Best Theater District Restaurant
49 West 44th Street
The best of the newer theater-district restaurants is Triomphe, as pleasing to the eye as to the palate, with intimacy that manages to be non-claustrophobic. Chef Steven Zobel’s menu is original and choice. Seasonal appetizers include crispy sweetbreads with artichoke guacamole and pico de gallo on baguette toast, a velvety rich oyster stew simmered in vermouth cream, and intoxicated chicken livers braised in sherry and then pan-fried with three onions. Among the main courses, harissa-rubbed Australian lamb is cheerfully accompanied by saffron couscous, grilled eggplant, mango chutney, and yogurt mint sauce. The North African sauce embraces the Australian meat in global harmony. Striped bass, with jasmine rice, grilled leeks, ginger-chili marinade, green papaya, and mint salad, is a fish of a truly different stripe. Among desserts, honey-glazed warm apple-walnut strudel with crème fraîche and white-cheese ice cream creates euphoric unity out of complexity. And the gracious service matches the food.
If you enjoy Southern Italian and like seafood, Babbo’s bambino, Esca (402 West 43rd Street; 212-564-7272), offers more varieties of fish than you knew existed, prepared with originality and picturesquely presented. And among the standard-bearers, Orso (322 West 46th Street; 212-489-7212) remains, as ever, an airy, bright, but not garish place, whose Italian food is similarly light, smooth, and flavorous.