I have a few restaurant experiences to share from a recent weekend that I spent in New York City.
Centovini on the northern edge of SoHo was fantastic -- Italian in a smart, post-modern decor. I ordered the homemade orrecchiette, which was sublime. My dining companion ordered the duck, which was also good, but not as good as my dish. Desserts were also good.
Centovini's three-course deal for $38 is an excellent value. If I lived in NYC, I would be a fairly regular diner there.
The other night in New York, Cafe Boulud was our destination. It couldn't be more different than Centovini. Cafe Boulud is located on the quiet and stately Upper East Side, just a stone's throw from Central Park. The decor is warm and traditional, and the clientele (and staff) is much blow-dried and dressed-up.
The foie gras au torchon was superb. So was the pancetta-wrapped veal loin. The breads they brought to the table were exceptional. We weren't overwhelmed by the desserts we ordered, but the ice creams that accompanied them (caramel and lemon-rhubarb) were totally yummy.
My base for this trip was the Le Parker Méridien on West 56th Street. The rooms were sort of done up in this Euro-funky decor that worked well. We decided to give Norma's, the hotel restaurant, a try for breakfast. We read somewhere that New York magazine named it "best breakfast" in New York. At least that's what the Méridien's website says.
Eating at Norma's was a frightful mistake. The hotel's website declares that "Norma's makes breakfast fun again!" Only if you like to pay an outrageous sum of money for a lame and dismal breakfast.
The only thing that deserved praise was the fresh-squeezed orange juice. Other than the juice, everything else we was utterly disappointing. The pancakes were barely edible. Norma's had the right idea by serving French press coffee, but someone needs to tell them that the whole point of a French press is to let the person drinking the coffee decide when to stop the brewing process -- instead, they brought it with the press pushed down (and the coffee was much too weak).
If you're staying at Le Parker Méridien, your best breakfast bet is on the same block. Just walk across the street and look to the right for the Dean & Deluca. Pick up a pastry and espresso/coffee over there. You'll be much happier, and so will your wallet.