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Simon & the Whale

Critic's Pick Critics' Pick

23 Lexington Ave., New York, NY 10010 40.739834 -73.984254
at 23rd St.  See Map | Subway Directions Hopstop Popup
212-475-1920 Send to Phone

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  • Cuisine: American Nouveau, Italian
  • Critics' Rating: **

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Official Website

Nearby Subway Stops

6 at 23rd St.



Special Features

  • Dine at the Bar
  • Good for Groups
  • Hot Spot
  • Private Dining/Party Space
  • Design Standout
  • Reservations Not Required
  • Online Reservation


  • Full Bar




Like Danny Meyer before him, Gabriel Stulman has navigated the city’s treacherous dining landscape over the years by taking a very small, specific patch of real estate and making it his own. Like Meyer, his restaurants have a distinctive, recognizable style. And, as with Meyer, it was only a matter of time before one of the city’s hundreds of new hotels would recruit the talented restaurateur. There are three Stulman ventures at the Freehand, the most prominent being the cinematically named Simon & the Whale. The tables are made from an African wood called iroko and situated among objects designed to convey that familiar postmillennial combination of bonhomie and obsessively curated “casual” style. Stulman is one of the masters at pulling together this cozy, accessible look and the menus at his restaurants tend to follow suit. Like Meyer, however, he has a history of finding promising chefs, like Matt Griffin here, and empowering them to do ambitious things. There were dense loaves of fresh barley bread renowned house baker Zoe Kanant, and the carpaccio is lamb instead of the usual beef. If squid is your obsession, the dish to get is the squid confit, and if you’re an offal lover, it’s the expertly seared veal sweetbreads. Like the appetizers, the modest entrée list is dotted with familiar dishes reworked in all sorts of creative, unfamiliar ways like the crunchy, refreshingly porky pork Milanese made with an earthy cut of collar. As noted above, Stulman has been one of the pioneers of the kind of modest, terminally pleasant New York restaurant that your grumpy critic has complained loudly about recently, but he and his staff do a good job here of transcending this crowded genre. There are eclectic, well-chosen wines to consider, and the selection of desserts ranges into the kind of experimental territory rarely seen anymore around this profiterole-and-panna-cotta-saturated town.

Ideal Meal

Black bread, lamb carpaccio and/or squid confit, roast chicken and/or whole fish for two, brown-butter bread pudding.