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Posts from the ‘financial district’ Category

SUteiShi: Upscale Sushi Comes to the Seaport

Sushi spots are as common in Manhattan as delis and pizza parlors, peppering blocks from Tribeca to Spanish Harlem. Yet, as most of us know, how good a sushi place is can vary from divine to truly abominable. Tomoe Sushi, Sushi Yasuda, the big box spots like Megu and Nobu – these names are well known as the city’s top spots to get fresh fish. Now, there’s another name to consider: SUteiShi, a modern and expensive newcomer to the South Street Seaport.

On a quiet cobblestoned street with views of the Brooklyn Bridge, SUteiShi is a modestly-sized two room sushi star that you would only stumble upon if you were expressly looking for it. The front room is contemporary and cool with large airy windows, modern chandeliers, and blue tone walls; the back room is firey red with dark wood tables spilling through open french doors onto the sidewalk and a petite sushi bar. The looks are different, but the feel is the same – upscale, relaxed, and simple.

Like most serious sushi restaurants though, the decor comes a distant second to the quality of the food. And at SUteiShi, where the grub comes for top dollar, you get what you pay for. The sushi and sashimi is super fresh; the big eye tuna is so tender and buoyant that it melts in your mouth; the mackerel is slightly chewy, with a salty skin and soft underbelly; the toro is good enough for swooning, supple and mellow-flavored, utterly luxurious in an otherwise standard maki roll; salmon is bright pink and moist – no dry orange crap here; mild white fluke comes thin and ‘fusion-style’ with rich purply plum sauce. Aside from classic sushi and sashimi menus, SUteiShi offers a plethora of complex ‘belly-licious’ special rolls, ranging from the ‘Blue Lagoon’ with portabello mushroom tempura, campyo and eel on top to the ‘Angelfish,’ a delightful spicy white tuna roll with mango and white tuna on top to the SUteiShi Pearl, a rich roll stuffed with fried oysters, spicy mayo, and kani on top.

While the name clearly indicates a passion for sushi, SUteiShi also offers hot dishes, including noodles, teriyaki, grilled black cod with miso, tempura, and soups. The Kakiage Udon, a soup noodle dish, stands out with plump udon noodles, a delightful savory broth, and an utterly scrumptious white fish and shrimp pancake that’s meant to be crushed and sprinkled over the soup. While good and belly-warming, I’d still recommend sticking with what SUteiShi does best: sushi.

While not as well known as Tomoe or Sushi Yasuda or as over the top as Masa, SUteiShi shows that you can be both the new underdog on the sushi scene (with a rather out of the way location) and pretty freaking wonderful. Service can be uneven, so don’t expect a quick in-and-out, but trust me when I say that what SUteiShi has to offer is worth the wait.

Perfect For: business lunch, fresh fish all week long, top-notch sushi without the wait, dining solo, scoping out FiDi’s surprisingly good-looking populace, sake shenanigans, sushi-lovers date night

SUteiShi on Urbanspoon


Smorgas Chef: Certainly Beats Ikea

Ikea first introduced me to Swedish food and more specifically Swedish meatballs. Perhaps this is slightly pathetic, that my pioneer experience with Scandinavian cuisine took place in the scenic big box discount furniture store; however, it got me hooked on the wonder of Swedish meatballs. Smorgas Chef, a Swedish restaurant with locations on Wall Street, in the West Village, and in New York’s Scandinavia House, shows that while Ikea offers incredible value, there is far more to Swedish cooking than meatballs.
The financial district location is on picturesque Stone Street, across from Ulysses, Burger Burger, and an intriguing new Mexican spot. Easily distinguished by its cheery yellow facade, Smorgas Chef is surprisingly charming and intimate, despite its suited-up Wall Street clientele. The interior space is limited yet very cozy, decorated tastefully with kitschy-cute Swedish touches; pendant lamps of aquavit bottles hang over tables for two in the windows; both modern and traditional art by Scandinavian artists line the exposed brick walls; a small bar offers Scandinavian, Dutch, and German beers on tap; the obviously Scandinavian waitstaff almost seem to be part of the scenery. In the summer, Smorgas Chef joins the picnic table melee Stone Street is known for, offering its own set of communal tables on the cobblestones.
The menu sticks to regional traditions with everything from herring with mustard sauce to Norwegian salmon to gravlax platters to, of course, Swedish meatballs. A smorgas board option allows you to sample the area’s greatest hits in one go. Just plain satisfying, the food is simple and delicious with big bold flavors and hearty portions. The meatballs are bite-size, well-seasoned, and so tender on the inside; the lingonberry sauce is sweet and tangy, perfect for sopping up with bread; the salmon, a bright pinky coral color, is incredibly fresh, moist, and well-prepared; while certainly an acquired taste, the herring came prepared three ways and, for those who liked herring at the table, was their favorite dish. To a very diverse group of 9, the classic and accessible food at Smorgas Chef was universally liked.
Smorgas Chef is a welcome change of pace from the pub grub joints that dominate Stone Street. It is warm and welcoming, cozy, intimate, and a great dining option for all kinds of stripes.
Perfect For: business lunches, doing something different, satisfying meatball cravings (without taking the Water Taxi), meeting Scandinavian folk, staying cozy on cold nights, late in the game dates

Smorgas Chef Wall Street on Urbanspoon

SHO Shaun Hergatt: I Need a Thesaurus. Now.

