Category: New York

Ai Fiori, one of my new favorite restaurants in NYC

On my last visit to New York, I have decided to list of restaurants I had to try. Ai Fiori was on top of that list.

I know the chef Michael White’s other restaurants in the city. Marea, a Relais Chateau, is an Italian seafood restaurant. Osteria Morini in Soho is more casual and serves rustic Italian food.

Ai Fiori, located on the second floor of Setai Hotel, is again Italian food.

As usual, I arrived early, so I could check the surroundings. While waiting for my friends at the bar, I had the pleasure to meet the chef and owner Michael White.

I asked him, which dish I should not miss; he obviously told me everything is yummy, but pointed out the seafood dishes (the branzino and the trofie nero)

When my friends arrived, we have decided to get several appetizers and main courses to share, so we could have an idea of the menu.

We have started with the crudo di Passera (fluke crudo, American sturgeon caviar, meyer lemon), the Insalata di Barbabieto (roasted beet salad, Greek yogurt, pine nuts, apples), the Trofie Nero (Ligurian crustacean ragoût, seppia, scallops, spiced mollica), and the Spaghetti with blue crab, lemon, bottarga, chilies.

Then we continued with the Insalata di Astice (nova scotia lobster salad, charred corn, trumpet royale mushrooms, ricotta salata), the Branzino (pan seared mediterranean sea bass, sea beans, almond, sauce meunière), and the Tagliata (prime dry aged strip loin, chanterelles, smoked potato, bordelaise).

What can I say? Every dish was an explosion of flavor. I still dream about every single dish. They all had the perfect balance of taste and playfulness.

Besides the food, the service was amazing and seeing the Chef wondering in the dining room, always makes you feel privileged. Normally you need to eat at the chef’s table in the kitchen or ask them to go to the kitchen to meet the chef. And most of the time, the chef is not there as they all have sous-chefs taking care of their menu.

I learned from my new friend, the bartender that Michael White loves wondering in all his restaurants and make sure the kitchen sends the right food and the clients are happy.

That must be a job in itself when u think that his restaurants all over nyc, lol.

I can finally cross Ai Fiori from ”my to taste restaurant list” and move it to “my favorite restaurant list”. I advise all of you to try it and let me know what you think 

As I have mentioned in my previous posts, in New York at 3 – 4 pm, there is a cab shift so finding a cab is mission impossible.

So you have few options: you can take the metro (and as we know I don’t do that), beg for out of duty cabs to take you (and if you are on their way they will), get a town car (which will cost three times more than a regular cab)… or go to a bar and drink until the cab shift is over.

Today besides the cab shift we have the snow factor as well, so instead of killing ourselves we decided to make a stop at the St. Regis Hotel. Last time that I was at St Regis was to have dinner at “Adour” with my friends.

When you enter, you turn on your left for the tea room that they call “Astor Room”, “Adour” is on the right of it, and at the end of the room you have the “King Cole Bar”.

Before talking about the bar, let me tell you about their Astor Room. They have this pretentious person presiding empty tables, who thinks he is the king of the Astor Room. We told him we are three, looked at us and decided that we shouldn’t sit at the front, so brought us to the back at a tiny table for two.

When I had only a not happy face to my question: where the third person is supposed to sit? On my lap or at another table? We decided to leave him alone, with his empty tables and white clothes and go to the bar.

The bar was buzzing; we waited 10 minutes and finally got a place to sit. My mom and sis had a glass of bubble, and me a bloody mary, or as a friend of mine will call a “happy meal” (you have your fruit, your vegetables and the carbs).

The service was good; the crowd was composed of hotel guests and some other tired shoppers. Just the perfect way of finishing our day.

After few drinks, we were ready to fight the cold and the snow and find a cab!!!!

Monkey bar is a restaurant located at the Hotel Elysee since it opened. It used to be known as “the place to go”, in the 50s. Lately, Graydon Carter, the editor of Vanity Fair and an owner of the Waverly Inn bought it, and made it hip again.

