Which Is the Better Restaurant City for 2017, New York or London?
It’s a debate we generally don’t like to get into: New York versus London.
They’re both vibrant food cities that feature world-class, innovative cooking. But which city comes out ahead in the major trends that we see coming in 2017? Richard Vines, Bloomberg’s London-based chief food critic, compared notes with Bloomberg Pursuits Food Editor Kate Krader.
See if you can guess which city is at the forefront of each trend.
Women Ascendant in the Food World
Restaurants’ kitchens are notoriously male-dominated, but some female superstars have hot debuts this year on both sides of the Atlantic.
Clare Smyth already has three Michelin stars for her time running Gordon Ramsay’s flagship, the first British woman to receive that distinction. Now she’s opening her own 60-seat restaurant in Notting Hill, where she’ll undoubtedly serve her seasonal, modern-European cooking. La Gavroche veteran Monica Galetti, best-known for her appearances on MasterChef, will have a modern-European restaurant in Fitzrovia called Mere, which is Samoan for Mary, Galetti’s mother’s name. (The family theme is strong: Galetti’s husband, David is the sommelier.) Helena Puolakka, who worked with Pierre Koffmann, will open Aster at Nova, Victoria, serving her version of Nordic cuisine in a 10,000-square-foot space. Anne-Sophie Pic, one of the world’s most acclaimed chefs, will have her first London restaurant, La Dame de Pic, at the new Four Seasons Trinity Square.
Melissa Rodriguez will take over the grand Italian restaurant Del Posto, becoming the first woman to run a kitchen given four stars by the New York Times. “We’ll be modernizing a lot of our classics,” Rodriguez says over email. “For example, the Vitello Tonnato is going to have a lighter sauce, and the veal will be cooked differently. The whole presentation is going to change.”
Pan Asian Cooking
It will be a great year for cuisines from around Asia. We’re not talking about Asian fusion; rather, the range of the cuisines.
The wonderful new The Kiln is a Thai restaurant with deeply flavorful dishes like turmeric-spiced smoked sausages cooked on the grill in front of you as you sit at the counter. The crowdfunded Som Saa, meanwhile, features Thai food, but the focus is regional. Duck Duck Goose, a Cantonese eatery featuring BBQ meats, will open in Brixton.
There’s likewise excellent flavor-packed, authentic Thai food at Fish Cheeks in Greenwich Village, including fiery crab curry. Koreatown has been booming with modern places like the groovy Her Name Is Han and Atoboy, where they specialize in small plates. In the spring, Dale Talde will introduce food a menu with plenty of Filipino dishes at Rice & Gold in Hotel 50 Bowery NYC.
Winner: New York. London is renowned for its ethnic restaurants, but New York has stepped up its game in a big way.
Politics these days has become all about the rise of anti-globalization. Not so in the world of restaurants, where chefs and restaurateurs are making major efforts to bring their concepts across borders.
One of the city’s biggest openings: Star New York chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten comes to the Connaught hotel in Mayfair; he promises his version of casual dining. Marcus Samuelsson brings his Harlem-based restaurant Red Rooster to east London’s hip Shoreditch neighborhood, where several signature dishes will be on the menu. Surely fried yardbird will be one. At the Intercontinental London Park Lane, Martha Ortiz will serve sophisticated Mexican cuisine. Expect beautiful dishes similar to those she serves at Dulce Patria in Mexico City.
The world’s cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant, Tim Ho Wan, has opened, and there is a continuous line for the stellar dim sum. The chain has multiple locations in Asia. The city’s Chinese food scene got a dramatic boost with the opening of Hao Noodle and Tea by Madame Zhu’s Kitchen, a transplant from China. The picture menu boasts dishes like dan dan noodles. Former Hong Kong residents say it reminds them of their old home. In the summer, the uber French chef Joël Robuchon will open a restaurant as well as a market in Midtown.
The trend of well-made, casual food, often created by star chefs, shows no signs of abating. This is not your standard fast food; instead it’s cooking that you might see in a high-end dining room but that doesn’t cost more than about $20.
The no-reservations Popolo in Shoreditch has an Italian-esque tapas menu and dishes like lamb shoulder with saffron and wild fennel that’s less than £10 ($12). At the subterranean Chick ’n’ Sours at Seven Dials, the focus is fried chicken. They use free-range birds from family farms for a generous house fry with watermelon pickles, which costs all of £9. Jean-Georges says his menu at the Connaught will be casual, but we’re skeptical. It’s a hotel that practically screams old-world elegance.
The inimitable Eleven Madison Park’s Daniel Humm, whose tasting menu is $295, will serve dishes like confit pork with quinoa for $15 or less at Made Nice. Mark Ladner is leaving Del Posto (see the women ascendant section above); at Pasta Flyer he plans expertly cooked bowls of... pasta. Mexican chef Enrique Olvera, whose restaurant Cosme won rave reviews for its brilliant modern dishes, will have a casual place tentatively called Atla.
Winner: New York. Just check out the caliber of chefs at the stoves at these fast casual spots.
On the other hand. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is closing in on a record-setting 20,000. So perhaps it’s no surprise that the price of a good entrée is edging up too, and some tasting menus are going into the stratosphere.
At Elystan Street, roast bass with shrimp butter is £38. A tasting menu at Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner is now £225, and the wine pairing is another £130. There’s no menu yet for the restaurant Claude Bosi, who earned two Michelin stars at Hibiscus, is installing in the landmark Bibendum building, but we’re confident that it will fall into this category.
At the Time Warner Center, the tasting menu at Masa is now $595 per person. The price of the Sole Veronice at Le Coucou is $48. The revamped classic bar Chumley’s has a Dungeness crab pot pie for $45. Not in New York, but drinkers take note: The brand new Trump International Washington, D.C., hotel has priced its cocktails starting at $24, and there’s one for $100.
Winner: New York. After all, we’re the one with the sky-rocketing Dow.