Central Midtown between 34th and 59th Streets is home to an impressive dozen Michelin-starred restaurants, with 17 stars among them. These include one of the city’s five three-star restaurants, two Nordic-inspired restaurants, two omakase-only sushi restaurants, and a restaurant in a museum. Clearly when you want the best, you do not have to stray from Midtown.
155 West 51st Street (between Sixth and Seventh Avenues)
Only five New York City restaurants earned three Michelin stars for 2020, and Le Bernardin is one of them. Seafood is its specialty, although it does offer the likes of filet mignon and roasted rack of lamb, along with an eight-course vegetarian tasting menu. Rather than try to describe the wholly immersive experience of dining at one of the world’s most renowned restaurants, we will simply note that starters include marinated slices of fluke served with cured cucumber and apple broth infused with dill and yuzu; among the entrees are “barely cooked” Faroe Islands salmon with black-truffle pot-au-feu and pan-roasted monkfish with cabbage stuffed with wild mushrooms and bacon jus. Seven- and eight-course tasting menus are available per table only. Those wanting something a bit less formal but still exceptional can opt for the lounge area. Here you can choose the three-course prix-fixe menu or order à la carte. Dishes include salmon rillette with toast, a Peruvian-style ceviche, and a blissfully indulgent version of a croque monsieur made with smoked salmon and Osetra caviar.
65 East 55th Street (between Park and Madison Avenues)
Aquavit is often credited with bringing Nordic cuisine to the attention of New York diners. Starters such as venison served with a tarragon infusion, nasturtiums, and flatbread; brined herring with pear and cured egg yolk accompanied with rye bread; and trout with fennel, trout roe, and apple capture the Scandinavian flavor profile. Ditto entrees such as halibut with kohlrabi, pear, and elderflower-mussel foam and lobster with celeriac, hazelnuts, and black trumpet mushrooms. Among the desserts, the Arctic Birds Nest has become the stuff of culinary legends: a nest of honey tuile embellished with chocolate twigs, freeze-dried raspberries, crumbled brownies, and shredded halvah, topped with white-chocolate eggs filled with goat-cheese parfait and sea-buckthorn berries. You can choose a three-course prix-fixe menu or five- or eight-course tasting menus. As with Le Bernardin, you can also head to the less formal bar area. Only recently opened, it offers à la carte options that include gravlax with the classic mustard-based hovmästar sauce, pork schnitzel, and Swedish meatballs with lingonberries, cucumber, and an apple puree. And while Aquavit does have an extensive wine list, you should go for one of the namesake drinks, many of which are housemade and infused with flavors such as peanut, kumquat, and toasted walnut with vanilla.
41 West 42nd Street (between Fifth and Sixth Avenues)
With its salvaged ceiling beams and midcentury-style chairs, Gabriel Kreuther is an inviting marriage of old and new, as is its menu. Dishes such as sturgeon-and-sauerkraut tart and duck leg confit with marinated beets, hazelnuts, and red-wine risotto reference chef Kreuther’s native Alsace with their French and German influences. The cuisine is not strictly Alsatian, however, as options such as golden Osetra caviar and citrus-cured yellowfin tuna make clear. For dinner in the main dining room you can choose from one of two tasting menus; the lounge offers an à la carte menu with dishes such as a savory interpretation of the Alsatian kougelhoupf sweet bread and grilled Black Angus tenderloin with roasted sunchokes and Roquefort cheese. Next door is the Kreuther Chocolate shop, and at the lounge you can finish your meal with a pairing of three liquors and hand-made chocolates.
Museum of Modern Art, Nine West 53rd Street (between Fifth and Sixth Avenues)
The Modern is as sleek and minimalist in decor as you would expect a restaurant located in MoMA to be. The six-course dinner menu, which changes seasonally, is part omikase, part prix-fixe. The famed Eggs on Eggs on Eggs—soft-boiled egg yolk, sturgeon caviar, and egg sauce served with pickled shallots and dill olive oil—is the mandatory opener, and roasted-beet sorbet with truffle cream is the segue between entree and dessert. Appetizer options might include marinated baby leeks with persimmons and a pistachio vinaigrette; from there you can proceed to the likes of seared scallops with cauliflower roasted in crab butter or caramelized honeynut squash with pickled ginger and black truffle. Rib-eye steak roasted with horseradish and accompanied by smoked potatoes are an entree option, as is dry-aged duck with ruby-red grapefruit and black-trumpet mushrooms. For à la carte dishes such as white truffles with hand-cut tagliolini or roasted lamb saddle with sheep’s-milk gnocchi and confit peppers, head to the Modern’s Bar Room.
Grand Central Terminal, 89 East 42nd Street
Like Aquavit, Agern is driven by a Nordic palate, and the pale-wood interior is appropriately Danish Modern in style. Sweet forono beets are served with bone marrow and licorice; bluefish is accompanied by cucumber, dill, and horseradish; pistachios, fermented blueberries, and shallots complement red snapper; skyr—an Icelandic favorite similar to yogurt—with lemon, dill, and white chocolate is among the dessert options. The seasonal menus rely heavily on locally sourced ingredients. At dinner you have the choice of an eight-course tasting menu or à la carte dishes.