It is a small room with dimmed lights, surrounded by booths and tables in the middle. I went with my brother his wife and we met my chica there. The crowd was composed of upper east siders, and some couples on a date (we know Friday night date is extremely important in the US).

At the beginning of the dinner, they brought us their special baked bread… it was a little undercooked but damn it was yummy….

As appetizers, we ordered crab cakes and their special of the night: risotto with peas, bacon and truffle oil… I should have wished something else in my last post cause finally a dish that has all the successful elements: cheese, bacon and truffle oil!!! Besides the rice being over cooked, it was delicious off course.

I took the rack of lamb and my sister in law opted for the duck a l’orange. They were both delicious. The steak tartare was excellent as well.

The only thing that I can complain about is the thermostat. It was soo warm in there that I can understand the risotto being too coked. And I think we should have left the bread on the table, so it will cook properly in the room temperature close to 350 degrees.

And for the ones who know me, and make fun of me when I always complain about heat… this time it was really warm, as if we were sitting near the sun.

After I begged our waiter several times to lower the heat, it worked… but this time they put the AC on, and off course people start to complain about that. Oh well, I will know for the next time to go with my bikinis or with a portable AC at Monkey Bar.

It was a very pleasant evening, I think Monkey bar should stop banning pictures and cell phones, (and off course I took pictures of the dishes with my cell phone, lol) and start investing on a decent AC though.

Anyway, to end the evening, we decided with my chica to have a last drink at Nobu 57… let’s say it was a more successful night cab than W Hotel ;)

We finally decided to meet up with my chica last night, we thought we will give a shot at Gramercy Tavern, even a bite at the bar…

Well that was delusion… when you arrive with no reservation; you have to put yourself on two lists: one for a table, and it was an hour and a half wait; the other one for the bar, where you couldn’t even access. So we decided to go to Craft bar, which is a block away and usually easy to find a spot at the bar.

I guess I keep forgetting that it is the holiday season and everybody is out for dinner… Craft bar was packed as well, but after a 30 minutes wait and a short fight with a poorly dressed chick, we finally sat at a table.

The menu is composed of several small dishes to share… we decided to share few cheeses, a salad and risotto balls. The risotto balls are apparently the star dish… how they cannot be: some rice, lots of cheese, breaded and deep fried. I mean it just missed the key element of all successful dishes in NY: truffle oil or bacon

The dinner was delicious, but they were out of tartatin… but when you think about it, we saved some calories 

After dinner, we tried to have a drink at a bar… Funny story, the restaurants are over packed and the bars quite empty… Believe me we tried a lot of them, Breslin, Ace hotel, Tao, Monkey Bar, Lever House… ended up going to the Whiskey Blue bar at W hotel on Lexington.

Now that was particularly entertaining, the bar was full… full of drunken businessman and special ladies… and they even thought that we were there for some business as well. Lol, that is a first for me…

So it was a great night, and I almost did some pocket money at the end of it ;) ahhh New York, you will never stop surprising me!!!

That night with my boys we had a very busy schedule… We had to first pass by “Nublu”, as a friend of theirs and her husband was singing, then hit Soho Grand as I had a meeting with the “Grand Girl Power” (the name that I gave to the hot and happening power girls working at Soho and Tribecca Grand), and end the night at B.E.S. to finish the night.

When we made it to Nublu, it was still quite empty but started to fill in very quickly. This bar that is in east village for a while is known for its live music. It has been around for a while and from the outside doesn’t look like anything, but once you pay your 10$ cover and you enter, you are nicely surprised.

This time the singers were friends of the boys. The music was great, but I think Nublu had a problem with AC, because the first hour, I thought we were in a sauna.
And you know how I much I like heat… I felt that my face and make-up was melting. Thanks God they fixed it later and we started to breathe again…

Anyway, by that time we were ready for our second stop… we grabbed a cab and fought NY Saturday traffic from east village to Soho, and finally arrived to “Soho Grand”. Soho Grand is an institution; I believe it was the first boutique hotel in Soho. It has this special vibe that keeps attracting celebrities and tourists… and me, LOL.

