The Upper West Side has seen an influx of exciting dining destinations. Head to the neighborhood for contemporary spicy Hunan dishes, luxurious Italian from a rising-star chef and modern, healthy Greek fare. Over at the Time Warner Center, David Chang has two new ventures. And those who love sandwiches—especially of the po’boy and banh mi varieties—have a new reason to make a beeline for Brooklyn.
The early bird catches the shaved mortadella and American cheese stuffed in griddled flatbread at Bāng Bar. It’s the latest breakfast craze, conceived by Momofuku’s David Chang. Breakfast is served from 8am to 11am, at which time the menu transitions to flatbread with spit-roasted pork or chicken plus vegetarian-friendly chickpea dip. Items sell out fast. There are just a couple of standing tables where you can wolf down your meal. Next door is a full-service branch of Momofuku Noodle Bar.
Jonathan Benno, formerly of Per Se and Lincoln Ristorante, is the marquee name behind the Evelyn Hotel’s three dining options. A lobby-level bakery and café is the gateway to the swanky Leonelli Taberna and the formal, dressy Benno. The latter’s art deco room specializes in tasting menus, a serious wine list and attentive service. The chef’s signature Mediterranean courses include olive oil-braised abalone; spaghetti with clams and sea urchin; and veal chop with sweetbreads for two.
Young Oliver Zabar—he of the family behind celebrated Upper West Side grocery Zabar’s—strikes out on his own downtown to open a sleek, retro cocktail bar. Given his lineage, food is naturally part of the equation. The bar serves deviled eggs with shaved bonito; duck-fat fried peanuts; lamb meatballs with spicy tomato chutney; and a luscious grilled cheese sandwich made with aged cheddar, taleggio and roasted tomato. Get there for happy hour to enjoy discounts on cocktails on draft and potent punches.
This modern split-level Greek restaurant has a sunny, welcoming demeanor, with a big bar and plentiful tables. It shares design and menu similarities with Kyma, its hotspot sibling downtown. Eggplant-zucchini chips with tzatziki dip and fried piquant kefalograviera cheese are an absolute must. From the raw bar, get yellowfin tuna tartare. Grilled lamb chops and creamy seafood orzotto laced with Metaxa brandy shine among the delicious main courses.
Fava Mediterranean Bistro
This windowed Mediterranean bistro straddles a cute corner of the West Village, a beckoning haven that could be equally at home in Provence or Mykonos. The retooled duplex serves a mix of appealing starters including hummus, honey-drizzled fried halloumi cheese and fava bean salad with grilled eggplant. Main courses represent sea (scallops, branzino) and land (char-grilled hanger steak, chicken paillard with toasted almonds and arugula). There’s also a good drink selection and a daily happy hour.
Nai Tapas has relocated from a cozy nook to a rustic bilevel space big enough to host flamenco nights on Thursdays and Saturdays. Chef Ruben Rodriguez’s menu has expanded as well, split into tapas modernas (like toast-wrapped Chilean sea bass topped with serrano ham twisted around asparagus) and more traditional fare like shrimp in garlic sauce, fiery patatas bravas and creamy croquetas stuffed with ham or chicken. Eight varieties of sangria complement the all-Spanish wine list.
Pomona is a cultured subterranean restaurant next to the iconic Paris Theater, which explains the popcorn fragrance upon entering. Chef Michael Vignola’s New American cuisine is high-end and whimsical, with snacks of foie gras sliders and a chicken hot dog flecked with black truffle. Enjoy those with an excellent cocktail at the bar—or move into the amber-hued dining room for Bordeaux-marinated filet mignon, slow-cooked halibut and a killer seared duck burger made of ground breast and confit leg.