New York’s Grand Hyatt, Grand Central Terminal’s next-door neighbor on 42nd Street, is located on one of the most prime pieces of real estate on Manhattan Island. The sprawling hotel, which boasts 1,306 guest rooms, 50 meeting rooms, 60,000 square feet of event space, a spacious lobby, and a grand ballroom that’s its only holdover from its days as the elegant 1919 Commodore Hotel, is also home to a restaurant overlooking 42nd Street called New York Central that’s turning out some truly spectacular food.
We had the opportunity to spend the evening at the hotel and visit the restaurant at their invitation. A recent $130-million renovation has turned the guest rooms into a bastion of modern luxury, with more outlets than you can count, control panels for lighting and climate control, and a smart modern design. The beds are also insanely comfortable; I’m tempted to buy one for myself.
Walking down 42nd Street, you’ll notice that there’s a giant arched tinted glass canopy hanging over the hotel’s entrance. But you most likely don’t realize that inside it is a 6,000-square-foot restaurant, bar and lounge area, and wine gallery, complete with an open kitchen. Under chef Daron Lee, who’s previously spent time at Villard Michel Richard, L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, and Scarpetta, it’s turning out some praise-worthy dishes, and even though union-run hotel kitchens can pose some challenges, he’s guiding his with a deft hand. Menu options include Murray’s Cheese burrata with eggplant caponata and basil; chicken consommé with handmade chicken wontons, scallion, and ginger; a greenmarket heirloom salad with pickled eggplant and jicama; pan-seared sea scallops with carrot ginger purée and charred leeks; miso-glazed Atlantic cod; a grilled pork chop with summer corn ratatouille; a Prime New York strip; and Maine lobster with spaghetti Bolognese. Elegantly plated and served by a team that runs like clockwork, with amazingly friendly and courteous service, the fare combined with the view down 42nd Street all the way to the river felt like a throwback to a time when fine dining had more elegance to it.
If you want to fully experience chef Lee’s range of talents, visit on the day each month when wine dinners are held, usually the second Friday (call to make certain). His menu changes seasonally, but when we visited, the menu included foie gras terrine, pine nut-crusted diver scallop, miso marinated cod with maitake mushrooms and braised daikon, Long Island duck breast with sweet corn ratatouille and Madeira reduction, and summer berry crumble with peach sorbet with pairings expertly selected by manager Nicholas Prieto. Refined and creative, chef Lee’s skill came out in every course, and the tasting menu rivaled what you’ll find at any of the top New York restaurants in this price range. The next two dinners will be held on September 11 and October 9.
In the morning, don’t forget to order room service for breakfast, by the way. From the antioxidant smoothie (with strawberry, banana, soy milk, Greek yogurt, rolled oats, and honey) to a bagel with Hudson Valley smoked salmon, eggs benedict, buttermilk pancakes, egg white frittata, and crispy high-quality bacon, there are few better ways to start your day.