Harry Cipriani in the Sherry-Netherland Hotel

April 12, 2008

The oft-derided Harry Cipriani, for many years has been derided as a poor tasting, overpriced, “scene” restaurant. While I’ll tell you that the food was good, the last two are entirely correct.

Harry Cipriani is located in the Sherry-Netherland Hotel, a 1927 Art Deco beauty, that is not only intimate, but retains a grandness that usually only exists in larger, more impersonal hotels. It is located on across from Central Park and on Fifth Avenue, which creates a perfect atmosphere for shoppers and joggers. Its 50 rooms are individually decorated, and can be viewed before being booked on its website. The rooms, unlike the Plaza, its nearest hotel neighbor are reasonably priced (for the location) and give a great respite from the chain-dominated hotel industry.

The restaurant is open during breakfast, lunch and dinner. When I went there for breakfast, my party was one out of three that dined there. I’m sure there are usually more diners, but it was a rainy day and I came after the business crowd dined. As always mentioned in reviews, the restaurant is small and cramped with both small tables and chairs that allow for more people to be squeezed in, which equals more $$$. All of the waiters, were male (the restaurant was sued for sexual discrimination) and for the most part, European. The restaurant is famous mostly due to the celebrities who frequent it, and its ancestor, Harry’s Bar in Venice, invented the Bellini (peach nectar and sparkling wine) and Carpaccio. It was most recently rated “Poor” by Frank Bruni, but it still packs a crowd at lunch and dinner time.

Another view of Harry Cipriani

The Bellini (I am 16, so they made me a virgin one), but it still costed ($19.95)

Pancakes stuffed with Banana ($15.50)

Fresh Fruit Plate with Apple, Grapefruit, Pineapple, Orange ($19.50)

Fried Eggs, Bacon, Home Fries ($19.50 + 4 + 4)

Its a restaurant you bring someone to impress, but not to have a culinary experience. Usually its filled with older-looking blonde women and their even older-looking husbands, who have no problem with spending hundreds of dollars on a good (but not amazing) meal, because as I said earlier: you come here to see and be seen, not to eat.

Harry Cipriani (at the Sherry-Netherland Hotel)
781 Fifth Avenue at E. 59th Street (Central Park South)
New York
Open: Daily (7am-10:30am, noon-11:45pm)
Amex, MC, V
Matchbooks: Yes, but you must ask your waiter


The Palm Court in the Plaza Hotel in New York

April 5, 2008


I’ve been to Europe. I’ve been to Asia. The finest hotel that i’ve ever known (and know) is the Plaza. The name does not bring into mind, various town squares in Latin American countries, where the name is derived, but one hotel, perfectly positioned in the most opulent area of Manhattan, sandwiched between the world’s most famous shopping district and its most famous park.

This describes the Plaza Hotel, where I stayed during my vacation to New York (LINK TO ARTICLE ON PLAZA HERE)!!!


The Palm Court inside the Plaza Hotel has been famed for its afternoon tea which has been around since its inception. The Palm Court today serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, saturday and sunday brunch and of course afternoon tea. This restaurant is led by French chef Didier Virot, and offers a unique (yet not too unique) meal.

When I arrived to New York, I had previously made reservations, but had shown up wearing a collegiate sweatshirt and jeans. I walked up to the hostess, told her my situation and she said “oh its no problem” and seated me instantly. I had to wait a while for the food to be served after I ordered, but it was worth it. The potatoes were good, but not great; but the french toast was probably the best i’ve ever had.

The stained glass ceiling, which was destroyed by Conrad Hilton in the 40’s to make room for air conditioning equipment has been replaced, but with one difference. The stained glass ceiling has no natural sunlight. It uses a group of lights that mimic daylight and change reflecting the time and strength of outside light.

Mixed Fruit Drink ($12)

Brioche French Toast with Hawaiian Gold Pineapple and Passionfruit Caramel Sauce ($26)

Golden Roasted Potatoes ($14)

Two Eggs with Applewood Smoked Bacon and Golden Roasted Potatoes ($26)

The Palm Court
The Plaza Hotel
Fifth Avenue at Central Park South (E. 59th street)
New York City
(212) 759-3000 (ask for Palm Court)
Open: Breakfast (Daily): 6:30am-11:30am, Brunch (Sat & Sun): 11:30am-2:00pm, Lunch (Mon-Fri): 11:30am-2pm, Afternoon Tea (Daily): 2pm-5pm, Dinner (Daily): 6pm-10pm

Peter Luger Steakhouse in New York

April 5, 2008

Without a doubt, my favorite restaurant in New York. My favorite restaurant in the world. If you go to New York and you do not go here, you are missing out, and if you are from New York, and you’ve never been there, you should leave and never come back.