Luxurious. Over-the-top. Opulent. Extravagant. (Just like this long review.)

All of the above words describe The Setai’s relatively new restaurant in the Financial District. Perched in an expansive space on the second floor of the luxe hotel, SHO Shaun Hergatt brings refined fine dining to Wall Street that isn’t garbed as a steakhouse. The emphasis is as much on the look of the place as on the extremely haute cuisine prepared by Austrialian up-and-comer Shaun Hergatt.

Sleek and contemporary, SHO Shaun Hergatt is divided into a bar, a lounge, a wine room, a main dining room, and an ‘open kitchen.’ After approaching the hostess stand at the end of a moody red corridor, you encounter the glittering bar with impeccably dressed bartenders waiting quietly for your cocktail order. The lounge bumps shoulders with the bar showcasing windows looking out over Broad St, low slinky sofas, cocktail tables for two, and plenty of space to hobnob with power players. Through the lounge, you’re taken down a corridor lined with wine bottles, all encased behind plate glass. A long and narrow pool of water extends down the center of the corridor, reminiscent of a wishing well. The wine passage has a table off to the side for private dining and wine dinners.

The main dining room itself is modern and sultry with scarlet walls and East Asian art, Sanskrit writings, and abstract sculpture. On the far end of the dining room, more plate glass exposes the bustling and industrial kitchen. White table cloth tables and large leather chairs you can sink into add the necessary touches of luxury to this newly-minted Michelin 1-star restaurant.

The food is modern French influenced by Asian flavors. It is complex, unusual, and beautifully presented. Focus is not only on how good the food is but also on how good it looks. The lunch menu offers the choice between a 3-course prix-fixe for $30 or the far more expensive a la carte menu. Unless you’re looking for a gut-busting wallet-destroying power lunch, the constantly rotating prix-fixe is by far a better deal.

The 3 colleagues and I all opted for the prix-fixe menu, starting off with a chilled pea soup with morels and mint and the Austrialian Hiramasa carpaccio. The soup was perfect for summer and ill-fitted for winter/spring. Cool and refreshing, it was delicate and soft, utterly lacking in anything potent or bold. The Hiramasa carpaccio was also delicate with mellow fish, flat-tasting accoutrements, and a tasty wakame puree. Both options walked the line between very good and average, lacking in anything truly memorable.

For the second course, we got the Artichoke Ravioli and the Poussin. Finally, in the ravioli, were there savory pronounced flavors. Slinky and slippery ravioli shells were stuffed with red peppers and coated in an addictive puree that could have consisted of anything from peas to more artichokes to spinach and anything in between. While not mind-blowing, it was a satisfying pasta dish. The poussin was the main event, delicately wrapped and de-boned, served with crispy coxcomb; it was mellow, juicy, subtlely flavorful, and a lovely example of the type of elegant food SHO Shaun Hergatt prides itself in. The third-course desserts were what one should really write home about though – gorgeously constructed without a single element out of place, these pieces of art looked just too pretty to eat. Of course, this did nothing to stop me, and thank god for that – the desserts were just perfect. In each intricate dish, the kitchen did nothing but blend gorgeously sweet, savory and salty together with bursts of citrus, chocolate, and ginger.

In such an haute restaurant, the service can be nothing but pristine – and so it was. Pretentious and tight-lipped, the wait staff moved like a well-oiled machine and practiced classic table service etiquette (such as serving plates over the left shoulder). Staff seemed to wordlessly intuit when a water glass needed to be filled or more bread was wanted.

SHO Shaun Hergatt withholds nothing and yet is as reserved and coiffed as restaurants come. No expense is spared (and is kindly reflected in the ludicrously expensive cuisine), and each guest lavished with attention. Despite it’s urbane modernity, SHO Shaun Hergatt reflects back to an era of fancy restaurants with fancy people, fancy looks, and fancy good that often seems these days to be long-gone.

