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No more shivering in leaky tents! No more endless schleps to the toilets!
The whole scene is raging back to life now that places can serve at 50 percent capacity – a big bump-up from previous 25 and 35 percent limits – and until 11 p.m., one hour later than before.
The renewed energy’s everywhere following the worst year in the city’s restaurant history. Two new, major league eateries have already opened their doors for the first time: Israeli-inspired Dagon on the Upper West Side and Indian-themed Sona in Flatiron. Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s fabulous Fulton on Pier 17 reopened indoors and out. A beautiful new Sant Ambroeus outpost bowed at Brookfield Place across town.
Soon to come is a parade of major relaunches in April or soon after – Tavern on the Green, Rue 57 and Dirty French among them.
But the biggest news might be the returns of two different kinds of landmarks – culinary and social lodestone Balthazar, and designated city landmark Loeb Boathouse. They have only one thing in common: unlike places that offered outdoor dining, both fell entirely dark when the shutdown began in March 2020 and stayed that way until now.
Here’s a tasty look at recent or imminent indoor reopenings.
Soho lost its soul when Keith McNally’s grand brasserie went dark one year ago. It reopened on March 24 for dinner nightly from 5-10 p.m. Brunch starts March 27 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends and lunch resumes March 31 from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday to Friday. For the first time since Balthazar opened in 1997, you can enjoy steak frites and other house classics alfresco in a row of burgundy tents in the street. But most of us prefer the all-weather comfort of red leather banquettes and brass trim, which gleamed anew on Wednesday night.
Balthazar, 80 Spring St.; 212-965-1414
When the most romantic setting in town closed in March 2020, we lost the pleasure of four-season lakeside American dining with unsurpassed views. Owner Dean Poll made good on a promise to revive it and it reopens on March 29. There’s no better front-row seat on the greening and blossoming of spring. It will be lunch only at first – Monday-Friday, noon to 4 p.m. (reservations taken) and Saturday and Sunday brunch 9:30 a.m-4 p.m. (no reservations, seating is first come, first serve). At dinner, sauteed sea scallops or red wine-braised short ribs are ideal sustenance while watching the lake’s Venetian gondola go by. For lunch, it’s the Boathouse Burger with hand-cut fries, “cast-iron” onions and thick-cut tomato.
Loeb Boathouse, Central Park, Park Drive North at East 72d Street; 212-517-2233
Eric Ripert and Maguy Le Coze’s three-Michelin-star seafood palace is back for the first time since last fall. It gamely endured 25 percent capacity until Gov. Cuomo pulled the indoor plug for a second time on Dec. 11. But with a 10 p.m. curfew, it had to abbreviate many-course meals into an uncomfortably tight time frame. Now it’s back at nearly full-bore with 50 percent capacity and service until a more relaxed 11 p.m. Prices ticked up: the nightly changing four-course prix fixe, previously $175, is now $180 ($5 from each meal is donated to City Harvest). It’s divided as always into “almost raw,” “barely touched” and “lightly cooked” categories, plus dessert. The chef’s tasting menu, previously $228, is now $275 per person – but it’s longer and “more luxurious,” Ripert promised.
Le Bernardin, 155 W. 51st St.; 212-554-1515
L’Avenue at Saks
The fashion emporium’s sleek two-level, Paris-inspired, Asian-influenced restaurant has reopened for lunch only (Monday-Sunday, 11:30 a.m.-4 p.m., brunch menu on Sunday). The Le Chalet eighth-floor lounge will become a second dining room in order to spread out customers. Alfresco terrace seats overlooking Rockefeller Center are also available first come, first serve. It’s no ordinary department store restaurant. The menu boasts a fine dim sum dumpling assortment, hearty rigatoni with morel mushrooms and sizzling Tom Yam chili sea bass.
L’Avenue at Saks, Saks Fifth Avenue, 8 E. 50th St.; 212-940-4099
Momofuku Noodle Bar Uptown
The specials board panels above the open kitchen are merrily flipping again to announce daily menu additions at David Chang’s ramen-centric uptown outpost, which is located at the Time Warner Center and is open Wednesday-Sunday, noon-8 p.m. (takeout only on Monday and Tuesday.) It’s a welcome lift for the too-quiet southern end of the mall’s third floor. Crackling seared shrimp with spicy mayo is a fantastic $12 bargain. Smoked pork, my favorite ramen choice, is just $18 and enough for two. Momofuku Noodle Bar in the East Village is also back with a similar but not identical menu.
Momofuku Noodle Bar Uptown, Time Warner Center, 3rd Fl., 10 Columbus Circle.; 646-918-8752
Ken Aretsky’s classy, clubby home to classic American dishes re-awakens March 30 from a long indoor snooze. It’s a brave reopening in Midtown East, which is still unnaturally quiet. Dinner only Tuesday through Saturday, 5-11 p.m. Once regarded mainly as a steakhouse, Patroon boasts first-rate seafood such as pan-roasted halibut and grilled Atlantic salmon. Of course there’s nothing wrong with 35-day dry-aged sirloin, either.
Patroon, 160 E. 46th St.; 212-883-7373
Danny Meyer’s beloved institution is back with lunch Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m., and dinner seven days, 4:30-9 p.m. There are salads and sandwiches in the casual front Tavern section, but the atmospheric main dining room’s the act to catch. The $134, three-course menu (no a la carte) highlights such favorites as ruby red shrimp with broccoli and farro and sumptuous pork loin and belly.
Gramercy Tavern, 42 E. 20th St.; 212-477-0777
After months of intermittent outdoor openings and closings, Alfred Portale’s fine contemporary-Italian favorite is back for good with both dining room and alfresco seating. The hearty menu’s mostly the same including famous cavatelli arrabbiata with cilantro pesto. Herb-crusted merluzzo (cod) with steamed mussels in saffron-tomato broth perfectly mixes and marries all the flavors
Portale, 126 W. 18th St.; 917-781-0255