1 Le Bernardin
The city is full of ornate restaurants, but none of them manages to exude the glamour and class of Manhattan the way this one does, without any overweening glitz. The impeccable French service is the best in the city. The wood-paneled room is grand, but in an oddly soothing way. And then there’s the chef, Eric Ripert, who, unlike most super-chefs in town, tends to stay in his kitchen and cook. Go at dinner (when the room fills with suits at lunchtime, it looks like a corporate cafeteria). All the food is excellent—from uni seviche to barely cooked salmon with black truffles—but if it’s on the menu, order Mr. Ripert’s shrimp ravioli puddled in truffle sauce. Michel Couvreux is one of the great sommeliers in America—let him choose the wines.
Masa Takayama, the illustrious sushi god from L.A., came to New York with a uniquely Japanese, if slightly insane proposition: that a meal of the highest quality is worth almost any price. It turns out he’s right, but only under the most specific Rashomon-like conditions. Whatever you do, sit at the bar of this quirky, lavishly overpriced little restaurant (not at the dinky, dimly lit tables), preferably in front of Masa himself (not one of his acolytes). The ensuing spectacle, complete with risotto folded with uni and truffles, Kobe-beef sukiyaki, and slabs of foie gras cooked in a little shabu-shabu pot, is part nourishment, part entertainment, and part ancient performance art. It’s not just a meal, it’s an event—well worth the $350 cost of a single omakase dinner (before the sakes are factored in), and as different from the average dining experience as a TV rerun is from a first-rate Broadway show.