Peter Luger steakhouse opened in 1887 as “Carl Luger’s Café, Billiards and Bowling Alley” began in the mostly German Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg. Since it has been around for 120 years, they must be doing something right? Right? Rated the best steakhouse in New York by Zagats for 24 years running, awarded a James Beard award, and given 3 stars from the Grey Lady (New York Times), this is the best restaurant in New York, if not the world. Yes, I said 3 stars, I know Frank Bruni knocked it down to two, but what does he know anyway?

This restaurant definitely does not have a scene like some other midtown restaurants where people talk in hushed voices and the lighting is so low, you could be eating someone else’s food. Not at Peter Lugers, the patrons here sometimes sing songs and laugh without restraint while the overhead brass chandeliers make the room bright, declared unbearably bright by some, but perfect for me. Especially if you tend to photograph your food.

Being the most popular steakhouse in New York, you have to call at least 3 weeks ahead, and more if you want a holiday or a weekend. If you want to get there, pick up a taxi at a hotel, because some taxi drivers don’t want to drive to Brooklyn as it is too far away, even though it is required by law to drive to any of the five boroughs. It will take half an hour to forty-five minutes and will cost about $30-45 dollars, but it will be definitely worth it. You might have to wait 30 minutes to an hour depending on the size of your group, as diners tend to stick around after their food has been served and taken away.

Do not believe the rumor of the rude, stern waiter, as when I went there, each waiter and server was just as friendly as the one before. They tend not to give menus to locals (trust me, they can tell) and they usually give them to non-locals and tourists. The waiters are mostly professional European waiters, who almost never make mistakes.

Do not order the fish, go for the porterhouse, called the “steak for ____.” You must start with Canadian Bacon, actually cured pork belly, follow that with a Caesar salad or sliced tomato and onions, get German potatoes as a side for your steak and end with dessert. The steak sauce is not that good as it is just ketchup mixed with horseradish and lemon. It tastes like a weak cocktail sauce.

The bread basket was amazing, as the large brown speckled rolls in the front were onion rolls. They are bread wrapped around diced onions… amazing.

Slice of Canadian Bacon ($2.95)

Caesar Salad ($9.95), was fresh, crisp, just how a Caesar salad should be.

Steak for Two ($83.90), the steak sizzling in a mixture of its own juices and butter.

When your steak is brought out, the plate is heated to 400f in the 1800f broiler so that the steak does not cool when you are eating it. If you want a picture you have to tell your waiter because he will instantly flip over a small plate to put the steak dish onto an angle to pool the drippings and then pull the already-sliced steak apart.

The steak after the waiter took a few pieces off

German Fried Potatoes for two ($10.95)

The “Holy Cow” Sundae, the ice cream was just Haagen Daz (which is good), but the Schlag (whipped cream) made it perfect.

When you go to Lugers, bring cash because the only credit card that is accepted is the Peter Luger credit card, which can only be used at… you guessed it… Peter Luger. Don’t go the clones: Blair Perrone, Wolfgang’s, Ben & Jack’s and if you do, try the original one.

Ask for a plate of “schlag”- its whipped cream, they make it. I hate whipped cream, but I love theirs.

Peter Luger
178 Broadway
Brooklyn, NY, 11211
(718) 387-7400
Open: Mon-Thu: 11:45am-9:45pm, Fri-Sat: 11:45am-10:45pm, Sun: 12:45-9:45pm

Matchbooks: Yes, but you have to ask for them

Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridien hotel in New York

April 5, 2008

Set behind ceiling high curtains in the lobby of the sophisticated but not snooty Le Parker Meridien Hotel on E. 57th street, lurks a burger-hawking greasy spoon that stands in huge comparison to Norma’s, the power breakfast capital who sells a $1000 caviar frittata. You can get a burger here for $6.50, which is $13.50 less than the $20 room-service burger. You can find the link on their website, but you’d be hard pressed to find so, as it is only a small lower case ‘burger’ on the restaurant page.

The neon sign placed behind the floor to ceiling curtain draws you in with a tempting neon sign…

Every website says that it is a secret, but the secret is out. When I was there, I heard no American voices, only British, Spanish, German and Japanese. Its probably because I came at about 2pm, that I missed the Midtown lunch rush, but it still surprised me that there were this many non-Americans, and that this place is called a secret.

The inside of the restaurant is wood-paneled and white-washed brick, in huge contrast to the marble and mirror lobby of the hotel which it calls home. The wood panels are covered in “old” band posters, while the brick is covered in graffiti. Yes, it says “Ashton Kutcher rules” on the wall. Hopefully, management takes care of that.

