Chef's choice: five of the best New York restaurants

Grant Achatz, the acclaimed chef behind new culinary hotspot The Aviary NYC, chooses the best of the rest of the New York City restaurant scene

Johanna Derry is a food journalist for titles including The Times, The Guardian and The Telegraph 


One of new York's most buzzed about openings of 2017, The Aviary NYC, within Mandarin Oriental, New York, is brought to you by the team behind acclaimed Chicago cocktail hot spot The Aviary. "The food and drink programme we're doing here is the same as in Chicago – by which we mean interesting flavours, creative ice, all the things we're known for – we're just doing more of it," says chef Grant Achatz.

Though Chicago will always be home, Achatz immersed himself in the New York dining scene in anticipation of opening here, and is a huge enthusiast when it comes to New York and the city's food scene. "It's hard to beat New York: the energy, the opportunity, and all the amazing restaurants and cocktail bars. This is our first venture outside of Chicago, and New York is a big stage, but we plan to knock it out of the park. If you can make it here you can make it anywhere, as they say." Here's his pick of must-visit restaurants in his new city.


Chef Greg Baxtrum has taken the idea of farm-to-table dining to the nth degree, by partnering with farmer Ian Rothman for Olmsted in Brooklyn. Not only do they grow vegetables in their back garden to supply the tiny two-man kitchen at the back of their restaurant kitchen, but they also keep the birds and crayfish that crop up on the menu there. Baxtrum is a former alumni of Achatz's restaurant, Alinea, in Chicago, and Achatz says: "I'm a bit biased because he worked with us, but it's really fantastic food. Greg has got a lot of energy and has brought something great to this Brooklyn neighbourhood."


A decade-long stalwart of the Upper West Side, Dovetail is the flagship example of chef John Fraser's vegetable-forward approach to cooking. Fraser was an early pioneer of the trend to put vegetables front and centre, and every night the restaurant offers both vegetarian and vegan menus, making his Michelin-starred restaurant a longstanding favourite of herbivores and meat-eaters alike. "New York City seems so familiar to us now and we always come here [to Dovetail]," say Achatz of he and The Aviary NYC co-founder Nick Kokonas. "It feels like a good blend of being at home and being on vacation," he adds.


There are three sites – East Village, West Village and Midtown – for chef Alex Stupak's Mexican restaurant Empellón. The first Empellón opened five years ago and the most recent opened this year on 53rd St between Madison and 5th, and "within walking distance of Mandarin Oriental, New York" says Achatz. "He's another young chef, serving highly creative Mexican food." Dishes such as sea bream with chilaquiles verdes, for example, mashing up different cultural influences to create something completely new. Each of the restaurants in Stupak's empire has an unmistakable Empellón signature, but with its own unique take, described by Stupak as the restaurant's "colour".


In the Flatiron District, Daniel Humm oversees three Michelin-starred Eleven Madison Park, serving high-end contemporary American cuisine. This year, the restaurant added to its tally of accolades, claiming the top spot in the annual World's 50 Best Restaurants listing, a title previously held by restaurants such as elBulli and Noma. "There are so many great restaurants here, the list could go on and on," says Achatz. "Everything in New York is bigger and more exaggerated – in a good way." It reopens in autumn 2017 after a refurbishment, having in the meantime relocated temporarily to a pop-up in East Hampton. 


In NoLIta (North of Little Italy), chef Ryan Hardy, together with sommeliers Robert Bohr and Grant Reynolds, run a 'walk-ins welcome', small, wood-fired Italian restaurant – Pasquale Jones. "I come to the city pretty frequently for work and it's always great if you can find time to visit restaurants and bars like this one," says Achatz. Yes, there's pizza and pasta as you'd expect, but also small plates such as hamachi crudo (sushi, Italian-style) and charcoal-grilled cuttlefish, as well as pork shank for two, the restaurant's must-eat main from the wood oven.

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