Opened in 1973, the Kitano Hotel received a key from Mayor John Lindsay for being "the first Japanese-owned facility of its kind in New York." From 1991-1995, the hotel closed its doors for a complete overhaul of the exterior and interior. Stepping inside its doors, I could not help but have a feeling of calm settle over me as I received a warm reception from members of the staff. The simply decorated room with high-ceilings, clean lines, a magnificent floral display and beautiful art on the walls, immediately created an international and elegant appeal.
Although the main entrance is on Park Avenue, Jazz at Kitano can be accessed either through the lobby or its own doors on 38th. Both the restaurant and hotel feature museum-quality art works including Fernando Botero, Paul Jenkins, Red Grooms, Ed Baynard and photographers Joel Greenberg and Henri Silberman. We found Jenkins' painting hanging above the bar, entitled Phenomena Seen Not Heard (2004), to be particularly stunning. What a wonderful atmosphere for live music and jazz rhythms, which are played almost every night of the week.
A giant rhomboid patterned installation hovers just below the ceiling, slithering enormously down the back wall and giving the impression of being inside a dimly lit, atmospheric basilisk. Browns, oranges, and tans, along with natural greens of bamboo lining the walls, make for an incredibly pleasant dining experience. The sushi and the crispy rice are well-regarded, and deservedly so. The chic restaurant first opened its doors in Los Angeles, and then found its way eastward into the Bryant Park Hotel with its latest location being Abu Dhabi.
This small, 19-seat restaurant offers up a tasting menu of tempura and other japanese dishes from chef Masao Matsui. Mr. Matsui has been cooking since the age of 18, and was lured out of retirement by the restaurant's parent company, Ootoya (a major player in the Japanese restaurant scene) in order to open this New York City establishment.
Before discussing anything about Arno with the Manhattan Sideways team in the summer of 2017, the manager, Carlos Pereira, spoke like a true local. He lamented the state of New York’s transportation infrastructure, insurance, taxes, and cleanliness, only to then reveal that he commutes each day from his home in New Jersey. After receiving our education on the state of 38th Street, we learned a bit about this extraordinary man's career. Born in Portugal, where he was a bartender at age sixteen, he traveled to New York in 1989. He scored a position at the legendary Le Cirque (in its original location) - ”I received the best culinary education in America by owner Sirio Maccioni" - before becoming the manager of Arno in 2007. Carlos had plenty to share with us about Arno, which he did over meticulously prepared dishes, including a rare treat of risotto with shaved truffles. It was like a bowl of diamonds being set down before us. As we savored every single bite, Carlos gave us a lesson on the world of black and white truffles. The story of Arno traces back to Florence, near the Arno River from which the restaurant draws its name. There, the two founders met and discovered a mutual ambition. Managing partners Milan Licul and Branko Turcinovic emigrated to the U. S. as waiters, but soon opened a restaurant called Morano in 1984. Morano was later renamed Delmonico’s Kitchen, and was followed only a year later by Arno. While Delmonico’s Kitchen specializes in meats and steaks, Arno is known for its old-school, classic Italian cuisine. There were many challenges in the years between 1984 and the present that could not be shrugged off by restaurants in the Garment District. Carlos related that this particular swath of New York has seen countless restaurants come and go, and yet the owners held fast to Arno. Even in the 1980s, when the area was bad enough that Arno often had to close by 7pm, the restaurant remained "a true testament to who they were, " Carlos proudly stated. The staff wear the neighborhood as a badge of honor, subtly adorning the restaurant with buttons and thread inset into tables, a wall of colorful fabrics, fashion photos - "This is what keeps us sexy, " according to Carlos - and various other garment motifs. So how has Arno endured the trials of time? Carlos believes it is “because we treat clients like family. ” This approach certainly cultivates a comfortable atmosphere, as Carlos claimed that ninety percent of their dedicated clientele are regular customers. In addition to the lengthy list of fashion designers and celebrities that Carlos recited, he told us that many come into the city for Knicks games and other events at Madison Square Garden, and stop by Arno for a familiar meal of traditional homemade pastas, eggplant rollatini, grilled zucchini, tomato, mozzarella and peppers, veal parmigiana, numerous seafood options, and, of course, the Delmonico classic steak. Carlos even shared that they have over 150 "house accounts, " a rarity in the present day. What struck a particular chord with me was the dessert cart that strolls through the restaurant at every meal, as I have fond memories of this practice from when I dined out as a child. It is filled with some of the best classic desserts prepared by their French pastry chef and, like the restaurant itself, is animated by the spirit of the old country, but seasoned with the flavor of New York.
