The Shop at Andaz Fifth Avenue: Style, With Some Substance


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As hotel restaurants go, the shop at Andaz Fifth Avenue tries pretty hard.

Determined to cast itself as a New York restaurant, it likes to broadcast just how local it is. Its Web site rattles off a litany of New York purveyors — eggs hail from Feather Ridge Farm in the Hudson Valley; lox comes from Russ & Daughters on Manhattan's Lower East Side, which has been providing New Yorkers with smoked fish since 1914. And there's even a self-conscious little area that sells snacks made by small, lesser-known brands in New York.

This is all in line with the in-the-know feel that the hotel, part of Hyatt Hotels & Resorts' chain of boutique properties, tries to give off. It's a pretentiousness you can already sense from the fact that it is the shop — spelled all lowercase, the hotel insists — and not, well, The Shop. (You'll have to check out my review of the hotel in the New York Times Travel section for more on this Andaz.)

How would the food stack up against all this posing? We decided to find out …

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Hotel Delmano: The Last Toast of Summer


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Labor Day weekend in the City and it can feel as if the world has fled to the beach.

For the less privileged, this is prime playtime in New York, however — packed restaurants are emptier, exclusive bars suddenly become accessible.

With Hurricane Earl nowhere in sight, the sky is a saturated cerulean; a light breeze cuts through the waning warmth. We are in Williamsburg, my writer friend Mr. B and I, for an afternoon of nursing our disappointments at not being at a beach ourselves. But mostly, to catch up on this Writing thing that we do.

“I want you to check out this bar,” he says, “I think you’d really like it.”

And so we find ourselves sliding into seats outside the Hotel Delmano, watching the too-hip rompers and ankle boots and tousled-just-so hairdos amble by.

The thing here is the cocktails. It’s mid-afternoon — but a holiday weekend, we reason — so we decide to oblige …

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The Breslin: Gastropub, Grown Up


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This is the sort of restaurant that The Breslin is: You will arrive on a Monday night to find the restaurant full and the bar jammed with the studiedly — and also studly — casual set. The wait, they will say, is 45 minutes to an hour.

You have a drink, some snacks and 45 minutes go by. An hour passes. There is still no word — even though a stroll through the dining room shows that there are not one, not two, but a few tables that have been sitting empty for a bit.

At almost 90 minutes, it’s getting a little tiresome. Nearby Koreatown is starting to look like a surer bet for dinner — but just as you start to gesture toward your bar waitress for the check, you spy her spotting you and then sprinting over to the hostess for a quick discussion. Faster than you can say “Check, please,” the hostess is by your side, telling you that now, there is a table open.

You consider leaving because, well, this is all a little bizarre. But you decide to stay — and it’s a good thing you do because what’s on the dinner menu, it turns out, is worth waiting for.

But you really wouldn’t expect anything less or different from owners of the Spotted Pig, the small West Village gastropub that quickly became the place for Leonardo DiCaprio spottings when it first opened in 2004. 

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Terzo Piano: Where Chicago Is The Art


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Terzo Piano is a restaurant that literally makes your heart skip a beat the moment you walk in.

With its high ceilings, crisp, white furniture, spare decor
and wall of glass windows providing a sweeping view of Chicago old and
new, it’s the embodiment and reflection of the city’s stunning Mies van der Rohe-infused skyline.

On a clear day, when light is pouring in, sending angular shadows shooting across the pristine, gleaming furniture, the space is just breath-taking. This restaurant, which just opened in the Art Institute of Chicago’s modern wing in May, truly does the city justice.

All of this, of course, combines to set some incredibly high expectations for the food itself.

But that, it turns out, is another story.

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Chilled Soup: Those Healing Green Beans


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The Chinese in Singapore are big believers in the healing properties of soups — specifically, “heaty” and “cooling” soups, which either add fire to your body or cool it down, getting just the right balance of Yin and Yang. 

I know it’s sacrilege to say this — and I can already hear the clucking of my Mum and aunts who might actually read this — but I don’t give two hoots about heaty or cooling.

The most important question for me always is, “Does it taste good?”

And with green bean soup, the answer is: Yes, oh yes.

Despite my love for this sweet soup, I’ve never known how to make it. So, when my Let’s Lunch friends, a group of intrepid cooks spread across two continents who’ve been staging virtual lunchdates, suggested that we make a chilled soup for our next meal, I jumped at the excuse to learn my mother’s recipe.

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