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Where to Eat


Hotel Chic

The Breslin Bar & Dining Room.  

I f you’ve spent this past, comfort-food-obsessed decade pining for the days when the city’s great restaurants were affiliated with grand hotels instead of dingy backroom speakeasies or glorified shopping malls, you might, at long last, be in luck. After a lavish, $100 million renovation, the Pierre has reopened on Fifth Avenue, complete with an excellent new bistro called Le Caprice. The gilded Noël Coward–style venture is run by Londoners (the original is in St. James), which means you can enjoy a slap-up English breakfast with your morning paper, and a faithful rendering of fish and chips (served with mashed peas tipped with mint) when the dining counter fills up with assorted toffs and swells during lunch. But to rekindle the premillennial, pre-bust era in all its moneyed glory, go at dinnertime, when the little room fills with tinkling sounds of live piano music and the kitchen serves decorous uptown versions of old Continental favorites like Dover sole with Béarnaise sauce.

Later this winter, David Chang introduces the midtown expense-account set to the glories of high-angle Vietnamese-French street food when his first uptown venture, Má Pêche, opens for dinner in the cavernous basement of Chambers hotel, on West 56th Street. Crowds of fatso pork fiends and bearded slacker aristocrats, meanwhile, are converging on the scruffy, dimly lit lobby of the Ace Hotel, in the Flatiron district, where that other downtown culinary superstar, April Bloomfield, and her partner Ken Friedman have opened their latest gastropub outlet, The Breslin Bar and Dining Room. As with their flagship establishment, the Spotted Pig, there’s a signature burger on the menu (made with lamb here, instead of beef), and an array of trencherman delicacies like beef tongue (in a delicious sandwich) and onion soup laced with bone marrow. But the real specialties of the house, not surprisingly, are the Bunyanesque pig dishes, like canoe-size trotters stuffed with sausage, and the delectable, majestically unhealthy smoked pork belly for two, which is best enjoyed with several pints of the patented house Breslin Aberdeen cask ale and a tab, or two, of extra-strength Mylanta.

For the ultimate in 2010 hotel chic, however, the place to be may be Danny Meyer’s painstakingly rendered facsimile of an old-fashioned Roman trattoria, Maialino, which opened recently, off the lobby of the Gramercy Park Hotel. The room is arranged according to the classic Meyer template, with a welcoming bar-café area in front and a casually elegant dining room manned by manically grinning waitstaff in back. But the trattoria menu is choked with uncanny renderings of old classics like steamy stracciatella Romana soup infused with wisps of egg, and classic Roman spaghettis (carbonara, cacio e pepp) vigorously peppered in the classic Roman style. After you’ve polished off your lombatina di vitello piled with turnips, be sure to save room for the simple desserts, particularly creamy sformato di ricotta laced with sweet figs and honey, which tastes like it’s been beamed in from some sun-drenched square in Trastevere.

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