There are few seats in the restaurant, but many patrons, many of them Europeans who like to talk and chat after they eat, so you have to look out for a seat and then pounce for it. Otherwise, you wait.

Hamburger $6.50

The orders are taken quickly, and then passed along on a clothesline, and the grill, which actually uses flames imparts a chargrilled taste unlike burgers made without it.

Anatomy of a Hamburger

French Fries ($3)

In conclusion, this place is good and worth it if you are in this area of town, but even though it was awarded “Best Midtown Brunch” by Zagats in 2008, there are still better lunches around, with less people. And when you’re finished, get up and let someone else have a seat. Or you could call in your order, pick it up and sit down without having to wait, but whats the fun in that.

Burger Joint
Le Parker Meridien Hotel
118 W. 57th Street (southwest corner of Sixth Avenue and W. 57th street)
New York City
Open: Sunday-Thursday: 11:30am-11:30pm, Friday & Saturday: 11:30am-midnight

The Four Seasons in New York (restaurant, not hotel)

April 5, 2008

The Four Seasons restaurant is located on E. 52nd street and Park Avenue in the Seagram Building, an Internationalist masterpiece designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson. It is known less for its food and more for being the place where the power lunch was created.

The interior, which was also designed by van der Rohe and Johnson, has remained virtually unchanged since it was created along with the building in 1959 and the interior of the restaurant has been designated as a landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Committee in 1989. The design is very JFK-era, and this is the restaurant where Marilyn Monroe famously sung “Happy Birthday, Mr. President”.

The restaurant has two rooms: the Pool Room and the Grill Room. The Pool Room, is the room most often referenced to when talking about the Four Seasons, as it is the most photographed. As its name denotes, there is a large reflecting pool in the center of the restaurant, flanked by four potted trees. The Grill Room, is the famed haunt of the business community as they can meet to conduct business without any fancy trees or reflecting pools to distract the dealmaking.

When I went in March, it was before a theatre show, so we arrived at 6pm and as I expected, the clientele was gray-haired and quite aged. I noticed that most of them were remarking at how the restaurant has not changed since they were younger. I overheard one lady mention that she had dined here for every “season” (they change the menu four times a year, for each season) since it opened. Thats over 192 times.

Its very hard to tell whom are the waiters and whom are the diners, as the waiters all wear black suits, just like most of the diners. You can tell the difference, as the waiters wear red ties, that have little Four Seasons trees on them, or you can just remember who took your order. Do that right, and you won’t ask the wrong person twice like I did.

In ordering, the menu had many seasonal offerings, but had a few hold-overs from other seasons such as the Farmhouse Duck ($55) and the Short Ribs ($45). I asked the waiter which would be the best thing to order, and he told me that the Farmhouse Duck had been on the menu since he had been working there, so if it has been on there for that long, something must be right. So I got it. I wanted to have the Chilled Seafood as an appetizer, but in mentioning the specials, he mentioned Florida Stone Crab Claws, so I chose those instead. I guess Steven Schwarzman of Blackstone, must have came in and requested them.

The Florida Stone Crab claws were not as juicy as other crab claws that I have had, but they were meaty and the vegetable salad that is positioned behind them was good and made up for the crab claws short comings.

The timeless Long Island Farmhouse Duck ($55) is brought out whole to a cart near your table and is cut and sliced in half for two persons. The duck was the best duck that I have ever experienced, and that if you ever get anything at the Four Seasons, you should get the duck.

After being masterly cut and sliced tableside, the duck is presented to your table complete with juices and Cara Cara oranges, which were delicious and are just plain oranges. Nothing special, but it gives a good contrast to the duck.

Chocolate Pot de Creme ($15)

For dessert, which was necessary, I chose the Chocolate Pot de Creme ($15), a cold dish filled with chocolate custard, which was quite thick, so I ordered a dish of Vanilla Ice Crem ($15), to cut the density of the Chocolate Custard. It worked out perfect.

Vanilla Ice Cream ($15)

In closing, the Four Seasons is not the restaurant for a hip young clientele, but a restaurant that you would bring your parents (or grandparents) to relive another era, or a client to show him the glories of New York. But I still recommend it. Oh, and don’t miss the Picasso in the lobby. If you can’t find it, ask one of the staff, they’ll gladly point you towards it.

The Four Seasons
Seagram Building
99 E. 52nd Street (southwest corner of Park & E. 52nd)
New York City
Open: Mon-Fri, noon-2:15pm, 5pm-9:30pm; Sat, 5pm-11:30pm; Sun, closed
Matchbooks: Yes, but you must ask for them.

