“When there’s a thunderstorm, it’s really cool,” Dylan, Hi-Bar’s bartender told us as we sat atop the 6 Columbus hotel. We could see what he meant: the cozy rooftop bar, with its view of Columbus Circle and its warm décor would feel like a small, safe eye of a storm when the retractable screens were shut during bad weather. The bar, which is part of the Bromberg Brothers' array of New York restaurants and is supplied by Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill downstairs, is a popular spot for locals. Dylan said that he gets a lot of regulars, especially from the Time Warner building across the street. He enjoys getting to see customers meet, return, become friends…and sometimes more. “There are a lot of affairs,” he said with a cheeky grin.
With its view of the city and its intimate yet festive atmosphere, I could imagine having a wonderful party up on the thirteenth floor. With the lanterns glowing, strings of light glittering overhead, and moonlight bouncing off the distressed wood tabletops, what could be wrong with this vision? Before having even tried the food, I knew that Hi-Bar was a hidden gem.
Chefs from downstairs brought up a sushi platter and a grilled lamb chop. I always get a kick out of listening to both Olivia and Tom describe the foods that they are sampling. On this particular day, they were amazed by the five different textures represented on the plate of sushi, including a young sea eel and a Tazmanian Fluke, which had a surface like scales. The Blue Ribbon specialty roll, with little dollops of caviar on top, contained lobster and shiso, an Asian herb that tastes vaguely like a cross between basil and mint. In a dish off to the side, scallop sashimi was cut in thin slivers, with the salty lips of the scallop in a cute cucumber cup. Switching gears, they then devoured the lamb chop, sitting on a bed of sweet potato squash, and cooked to perfection.
While they tasted the dishes, and pronounced the platter “some of the most flavorful sushi,” they had experienced, Dylan whipped up a few of the specialty cocktails. He mixed together a Lychee martini, made with the Japanese liquor shochu instead of vodka or gin, and a Yuzu Margarita, which was mellowed by a touch of honey. Once again, Olivia and Tom were smiling. The Grapefruit Hi, also made with shochu, was so refreshing it seemed wetter that water, and the Hummingbird, made with St. Germaine, was topped with a Yama Moto, a type of Japanese mountain peach.
As we were getting ready to leave the Hi-Bar’s happy nook, Dylan informed us that he had grown up on Blue Ribbon. “I’ve been coming to their restaurants since I was five years old. They have been the same for years – so many restaurants change, but I can rely on Blue Ribbon.” Dylan went on to say that he continues to eat at their now nineteen eateries - which he stated is a "small company" - whenever he has the opportunity.
Beautifully decorated for the holiday season, Bistro Vendome was still abuzz with chatter when the Manhattan Sideways team stopped by at the tail end of lunch hour to meet with the delightful owner, Virginie Petiteau. Although she and her husband Pascal, who is the executive chef, hail from Brittany, France, they met in New York, where they both worked at Jubilee, a French restaurant on First Avenue. After fifteen years there, Virginie said they felt ready to open their own place. She told us that it was great to already have a base of customers in the area that knew and supported them when they opened Bistro Vendome in 2010. And she was pleased to tell us that they have maintained a loyal clientele ever since. As Virginie put it: "Some people who come here saw me when I was pregnant, and now my daughter is fourteen. "Pascal started working at high-end French restaurants in France at an early age. After coming to New York, he decided to focus on more casual French food. In 2014, he was inducted as Master Chef in Mątres Cuisiniers de France, a prestigious organization aiming "to preserve and spread the French culinary arts, encourage training in cuisine, and assist professional development. " An unusual occurrence continued to happen as we resumed our walking on 58th, as so many other businesses told us that they eat at Bistro Vendome on a regular basis because the food was as traditionally French as one could hope for in Manhattan.
Trendy, immense, packed at any hour and serving intriguing Pan-Asian food, Tao has been a sensation on 58th since opening its doors in 2000. Stepping inside, one cannot help but immediately feel transported to a different world. The interior design is exceptionally meticulous with beautiful calligraphy scrolls adorning the high ceilings, and a sixteen foot massive Buddha sculpture taking center stage down below. Despite the frenetic atmosphere, I have found Tao to be a fun restaurant to dine with friends and to enjoy an excellent meal.