The Club Room is the new space of the Hotel. So the “Grand Power Girls” wanted me to see it for my clients, and off course enjoy the night ;) It opens only at 10 pm and when we arrived at 11pm it was starting to fill up. The room is beautiful… imagine beautiful leather sofas and chairs around wood tables, a big fire place, black and white metal pictures of big celebrities (and my favorite with Sean Connery on his bath tub)on the walls, a dimmed light with great music.

They made a perfect combination between modern and cozy… I believe it would be my winter hangout. I just wished they served food (I know I am very demanding) so didn’t need to go to the bar at the lobby, “The Grand bar and lounge”. I understand them though; you don’t eat at a club, but your feel so comfy that you just want to nibble something …

Finally we had a blast at the lounge as well, great music and yummy food: cold cuts and cheese, mac and cheese, little pizza slices, and tuna tartare. And guess what, I thought I was the only hungry one… it appeared that everybody was famished..

What can I say, another great night in New York.. I had all the elements as well, great ambiance, great music, great décor, great food and most importantly great company… between my Boys and the The Grand Power Girls, I was spoiled!!!

ohh and it was so late when I left Soho Grand, that I never made it to B.E.S. for the party… I will add it on my to do list for next week ;)

With my girlfriend we love to select some days, and go to Soho. Our Soho days either starts with breakfast at “Balthazar”, or lunch at “Ciprianni”, or another restaurant in the area. And beside the usual Soho shopping, we do our t shirt shopping on Broadway (that includes old navy and gap).
As during this trip I decided to not shop, we just did our little stop at old navy, and decided to go to “Pullino’s” which opened in March 2010.
Pullino’s is the new baby of Keith Mc Nally; if the name doesn’t ring a bell, maybe his other restaurants will… Odeon, Pravda, Balthazar, Pastis, Morandi or Minetta Tavern are the ones that I personally love… The only problem with Pullino’s is that it is only pizza, and we wanted more options. So decided to keep it for another day and tried to find another restaurant.
Most of the restaurants were either full or closed and finally we sat at “Delicatessen”… It is located at the crossroads of soho and nolita, and has a menu composed of all day breakfast and comfort American food.

The room is in wood and metal with wall to wall mirror, with a nice terrace. Although it was 2pm, the restaurant was busy. They seated us next to a table that looked very hip hop, and between us I think they were celebrities as paparazzi was around to take their picture. Otherwise the rest of teh crowd was composed of cute boys and lots of families.

I ordered a tuna tartare (I know again) but specified that no onion, no shallots or chives… and guess what… it came with full of onions in it; when I told the waiter, he tried to convince me that those were not onions. I mean I guess at my age I know how an onion smells or tastes likes..
Anyway, after discussing for 5 minutes, he finally admitted that these were onions and replaced it. In the mean time I ate my my artichoke and spinach dip with parmesan cheese and truffle oil. My friends took a cob salad and a chicken salad. The food overall was ok.

Would I go back there? Yes if I am in the neighborhood and cannot find another restaurant… and if you are in the neighborhood and you are hungry, you should give a try;)

That night after my zumba class I met my friend at “Tribecca Grand”. She is the event planner there, and we decided to take a drink at the bar… off course the drink became drinks, and some friends joined us, and we ended up eating at the bar… It wasn’t very full but we had a great time… good food and good cocktails.
After Tribecca Grand we crossed the street and hit “Macao”. It is a restaurant that serves Asian-Portuguese fusion food.

We went downstairs where between the lights and the atmosphere you have the feeling to be in an underground bar. Some of us was still hungry so we ordered some rice, pork and crab dumplings… everything was delicious. Than tempted by the music, we danced until they closed the place…

What can I say another late night with lots of liquid and fun time in NY… thanks god I worked out a little so I feel less guilty ;)