Midtown Baltimore Photography

March 17, 2008

The area that I photographed is the cultural center of Baltimore, with many of its stately townhouses, along with the Baltimore School of Art, Contemporary Museum, Maryland Historical Society and Walters Art Gallery. It is sandwiched on the north by Midtown and its townhouses and on the south by the Central Business District.

The Contemporary Museum

From the left to right: St. James Place, New Howard Hotel, Congress Hotel and Mayfair Theatre

A townhouse on W. Monument Street

The Enoch Pratt House

The Contemporary Museum from the Maryland Historical Society

A townhouse across from the Maryland Historical Society

The Winona Apartment Building

Another view of the Winona Apartment Building

The First Presbyterian Church (thanks for correction!)

Another view of the Grace and St. Peter’s Church

The entrance to the Grace and St. Peter’s school

Looking east down W. Monument Street

The Maryland Historical Society

Another view of the Maryland Historical Society

Station North/Penn Station/Charles North Area

March 16, 2008

The Station North/Penn Station/Charles North area that I photographed is located on the northern side of the Jones Falls Expressway, and is the target for gentrification and redevelopment. It is seen as a gateway from Midtown Baltimore, with its stately townhouses and Charles Village/Johns Hopkins area, with its intellectual students and faculty. The area, which had been depressed by white flight and suburbanization, still has many high quality townhouses and is being designated as a art zone by the City of Baltimore. Even though, a formerly vacant block stretching from E. Lanvale street and E. Lafayette street on Calvert Street was rebuilt with modern townhouses, much work remains to be done. The area seems to be held down by the Charles Theatre, where much of the redevelopment is based around.

The Railway Express Building

The Railway Express Building is a historically-designated building that sits across from the Pennsylvania Station in Baltimore, and was used to sort mail that was shipped in by train to Baltimore. No longer used for that purpose, it has been converted into loft condominiums.

The southeast view of the Railway Express Building

A closeup of the Railway Express Building’s decoration

Mount Royal Hotel and Apartments

The Mount Royal Hotel and Apartments; which are now all condominiums, face Penn Station on Mount Royal Avenue. The taller building on the left was used as a hotel and the shorter building on the right was used as apartments until they both were converted into condominiums.

A northwest view of the Mount Royal Hotel and Apartments

Entrance to the Mount Royal Hotel building

Mount Royal Apartment Building

Another view of the Mount Royal Apartment Building

The Chesapeake Restaurant

The Chesapeake Restaurant, located in a converted block of 4 (or 5) rowhouses was considered one of the best restaurants to dine in Baltimore. The restaurant was established in 1935 and was considered along with Haussner’s, Miller Brothers, Marconi’s and Tio Pepes as one of Baltimore’s best restaurants. . It closed in 1983, and was briefly reopened in 1986, but closed quickly after that.

The Chesapeake Restaurant Sign (“The Chesapeake: Fine American Cuisine”)

The Chesapeake Sign

This beautiful stained glass doorway was located on a rowhouse on E. Lanvale Street between St. Paul street and Hargrove Alley.

These townhouses are located on St. Paul’s street and Lanvale Street

Station North townhouses

The 32 Station North townhouses that are located on Calvert Street between Lanvale street and E. Lafayette street, are a bet on the revival of the Charles North/Station North neighborhood, they ranged from $378,000 to $502,000; however few sold. Prices were reduced to around $290,000 to attract more homebuyers.

The Garage

The Garage in Baltimore is a building that is currently being used by the University of Baltimore, but existed previously as a car dealership as this area used to be occupied by many. The building style looks fairly new, but it dates from the 1920/30’s.

The Tower Building

Looking west down Mount Royal Avenue

Looking down Charles Street
The Charles Theatre

The Charles Theatre is a movie theatre that shows mostly independent and art movies, but also shows movies that are considered high-quality and does research before selecting a movie to show.

The Charles Theatre

This block across from the Charles Theatre houses the Club Charles, Zodiac and a vintage diner.

The Walbert Building

The University of Baltimore

The Pennsylvania Station

The 51-foot aluminum statue by Jonathan Borofsky that stands outside Penn Station has been criticized as ruining the beauty of the Beaux-Arts station that sits behind it.

The lobby of the Pennsylvania Station in Baltimore

A bench in the Pennsylvania Station lobby

Pennsylvania Station stained glass ceiling

A letter box in the Pennsylvania Station in Baltimore

The waiting area in the Pennsylvania Station in Baltimore

One of the doors that lead down to the train terminals

A relief in Penn Station (Baltimore) that shows two babies/infants with fishing nets who just captured a large fish.

The outdoor waiting area at Pennsylvania Station

The back of Pennsylvania station from E. Lanvale Street