Welcome to Perfect For, a weekly Infatuation series of ultra-specific restaurant recommendations from people around town you don't know personally, but might wish you did.
Even before Top Chef debuted in 2006, Gail Simmons has been telling us what great food looks and tastes like. She’s one of the show’s permanent judges, and her resume also includes stints at Food & Wine, writing a memoir and cookbook, and hosting Top Chef Amateurs and Iron Chef Canada.
When she’s not flying to places like London or Houston to film, she’s posting baking tutorials on Instagram or dining out in New York City, her home for more than 20 years. Here are her recommendations for where to take out-of-towners without feeling like a tourist in your own city. Check out the list below, and catch her on “Top Chef” World All-Stars on Bravo.
This is by far the sexiest hotel restaurant I’ve been to in a long time. I adore the small-ish, straightforward menu of appealing, American classics, masterfully made by chef Ignacio Mattos and his seemingly unstoppable kitchen team.
I always feel like I’ve been transported to a secret izakaya in Tokyo when I eat here. The minimalist rock garden, deeply delicious sake selection, and modern Japanese comfort food are topped only by the staff’s earnest dedication to making sure you have a good time. Pro tip: order double the grilled duck hearts and oshizushi. Oh, and don’t overlook the simple, and strikingly beautiful, hot honey yuzu salad.
Take your parents, take a date, take your high maintenance friends from Miami. No one can find a flaw in Austrian chef Markus Glocker’s duck liver parfait, salmon en croute, or fennel tagliatelle with caviar. If they do, please send them to me to set them straight. Also, put yourself in Katja Scharnagl’s capable hands for all your wine and beverage needs. She picks a winner every time, at any price.
Quintessential Brooklyn hangout, with all the things I crave, any night of the week. Good lighting, killer wine list, lots of tasty cured, cultured, and fermented bits. It exceeds expectations every time.
There’s such a vibe here, and a menu of bright, bold Middle Eastern food to match. I just want to sit at the bar, order all the dips and veggies, and watch chef Ayesha Nurdjaja work her magic!
It’s a super spicy, saucy, sticky Issan Thai feast, with all the zesty larb, crispy fried whole fish, chili-drenched noodles, aromatic char-grilled meat, and savory seafood of my dreams. Cocktails and cold beer strongly recommended.
Marcus Samuelsson sets the mood, chef Fariyal Abdullahi and her crew over-deliver everything else. I still can’t believe the size of this restaurant and the multitude of thoughtful details, from the art on the walls to the wine cellar, bread program, and of course, the menu. I could eat that Swediopian salmon, those Aunties Greens, fire-roasted whole fish, and Havatelli with uni butter again and again and again.