I just left Manhattan after a couple of days and had a couple of great lunches. Just wanted to thank you guys for your suggestions and offer my one-time impressions of some of these places as feedback.
In the order that I went to:
Bouley Bakery. Lunch - tasting menu. I got lazy and asked the kitchen to pick the choices for me. Walked in without reservation at about 1:30pm on Monday and was seated right away. The highlights were a white mediterrenean fish (pardon me - I forgot the name of the fish) coated with almonds to resemble scales and a refreshing trio of sorbets with fruit purees. I have to say that even though the food wasn't the best or the most memorable I've ever had, it was excellent and definitely the best value among the lunches I had there based on the sheer number of courses and the quality for the price. Grimes was perfectly right about their maitre'd.
AZ. (I just posted recently in response to a question about this place - my opinions are more detailed there.) Lunch there is prix fixe - $20 for an appetizer and entree. Had the peekytoe crab congee and a 5-spice duck confit. Great dessert of milk chocolate creme brulee. Value aside, probably my favorite lunch on this trip.
Brasserie. Brunch (felt like brunch in an iMac - walk in and you'll know why). I got a little crazy and had: french onion soup (great flavor), french toast (thick oblique slices of baguette that were a bit too light in the middle - the soft parts melt away quickly in my mouth, leaving the crispy harder edge), an excellent dessert of nougat with pear glacee (which turned out to be a thick vanilla-like ice cream with bits of nuts, toffee and spiked raisins and a caramelized pear.) Somewhat middle of the road - the french toast was burnt but not too badly.
Chicama. Lunch. Great ceviche! Had the grilled octopus appetizer with quinoa pilaf (spelling?) instead of an entree. Octopus was good but could have been more tender. Quinoa pilaf was a bit oily and somehow reminded me of fried rice with Chinese sausage. Ponderaciones for dessert - concentric tubes of fried dough crisps of some sort with ice cream and caramel sauce. Good - but would have been better if the fritter wasn't so greasy - I guess it's hard to blot the beautifully constructed rings once they're fried.