The Langham, 400 Fifth Avenue (between West 36th and 37th Streets)
Specializing in food from the Italian and French Rivieras, Ai Fiori will delight lovers of white truffles: You can opt to have four or eight grams of the delicacy incorporated into house-made tagliatelle with Parmigiano or risotto cooked with mushroom consommé. There is also much to delight those who are not truffle aficionados: starters such as fluke crudo with American sturgeon caviar and grilled baby octopus with caramelized-onion puree; spaghetti with blue crab, bottarga (a type of cured roe), and chili peppers; kabocha squash gnocchi with brown-butter sage, pumpkin seeds, and apple balsamic vinegar; butter-poached halibut with apple, butternut squash, and pecans; a whole stuffed quail… As well as ordering à la carte, at dinner you can select a four-course prix-fixe menu, a seven-course tasting menu, or a vegetarian tasting menu. Ai Fiori is as beloved for its extensive wine list as or its food, though feel free to sip a house cocktail such as the Zucca Sour (Wild Turkey rye, Diplomático rum, pumpkin, lemon, ginger, and egg white).
538 Madison Avenue (between East 54th and 55th Streets)
As you would expect, caviar—from platinum Osetra to Siberian sturgeon—plays a prominent role in the menu of Caviar Russe. You can choose one, a tasting of each, and flights of three varieties, served with blini and other traditional accompaniments. Caviar complements other dishes too; Dover sole, for instance, is served with caviar and matsutake mushrooms. Additional dinner options, available à la carte or as part of a three-course prix-fixe menu, include braised king crab with polenta, dry-aged rib-eye with potato puree, and cavatelli with sweet potatoes, black truffle, and sweetbreads.
125 East 39th Street (between Lexington and Park Avenues)
Do not come to Kajitsu expecting sushi, or any other fish for that matter. The restaurant offers shojin cuisine, which is vegetarian in keeping with Zen Buddhism principles.(That said, sister restaurant Kokage, located on the first floor of the same building, does include dishes such as octopus oden and spicy soba noodles with sliced duck.) The 10-course omakase menu changes monthly; recent selections included a savory monaka (a type of cookie) of grilled sesame tofu; grilled mushrooms flavored with sudachi, a sour citrus fruit; and a hot pot incorporating gingko nuts, lotus roots, squash, and mushrooms. The selection of sakes and teas is just as considered as the food menu.
610 Lexington Avenue (between East 52nd and 53rd Streets)
“Jardinier” is French for “gardener,” and with its floor-to-ceiling windows and abundance of plants, the restaurant evokes a greenhouse. Appropriately enough, vegetarians will find plenty on the seasonal menus to sate their appetites such as roasted cauliflower with tomatillos, sunflower seeds, and curry; honeynut-squash agnolotti with chanterelles, gingerbread, and whey; and ice creams made with rice or cashew milk. Those who prefer meat, fish, or poultry will not be disappointed, however. Recent dinner entrees included king salmon with ginger and charred onions in mushroom broth and beef tenderloin with rutabaga, grilled red cabbage, and horseradish. Mont Blanc—a tower of pureed sweetened chestnuts—accompanied by yuzu ice cream and meringue is a blissful way to end your meal.
240 Central Park South (between Seventh and Eighth Avenues)
Seasonal seafood dominates the menu of Marea, which is Italian for “tide.” There are nearly a dozen crudo options alone, including Pacific geoduck with hearts of palm and chilis and Mediterranean fluke with cucumber and mint. Caviar and oysters are available as well. Other recent starters included grilled Atlanta bonito with mushroom consommé and a garlic-and-white-bean soup with red prawns, apples, and onions. Octopus braised in red wine, salt-baked wild branzino, and poached monkfish with Swiss chard, clams, mussels, and trout roe were among the other selections. Those who do not want their four-course prix-fixe dinner to be exclusively seafood can select the likes of sirloin tartare or potato ravioli with wild mushrooms, pecorino, butternut squash, and capers. Omnivores, pescatarians, and vegetarians alike will love the honey shortbread and cheesecake meringue served with grape-and-prosecco sorbet.
114 West 47th Street (between Sixth and Seventh Avenues)
Satsuki is among the smallest restaurants you are likely to dine in: The narrow space seats just 10 people, all at the sushi bar. Ingredients for the omakase menu are flown in directly from one of Tokyo’s premiere fish markets, and the offering changes depending on the day’s market selection. Spinach ohitashi (blanched spinach bathed in a dashi-based sauce) and ankimo (salted, steamed monkfish liver) were recent starters preceding sashimi and hand rolls. In addition to two omakase seatings every night except Sunday, there is a sushi-only omakase seating at 9:30 in the evening.
461 Fifth Avenue (between 40th and 41st Streets)
Like Satsuki, Sushi Ginza Onodera is omakase only, though it is larger than Satsuki, with tables as well as bar seating. It too imports its fish directly from Tokyo, and it uses only rice from Japan’s Niigata region. The sushi is prepared Edomae style, with the fish preserved upon arrival—marinated in soy sauce, perhaps, or cured in sea kelp. You can opt for 7- or 10-course dinners.
Midtown’s Michelin Stars