For some of the best dining spots and trendy bars uptown, midtown or downtown, Manhattan’s east side has it all. The Upper East Side, once known as the Silk Stocking District, is the playground of New York City’s elite. Close to Central Park and museums, the neighborhood also has galleries, upscale boutiques and high end hotels. Many A-lister celebs choose the Carlyle, A Rosewood Hotel in New York as their home away from home and take advantage of the famous Bemelmans Bar, Cafe Carlyle, and Dowling’s, formerly the Carlyle Restaurant, now completely renovated and named after the former Carlyle owner.
Dowling’s is a spacious and intimate 80-seat venue, transformed by design firm tonychi studio with 189 currated wall-to-wall works of art including historical photographs, five original Ludwig Bemelmans paintings, and modern art (all by New York artists). Dripping in elegance and surrounded by magnificent art, guests dine on leather upholstered chairs and banquettes, in a room exuding the glamour and charm of the 1930s and ’40s.
As John F. Kennedy and Jackie had their New York residence here, Dowling’s Signature cocktails include the JFK Daiquiri (Mount Gay XO, Falernum, Rose’s Lime and Simple Syrup) and the Jackie O (X rated Passion Fruit Vodka, Grey Goose, Lime, Champagne). The unique cocktails are an ideal way to start off a meal. The menu under Chef Sylvain Delpique (formerly of 21 Club) honors New York classics and throwback dishes from another era. For lunch or dinner, start with the melt-in-your mouth East Beach Blond Oysters or House Made Smoked Salmon with Boursin and lemon vinaigrette served on rye toast. (The addition of the Boursin cheese is brilliant).
Follow this with the tableside Dover Sole, Hudson Valley Moulard Duck or any other entree on the menu where every dish is excelllent. For dessert, consider the signature Sundae for Two (featuring caramel-pretzel ice cream, chantilly, chocolate sauce and strawberry flambé) or end your meal with the Irishman (Tullamore Dew, Espresso, Dark Muscovado Syrup, Cream and Nutmeg). The international staff, extremely attentive and friendly, hail from Milan, Albania, Australia and Equator. This is the ideal place for an elegant, delicious meal. Dowling’s is now serving brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. Dowling’s at The Carlyle: 981 Madison Avenue at 76th St; open for Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and weekend Brunch. Dress: chic.
Headed to Midtown East? Sexy Bar Bastion is a glamorous new hotspot located a floor above the Michelin-starred fine-dining restaurant, Le Jardinier. Named after The Bastion Collection (which includes five Michelin-starred restaurants), the new space might be New York City’s most captivating cocktail bar. Designed by renowned French architect Joseph Dirand, guests walk through the beautiful plant filled Le Jardinier up a grand marble staircase (complete with marble railings) directly to the stunning Bar Bastion.
The 38-seat cocktail bar evokes Art Deco glamour with soaring floor-to-ceiling windows, mirrored glass, bespoke lacquer, and Dirand custom-designed furniture. Guests sip drinks on velvet upholstered banquettes and armchairs with black mirrored and brushed brass tables.
Head Bartender Rachel Prucha doesn’t need to work out with weights – her arms are perfectly toned from shaking the inventive cocktails such as On a Tangent, a sweet and sour blend of tangerine, lemon, egg white, Aperol, Reposado Tequila and torched rosemary sprigs to add a slightly woodsy taste. Seasonal cocktails include Carrot Me Away (carrot juice, honey syrup, chamomile infused scotch, and a Laphroaig rinse) as well as some of the most creative Mocktails in Manhattan.
Culinary Director Alain Verzeroli, Chef de Cuisine Andrew Ayala, and Pastry Chef Salvatore Martone have developed lite bites including Maine lobster tartlets topped with curry aioli and royal Kaluga caviar, and grass-fed beef tartare with sourdough toast. Desserts include a mini version of Le Jardinier’s popular butterfly dessert featuring yuzu delicate mousse, raspberry compote and a pistachio sable. Bar Bastion: 610 Lexington Avenue upstairs at Le Jardinier is open Tuesday – Saturday, 5:00pm –10:30pm. Reservations not required. Dress: smart casual.
Manhattan’s downtown east has turned into a sizzling hot destination with wall-to-wall trendy places to drink and dine. In the heart of the East Village is one of the most fun venues, Bar Lula, part of The Endless Hospitality Group portfolio. Come here for dinner and stay past nine pm when the place turns into a young neighborhood bar scene. And if you’re prowling around the Village on the weekend, Bar Lula now offers weekend brunch.
The venue is small and cozy with wooden dining tables and a bar with an impressive mezcal and tequila collection (200 varieties) and inventive cocktails from Julio Xoxocotla. Not to be missed: the Xicamatl Gimlet (French gin, jicama juice, lemon, celery and simple syrup) and the One Way to Oaxaca (mezcal, guava puree, lime, rosemary- jalapeño syrup).
Dinning is under the watchful eye of cheerful Chef Ricky Arias who, if you ask (and he’s not too busy,) will come out and explain the ingredients which make his offerings so unique. Originally from Puerto Rico, Chef Ricky had a disabled brother and learned to cook from his brother’s caretaker. He later trained in both French and Japanese techniques, and his food is an eclectic mix of farm to table deliciousness with always seasonal produce. Don’t miss the Marinated Beets with sesame, cumin and queso fresco. Why are they so delicious? Chef Ricky marinates them for a full week.
He also makes melt-in-your-mouth Sweet Potato Croquettes with peppadew and aioli. The Mushroom Masa Crêpe looks like small piazza with maitake, Manchego, and Oaxaca cheese. Another specialty is the Charred Head-On Prawns with pablano aioli or the daily crudo which, the night I was there, was oysters smoked with Applewood trout roe, beets and radishes.
There are many other starters and a few mains from which to choose, but leave room for dessert, especially the Skillet Cake with citrus nixta licor cream. Chef Ricky started making this cake as a way to dispose of items the farmers couldn’t sell such as preserved grapes; and this dessert is a total taste-bud masterpiece. Bar Lula: 132 First Avenue at 6th Street. Open for dinner and drinks daily, brunch Sat and Sunday, 11-3pm. Dress code: super casual.
So, whether you prefer uptown, midtown or downtown, for food and drinks, Go East!