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Le Rock, whenever you fancy
RESTAURANTS • First Person
From a two-top in the corner of Le Rock on a recent Wednesday evening, I admired the thrum of a NYC restaurant in peak form. It was late September, the room was packed, alive — the city back at full throttle for fall. I also took the moment to appreciate how I got there: by the grace of a 7p reservation, procured two days earlier, simply by clicking on an available time slot.
For those among us who sometimes feel out of it when it comes to accessing what’s new and cool in New York — new parents, those launching new ventures, the Skadden partner I was dining with — an NYC hack: instead of banging your head against the wall attempting to book this fall’s hot new restaurants, set your sights on last fall’s hot new restaurants, most of which are better after a year of seasoning, anyway.
Take Le Rock. Last September, landing a primetime table at the hot Rock Center newcomer (from the team behind Tribeca’s Frenchette) took serious advance planning, or a well-timed text to a connection. One friend enlisted me to help him set up a birthday dinner there, a feat we managed to pull off, not without expensing some dignity. Fortunately, the meal was worth it.
And it still is. Back at Le Rock for my first visit since January, we couldn’t resist dishes that have quickly become classics: leeks vinaigrette, escargots, bison au poivre, duck aux epices. (A friend who’s a Le Rock regular recommends the more recently debuted sweetbreads starter with crawfish etouffee, and for a main course, the tuna with jamon.)
Roughly one year in, it’s finally time to acknowledge that the somewhat-derided remake of Rockefeller Center by developer Tishman Speyer has shown haters the door: it totally worked. The five hot-last-year restaurants at Rock Center are still worth your time (clip and save The Nines at the end of this email). And for those who think the subterranean locations just don’t work for Jupiter, Naro, et al.: agree to disagree. One of the nicest meals I had last winter was a late lunch in Jupiter’s dining room, gazing out on folks skating eye-level with me on the Rockefeller Center rink.
I’m overdue to return. –Lockhart Steele