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After dark in New York: Chef Daniel Boulud reveals his favourite places to dine

Michelin-starred chef Daniel Boulud has some great New York eateries of his own. But where does he dine out?

Interview,Andy Lynes
Sunday 28 December 2008 01:00

I've been living on the Upper East Side of Manhattan for a little over 25 years. I was born in Lyon and first came to New York in 1983 to work at the Plaza Athénée on Madison and 64th Street. Now my kitchen at Daniel restaurant backs on to the kitchen at the Plaza Athénée; that's how far I've travelled in a quarter of a century.

I live in an apartment above Daniel, 20 steps above my kitchen, but I don't hang out in the local neighbourhood too much. Whenever I want to go out for a drink or a bite after work, I jump in a cab.

Between 1st and 2nd and 12th street there's a pizzeria called Una Pizza Napoletana. It's very popular – you have to get there before midnight and line up in the street. The guy who runs it is called Anthony Mangieri, and when he doesn't want to cook any more he just leaves the restaurant.

For typical Spanish tapas, I go to El Quinto Pino in Chelsea. It's open late at night so it's fun to just go there for a drink and some Spanish ham, anchovies and sardines. They do a lot of charred octopus and squid. It's a place for sharing food and I go there a lot with fellow chefs.

There's a late-night place in Harlem called Sandy's Lechoneria, where they have the best Cuban roast pork sandwich, made the Cuban way with very crispy rind. It's the kind of place you drive by and pick up your sandwich. Nicky's on Avenue A also do a very good Vietnamese-style pork sandwich.

Sushi Seki serves the best sushi after midnight in New York. It's nothing fancy, just a one-man neighbourhood sushi place that's open till 3am, but chefs such as Jean- Georges Vongerichten from Jean Georges, Eric Ripert of Le Bernadin, and even Gordon Ramsay, go there.

Chef Seki does a hand roll shaped like a cornet with spicy toro (fatty tuna belly) and uni (sea urchin) and a little bit of rice and seaweed; it's always my "dessert" at the end of the meal. He has some beautiful fish and I don't even tell him what I want, he just keeps sending food until I raise my hand and say, "Hand roll!"

David Chang is an American-Korean chef who has been getting a lot of media attention lately. I know him very well because he used to work at my restaurant, Café Boulud. The best thing at his place, Momofuku Ssam Bar in the East Village, is the pork shoulder. It's for six to 10 people and he serves it with kimchee and different wilted greens, which are very Asian yet very personal to him. It's unpretentious and all about good food – chefs like that, of course.

One place I love to go with my staff is Daisy May BBQ. The owner, Adam Perry Lang, is a friend and also used to work for me. He'll prepare a whole 40lb pig for us, cooked slowly in a smoker for 14 hours. It's served in the middle of the table and we all eat with our hands. He gives us plastic gloves and we pull the meat off and put it into sandwiches and eat it with American-style side dishes such as grits and corn.

I often throw late-night parties for chefs after service. I'll cook something like tripe and we just get together and drink wine and eat – that's how my TV show After Hours started out. We filmed one of the episodes at WD-50 on the Lower East Side. Wylie Dufresne is one of the most wonderful chefs in New York – dedicated to molecular gastronomy. We don't have too much of that style of cooking, and I don't think any city needs too much of it, but at the same time we are very proud of the one we have.

I often eat in my own restaurants. Every weekend I eat at Café Boulud, where I can sit down and look at my restaurant from the other side of the kitchen door. When I go to my own restaurant, I eat what I want, but if I go out to a friend's restaurant it's painful because they give me so much food.

Recently I went to Eighty One, a new place that's been opened on the West Side by a friend of mine, Ed Brown. I love Ed and he can really cook, but he wanted to be nice so he sent me an extra course and an extra this and that, and I ended up eating and drinking too much. It's a challenge every time I eat out.

The fine-dining scene in New York is alive and well. I like the delicate balance of Daniel Humm's cooking at Eleven Madison Park. I think he's going to become one of the next big chefs in America and he's barely 30, so that's exciting. I had wonderful chilled gelée of peas with a pea soup and delicious chicken with morels and asparagus. It was very seasonal food made with great technique and care.

Per Se is the quintessential American three-Michelin-star restaurant. Every time I go I have the "Oysters and Pearls", made with oysters, caviar and pearls of tapioca – it is the restaurant's trademark dish. I love to go to a place and order the specialty, just because it's something I can eat there and only there.

My favourite restaurant of all is the Four Seasons in the Seagram building in midtown. If I want great food I can cook it for myself, but if I want an experience I go to the Four Seasons. It's almost like a club, with table after table of the most powerful men in America sitting next to each other. It's convivial and friendly, but in a very businesslike way. It was designed by architect Philip Johnson nearly 50 years ago. It hasn't changed since then, yet it still looks hyper-modern. It's like eating in the lobby of the biggest building in the world.

I always go for the crab cake made with big chunks of Maryland jumbo lump crab meat, lightly bound with mayonnaise, herbs and seasoning and a little bit of lemon. The Four Seasons is one of the few restaurants in New York to serve buffalo and I always have the filet mignon because I don't use buffalo in my own restaurants very much.

For dessert they bring you vanilla ice cream to share in the middle of the table, and they put a mountain of cotton candy on it. It's playful, witty and very American; it's childish but very professional, too. I can never eat it all but it amuses me every time.

New Yorkers take their food seriously. They are very demanding but also very loyal to the restaurants they love – I wouldn't have it any other way.

Daniel Boulud's Address Book

Restaurant Daniel, 60 East 65th Street (001 212 288 0033;

Una Pizza Napoletana, 349 East 12th Street (001 212 477 9950;

El Quinto Pino, 401 West 24th Street (001 212 206 6900;

Sandy's Lechoneria, 2261 2nd Avenue (001 212 348 8654)

Nicky's Sandwiches, 150 East 2nd Street (001 212 388 1088;

Sushi Seki, 1143 1st Avenue (001 212 371 0238)

Momofuku Ssam Bar, 207 2nd Avenue (001 212 254 3500;

Daisy May BBQ, 623 11th Avenue (001 212 977 1500;

WD-50, 50 Clinton Street (001 212 477 2900;

Café Boulud, 20 East 76th Street (001 212 772 2600;

Eighty One, 45 West 81st Street (001 212 873 8181; 81

Eleven Madison Park, 11 Madison Avenue (001 212 889 0905;

Per Se, 4th Floor Time Warner Centre, 10 Columbus Circle (001 212 823 9335;

The Four Seasons, 99 East 52nd Street (001 212 754 9494;

Further information: Daniel Boulud will open DBGB restaurant in Lower Manhattan on the Bowery in February

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