A question that I get asked frequently is where should I eat in NYC…this weekend? It’s a question that leaves me cringing. My New York trips have always involved hours of obsessive research. I mark my calendar for the exact moment I can call for reservations, since many spots won’t reserve more than a month out. It has always been unthinkable to me that other people don’t plot out their trips the same way.
My mind-set is beginning to shift, however, as some very desirable restaurants in NYC don’t take reservations. So, when I reunite with a childhood friend for our third annual Manhattan indulgence-fest, my attitude is a little more casual. The truth is, DC’s Rose’s Luxury has taught me the advantage of dining without planning months in advance. And there is a caveat- we are only two people, which is not so difficult to accommodate.
Less than two weeks out, with only one reservation on the books, I panic. Maybe we really should have a reservation for our Friday evening meal. I check my NYC dining wish list, and hone in on relative newcomer Betony as my first choice.
Betony has impeccable credentials. Chef Bryce Shuman is the former executive sous chef of the top-rated Eleven Madison Park. Esquire Magazine named Betony Restaurant of the Year on its list of Best New Restaurant 2013. Pete Wells of The New York Times gushed about it in his review titled “A Testament to Flavors Clear and Pure.”
Miraculously, a table for two is available. This is really a stroke of luck. When I check again moments later, all tables are booked. Someone up above is looking out for my dining desires. Betony, here we come.
My idea of a perfect dining companion is one who lets me make all the decisions about what to order, and has minimal food restrictions. My friend P is just that kind of companion. We agree on starters of fried pickles with fennel and aleppo yogurt, and “cruciferous” salad with smoked chevre and pickled egg.
Our first bites are tiny wisps of salted bread sticks. Adorably light, we eagerly devour them. This is followed by an amuse bouche of carrot veloute with buckwheat and buttermilk. We are off to an impressive start.
The fried pickles are light as air bundles – delightfully sour, salty, and crisp.
The kale salad with pickled egg is deceptive. At first glance it looks somewhat ordinary, but the dish is far from it, with unexpected flavors bursting through. The egg white is actually chèvre cheese and the yolk is pickled. Amazing!
Seared duck breast is accompanied by glazed cabbage, apples, and duck jus. Served on the side is a dish of baked apple with bits of duck confit. This is melt in your mouth meat, with a taste that still lingers in my memory.
Roasted chicken with peas and carrots and king trumpet mushrooms has received well-deserved accolades. It’s hard to recall tasting a more tender piece of chicken, and the squiggle of sauce is just enough to enhance but not drown the flavor.
Our meal concludes with amaranth cake and maple ice cream, distinguished by simultaneously spicy, salty, and peppery notes.
While Betony’s food is certainly attractive, the appeal runs far deeper than looks. These are dishes to be enjoyed for their seductive complex flavors and textures.
The decor at Betony may be described as modern antiquity. Dark brown hues, textured concrete walls, carved wood. It has a weighty, important feel that matches the food. The services is the same- professional, competent, serious.
A big plus for Betony is its location on the Upper West Side. I am always hard-pressed to come up with options in this area, even though I know there are plenty of decent restaurants to be found. Still, I am thrilled to discover such an incredible restaurant that’s not too terribly far from the theater district.
I highly recommend Betony as a best Bet-in-ny. My other recommendation- do try and plan ahead, and make a reservation. You can thank me later.
Betony, 41 West Fifty-seventh Street, New York, NY
Pete Wells, New York Times review