The best restaurants in New York City are also among the finest in the world. This list of New York City’s best restaurants for 2014 draws from a roster of 430 establishments across the country that were nominated and voted on by more than 100 dining experts from the city and across the country, as part of The Daily Meal’s most recent ranking of the 101 Best Restaurants in America.
#5 Momofuku Ssäm Bar
Meals at this ever-evolving East Village hot spot have wowed critics and won faithful followers since the beginning, and it’s no wonder. Chef David Chang offers bold, Asian-inspired flavors, like his duckaholic lunch and popular bo ssäm dinner (slow-cooked pork shoulder, oysters, rice, kimchee, and sauces to be wrapped in Bibb lettuce leaves). Chang continues to be the culinary cool kid while cementing his status as a top-tier chef by constantly expanding his empire, and everything he touches seems to turn to gold (his high-tech cocktail bar kicked off with Dave Arnold, Booker and Dax, is already ranked among the city’s finest). As an influence on younger chefs, as an animator of the downtown New York restaurant scene, and as a really good cook, Chang deserves a high spot on this list.
This very grown-up restaurant on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, Daniel Boulud’s flagship, maintains standards of service and cuisine — French haute cuisine, very much an endangered species today — that harken back to an earlier era. But the cooking is up-to-date and really, really good, while the menu changes daily. If you are lucky enough to score a reservation, you may sample such dishes as black truffle-stuffed Dover sole; Elysian Fields roasted lamb chops with vadouvan sauce; grilled artichoke, ricotta barbajuan, and fennel salad; and caramelized puff pastry, bourbon vanilla cream, lingonberries confiture, and almond florentine. (Click here to watch The Daily Meal’s interview with Daniel Boulud on cooking across continents.)
#3 Per Se
In an elegant dining room overlooking Central Park in the Time Warner Center, Per Se upholds the standards set by Thomas Keller at The French Laundry; receiving an annual three-star rating from Michelin since 2006. As at the French Laundry, there are two $295 tasting menus, one of which is vegetarian, but the Keller classic "oysters and pearls" is most definitely included in the non-vegetarian version. Here there is also a salon menu, with à la carte offerings including mascarpone enriched Yukon gold potago agnolotti with cipollini onion shoots and pea tendrils; and butter-poached Nova Scotia lobster with Brussels sprouts, ruby red grapefruit, and smoked butternut squash purée. Chef Eli Kaimeh does Keller proud with his skillful interpretations of this most refined style of cooking.
#2 Eleven Madison Park
Like many of the finer things in life, Eleven Madison Park seems to get better with age. Although it opened to much fanfare and subsequent acclaim in 1998, it was Danny Meyer’s hiring of Swiss-born Daniel Humm to helm the kitchen in 2006 that elevated the place to the level of the finest restaurants in the country. Humm — who has won such plaudits for the restaurant as four stars from The New York Times and three from Michelin — bought Eleven Madison from Meyer in 2011, in partnership with his front-of-house counterpart, Will Guidara, and didn’t miss a beat. The chef is firmly in control here: While Humm will tailor his single $225 multi-course tasting menu to accommodate allergies, dietary restrictions, and ingredient preferences, there is no à la carte selection or smaller menu available. The particulars of the dishes change frequently, but the technique is contemporary French and modernist. The ingredients are heavily New York-based, and the culinary traditions on which the food is based are often those of Gotham street or deli food, producing notably unique results.
#1 Le Bernardin
This elegant seafood restaurant, headed by chef Eric Ripert, has topped many “best of” lists and has several accolades under its belt, including repeat four-star reviews from The New York Times (the first of them written within only a few months of its opening), perfect food ratings in the Zagat guide from 2011 to 2013, and more James Beard Awards than any other restaurant in New York City. Ripert is an artist working with impeccable raw materials. The prix-fixe dinner here features a long list of delicacies from the sea, ranging from “almost raw” first courses to “lightly cooked” mains. Eat in the newly revamped modern dining room against a backdrop of painted waves and enjoy dishes like layers of thinly-pounded yellowfin tuna, foie gras, and toasted baguette with chives and olive oil; king fish sashimi with caviar in a light marinière broth; baked snapper with charred green tomatoes and Baja-style shrimp sauce; or pan-roasted lobster with truffle salsify and red-wine sauce Américaine.