The roosting habits of New York restaurateurs are always difficult to divine. For whatever reason, some of the city's grandest chefs have recently been setting up their kitchens in art galleries, auction houses, and museums. Our tour begins at the AQ Café at the Scandinavia House, on lower Park Avenue, for a quick glance at August Strindberg's predictably gloomy photographs, followed by an uplifting lunchtime helping of Marcus Samuelsson's salmon lasagna, a smorgasbord of four herrings (for only $6.50), and a frothy glass of Carlsberg Elephant Malt beer, all served cafeteria-style on translucent plastic trays. The simple tuna burger with wasabi mayonnaise is my very biased father's favorite dish at the Garden Court Café in the newly renovated Asia Society (he is president of the institution).
For the best rainy-day cup of hot chocolate in the city, visit the lavish Neue Gallery on Upper Fifth Avenue, home to Café Sabarsky, Kurt Gutenbrunner's ode to the strudels and dumplings of his youth. There are eleven varieties of cakes and tortes on the menu, plus dainty breakfast dumplings smothered in bacon and onions, gourmet liverwurst sandwiches (served open-face with a sweet onion confit), and creamy bowls of chestnut soup, all of which you can walk off by climbing up and down the great curving marble staircase leading to the galleries upstairs.
Finally, there's Bid, the ambitious, loungelike restaurant on the ground floor of the Sotheby's fortress on York Avenue. The straightforward menu doesn't quite live up to the novelty of its surroundings, although I like the roasted quail garnished with turnips and savoy cabbage, and the milky pink lobster chowder, larded with satisfying deposits of potato and smoked bacon. If there's an evening auction on, mingle upstairs with the legions of paddle-wavers; if not, the whole experience feels a little bizarre, like dining in the lost corner of a vast, deserted corporate museum.
|AQ Cafe, 58 Park Avenue, near 38th Street, 212-847-9745
Garden Court Café, 725 Park Avenue, at 70th Street, 212-570-5202
Café Sabarsky, 1048 Fifth Avenue, at 86th Street, 212-288-0665
Bid, 1334 York Avenue, at 71st Street, 212-988-7730