By Kristin Butler (originally published by @XOPmag)
XOP sources the standout dishes at premiere restaurants in New York City and Miami for gastronomes seeking a truly unrivaled experience.
Tomahawk Rib-eye at Costata
Costata’s grass-fed, corn-finished Black Angus beef from the superb Creekstone Farms outfit in Kansas is dry-aged for 40 days, imparting a balanced, smoky taste. The restaurant’s signature cut is the 40-ounce Tomahawk rib-eye for two. But true to chef-owner Michael White’s style, the side dishes are equally impressive. He is a brilliant practitioner of pasta, which can be ordered in appetizer or entrée size. Don’t miss the house-made Garganelli alla Fiamma with prosciutto, peas and truffle cream.
Duck au Poivre at Lafayette
There are the mainstay French brasseries in Manhattan, namely Pastisse and Balthazaar. But a new contender has made a successful foray into the league, offering the best of people watching and southern French cuisine. Lafayette, a sprawling NoHo restaurant accessed through a boulangerie, is the work of Andrew Carmellini, formerly of the Dutch and Locanda Verde; Chef de Cuisine Damon Wise, a Craft alum; Per Se veteran James Belisle, who oversees the bread; and pastry chef Jen Yee, helming from Aureole.
Your entrée of choice should be the crispy-skinned duck au poivre, served with kumquats and brussel sprouts. And like any credible French eatery, the nicoise salad and beef tartare with poached marrow are crowd pleasers. Don’t pass on the house-made ravioli specialty of the day.
Omakase at Megu
Megu’s famous seven-course Omakase dinner is the ideal way to navigate Chef Koji Imai’s seemingly endless menu of impeccable toro, Kobe beef, sushi and sashimi. The restaurant’s keen attention to detail is even evident in its opulent décor—the centerpiece, a massive ice sculpture of Buddha, is carved daily.
Ceviche at Harlow
A Nobu veteran brings Old Hollywood to life in this seafood-focused supper lounge replete with stained-glass windows and low-hung 1930s chandeliers. The house ceviche is prepared in classic Peruvian style with fresh shrimp, baby octopus, and tender scallops lightly doused in a zesty “tigre de leche” of lime juice with a dash of orange.
Oxtail Brioche at Manzanilla
Manzanilla is a Spanish brasserie housed in a cavernous, rustic room in Flatiron from Dani García, acclaimed for his Michelin-starred restaurant Calima in Marbella. His first foray outside of Spain delivers a delightful spin on his country’s traditional fare. The best shared-plate is hands-down the silky oxtail between steamed brioche buns, served with mushrooms and kale. Visitors also rave about the cuttlefish croquettes.
Roast Chicken for Two at NoMad
The duo behind Eleven Madison Park is responsible for this multi-dining room restaurant housed inside the grandoise NoMad Hotel in the Flatiron District. Chef Daniel Humm’s most celebrated creation is the roast chicken for two with delicate foie-gras, truffles and brioche stuffed under the brown, crispy skin. The white meat is moist and tender; the dark served in a creamy fricassee to the side.
Farmer’s Feast at Blue Hill
The James Beard Foundation has named Blue Hill its Most Outstanding Restaurant for 2013. Chef Dan Barber and his brother source their pasture-raised game and organic produce and herbs from a family-owned farm in Massachusetts and one in upstate New York. Blue Hill is tucked below street level in an old speakeasy space in Greenwich Village. The restaurant features a regular menu with enticing dishes like local shellfish with spring vegetables, shrimp and lamb’s quarters. But give full reign to Barber and order the Farmer’s Feast, a five-course tasting inspired by the week’s harvest.
Fusilli at Marea
Chef Michael White offers a fresh interpretation of Italy’s coastal cuisine and creates sensational house-made pastas daily at the Central Park South-based Marea, which means “tide” in Italian. White’s talents marry effortlessly in his Fusilli, a delicate pasta with red-wine-braised baby octopus and bone marrow.
Locally Caught Fish at Esca
Fisherman and award-winning chef Dave Pasternack’s meals are a testament to New York’s coastal ecosystem. Pescatrice, the pan roasted local monkfish with wild mushrooms and young leeks, is among many simple options that showcase the natural flavor of the most pristine fish dressed in one of many specifically selected extra virgin olive oils from Italy and sprinkled with any one of ten different sea salts.
J&G Grill at the St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort
Acclaimed French chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten debuted his first Miami restaurant last year to much applause. The seductive, modern J&G Grill is enclosed in glass, giving guests an unrivaled ocean view. The haute cuisine is New American with a subtle Asian touch. The menu reflects the daily harvest, and main courses change frequently. But one favored, signature dish is the black cod with chanterelles and pistachios. The late-night dining spot also regularly features live music.
Bone Marrow at The Cypress Room
Michael Schwartz’s The Cypress Room in Miami’s Design District takes an elegant approach to local foods. His crosscut beef bones filled with savory marrow are dressed with greens and edible flowers. A similar balance between femininity and masculinity infiltrates the design, in which taxidermy meets pink wallpaper, tufted banquettes and black-and-white photographs.