumber or side dishes such as sautéed asparagus. If Peking duck does not appeal, choose from the à la carte menu at the bar; along with the usual small bites, you can order entrees such as braised beef with Malaysian curry and grilled lobster with truffled cauliflower cream.
435 Hudson Street (between Leroy and Morton Streets)
You can order sushi, sashimi, Wagyu beef, duck croquettes, rice pots, grilled lobster, tempura, and many other starters, entrees, and side dishes here, but three fixed-price kaiseki menus, to be shared by the table, are available as well. Each consists of seven courses, allowing you to experience a full gamut of tastes and textures. One of the three is a vegan menu, with dishes such as assorted vegetables in a miso-broth hot pot and lightly fried vegetable skewers with hatcho miso sauce. Another menu includes a selection of sashimi; freshly scooped house-made tofu served with wari-joyu, a blend of soy sauce and fish broth; and stone-grilled organic children. The most deluxe of the kaiseki menus begins with a variety of appetizers and smoked sashimi, progressing onto the likes of lobster tempura and black Angus beef served with shiitake and sesame yuzu dipping sauce before closing with seasonal ice cream, cookies, and chestnut panna cotta. The dishes can be paired with sake or shochu for an additional fee.
641 Hudson Street (between Horatio and Gansevoort Streets)
This Michelin-starred restaurant is renowned for its eight-course tasting menu, whose dishes vary daily. On weekdays, a four-course menu is also available. While any meal here is extraordinary, for a truly special occasion try to reserve a spot at the chef’s table, located by the kitchen so you view the preparation of your deluxe 11-course tasting menu. The dishes, many of which reflect the eponymous chef’s German background and Swiss training, vary based on which fresh ingredients, many from local farmers, the chef deems most appealing that day. Recent courses included smoked Adirondack trout flavored with juniper, roasted butternut squash with Maine sea urchin and lardo, and roasted squab with bok choy, pickled Asian pear, and bee pollen.
14 Christopher Street (between Gay Street and Waverly Place)
The literal meaning of “omakase” is “I’ll leave it up to you.” At this exclusively omakase (no à la carte) sushi restaurant, you are leaving it up to chef Tatsuya “Tatsu” Sekiguchi, who lived and worked in Japan before moving stateside. Three seatings are available each night, and only 10 people can partake of the 18-course omakase menu per seating. While the setting is minimalist to the point of nondescript, the food most definitely is not. Before preparing your meal, Chef Tatsu will chat with you to ascertain not just your taste preferences but also your mood and your openness to experimentation. From that information and the day’s handpicked ingredients he will fashion your courses—and because you are seated directly across from him on the opposite side of the sushi bar, you can watch his every move (which includes grating fresh wasabi—no green-dyed horseradish here).
17 Barrow Street (between West Fourth Street and Seventh Avenue South)
This restaurant with the wordy name opened in 1973, making it practically ancient by New York restaurant standards—but an infant compared to the building that houses it, a one-time carriage house built in 1767. The restaurant claims to be the site of more engagement announcements than any other eatery in Manhattan, and with its venerable brick fireplace, lavishly armed chandeliers, and baby grand piano, it cuts a romantic figure. One If By Land offers both a three-course prix fixe menu and a seven-course tasting menu. The dishes combine the elegance of classic European-influenced American cuisine with flashes of New American innovation. The tasting menu, for instance, might start with ahi tuna served with avocado tempura, seaweed, and ponzu and end with chocolate soufflé, featuring rack of venison, individual beef Wellingtons, and pan-roasted scallops served with sunchoke chowder in between. The fixed-price menu selections include grilled Spanish octopus and miso split-pea soup for starters and baked cod with mushroom ravioli and braised lamb shank for the main dishes.
176 Perry Street (between Washington and West Streets)
Part of the Jean-Georges Vongerichten stable of restaurants (others include the Mercer Kitchen and ABC Cocina), Perry St. has Jean-Georges’s son Cédric as its chef de cuisine. The menu is a figurative melting pot of Asian, European, and American flavors. Tuna encrusted with rice crackers and served with a sriracha-citrus emulsion shares space on the appetizer list with roasted butternut-squash soup and white sturgeon caviar with vodka cream; entrees include butter-poached lobster with lemongrass-and-kaffir-lime broth and caramelized beef tenderloin. If the choices are too dizzying, opt for the five-course Taste of Perry St. menu. Starters of tuna tartare with ginger soy dressing and mushroom avocado carpaccio with jalapeño, lime, and thyme are followed by lobster thermidor with shiitake mushrooms and Gruyère, then roasted duck, before finishing with chocolate pudding and candied violets.
47 Eighth Avenue (at West Fourth Street)
Many of the dishes that make up Shuraku’s eight-course tasting menu are cooked on a traditional binchotan charcoal grill. The menu changes seasonally; recent courses included seared Miyazaki beef with sea urchin, kombu-cured blackfish and marinated salmon wrapped in thinly sliced daikon, and udon with salmon roe and tororo flavored with ume (a fruit described as a cross between a plum and an apricot). Shuraku has a full à la carte menu as well that includes starters and small plates, grilled entrees, udon, and as a side dish, grilled seasoned rice balls.
23 Commerce Street (between Seventh Avenue South and Bleecker Street)
If you think eight or even a dozen courses is extravagant, wait until you make a reservation for the 20-course omakase at Sushi Nakazawa. In classic Edomae sushi style, each dish is designed to maximize the flavor, texture, and other unique attributes of each ingredient. During the three nightly dinner seatings, you can dine at a table or at the bar; at the latter you are able to watch the chefs and ask them for details about every aspect of each dish.