Midtown East Restaurants to Celebrate
Dozens of fine-dining restaurants grace Midtown East, enough that you could enjoy a date-night dinner at a different eatery each week for months, if not years. A truly special occasion, however, calls for a truly special restaurant. Below is a round up of dining establishments, where you are certain to savor a meal, and an evening, you will long remember.
Grand Central Terminal (89 East 42nd Street)
In New York, restaurants specializing in Scandinavian cuisine are far outnumbered by those offering Italian, French, Indian, Mexican—in fact, just about any other cuisine. Michelin-starred Agern shows that Nordic cuisine does not deserve to be overlooked. When you are inside Agern, you can easily forget that the restaurant is within Grand Central Terminal. In a dining room decorated in the streamlined yet organic fashion that defines Danish Modern design, you can relish the likes of Forono beets, their natural sweetness tempered by bone marrow and licorice; bluefish enlivened with cucumber, dill, and horseradish; and lobster enhanced by the unlikely trio of fennel, lardo, and shiso. Featuring locally sourced ingredients, the dishes change seasonally, as does the eight-course tasting menu.
65 East 55th Street (between Park and Madison Avenues)
Another testament to Nordic cuisine is Aquavit, the proud possessor of two Michelin stars and a perennial entrant on lists of the city’s top 10 restaurants. Aquavit offers only tasting and prix-fixe menus; turbot with white asparagus, foie gras with red currants, and duck served with ramps and fava beans were among recent offerings. While the restaurant has a full bar, the namesake spirit is perhaps the best beverage to accompany your meal. Aquavit has been closed this summer for renovations but was scheduled to reopen in September.
390 Park Avenue (at 53rd Street)
Located in the landmark Lever House, one of the city’s first glass-box skyscrapers, Casa Lever has a sleek indoor dining room as well as a seasonal outdoor dining terrace and lounge. At first glance the menu offering looks similar to that of most other Italian restaurants, but a closer look reveals some distinctive variations. The gnocchi, for instance, is made with chickpeas rather than potatoes and is accompanied by cod and sun-dried tomatoes; the homemade tortelli is served with sheep-milk ricotta, horseradish, squash blossoms, orange cauliflower, and radishes; a variety of fishes, chicken, and strip steak can be grilled or seared and served with your choice of citrus, Dijon, peppercorn, or salmoriglio sauce (the last is a Southern Italian specialty made with lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic). A six-course tasting menu is available, as is a wine list encompassing varietals from Italy and beyond.
538 Madison Avenue (between 54th and 55th Streets)
Caviar may be the ultimate special-occasion delicacy, and where better to indulge than in a Michelin-starred restaurant owned by the largest supplier of imported caviar to the country? You need not love caviar to love Caviar Russe, however. In addition to a gamut of caviars, from Siberian sturgeon to rare “platinum” osetra, you can treat yourself to other deluxe dishes. These include king crab with cocktail sauce, oysters Rockefeller with Iberico ham, and lamb loin accompanied by morels and turnips. The decor matches the Old World splendor of the menu: Dramatic Russian-themed paintings hang below opulent moldings and are lit by modern Murano glass chandeliers.
99 East 52nd Street (between Lexington and Park Avenues)
The Grill, located in the storied Seagram Building, calls itself a chop house. Your typical chop house, however, does not boast swagged chain-mail window treatments, gold-dipped brass rods that dangle from the ceiling like a cross between mobiles and Mid-Century Modern chandeliers, and art by Alexander Calder, Lee Krasner, and Cy Twombly. That said, chops and steaks do account for many of the dinner entrees, with Dover sole and lobster Newburg among other traditional options. Before tucking in to your main dish, be sure to start with an appetizer: caviar vichyssoise, perhaps, or a wild-mushroom omelet prepared tableside. And do not forget to request the pineapple Alaska at the top of your meal, unless you would prefer cherries jubilee or blackberry shortcake for dessert.
Seven East 47th Street (between Madison and Fifth Avenues), Second Floor
Toshihiro Uezu opened Kuramazushi in 1977, long before sushi restaurants were as ubiquitous as Instagram selfies and prepackaged tuna rolls were a supermarket staple. More than 40 years later, Uezu remains the head chef. You can order sushi and sashimi, much of it made with fish flown directly from Japan, à la carte, but for the full gourmet experience you want to sit at the sushi bar and order the omakase dinner, one of New York’s priciest set-price menus. The decor is nondescript; however, once a piece of very fatty tuna (as opposed to the tuna and the fatty tuna) topped with caviar is melting in your mouth, you likely will not notice.
Three East 52nd Street (between Madison and Fifth Avenues)
La Grenouille’s haute cuisine, classically elegant decor, and superlative service have attracted jet-setters since its debut in 1962. In a time when French cuisine is thought of as homier dishes such as onion soup, ratatouille, and cassoulet, La Grenouille still serves oysters gratinée in champagne sauce, Provençal-style frog legs, pike quenelles with caviar, and lobster medallions. And if there are no celebrities to surreptitiously watch during your meal, you can attract your gaze at the plethora of extravagant floral arrangements.
55 East 54th Street (between Park and Madison Avenues)
If you do not think of Greek cuisine as fine dining, that is because you have yet to eat at Nerai. Start with grilled haloumi cheese and fresh figs over a shaved-fennel salad accented with toasted hazelnuts and a balsamic glaze, grilled octopus served over Santorini fava (a puree of yellow split peas) with caramelized onions and roasted red peppers, or tuna tartare over crispy potato kataifi and topped with roe. Proceed to slow-braised short ribs over paccheri with Metsovone cheese, scallops and ouzo-and-honey-glazed pork belly, or duck moussaka. As for dessert, it may be tough to choose between the karidopita (walnut cake with a honey glaze) and the saragli (rolled baklava). How about one of each, and house-made pistachio gelato for good measure?
160 East 46th Street (between Third and Lexington Avenues)
Whether you prefer meat, fish, or poultry, Patroon is certain to please. The restaurant specializes in classic steakhouse dishes with a New American flavor, which is reflected in the dining room’s decor: The leather banquettes reference clubby chophouses, while the walls boast a stellar collection of black-and-white photography by fashion-forward 20th-century masters such as Helmut Newton and Hiro. The grilled rack of lamb is served with smoked eggplant and goat-cheese polenta; the rib-eye for two is rubbed with pastrami spices and accompanied by house-made pickles, roasted bone marrow, and poutine; cashew-apricot wild rice complements the dry-aged twice-cooked duck. You can begin your meal with oysters, clams, or hamachi from the raw bar, Wagyu beef tataki, or truffled grilled cheese with harissa tomato jam. Vidalia onion rings, spinach-and-lobster gratin, and wild mushrooms with blue-cheese grits are among the winning side dishes. After finishing your meal with Campari granita or beignets, head up to the rooftop bar for a glass of champagne or a house cocktail; Café Molé, a potent blend of fig-infused bourbon, crème de cacao, Vanille de Madagascar, Amargo de Chilé amaro, molé bitters, and Guji cold brew, is especially enticing.