Tired of the same-old, same-old? These three innovative NYC restaurants will keep you coming back. Two are new, one isn't; all are fabulous. All three are downtown, one in NoHo, one in the East Village, and the other near the Flatiron District. Grab a taxi or an Uber and enjoy a wonderful meal thanks to three great chefs.
Gato – Bobby Flay has gone international again! New York City has missed this super chef whose well-loved Latin restaurants Mesa Grill and Bolo have been absent for many years. The original master of BBQ and Spanish cuisine, Bobby has created a menu of small plates as well as larger entrees, all designed for sharing. In a room as beautiful and inviting as they come, Flay’s cooking stands out against the Rockwell Group’s gorgeous design. With tile floors, suspended metal lighting, and warm woods, Gato’s central bar area and dining spaces are inviting. Even the bread brought out at the beginning is exceptional – be sure to try the olive bread.
Bar Bites, Gato
A menu of bar “bites” is designed for ordering on a plank of threes – choose from bites like artichoke heart with sea urchin and quail egg, or chorizo crepinette with apricot mostarda and pickled Brussels sprouts, and the tangy piquillo filled with raw tuna, with a drizzle of saffron sauce. The appetizers are equally satisfying. Many Spanish restaurants offer octopus dishes, but no one prepares it like Bobby Flay. The roasted octopus is crunchy and a tad sweet, covered with a tangerine vinaigrette and bacon sauce that is an absolute standout. Main courses like the red prawns beautifully presented with Meyer lemon and garlic are similarly delicious. 324 Lafayette Street, 212.334.6400. Octopus, GatoCosme – There’s a reason that Enrique Olvera has the number 20 restaurant in the world, Pujol from Mexico City. His Mexican cooking is way beyond that found in the more typical taco restaurants in other cities including New York. While New York City has strong contenders in the more upscale category, like Alex Stupak’s triad of Empellons (Cocina, Taqueria, and Parlor), Olvera’s menu mixes up tastes that elevate Mexican to a fine dining experience. Most ingredients are sourced locally, although some arrive from their original homes, including octopus swimming in briny water from Spain. Dishes are unusual from appetizers to dessert. For the adventurous, try the uni tostada with avocado, bone marrow salsa and cucumber; and the thinly sliced vinegary scallop aguachile appetizers, and the two-person duck carnitas with white onions and radishes as a main course. Small plates are shareable as well, so plan so you have room the one-of-a-kind husk merengue with corn mousse and a chaser of the house’s special Mezcal. The room is warm and sexy at the same time, a wonderful refuge from the cold outdoors. 35 East 21st St., 212.913.9659.
DegustationDegustation – Not a newcomer like Gato and Cosme, Degustation is the most elevated of Jack Lamb’s restaurant group. With 16 seats set around a U-shaped counter and open kitchen, Degustation shows off Nicholas Licata’s mastery of precision preparation and Iberian, French and American cuisine. While you can order off the a la carte menu, it’s the $80 tasting menu that really shows off Licata’s talents. Let him decide what to share with you, whether it’s his scrumptious Hawaiian blue prawn paella, or the wild boar ribs with romesco. Or perhaps a serving of the irreverent Brussel sprouts dolled up with Funyuns and cashews. A sophisticated wine list explained by knowledgeable servers matches well. Cozy and small, Degustation will leave you feeling warm and satisfied. 239 East 5th St., 212.979.1012.