Financial District and Tribeca
photo by Nathan Rawlinson
Looking for a way to recuperate after the closure of the short-lived Compose, Jodi Richard recruited Matthew Lightner from Portland, Oregon, to rebuild the restaurant from scratch. Lightner created an urban oasis, equal parts rustic and cosmopolitan, a vine-strewn industrial paean to foraging. On paper, Atera sounded almost satirical, with its dedicated herb chef and elemental ethos. But Lightner’s cooking is positively mystifying, his menu a succession of 20-plus edible marvels, many of which incorporate illusions using modernist techniques. See Lightner’s Jerusalem artichoke cannoli, which are dead ringers for the beloved Italian confection until you take a bite and realize the cannoli shells are sunchoke chips, the filling is a sunchoke cream, and that powdered sugar? Sunchoke powder — you know, the kind Mom used to dehydrate. Chefs from other cities generally have a tough go of things in this town, but after two Michelin stars and a slew of similar accolades, it’s clear Lightner was just the sorcerer Richard needed, and exactly what the progressive diners of New York City wanted. If you’d rather not plunk down the $195 required to participate in the tasting menu, head downstairs to Atera’s lounge, where the inventive cocktails take a seasonal approach and the chef’s much-lauded burger holds sway.
photo by Robert Menzer
When David Bouley opened his eponymous restaurant on Duane Street in 1987, Tribeca gained a neighbor that offered a contemporary French experience using the best ingredients. Twenty-seven years and a move down the street have modernized Bouley to reflect the current inclinations of New York’s savvy dining crowd: An open kitchen’s streetside view entertains a new, chef-curious generation, and a spotlight on nutrient-rich ingredients (chia seeds appear in a lobster knuckle and blood orange raviolo; buckwheat comes in a gluten-free bread offering) appeals to the burgeoning crowd of health-focused city dwellers. The restaurant’s traditional French approach endures in the candlestick-adorned, white-tablecloth dining canvas and the doting service platoon — including a trio of room-circling chariots supplying refreshers of bread, cheese, and digestifs. You can order à la carte, but the 360-degree experience resides in the six-course tasting menu, a thoughtfully designed balance of surf and turf rooted in France but culled from the chef’s experiences around the globe. Chef Bouley has an unwavering appreciation for country life, but the nearly three decades he has spent feeding multiple generations of New Yorkers confirm that his heart resides in the Big Apple.
photo by Liz Barclay
Recently, a lifelong New Yorker visiting Delmonico's for the first time told the woman at the coat check this story: His father worked the hat check as a kid and was on the job in 1918, on Armistice Day, when a man gave him a $100 tip. Delmonico’s was already an old restaurant then, having opened in 1837 at the pointy corner of Beaver and William streets. Its current iteration, overseen by Dennis Turcinovic, offers an updated menu featuring some lighter, seasonal fare. But from the dark wainscoting to the coffered ceilings and opulent chandeliers, this is a flamboyantly unapologetic Land That Time Forgot. “Delmonico’s is a culinary institution,” says Turcinovic, who took the reins as general manager in 1998 and is now part of the group that owns the restaurant. “Our vision was to bring it back to its original luster while introducing a distinct, refreshing look.” Go, provided your constitution can handle it, for the lobster Newburg, the baked oysters, the chicken à la Keene, the baked Alaska. We’ll have a Caesar salad and a Delmonico steak, rare, delivered by an attentive waiter whose European accent is unplaceable and who has perfected the indispensable art of hovering without appearing to.
Ichimura at Brushstroke
photo by Jen Munkvold
Sushi was part of the plan for Brushstroke from its 2012 inception — but David Bouley and Japanese culinary school The Tsuji Culinary Institute, the partners in this Tribeca kaiseki restaurant, were willing to delay in order to find the perfect chef. Enter Eiji Ichimura, a Tokyo-trained sushi master, whose Midtown concept Restaurant Ichimura closed in 2008. Ichimura spent more than four decades perfecting the art of traditional edo-mae sushi, which calls for a deep understanding of aging, curing, and marinating fish; he showcases this practice at Ichimura at Brushstroke six nights a week through an omakase menu, humbly introducing creations to each of eight diners who have done the legwork to score a seat. “It’s a very small fish, but a very special fish,” he says modestly of a buttery introduction to Japanese perch before returning to his next course. You’ll swim in dozens of offerings like that, crafted with swift and nimble hands, until you reach the finale, warm oval beds of rice bearing lush Santa Barbara and sweet Hokkaido sea urchin, when you’ll wish you could begin again.
photo by Noah Fecks
Good-looking and often star-studded crowds fill the dining rooms at each of Andrew Carmellini’s three restaurants, but Locanda Verde’s entrenchment in its Tribeca neighborhood sets it apart from Lafayette and the Dutch. The chef opened this urban Italian joint in Robert De Niro’s Greenwich Hotel in 2009, and it has never faltered in its ability to command a constant crush of clientele. Reserve a table in the cavernous dining room or squeeze into a seat at the formidable bar and wend your way through a meal of soft sheep’s milk ricotta, truffle-studded steak tartara, and pappardelle Bolognese while you drink Italian wine. You’ll see a lot of business done over breakfast and lunch at these tables, and brunch is perhaps most beloved by the neighbors, who amble in for morning cocktails, pastries, and lemon ricotta pancakes.
Sole di Capri
photo by Bradley Hawks
On a nondescript stretch of Church Street in Tribeca, this petite Italian restaurant, run by Ecuador-born, Piedmont-raised-and-trained chef Eddy Erazo, offers tremendous value. Crowds swarm Sole di Capri’s dining room at lunch to sup on outstanding pastas and sumptuous vegetable preparations (like zucchini whipped into a velvety purée or roasted and tossed onto an antipasto plate). From a kitchen the size of a bus stop, Erazo flexes his muscles most at night, when patrons are treated to fish and meat entrées like local striped bass and the occasional veal chop. The chef’s desserts are not to be missed, from crunchy biscotti that soak up espresso like a sponge to traditional Italian desserts like pastiera, a soft cake cooked with bulgur wheat, ricotta, and candied fruit. If you need to freshen up, you’ll have to walk up a spiral staircase to reach the bathroom on the other side of the dishwasher, who buffs dinnerware from a cramped terrace. Return to your table and look around the tiled dining room — you’ll feel miles away from downtown Manhattan.
photo by Reimy Gonzalez
Two years after opening his casual Chelsea neighborhood joint the Red Cat, Jimmy Bradley got to work on The Harrison, a refined but straightforward Mediterranean-inspired New American restaurant he was plotting in Tribeca. But right before he opened the doors, 9-11 interrupted. The restaurant was one of the first concepts to make a go of it post-tragedy that fall, which made for a tough start. But Bradley’s vision, executed in the kitchen by rising stars like Joey Campanaro (who would go on to own the Little Owl) and Amanda Freitag (a TV darling who now presides over Empire Diner) was clear, and the Harrison did more than just hold on: It grew into an area stalwart where suits now make deals over New York strips and couples flirt over fresh mozzarella and radishes with bagna cauda. Bradley recently took his own turn helming the burners, but at the beginning of 2013, he installed Ari Bokovza, who’s doing an admirable job of carrying the torch. This is a great place to start dinner with a martini before ambling over to the sizable and well-curated wine list; it’s also one of our favorite spots for a working lunch, especially during the warm months, when we can enjoy toasted couscous and farro salad on the patio.