I lurked over here for the last month or so in preparation for this trip, so I just wanted to say thanks to everyone for all the info (and a particular thanks to CHer Kathryn for her VERY informative posts. I would donate to a kickstarter to move her to LA so we could have her contributions over there). Anyway, just my impressions as an Angeleno. I've been to NY several times, but this is the first time that I was able to plan out every meal (reservation availability being the only restriction).
Perla - They were still having staff meetings and setting up when we got there, so we actually didn't really get served until closer to 6. Thought it was weird that 5:30 was the only reservation available, when the place was pretty much empty until 6:30. Everything tasty. I think this is something that is missing in LA. Excellent execution, rustic-y vibe and tastes, but updated with certain flourishes that make sense. We seem to get restaurants that go either rustic or too nouveau. I should say I did not care for their Veal Tongue app... Reminded me of cat food, and that it was plated in a ring mold didn't help. Loved everything else - asparagus app, duck ragu pappardelle, quail, and a particularly delicious blackberry tart.
Mayahuel: Loved the feel of the place. A more casual option to get a great cocktail than dealing with all the other places we went to on our trip. We saw the same bartender at Death & Co. later on in the week, so you can expect the same quality. Granted, you should probably enjoy tequila or mezcal. In that aspect, a bit similar to Las Perlas in LA, but without the clusterf* of a setup.
Locanda Verde: I like eating brunch food, but none of it ever blows me away. This was pretty much the same. Solid brunch, but nothing you can't get anywhere else.
Russ & Daughters: Enjoyed my plain bagel w/ wild king salmon, onion, and a little bit of plain cream cheese. Didn't think it was anything too crazy. Is it a nostalgia thing? Like Philippe's in LA? In the context of experiencing a bit of NY's history, I can certainly appreciate that.
booker & dax: The lettuce cocktail was very interesting in a good way. I managed to snag a seat at the cocktail bar and had a good experience with the bartender (Jesse). The liquid nitrogen for cooling the glasses seemed very unnecessary, but whatever. Happened to sit next to the guy who does some of the infusions and got to try some stuff that was in-the-works. For an LAer, if you're a fan of Matthew Biancaniello, this is the closest that I had to that type of cocktail during this trip.
Momofuku Ko: A good meal, but perhaps more worth it for the experience of going one time rather than pure value. I should say, I don't think we have anything like this in LA. A little more fun and interactive, but with great execution and fully-conceptualized dishes. I think the closest we have to this are actually kaiseki places, particularly n/naka and Shunji. To me, the new "hotness" in LA, like the Almas and the Allumettes of the city do these small plate tasting menus, but because the menus and ideas are always changing, they never develop a killer dish (like the egg, onion soubise dish). Although, I didn't think the other of David Chang's classic dishes (Lychee w/ shaved foie gras) was too exceptional in that the lychee was a bit overpowering. It also hurts that coming from LA, I was dying for someone to just serve me a giant lobe of seared foie gras.
Death & Co.: So we had the same bartender here and at Mayahuel. Drinks were tasty again. Nice that we had no problem getting in around 1AM. There aren't too many places in LA doing drinks on this level, which makes it a pain to get into somewhere like Varnish.
Cronut: Waited 4 hours for this. Lined up at 8AM, and was basically in the last group that was guaranteed a cronut. At least I got to try it. Plus, it was more for the SO.
abc kitchen: Loved the crab toast. I would go back just for this. Everything else was just decent to okay. Salad with parmesan dressing was heavy on the parmesan. Scallops were a bit flaccid. Tomato and Watermelon Gazpacho was good. Sounds like a mediocre experience, but I really enjoyed the feel of the place. We had a light lunch to go with the bright, airy decor. And it felt very insulated from the city, which was nice to get away from.
Eleven Madison Park (bar): Cocktails were fine. The dishes were amazing. We couldn't get a reservation for the tasting menu, so we settled for a seat at the bar, which was surprisingly not too crowded on Friday night. Off the bar menu, we were able to order the foie gras creme brulee, a tomato & lobster dish, and the black sea bass(?), and for dessert, mint sorbet with chocolate stuff. We thoroughly enjoyed everything we ate here, and it made us eager to make a reservation during our next trip. Also, the bread was amazing. Can't wait to come back.
Smorgasburg: Ugh. Nice view though!
Di Fara Pizza: Caught a rush at 4:30PM on Saturday. Had to wait about an hour, but it was well worth it.
Brooklyn Fare: After reading much about the cold service and chef, I was a bit surprised when we had an extremely pleasant meal. I really don't need someone to explain every component of a dish. I'm going to enjoy it just the same. And if I was ever dying to know more specifics about the dish, the server in the middle didn't hesitate to give them. Although there seemed to be a group of regulars dining with us that night, the chef checked in on us several times. The chef also was talking to the other chefs, and at times joking with them during service. When dinner was wrapped up, while I was still enjoying my espresso, the chef stopped with us again, and we conversed for quite a while. My comments on Brooklyn Fare are mainly about the service experience, because that seems to be the stick in many's craw.
A lot of these experiences are a bit more about what you make of it, and whether you're willing to strike up conversation with the servers/hosts/chefs. The couple seated next to us didn't really engage the others at the table or the workers, so I could imagine that their impression of the experience was very different. I have similar sentiments about the service experience at e in Las Vegas, so if you have had a good time there, I think you would be able to enjoy your experience at Brooklyn Fare as well.
Anyway, I had a great time in NY. It'd been about 4 years since my last visit, and I'm already looking forward to my next.