Having a personal guided tour by sales manager, Jason Sturtevant, made me aware of many details I might otherwise have never learned, as well as making my experience at The Archer a superb one. Since the hotel is located in what was once the thriving, garment district, the interior of the lobby is designed to be reminiscent of the 1940s, with large steel structures stylishly cutting through the room. The entrance features a small bar, Bugatti, named after the brand of restauranteur, David Burke’s beloved car. With a garage-style door that opens to the street in warmer weather, and a bright yellow decor, the atmosphere of the bar is charming and laid back. Viewing several different rooms, Jason explained that each one displays slight variations of beautiful designs and color schemes. Averaging 200 square feet, the rooms, as Jason put it, are “intimate in size, in true New York fashion. ” The use of the space has been done in an elegant fashion with the floor-to-ceiling windows working wonders to open up the rooms. Many have hardwood floors and exposed brick walls, creating a tasteful and stylish atmosphere throughout. While guests will not meet the eponymous Archer, who functions as “the personification of gracious hospitality, ” they are certain to feel his presence during their stay. Each room is made ready for arrival with a personalized note, bottled New York City water, his and her robes and slippers, and a selection of books, including Archer favorites Gift From The Sea and The Little Prince. There is a well-stocked minibar with one side of the fridge allowing for personal storage, and complimentary espresso and grab-and-go coffee are available in the lobby. Encouraging their guests to work out “with New Yorkers, like New Yorkers, ” Archer also offers passes to a nearby gym. Additionally, the Archer is environmentally conscious with sensors and efficient solutions for saving energy implemented throughout the building. The selection of art found in the hotel is remarkable. Curated by art consultant Deborah Davis Goodman, almost every piece on display in the Archer was created by New York artists. This commitment to supporting local artists and businesses is further established in the curated retail section at the front of the hotel where jewelry, trays, sea salt caramels, and pocket squares, all made by New York City artisans, are proudly on display. From the captivating art to the jar of homemade peanut brittle, it is the impressive attention to detail that makes the Archer stand out. The New York City Archer opened at the end of May 2014, and two more hotels are expected to open in Napa, California and Austin, Texas by 2016. Filled with personal touches, the hotel certainly comes across as welcoming, detail-oriented, and cohesively designed. Having gained four diamonds by AAA and in the process of getting its four star rating from TripAdvisor, the Archer seems to have already established itself amongst the favored New York City boutique hotels.
New to 38th Street in 2014, and without much competition surrounding it on the side street, District appears to be off and running. With flat screens in the booths, a mile long list of beers, and an American menu that includes appetizers of lobster sliders, buffalo quail wings and truffled cheese croquettes, people in the area seem to be ecstatic that this tap house has arrived on 38th.
Named after nonviolence, Ahimsa is kosher, vegan, and gluten free. The restaurant, whose first location opened in 2016, fulfils a teenage dream of Frank Shah, who owns Ahimsa along with his wife Maya. Growing up poor in Mumbai, Shah’s family could not even afford a biryani. Now, he serves biryani and more authentic North and South Indian dishes made fresh every day. Delicious Indian street-side dishes from Shah’s childhood like vada pav and bhel puri make Ahimsa unique among other Indian restaurants in the city. Being in New York is an important part of Ahimsa’s mission. Shah hopes to use the restaurant to expand non-Indian New Yorkers’ ideas about what Indian food is and to show non-vegan New Yorkers how many delicious meals can be made without meat or dairy.
