When America's biggest culinary egos come together in one skyscraper, even New Yorkers get excited. Rachael Shapiro tries to book a table

In a city blessed with over 18,000 restaurants it's hard to believe that one single building could change the face of New York's culinary landscape. But a new $1.7bn (£930m) skyscraper, the Time Warner Centre, is having a crack at it. It's set to house the most extravagant restaurants and the biggest foodie egos New York has ever seen - all under one roof.

In a city blessed with over 18,000 restaurants it's hard to believe that one single building could change the face of New York's culinary landscape. But a new $1.7bn (£930m) skyscraper, the Time Warner Centre, is having a crack at it. It's set to house the most extravagant restaurants and the biggest foodie egos New York has ever seen - all under one roof.

In fact, the TWC boasts three of the US's (some would even argue the world's) top chefs. The names Thomas Keller, Charlie Trotter and Jean-Georges Vongerichten may not trip off most Brits' tongues, but they mean as much to Americans as Gordon Ramsay, Jamie Oliver or Heston Blumenthal do to us - they are the American fooderati. These restaurants are the kinds of places where you need to have their secret phone number or be a celebrity to get a table. Now they're all going to work within spitting distance of each other, creating some of New York's most expensive, exquisite food.

Unsurprisingly, New York restaurant critics and gastronomes have been in quite a lather about the project ever since word sneaked out about who was going to be involved. "Let's face it, it's a pretty amazing collection of chefs," says Time Out New York's food critic Maile Carpenter. However, Big Apple gourmets have had to display the patience of saints - not a quality common to New Yorkers - because the completion of many TWC restaurants has been delayed. But now they're getting their rewards.

The first restaurant to open - to rave reviews - is Masa, a tiny sushi restaurant of lavish expense. The chef, Masa Takayama, used to run a cult 10-seat restaurant in Beverly Hills where meals cost £165 a head and he's charging just as much in New York (that's without drinks, tax or tip - so budget for £220 each just to be on the safe side). For that price, you get the most sublime sushi, created by a true piscine perfectionist. Ask Takayama why his food is so expensive and he shrugs and says: "Those who know fish, who know good sushi, they know why."

Takayama is equally enigmatic about the menu. In fact, there isn't one. You simply order the omakase (tasting menu) which is created from fish shipped from Japan that day. As waves of superlative seafood pass your lips, Takayama (who is always at the restaurant, unlike many celebrity chefs) notes down exactly what you are fed in a little book as each dish arrives.

If you are thinking of booking a table at Masa, it's important that you stick to your reservation. The restaurant is part of a growing league of NY eateries (including the swank French joints Le Bernardin and Alain Ducasse) that charge if you cancel less than 48 hours before you're supposed to turn up. Increasingly, restaurateurs believe that their seats represent a small piece of New York real estate, and reneging on your reservation is like not paying your rent. So cancel at short notice and you can pay $100 for the privilege of not eating.

If Masa sounds a tad too expensive, you can always saunter into Stone Rose, a bar run by the king of cocktail culture (and husband of Cindy Crawford), Rande Gerber, for a drink. Well, technically you can. If you head there after 6pm on a weekday you need to have made a reservation to have any chance of getting a table. Yup, you read that right: you need to reserve tables... at a bar! Call the hotline, leave your name and number and then they'll call you if they're interested. That said, once you get a spot and you're supping perfect cocktails while looking over Central Park, the whole thing feels pretty cool.

The next restaurant to open at TWC is perhaps the most eagerly awaited. Thomas Keller's Per Se is estimated to have cost $12m (£6.6m) to create (no wonder these guys levy a charge for no-shows). Rumour has it that it was Keller himself who was behind luring the cabal of über-chefs to the TWC. Keller's restaurant in California, the French Laundry, is legendary among the world's food cognoscenti. Inspired by experimentalists such as Ferran Adria of El Bulli in Spain, Keller is likely to serve you oysters with tapioca as an appetiser or lemongrass sorbet with a ravioli of pineapple and avocado coulis for dessert. Tasting menus here are a relative bargain - £70 for five courses, £80 for nine.

If you're thinking of booking a table at Per Se you need to plan with military precision. I called the reservations number in early May and after a 10-minute wait I was told, "All tables for 5 July have been taken. You need to call tomorrow [6 May] when we start taking reservations for 6 July." Getting a good table in this city takes persistence as well as money.

Other restaurants which make up this extra-ordinary culinary cavalcade are V Steak House, which is next door to the Stone Rose and has equally commanding views of Central Park. V Steak House opened last month and is an opulent project from Vongerichten. Then, later in the summer, there will be Café Gray, a much-needed café-style (and vaguely affordable) restaurant from Gray Kuntz, a man who has received numerous foodie plaudits. Finally, there's Chicago-based chef Charlie Trotter's much-anticipated new restaurant, but this won't open until later this year. So by Christmas the restaurant floors of TWC will be complete. Which should give the rest of us time enough to save up sufficient funds to eat there.

Time Warner Centre, 10 Columbus Circle, New York; Per Se, tel: 001 212 823 9335; Masa, tel: 001 212 823 9800; Stone Rose, tel: 001 212 823 9769; V Steak House, tel: 001 212 823 9500

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