Upper West Side Restaurant Boom Coming

For years the press has reported on the lack of high quality restaurants on the Upper West Side.  And I have even had conversations with chefs (one of whom is on the list below and will remain anonymous) who strongly stated that he "would never open a restaurant on the Upper West Side because the residents don’t appreciate great food."  I must say that as an Upper West Side resident, we are surrounded by mediocrity when it comes to our dining options.  Of course I’m not including Ouest (thanks Tom Valenti) in that mediocre lot.

But there are exciting times ahead for those with a more sophisticated palate.  Check out the who’s who of chefs who are going to change the dining frontier right here in our backyard:

  1. Ed Brown (from The Sea Grill in Rockefeller Center) is opening eighty one this October in the Excelsior Hotel at 45 West 81st between Columbus and CPW.  Here’s the press release:
    • Widely acknowledged for bringing out the best in seafood while he was executive chef at The Sea Grill, renowned chef Ed Brown puts his enthusiasm for impeccable ingredients to artful use with world’s most flavorful varieties of vegetables, meats and artisanal ingredients at eighty one. When eighty one opens on New York City’s upper west side, Brown’s repertoire will expand to include a menu of modern American dishes, where a stunning array of the globe’s most sought-after ingredients and the most refined techniques are used. Diners will be introduced to a new lexicon of luxury menu items: custom-grown lettuces, unusual white soy sauce and exotic, hand-selected peppercorns that will invite as much awe as foie gras and caviar. Designed by Chris Smith of CMS Designs (Dylan Prime, Nobu, NYC; Buddakan, Philadelphia), eighty one’s dining room will be lead by Nick Mautone, former Managing Partner of Gramercy Tavern; author of Raising the Bar, Mautone will also oversee the restaurant’s beverage program.
  2. John Fraser (formerly of Compass) is opening this Fall at 103 West 77th Street.  More on this:
    • John Fraser will become chef/owner of a new restaurant, as yet unnamed, scheduled to open in November 2007. Located on a quiet, leafy street (103 West 77th Street) just steps from New York’s American Museum of Natural History, Central Park and Lincoln Center, the restaurant will offer an intimate dining experience showcasing John’s passion for local ingredients and classical European training. His menu will reveal ingredients of integrity and a global perspective. Architect Richard Bloch’s rustic yet elegant interior design welcomes guests with warm woods, muted colors, and exposed brick. The restaurant will feature a weekend afternoon tea service, prix fixe Sunday night dinners, and an extensive sherry menu.
  3. Tom Valenti of Ouest fame is rumored to be opening a brasserie in Spring 08 in the old Fishs Eddy space on 77th and Bdwy.
  4. Zak Pelacio (formerly of 5 Ninth) is partnering with Jeffrey Chodorow to open right next to Tom Valenti (it’s rumored that the 3 of them have a big plan) where Zen Palate was also Spring 08.
  5. Daniel Boulud is opening his wine bar (Bar Boulud) this Fall around Lincoln Center.
  6. Jimmy Bradley (Red Cat, The Harrison) is rumored to be opening a branch of Mermaid Inn on the UWS. DATE and PLACE TBD.

Unlike other neighborhoods in Manhattan that saw top chefs move in before they saw top priced apartment buildings go up, the Upper West Side has been quite the anomaly "starving" for great food while real estate prices continue to soar.  It appears that restaurateurs and top chefs finally have the confidence in the Upper West Side to believe that their establishments will be embraced.  Only time will tell but I believe the time has come for an Upper West Side Restaurant Renaissance!

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