06 DEC 2018: Many Canadians, including my family members, make an annual trip to New York City around this time of year. Some go to shop and view the legendary Christmas windows at places such as Macy’s Herald Square. (This year's theme “Believe In The Wonder Of Giving,” debuts Sunny the Snowpal.) Others are drawn to Times Square on New Years Eve for the iconic ball drop. My aunts and mother take in theatre shows. All have to eat. So here are some suggestions for those heading to the Big Apple.

At the high end, for a posh meal is Le Bernardin, an elite seafood restaurant under reknown Chef Eric Ripert. It’s my husband’s favourite place to eat in NYC and we always dig deep into our wallets to make the splurge when we’re in town. The Michelin Guide, which made its New York debut in 2005, honoured Chef Ripert and Le Bernardin with its highest rating of three stars that year and each year thereafter. The restaurant ranks 26 on the 2018 World’s 50 Best Restaurants list and in 2017 was ranked #2 in the world and #1 in American on La Liste’s international list of 1,000 restaurants.

While the restaurant is celebrated for its fish dishes, this year when we dined there I decided to try out their vegetarian tasting menu. It elevated plant food to new heights: celery root-black truffle soup, warm artichoke panaché with vegetable risotto and madras curry stew made with cauliflower couscous, romanesco, okra and seasonal vegetables were some of the dishes all paired expertly with wines. www.le-bernardin.com 

We were staying this year at the HGU New York housed in a renovated 1905 landmark Beaux-Arts structure, at 34 East 32nd Street in Manhattan’s NoMad district. As it turned out 32nd Street was in the heart of Koreatown and was chock a block with Korean restaurants. We lined up for a BBQ lunch at Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong, owned by 678 Corporation (Korea’s leading restaurant group) and Korean wrestler and comedian, Kang Ho Dong. The restaurant strives to be the best that Koreatown, New York has to offer and judging by what we ate and comments by our fellow diners, I’d say there’s truth to that claim.

Diners are seated at table top grills designed to cook a variety of popular Korean side dishes (which automatically come with the BBQ meals), such as silky egg custard (gyeranjjim), vegetables and cheesy corn, in the trenches encircling it. We went for the combo of thinly sliced brisket, marinated short rib and prime rib eye. Banchan, the small dishes that arrived in advance of the main event included pickled vegetables, kimchi, greens, tofu and a bean sprout salad.

Our waiter cooked the meats in front of us saving the marinated ribs for last due to their strong (but delicious) flavour of soy sauce, garlic, ginger and other spicing. Baekjeong or “butcher” is all about the meat, and they are very high quality. Perhaps that’s why there is always a line up at this place. Even at lunch the wait was about an hour, but well worth it. www.baekjeongnyc.com 

New York is a melting pot of the world for global cuisines, some fused with unlikely partners such as Korean with a French spin at Soogil in East Village, or Natsumi Tapas in Gramercy Park which melds Japanese with Italian. However I like to enjoy what’s been imported in its purity. Fogo de Chão, a Brazilian steakhouse is one such place.

Located a short walk from Times Square and just steps away from MoMA, it’s the company’s first foray into the Big Apple. The founders of Fogo de Chão grew up on a traditional Southern Brazilian farm in the Serra Gaucha where they learned to cook in the churrasco grilling tradition. Their first restaurant in 1979 was built of a wood structure and nestled in the countryside of Porto Alegre. I experienced the one they opened in Rio when I visited there and it was terrific.

Now they have opened over 30 restaurants in major Brazil and US cities. The one in NYC is a three story, 16,000 square foot flagship with stunning architectural design that includes a seventeen-foot bas-relief sculpture of Antonio Caringi’s, O Laçador, a historical monument in Porto Alegre. There are huge “market tables” to help oneself to hearts of palm, giant asparagus, fresh buffalo mozzarella cheese, sun dried tomatoes, fresh cut and steamed broccoli, marinated artichoke bottoms, tabbouleh, smoked salmon, an assortment of fine cheeses, and much more.

Then throughout the evening, there is a continual service of fire-roasted meats carved tableside by Brazilian trained gaucho chefs, including house specialties like picanha (signature sirloin), filet mignon, ribeye, fraldinha (Brazilian sirloin) cordeiro (lamb) and more. We were given cards to flip from green to red when we had enough. www.fogodechao.com

Of course this being the Big Apple, these are just a bite of what’s available in the city. In September of this year New York City won a total of 50 three-star awards in the 2018 World’s Best Wine Lists Award.  Bar Boulud, Morrell Wine Bar & Café, Terroir and The NoMad Hotel all received the honours in addition to being awarded, respectively: Best Short Wine List in the World; Best By-the Glass Wine List With Coravin (Coravin is a wine preservation system) in the World; Best By-the-Glass Wine List Without Coravin in the World and Best Spirits List in the World. Other New York based three-star winners included: The Modern, Tribeca Grill, Restaurant Marc Forgione, Momofuku Ssàˆm Bar, The Lambs Club, Ai Fiori and Restaurant DANIEL.

The City That Never Sleeps always lives up to its nickname.

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Margaret Swaine

Margaret is a nationally published wine, spirits, food and travel writer, who has authored thousands of articles on these subjects for magazines and newspapers.

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