A Weekend of Michelin Plates in New York City - 2021

Traveling through Covid has gotten a little easier since the beginning of the pandemic, but with governments changing rules & requirements almost monthly, it can still be confusing & challenging. Do travellers need a negative test, a vaccine passport, neither? Will attractions, hotels & restaurants at your destination of choice be fully opened, operate at limited capacity or be completely closed? These are just a few of the important questions to ask oneself before venturing off on a trip during the "new normal" of traveling. Take New York for example; as of September 2021 a vaccine passport showing proof of inoculation is required for indoor dining. This aggressive action follows the footsteps of Paris & several European cities, and was quickly followed by Montreal

Planning a succesful trip and fine dining blogging have at least one thing in common; the requirement for a reservation. As a traveller, you wouldn't want to invest time & money into going on a trip only for that trendy Brooklyn hotel or that restaurant you read about on Dined There, Sipped That to be fully booked. Despite such sage advice, on a recent trip to New York City, I left my blogging destiny to the Michelin gods and made no lunch reservations. My culinary compass would be the Guide Michelin mobile app. The app loads your current location on a map showing all the restaurants with Michelin distinctions around you; Plate, Bib, one, two and three star restaurants. The guide describes a Plated restaurant as "Good cooking; Fresh ingredients, capably prepared, simply a good meal", and since Plated restaurants are usually on the casual side they are more likely to be opened for lunch and approachable without a reservation. Here's how I fared.

Gigino at Wagner Park

After a Staten Island ferry ride to enjoy great views of the Statue of Liberty, the app showed Gigino at Wagner Park a pleasant 7 minute walk from South Ferry Station. Approaching the restaurant, it looked quite standard, until a walk through the tall domed hallway revealed unobstructed views of the Hudson River, and there she was again, the Statue of Liberty. Offering meat & seafood dishes from various regions of Italy, and homemade pasta, there's a great variety of authentic items to choose from while enjoying panoramic al fresco views. I went with the Michelin inspector's recommendation and had the gnocchi... don't tell Nonna! For more information visit www.Gigino-WagnerPark.com .    

Gnocchi con Polpette as Sugo
Gnocchi with Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

Views of The Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and the Hudson River

Prosciutto di Parma

Statue of Liberty from the Staten Island Ferry on a hazy summer day

While we're on the topic of Italian restaurants, I wanted to share some unfortunate news that I was sorry to read; Del Posto, the first restaurant that I blogged about in New York City, closed its doors while the city was suffering through the pandemic. The new space is set to host a cocktail bar, wood-burning pizza oven station and an event space in a similar spirit of Del Posto. 


I'm sure you've heard of Coastal French & Coastal Italian cuisine, but have you ever heard of coastal Indian cuisine? I hadn't. Just like different regions of Italy & France offer a variety of preparations, sauces, spices, etc. the same goes for India, and every country for that matter.  

After a Roosevelt Island Tramway ride over the East River and a tour of Roosevelt Island, lunch time! Conveniently located one block from the tram station, the Micheline app directed me to Chola, specializing in cuisine inspired by India's 8,000 miles of coast line since 1998. The Upper East Side spot is a bright, welcoming space with a mix of grey and cream tile, marble and leather, accented with copper features and large photographs of Indian culture. One of the many wonderful things about Indian cuisine is the variety of fragrant and aromatic spices that are used to prepare any one dish. Many Indians are Hindu and as a result vegetarian, leading Indian cuisine to include very good pastas, pizza and breads (queue Homer Simpsons drool noise). There are lots of stew-like dishes on a traditional Indian menu meant to be scooped up with one of their various breads- naan and roti being the most popular- dipped into said stew, then into rice and savored by hand. Enjoy!...but air on the side of caution; if you say "spicy", it's the real deal, not the tamed Westernized version. Be forewarned!

Manhattan skyline from Roosevelt Island

Potato and Green Pea Samosa

Traditional Indian Beer

Kashmiri Yoghurt Lamb Curry, *Deggi Mirch, Saffron, Cardamom
This dish is meant to be enjoyed with one's hands by dipping the naan bread into the lamb, sauce and rice.
*Deggi Mirch is a blend of red chili peppers, used to add mild heat and a deep red-orange.

"Serve, love, give, purify, meditate, realize" - Swami Sivanada Saraswati, Indian proverb.
For more information on Chola visit www.CholaNY.com.

Keens Steakhouse

 This famed steakhouse in the Garment District needs no introduction in the "Historic Restaurants of Manhattan" category. Keens Steakhouse has been serving their famous 26oz Mutton Chop since 1885, being the preferred hangout for theatre district actors, writers & producers of the time. I really wanted to order the Mutton Chop, for you, the people, but 26oz wasn't something I had prepared myself for walking through the doors. 

Immortalized in countless shows and movies, including a favorite of mine, Billions, the landmark steakhouse isn't only historic, but it also acts like a museum. Mounted to the ceiling are some 50,000 ceramic Dutch Churchwarden pipes, the largest collection in the world, once belonging to Pipe Club members which included the likes of Albert Einstein, Babe Ruth and Teddy Roosevelt. The history of these pipes dates back to the 17th century where patrons would keep their pipes at their favorite inns as they were too fragile to travel with. When in house, guest's pipes were retrieved from storage for their enjoyment.

Smoking pipes are no longer the main draw, and these days it's Keens USDA Prime grade, dry aged on premises steaks that draw in the crowds. Additionally, the multi-story and multi dining room & bar establishment leaves something new to discover every visit. To add to the ambiance, the dark wood & leather and dim lighting yells "steakhouse" if you didn't already know you were in one of the city's most famous. The only thing about a classic steakhouse is that "artistic platting" isn't at the top of their priority list. Let me assure you, how ever, what Keens lacks in micro greens and tweezers they make up for in delivering an outstanding meal in space that makes you feel like you're somewhere special.

Maryland Lump Crab Cakes

8oz Prime Filet Mignon

Hot Fudge Sundae

Ceramic Dutch Churchwarden pipes

As the late Anthony Bourdain put it (about Keens) in 2009, "Holy ****!"
For more information about Keens, or to order delivery within the USA, visit www.Keens.com.

I hope you enjoyed this spontaneous New York City dining itinerary and that it motivates you to perhaps leave your dining destiny to the wind during your next culinary travels. This "Michelin Plate tour" may sound familiar as I wrote a similar Dined There, Sipped That post in 2020. Have a read here! I highly recommend for anyone who's interested in a great traveling companion and restaurant finder to download one of the GuideMichelin app or the ViaMichelin app - I've got both!

I managed to be successful with this Anthony Bourdain style, no reservations adventure, but you'll definitely need one for dinner at the  Castle Hill Inn. Its dramatic location & views make it a highly desirable ticket even in the winter months. Have a look at the Relais & Châteaux property here.


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