Thank you for all your advice and help In my two threads pre trip
We had a great trip with some good food and, (perhaps more importantly) some good snow!
I'll give a run down of our meals:
Minetta tavern- brunch having had a very quick turn around at and from Newark airport. I found the room itself just ok- buzzy enough those quite obviously a lot of out of towners though I guess that's to be expected. We ordered the black label burger and French dip to share. French dip was good though I would have liked the gravy to be thicker. The burger though was amazing- as described many times, a lovely thick crust and incredible almost gamey beef flavour. Very good service also- Bloody Mary's comped for being slightly late- stark contrast to service at Balthazar as described later..
Charlie Bird- pre drink at the Jane, nice and cosy for a snowy evening. Dinner at Charlie Bird probably our highlight of the trip. Loved the atmosphere at the bar- fun music and very friendly staff serving drinks. Very different to what I'd heard of it being sceney - maybe as a result of the weather it wasn't completely rammed. Highlights were the razor clams with Calabrian chili, rigatoni with ragu and the chicken which was very tender and flavoursome. Only dud was the raw scallop with brown butter- not sure if the fresh shellfish went with the heavy butter..-also not cheap at $15 for one scallop
Balthazar- biggest let down of the trip. Food was average (scrambled egg in puff pastry that was dry and almost stale in places and eggs Norwegian which were fine but nothing special). The whole place felt like a conveyer belt of tourists which I guess it was but with the prices charged I would expect better service. The table staff were fine but we found the maitre d and fromt of house non attentive and, when we did have heir attention, snooty and arrogant. An experience with the cloak room staff left an extremely bad taste in the mouth- I mentioned our thoughts to the staff but was greeted with a condescending arrogant glance rather than any interest or apology - a real shame.
Chez sardine- a few snacks here, some of the sushi, the Unagi/pork roll and the pancakes. Highlights were the beef and uni sushi and the pancakes. Service at the bar was warm and attentive and the atmosphere cosy- we really enjoyed this spot though the costs added up very quickly..
Pearl and Ash- another disappointment unfortunately. We ordered a wide range including the beef tartar, lamb belly and octopus - the common theme was gross over seasoning. I am not at all adverse to some robust levels of salt but this was simply too much. We would have sent the food back but jet lag was setting in and we just wanted to get out if there. A shame as some of the dishes would have been good otherwise. Some exploration of the winelist may have improved our experience but wasn't what we were after that might.
Buvette- slightly overdone scrambled eggs with the prosciutto but the charm of the place outweighed that- lovely experience overall
Burger joint- mis timing of lunch meant we missed out on ma peche and settled for a burger- good though perhaps not worth the 40min wait
Allswell/marlow and sons - loved the atmosphere at both. Had a few $1 oysters and clams in allswell then some chicken liver pate and homemade pancetta in marlow and sons. Pancetta was mostly fat and more akin to lardo than what I am used to as pancetta but silky smooth and absolutely delicious. Then mis advisedly moved to dram/extra fancy which were average- wish we had gone to The Diner next door but wasn't to be
Locanda verde- delicious honey butter scone and eggs modenese with contechino hash and tomato hollandaise- the best breakfast of the trip- loved it all. My wife had the ricotta and truffle honey which was tasty but too big - would be better at half the serving and half the price
Mission cantina - after the lower east side tenement museum(highly recommended) headed here. We were still pretty full so weren't quite ready for some of the more interesting dishes like the beef heart/scallops but had a few tacos which beat anything we get in london. Best probably the carnitas and the lamb belly. Nice service- staff interested in our thoughts
spotted pig- coffee in the snow at cluny and then a few afternoon drinks and oysters at spotted pig- perfect for a cosy few hours down at the bar-nice service, good beers (, tasty oysters-perfect for what we wanted
Perla - cocktails at wallflower (not a massive fan of the venue but good drinks). Mixed feelings on Perla. Loved the atmosphere at the bar as we walked in...loved the atmosphere as we walked through the main strip of tables...didn't love the atmosphere at the 'chefs counter' where we were sat...to be clear- this is not the kitchen, it's the back waters of the kitchen where a ham slicer and unused grill sat. We saw a chef there once, otherwise it was empty and devoid of any charm. I am mystified as to why they have put a bar here with zero energy or appeal. Anyway- on to the food. We ordered badly from the antipasti, sharing a pear/Gorgonzola/speck salad which was overdressed and not exciting in any way. Pastas were the highlight - linguine with mussels and uni / agnolotti with beef cheek. Both very good and generous servings. Secondi of lamb shoulder and belly with Calabrian chili and yogurt was overly sweet and not balanced - disappointing. Service was sweet and competent. Overall think I was hoping for a repeat of l'artusi which we loved and it just didn't quite hit the mark in terms of atmosphere or food.
Jean George's- lunch here. Slightly disorganised front of house (stranded at bar in nougatine for too long) gave way to warm, attentive and well informed staff in The restaurant itself. We ordered from the amazing value lunch menu- highlights were the tuna ribbons, hamachi with avocado, shrimp and salmon with black truffle crust- all were incredibly tasty with delicate flavours and perfect seasoning. Also worth mentioning the excellent value wine list where I think we saw the cheapest price by the glass of any bar and restaurant we went to on our trip ($9) which was a nice surprise. Only dud was my 'main' dish- the veal scallopine with ham and mushrooms. This jarred incredibly badly with the rest of our meal - whereas everything else was delicate and fresh, this lacked any subtlety and was overpowered by the strongly salted ham. This looked and tasted like an average bistro course, not a 3* main. I really did not understand this at all and it brought the meal away from being potentially the best food we have had. On reflection I think EMP last time was overall a better experience and felt more like a 'New York' meal than JJ which felt slightly anonymous.
Anyway- hate to end on a downer as overall we loved the meal and our trip as a whole- I still think NYC beats london convincingly on relaxed but warm service and offers more ambitious and polished neighbourhood restaurants then most of what we get. I'm already planning out next trip for next summer where we will use Williamsburg as our base- can't wait!
Thanks again for everyone's help