Perfect For: gut-busting and wallet-busting dinners, deal-making lunches, special occasions, impressing out-of-town food fanatics

SHO Shaun Hergatt on Urbanspoon

Battery Gardens: More Beauty Than Brains

Battery Gardens is like that attractive man you see from across the bar that becomes decidedly less appealing as soon as he opens his mouth and inanity comes pouring out. It is a drop-dead gorgeous restaurant with arguably one of the best views in Manhattan, and yet the food is mediocre.

The airy space sits right in Battery Park, overlooking the water, Ellis Island, and the Statue of Liberty. Not a tree, not a waving human lady liberty obstructs the pristine view. Imagine the disappointment when the food is anything less than extraodinary – talk about wasted potential! The all-white dining room with floor-to-ceiling windows facing the bay is punctuated by extravagant and vibrant bouquets of violet flowers; luxurious fabric-draped chandeliers hang softly from the high ceilings; white fabric chairs at white table-clothed tables with small twinkling white tealight candles set a serene and pristine mood.

The cuisine is eclectic modern American with everything from spaghetti bolognese and wood-oven thin-crust pizzas to miso-glazed cod to lamb loin with dried fruit rice pilaf. Perhaps the over-extended menu should have been an immediate tip-off; it lacks focus and clarity. Mis-matched influences from continental Europe, the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and as far reaching as East Asia create muddy and confused flavors and prevent proper and razor-sharp execution of dishes.

My party of 8 ordered everything from the roasted lamb loin to the miso-crusted cod to the asparagus risotto, pasta bolognese, and poached salmon. The dishes were met with lukewarm praise. The roasted lamb was large enough to feed an army and a touch too sweet with dried fruit pilaf and natural jus; the miso cod was strangely over-cooked with an armor-like miso crust, wilted vegetables, and jasmine rice that was too al dente for my tastes; the poached salmon blended earthy flavors with those of the sea, a bizarre and perhaps unwelcome combination – morel mushrooms and english peas with a flat unappetizingly grey piece of poached salmon? The pasta dishes fared better with a basic savory pasta bolognese that featured out of a jar sauce (not untasty, but for $20, you’ve got to be kidding me) and a goopy soupy and delicious play on asparagus risotto.

Battery Gardens features prices matched to the view instead of the food and service worthy of a 5-star restaurant (which makes the 2/3-star cuisine even harder to understand). If you’re willing to sacrifice what you’re ingesting for the majestic beauty of water views in Manhattan, Battery Gardens is your place.

Perfect for: business lunches, boozy after-work drinks, summertime patio dates

Battery Gardens on Urbanspoon

Burger Burger: Wall Street’s Patty Fix

Burger Burger cheekily explains its name with “so good we named it twice.” And this Wall Street quick stop favorite isn’t kidding. Their burgers are flat-out fantastic. Just outside Goldman Sachs on the corner of Stone Street, this burger joint successfully delivers the American classic with pizzazz.

The look is retro diner, but with just a few stools in the window, it’s highly unlikely you’ll snag a table. Don’t worry, eat like Wall Street does and just take it back to your desk. Feeling rebellious? Nab a table outside in good weather and watch the suits whiz by.

In case it needed explaining, the focus here is on burgers. The options are extensive, ranging from the classic 6 oz. Angus Beef Burger plain and simple to the The New Yorker with swiss cheese, sauteed mushrooms, onionsn and sour cream, the Mexican with pepper jack, guacamole and jalapenos, the Texas BBQ with smoked barbeque sauce and melted blue cheese, and the Bill Burger with American cheese, sauteed onions, and horseradish cream all on an English muffin. Speciality burgers such as the Bison Burger with grilled red onions and tomatoes and the 10oz Angus Stone Street Burger are offered alongside daily specials (think: Spicy Lamb Burger with cucumber yogurt sauce, Ultimate Stuffed Burger – a 6oz patty stuffed full with bacon bits, BBQ sauce, and a cheese blend, or the Aussie Burger with grilled tomato, beets, fried egg, and special sauce).

Other options are offered like a Cajun Chicken Wrap, chicken tenders, homemade chili, Nathan’s hotdogs, and ‘low-carb platters’, but why you would head to Burger Burger for something other than a patty slapped between two buns is beyond me. While my personal favorite is the classic bacon cheeseburger with pepperjack, you really can’t go wrong with the myriad of varieties offered. Everything is customizable in terms of toppings and buns (whole wheat, brioche, kaiser, and english muffin), so you can have your burger just the way you like it.

Burger Burger caters to those in a hurry, allowing you to order in advance for pickup. It’s perfect for a quick and satisfying lunch, especially for burger fanatics like myself. Arguably the best burger in the Financial District, it’s only real competition is from healthy outlet Zaitzeff.

