Pretty much every. single. thing in life changed in the last year and a half, so I’m not sure why I held on so tightly to my vision of NYC being EXACTLY the same. In my defense, this is a city where you can trip over the same cobblestones trod by Dutch settlers and dine in the same restaurant where George Washington quaffed a glass of ale. You can gaze up at a skyscraper and then see a horse and carriage straight out of the nineteenth century trotting up the street. Many, many things do stay the same.
And indeed, the Fraunces Tavern, which welcomed George Washington in 1783, is still serving pub fare down on Pearl Street. But not every restaurant has survived the maelstrom of pandemic culture. When I started making plans a few weeks before our trip I was devastated to learn that our most favorite eatery, beloved Beyoglu on the UES, had closed permanently early during the initial lockdown. And I was shocked when I walked past Rockefeller Center to see that Brasserie Ruhlmann, a midtown stalwart, was no more.
These losses made us all the more determined to go to our most favorite restaurants while we were in town. We were so grateful to renew our tradition of having our first lunch in the city at Bergdorf Goodman’s BG Restaurant. Not only did we get to sit in the coveted birdcage chairs, but our long-time server, Corinna, waited on us and surprised us with scrumptious desserts.
Our favorite Saturday brunch spot, The Smith at Lincoln Square, was blessedly still serving up Bloody Marys and rashers of bacon:
And the sacred Sunday tradition of brunch at Jean-George’s Nougatine remains intact. So many lovely choices, but please remember that one of them must always be the Shrimp Salad with Champagne Beurre Blanc:
Now that we’ve learned once and for all that life is unpredictable, I allowed myself – just this once – to order the butterscotch pudding.
And, of course, a day was set aside to have lunch at the one, the only, Balthazar, where for the first time ever, we saw a few empty tables. Now is the time to go, before it becomes impossible to get a reservation again!
One of the darker days of the pandemic for me was when it made national news that the iconic Central Park Boathouse it was “permanently closing”. Fortunately, whew, they didn’t mean it! It has reopened and everything is the same, except maybe the food is bit better! And the view is absolutely perfect:
We were grateful and thrilled to see that another of our favorites had survived the pandemic. Indian Accent is unlike any other Indian restaurant I’ve been to. There are so many choices on the prix fixe dinner menu that you could eat there days in a row (and yes, I am tempted!) and never duplicate your meal. They brought us a tiny mug of warm pumpkin soup with dumplings as an amuse bouche:
I doubled the dumpling fun by ordering assamese pork dumplings with broth, nettle oil and crispy black rice as my appetizer:
I don’t remember what either of us had as a main course because I was mostly thinking about the signature dessert: makhan malai, saffron milk, rose petal jaggery brittle, almonds. Light as air!
Reassured that so much did, after all, remain the same, we gathered the courage to at least try a few new places. The Leopard at des Artistes has been around for several years but not really on our radar screen until now. Like many other restaurants they have created an outside dining option and we spent one of our favorite evenings of the trip there, feasting on pappardelle and watching passersby on 67th Street.
Since we hadn’t been to the city since the beginning of COVID, we missed the opening of La Grande Boucherie, which takes up an entire magical block of the quirky 6 1/2 Avenue at 53rd Street.
I ordered the paté campagne and look forward to returning for more:
Returning to the familiar and discovering the new is a never-ending pleasure in New York. And while there were, indeed, some losses during the challenges of the past year and a half, I have a feeling that NYC is charging forward, as it has through so many other challenges. Can’t wait to return next visit and see what awaits us! As we all know by now, the only thing that is constant in life is change…