Favorite Restaurants in 2010:
Eleven Madison Park (Manhattan)
In 2010, Eleven Madison Park was awarded a Michelin star, an award that many thought was long overdue. Having finally eaten a two-course lunch there earlier this year with my sister, I can easily say that the food and service were impeccable. The entire experience at this gem among upscale restaurants was the shining-est star of my culinary year.
Sadly, though, part of me does understand why it went so long without a star. When I booked the lunch, I had to call to ensure the restaurants was still offering a two-course weekday meal at all (we didn't have the luxury of time that day and had to be in and out in under 90 minutes). The web site didn't match other information online, but the hostess assured me, yes, two-course lunch for two, no problem. And within six weeks of dining there, all the online information had changed again. The restaurant changes its basic offerings every few weeks, but it shouldn't. New Yorkers love it. Out-of-towners love it. I've got to assume profitability is the driving force behind the constant change; if only Eleven Madison could just float on doing what it does best, it would be far and away my favorite restaurant of all time.
Mary's Fish Camp (Manhattan)
My god Mary's Fish Camp is hip. The food—elegant yet soulful platters of fish—is fresh and perfectly cooked, which is all you can hope for in a fish restaurant. The setting is casual. The servers and hosts are on the ball. The scene is swinging. I felt like I could laugh, and drink, and rock to the buzz of the place all night, except that I was distracted by a crisp fillet of John Dory with a summery sweet apricot sauce and a scoop of cous cous to help soak it up.
Ages ago, a girl at a party recommended I try Chiyono. "It's Japanese homecooking. This one woman cooks everything herself. Get the miso cod. I have been there so many times and I always order the cod, and the woman always yells at me that I have to try something else."
I dare say that recommendations like these are easy to ignore, especially when the person suggests you spend your hard-earned dining-out money on some unknown East Village hole-in-the-wall. Chiyono is a treasure for creating affordable yet composed main courses in a peaceful atmosphere. Smooth stones act as chopstick rests. Large wood tables are inviting. The saikyo-yaki (cod broiled with miso) was everything I had hoped for a mere $13!
To any of my New York-based friends (or potential visitors) who are reading this: I will gladly return to any of these places. Pick a day. Let's eat.