Burger Burger on Urbanspoon

Ulysses: Invincible on Stone Street

Ulysses: epic, a great Greek hero storied through the ages, many a-statue made for him

Ulysses: Financial District bar, epic happy hour, a great hero to burnt-out and stressed-out Wall Streeters

Two sides of the same coin. Ulysses, the maddeningly popular beer & pubgrub spot on Stone Street, is the go-to for downtown after-work beers, hearty brunch south of Fulton, and a packed spot to hide your sorrows from a day of market losses. It is dark and twisty with two irritatingly set-up rooms full of obstacles. The bar room is about 70% bar and 30% space. A large oval bar sits squat in the middle of the room while clusters of suits pad the exterior and jostle for space near the tap. A few wooden booths sit pretty above the chaos – impossible to snag except in off-hours or by early-birds. The ‘dining’ room features a buffet at brunch and a kitchen every other time, tall bar tables, and a few booths for the lucky. The whole feel is ‘old-school’ – a dark wooden conservative den for stock brokers and bankers to relish in with pints and whiskeys neat.

It’s a UK-twinged gastropub with a mixed menu of American favorites, Greek classics (it is named after Odysseus for goodness sake), and English/Irish/Scottish-inspired ‘traditions’. Think lollipop lamb chops in an Irish mustard sauce (question: what exactly makes this mustard sauce Irish? is it green?), Shephard’s pie, and bangers & mash mixed with the Ulysses’ Gyro, Aegean salad, and a soft lobster roll. Eclectic, no? It’s meant to appeal to the lowest common denominator, and there’s is absolutely something here for everyone.

Stick with the basics – they’re hearty and satisfying. Better than your average diner food, not quite as good as many of the gastropubs popping up around New York. Recommended dishes include the sirloin burger (hulking, intimidating, gooey with char, messy in a great way) with a spray of crispy salty fries, the fish & chips with a light flaky batter, anything from the unique Daily Carvery that serves hot and juicy cut meat, and the grilled steak sandwich on a crispy baguette with melty cheese and mushrooms. The raw bar is also pretty impressive with oysters, clams, shrimp, and lobster.

If you’re not eating, enjoy the wonderful beer selection, offering everything from your standard Bud Light to large format Chimays, foreign bottled varieties like Duvel, Red Stripe, and Kronenbourg, and seasonal selections like Germany’s Augustiner, Lindeman’s Lambic Framboise, and Lagunitas IPA. You like beer? You’ll like this selection – it’s accessible yet filled with connoisseurs’ favorites.

Depending on the day and the time, Ulysses can range from a rowdy happy hour spot to a relaxing place where you can enjoy a quiet beer to a grand ole’ party of epic proportions. In the summer, the party spills out onto Stone Street where beer garden like tables and tents are set-up on the cobblestones. It is a neighborhood go-to for those living far downtown and an after-work hotspot that almost every employee at Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs or the New York Stock Exchange can say they’ve been to at some point or another.

Ulysses on Urbanspoon

Haru: Overpriced Sushi for the Masses

There are really only two reasons for why you should ever end up at Haru: 1) you’re hosting a business lunch that needs name-brand recognition, high prices, and space for groups or 2) you’re a tourist and might not know better.

If you work in finance in New York, you’re probably intimately familiar with Haru – a favorite for business lunchers in midtown and the financial district alike, this mass-market but ‘upscale’ sushi chain offers reliably average Japanese food in a clean, contemporary, and slightly showy environment. The menu is a greatest hits anthology of ‘modern’ Americanized Japanese food – think: basic sushi rolls, rock shrimp tempura, yakitori, shumai, spring rolls, fried calamari, chilean sea bass or black cod, and chicken teriyaki. None of the food is bad, none of the food is remarkable.

In a city with a sushi den on every corner, Haru blatantly overcharges for average cuisine (read: $15-18 for ‘special sushi rolls’ and $20 for shrimp/vegetable tempura). The sushi is good yet by no means the freshest; the entrees lack inspiration; the appetizers please bland palates but not much else. Haru has made sushi mass-market popular cuisine with little finesse. It is made to accommodate the lowest common denominator in diners (hence, the popularity with business groups seeking anything that will please all tastes).

Unless you have a very good reason for dining at Haru (like a lunch with clients from out-of-town or a large private event or a birthday party with upwards of 15 people), try some of the other wonderful and innovative sushi spots in the city like Tomoe, Jewel Bako, Soto, Sushi Yasuda, Sushi-Ann, or Yama on Carmine. Even some of the big box Japanese eateries like Nobu and Megu offer fresher fish, finer cuisine, and more original fare. Consider Haru a fallback, a “in a desperate situation” sort of place that will always be there, sparkling and schmancy, for you in your time of need.

Haru on Urbanspoon

Haru Wall Street on Urbanspoon