We’re not particularly nostalgic for the way Meatpacking was in its prime. We never had a desire to pay maitre d’s to seat us immediately, or to go to clubs where financial analysts looked out on the dancefloor like Ritalin-fueled emperors surveying their domain. But whether or not it was ever our favorite place to go out, there’s no doubt that it was a genuine party.
On the surface, it may not seem like things have changed much. There are still multi-level spaces with ornate light fixtures, tiny dogs in tiny purses, and bathrooms with more marble than Michelangelo’s David - and the food and drinks are still overpriced. But instead of all that serving as the backdrop for a raucous scene you couldn’t find anywhere else in the city, now it’s just part of a facade. Meatpacking has become a place where people go to convince the world they’re living the good life, rather than to actually party. And no place embodies this superficial evolution as much as RH Restaurant.
RH is named for the fancy furniture store it’s on top of, and if you’re unfamiliar with Restoration Hardware, it’s worth coming here just to walk around. The five-floor space is filled with fountains, Classical sculptures, and fluffy white beds that probably cost more than wrapping your Tempur-Pedic in gold leaf. Ride the all-glass elevator up to the roof, and put your name down with the host (RH is walk-in only and open from 10am-9pm). The dining room has a lot of the same decor as the floors below, with marble surfaces, a chandelier over every table, fountains, and big windows looking out over the terrace and downtown Manhattan. But there are also trees, bushes, and a huge skylight, which makes it feel like the set of Legends Of The Hidden Temple reimagined by a Greek shipping magnate.
Waiting for a table is the best part of the RH experience. Once you put your name down, you should make your way to the bar on the third floor that serves coffee, beer, and wine (there’s no hard liquor here). Whether it’s due to misplaced trust or a really good insurance policy, Restoration Hardware allows you to carry your drinks around the store, so you can sip wine while guessing how much some distressed mirrors and giant headboards cost. Then, move to a couch on the massive rooftop terrace, which has great views of Manhattan. It could be a fun place to spend the night drinking too much wine with strangers, but unfortunately, both the furniture store and restaurant close at 9pm - well before anyone even thinks to pay a bouncer to get onto a rooftop like they used to around here.
In this new era of Meatpacking that feels like it was conceived as a collaboration by The Bureau of Tourism and Kith, it’s not surprising that the food at RH is from the owner of Au Cheval, an American spot in Tribeca that’s big on production value. Like at Au Cheval, the dark space at RH is filled with groups taking picture after picture of things like double cheeseburgers topped with pork belly bacon, and massive banana splits with spreads of DIY toppings. Unfortunately, the $24 burger tastes much closer to an American cheese-heavy Double Whopper than the perfectly portioned heart bomb at Au Cheval, and the $32 lobster roll only has about four bites of lobster.
That’s not to say that all of the dishes here are misses. The burrata, which comes in that perfect state between liquid and solid and tastes like pizza when eaten on the crunchy bread with grilled tomatoes, and the shaved ribeye sandwich on a garlic bread baguette, are better than what you’ll find at most other restaurants in Meatpacking. And they make RH a decent option for group dinners, either if you happen to be in the neighborhood, or you don’t have a reservation anywhere but are already dressed up to go out. We don’t know where or if you’ll really end up going out nearby, but at least you can take some pictures at RH first.
You should focus most of your attention on the salad section of the menu. The best of them (the arugula and the shaved vegetables) involve a nice crunch from seeds and nuts, richness from cheese and avocado, and tartness from dressings we wish we could take home. The portions are large and they’re the least expensive dishes on the menu, so consider getting one as your main course if you’re here for lunch.
A bite of this charred bread topped with milky burrata and roasted tomatoes is perfect. That said, there isn’t much burrata, so you’ll mostly just be eating the bread and tomatoes without any cheese. And it’s $23.
If you have money to blow, then order this burger just for the optional topping of pork belly bacon that tastes like it was dipped in maple syrup. But if you don’t, then you’ll have spent $30 for a few bites of excellent bacon, meat that could use some char, American cheese, and mayo.
This is the best entree here. With tender ribeye on a crunchy garlic bread baguette and a carafe of jus on the side, it’s like a roast beef sandwich that was told it’d get to stop at Toys ‘R’ Us on the way home if it behaved itself at grandma’s.
The only real complaint we have for this lobster roll is that it’s $32, and that’s a pretty big complaint considering it’s small, even by New York lobster roll standards. The fries on the side don’t do much to make up for it, and you’ll want to douse them with salt and ketchup (and throw them back in the fryer) before eating them.
We almost always like banana splits, but we rarely like them as much as this one. The massive platter arrives with three different types of ice cream, as well as a bunch of DIY sauces and toppings, like chocolate covered Rice Krispies.