Frenzy of high-end street food

Chef and author Anthony Bourdain on what's cooking in the New York restaurant scene
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The Independent Travel

A recent trend on the New York restaurant scene is for three- and four-star chefs to open slightly more scaled down versions of their main restaurants, especially with sushi bars.

A recent trend on the New York restaurant scene is for three- and four-star chefs to open slightly more scaled down versions of their main restaurants, especially with sushi bars.

A couple of examples of this are Michael Vernon's Geisha on East 61st Street (001 212 813 1112) and Riingo on East 45th Street (001 212 867 4200), which comes from Marcus Samuelsson of Aquavit. They are smaller, more accessible and slightly less expensive than their higher-profile siblings.

There are also a couple of really tiny boutique restaurants that have opened downtown from the people behind Jewel Bako on East 5th Street (001-212-979-1012). A lot of these places are in really slick-looking tiny store fronts with high-end, ambitious food, but in casual surroundings.

Probably the most expensive restaurant in the country right now is Masa (001 212 823 9800) in the new AOL Time Warner Center. It's a bare nine-seat sushi bar; there are no menus, no flowers, no displays and no plates. The basic price is $350 (£205) and that's without even ordering a sake or a beer. There is no menu. Masa Takayama serves you what he wants and it's unbelievably good. He is said to pay around $200 a pound wholesale for his tuna.

Also in the AOL Time Warner Center is Thomas Keller's new restaurant Per Se (001 212 823 9335). There was enormous pressure on him after his previous restaurant in New York failed years before he opened The French Laundry. There are 16 tables with incredible food from long tasting menus costing around $150. The attention to quality and detail is relentless, some would say obsessive; I think he has butter churned especially for him.

The hottest place in town and perhaps the most influential is John George Vongerichten's Spice Market on West 13th Street (001-212-675-2322). It's a high-end version of Singaporean street food by a very great French chef. It's presented attractively and served in a frenzied environment of trendy people with too much money. It's a lot of fun and said by almost everybody to be very good, proved by the fact that you have to wait around an hour for a table, even with a reservation.

Restaurants in the Meat Packing District, Chelsea, Gramercy Park and Union Square continue to expand. Some of the most interesting places are opening up in store fronts on the Lower East Side in the middle of nowhere. There is a continuing race to find the most obscure, out-of-the-way location for restaurants, and of course the lowest rent.

Anthony Bourdain is the author of the best-selling 'Kitchen Confidential' and 'A Cook's Tour'. His new book 'Les Halles Cookbook' is published by Bloomsbury on 4 October, price £20

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