Back in the Midtown groove
RESTAURANTS • First Person
In the late ’90s, working in Midtown, our office’s fancy lunch (on someone else’s expense account) was Docks, a stalwart white linen seafood grill on 3rd Ave.
With no disrespect to Docks (where I dined quite successfully last year), Midtown’s lunch options have since leveled up — especially where seafood’s concerned, as I found on a Midtown dining mini-odyssey last week.
→ To kick things off: Monday business lunch at POINT SEVEN (above), an ambitious new entry in these waters, tucked into the west side of Grand Central Station. It’s an appealing restaurant, decorated in warm wood and blue oceanic tones — but make sure you’re seated in the front room, which looks out onto the bustle of Vanderbilt Ave., and not the windowless (and vibeless) back room. The lunch rush filled half the place. Too bad, because chef/partner Franklin Becker was in the kitchen, an impressive showing during a Monday lunch service for a busy chef (see also, his newish The Press Club Grill in Herald Square). The food on our table — a luxe lobster roll, mussels, and a simply grilled red snapper — clicked for all in our group.
→ Two days later, just a little after noon, I walked off of West 51st St. and into LE BERNARDIN, a perk of living in New York if there ever was one. Only two of the dozen or so tables in the casual, no-reservations lounge were taken. The bar (above), where I sat, was half full of tourists.
A top joy of dining solo: ambient eavesdropping. The man sitting to my right wanted to know how he could get a reservation for next December “without going online.” (Bartender: ask the maitre’d for their card on the way out.) The couple at the end of the bar were on their way to see Spamalot, $90 for front-row tickets during Broadway Week.
For about the same price, I ordered Le Bernardin's three-course City Harvest Menu, a lounge special, which brought me a rich Maine lobster bisque, superb; perfectly cooked striped bass, served with fennel and leek compote in a shallow bouillabaisse; and a pistachio praline dessert that, once cracked open, revealed a soft Grand Marnier mousse, a true delight. New Yorkers! Le Bernardin is here for you too, not just that couple visiting from Boston.
→ The next day, at my final Midtown lunch of the week, I discovered where all the locals are found midday: ESTIATORIO MILOS on West 55th. The Greek seafood restaurant, a Montreal import that arrived stateside in 1997, has spread itself now to Hudson Yards, Las Vegas, Dubai, and beyond. Here at the flagship, it was absolutely packed just after noon as I grabbed a first-come-first-served bar seat and listened to the loud hum of business getting done. For my order, off a sizable Restaurant Week menu ($45 per), a starter of grilled calamari stuffed with cheese, a main of butterflied fish of the day (branzino), and a savory cake dessert, all spot on.
By the end of my meal at Milos, the crowd waiting to be seated had swelled 20-deep, and the two men to my left were discussing their compensation packages. Midtown, still very much itself. –Lockhart Steele