Do not be fooled by the curiosities and vintage artifacts that cover the windows and walls of Hecht. Besides repairing industrial sewing machines, this company is in the business of buying and selling plants (the manufacturing kind). The vintage pieces scattered throughout the small space are absolutely not for sale, but rather a part of the owner’s personal collection. As I walked around and examined the curiosities, he insisted that he uses "every single one of them. "The owner bristled when I described the fascinating space as "small" and proceeded to show me that there was much more to Hecht than meets the eye. He opened a door in back, which gave way to a much larger, warehouse-like room, which was similarly jam-packed with vintage artifacts. He immediately walked over to a Howe sewing machine, which he proudly disclosed was the first of its kind in the world. He had just gotten it back from the Smithsonian, he said, showing me the official museum tags. While so much is continuously changing around them, the Hecht family is determined to remain a Garment District institution, having opened their doors between 1910 and 1920. The ambiguous establishment date is not because the owner does not care to remember, but rather because Hecht opened its doors as the building in which it still stands was being constructed. "They built around us as we worked, " the owner explained. They are the very definition of a neighborhood institution; As the owner says, "In the garment industry, we're a legend. "
As part of the restoration of Grand Central Terminal in the late '90s, Pershing Square Cafe opened under the Park Avenue viaduct. The fare is American and straightforward, with burgers and chicken pot pies, steaks and fish. The pancakes, served all day, are a big crowd pleaser. Up front, commuters sipping coffee, reading, and chatting while awaiting the next train, inhabit a more cafe-esque area. When speaking with the manager one day, he was proud to tell me that both Friends with Benefits and the Avengers were filmed at Pershing.
Abe Lebewohl always knew what work meant. His first experience was in Eastern Europe doing hard labor during WWII, and then after being miraculously reunited with his family in a displaced persons camp in Italy, he moved to New York with his mother, father and little brother. He then got a job working the soda fountain in a Coney Island deli, while also volunteering to do as much as possible to learn other aspects of the food industry. He graduated to other delis, absorbing the nuances of Jewish cuisine and eventually scraping together enough money to open his own. The grand day happened in 1954, on the corner of 10th Street and Second Avenue, and, thus, The 2nd Avenue Deli began. It was tiny to begin with, serving only ten people at a time, but eventually grew to become one of New York’s most popular kosher delis, in the heart of what was then considered to be the old Yiddish theater district (the Yiddish Walk of Fame honors luminaries from this fascinating era). At this point, “it wasn’t Abe’s business, it was really his life, ” according to his nephew Jeremy. This is where the rags-to-riches story halts. Tragically, in 1996, Abe was murdered while carrying his day's deposit to the bank. Jack, his younger brother by seventeen years, took over the business he had grown up in and kept it running for ten more years before disputes with the landlords caused him to shut it down in 2005. Two years later, Jack’s sons, Josh and Jeremy, decided to continue the family tradition and reopened in their present location on 33rd Street.
Old world finery bedecks the walls and ceilings of this classic steakhouse. As we entered, we were surrounded quickly with pictures of celebrities and notables who had likewise walked this walk. This gave way to fine wines, in turn giving way to a room of intricately carved wooden banisters, warm beige lights, fireplaces and leather chairs. The signature steak is the porterhouse, served on sizzling plates in order for guests to choose the perfect moment to take them off the heat. Upstairs, a walkway curves out over the dining floor downstairs, allowing for bird's-eye views of the goings-on below and leading to a red-velvet-curtained wine room in the back. A definite favorite restaurant for my husband to satisfy his steak craving periodically, he found it particularly interesting when I told him that the owners and Chef Arturo began as servers at Peter Lugers. They formed their team in 2007 and have successfully been serving their own meat, which is dry-aged in house twenty-eight to thirty-two days, at high-powered business lunches and relaxed evening dinners. The trio has also gone on to open Seafire Grill on 48th Street.
In an area that is surrounded by a multitude of places to grab a bite, I found Cipriani Le Specialita to be one of the most desirable. Across from Grand Central Station, the space is tiny, but the menu vast and the food superb. We were lucky enough to be able to grab a small table after lining up and ordering our salad and sandwich. When I stopped by on a different day to grab a quick snack, the person behind the counter reminded me that at 4: 00 each afternoon, whatever is remaining in their cases is offered at half price.