Michelin’s annual release of New York City’s starred restaurants is a highly anticipated event. For restaurant owners, receiving a Michelin star signifies a mark of distinction and recognition of fine dining and high-quality cuisine. The Culture Trip has already compiled a list of the city’s 2016 three-star Michelin restaurants. We now profile the 10 exceptional establishments that were awarded two Michelin stars.
Aquavit has been one of New York City’s ‘most popular and highly esteemed dining destinations’ since its opening in 1987. This modern Nordic restaurant offers high-end Scandinavian cuisine that pays homage to Sweden’s 500-year-old culinary traditions. Chef Emma Bengtsson famously juxtaposes ‘flavors and textures in ways that are both complex and finely tuned,’ says food critic Pete Wells. Although the menu denotes only two key ingredients for every dish, each plate is packed with bold flavors and inventive combinations. Aquavit recommends making reservations at least 30 days in advance for parties of six or less.
Atera combines culinary creativity with a deep appreciation for nature to create an immersive sensory dining experience. The modern American restaurant offers fixed-price-only menus that reflect the color and feeling of the seasons. In the summertime, it serves ‘green, juicy and vigorous creations, while wintertime follows a darker, deeper and more thoughtful trail.’ Atera offers a continuously sensory 18-course experience. Diners are seated on soft leather high chairs around a countertop where they observe a team of cooks preparing intricately designed dishes in silence. Executive Chef Ronny Emborg delivers a deft combination of elemental flavors, using first-class technique and fresh seasonal ingredients to create exquisite flavors.
Although Blanca is a small, reservation-only loft space, it offers dishes packed with big flavor. The fashionably tiny tasting room consists of only 12 seats placed around a polished counter, but a 27-course meal combines several ingredients ‘into two- or three-bite compositions that [are] utterly complete,’ says food critic Pete Wells. Executive Chef Carlo Mirarchi is famous mainly for his exquisite pasta, however, dinner at Blanca reveals he is also gifted in cooking fish and meat. Miniature servings of roast duck may be ‘placed beside a slow-burning beet mole, followed by porchetta with chimichurri,’ Wells describes. The portion is small, but ‘the meat is always juicier and more concentrated than almost any other restaurant can manage.’ Blanca requires reservations to be made at least 30 days in advance and only accepts parties of up to four people.
Chef Daniel Boulud’s renowned restaurant serves award-winning contemporary French cuisine and world-class wines in a distinctive setting furnished lavishly with warm and welcoming décor. Delectable items such as the duck consommé with white port and the Scottish langoustines (made with fennel, ruby red grapefruit and bergamot vinaigrette) provide exquisite tastes that can satisfy any palate. Daniel also offers private dining and a luxe bar and lounge where guests can ‘enjoy creative cocktails, à la carte dining and sumptuous late-night desserts.’
Located within the modern Brushstroke restaurant, this upscale sushi bar serves traditional edo-mae sushi in a small and intimate setting. Dinner at the eight-seat bar is prepared by chef Eiji Ichimura who delivers ‘surprising depth and complexity of flavor’ without the aid of a single sous chef or assistant. Meals begin with sensational zensai, or traditional Japanese appetizer plates, consisting of toro, uni, herring and other cold bites. The sashimi that follows includes amberjack, striped jack, Bluefin tuna and abalone. There is also a serving of Chef Ichimura’s signature nigiri as well as 13 to 15 pieces of sushi to finish off the exquisite meal.
Jungsik offers innovative, high-end Korean fare in an elegant and contemporary space made up of unadorned walls, clean white curtains and crisp white linens that cover the tables of the dimly lit dining rooms. Chef Jung Sik Yim, whom The New York Times has christened ‘The Pioneer of Modern Korean,’ brings ‘the innovations of French cuisine and new Spanish movements into the Korean realm’ while crafting playful dishes packed with bold flavor. The elaborate tasting menu changes seasonally, highlights include Golden Osetra (a rare form of Osetra caviar), crispy red mullet, octopus, a lemon olive sorbet and scallop with Korean pepper paste. Diners may also complement their dinner with professionally chosen wine pairings.
Chef Michael White delivers upscale Italian seafood and house-made pastas in this glittering establishment located on Central Park South. Marea’s menu is devoted to the sea with selections that include whole fish preparations, composed fish dishes, oysters, sea urchin and other extensive offerings. The wine list consists of over 750 selections that ‘pair perfectly with the bounty of the sea.’ Diners can expect an exquisite dining experience, complete with a beautiful setting, excellent service and superb cuisine.
The Modern’s beautifully bright and airy setting has floor-to-ceiling windows that provide lovely views of the Museum of Modern Art’s Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden. This contemporary and elegant restaurant offers French and New American fare expertly prepared by Chef Abram Bissell. His ‘ever-evolving, seasonal menu is complemented by desserts from Pastry Chef Jiho Kim and an award-winning wine program.’ There is also a seven-course tasting menu available for diners. The Modern’s unexpectedly playful dishes, commitment to excellence and focus on creating a unique experience for each guest makes it a restaurant well-deserving of two Michelin stars.
This glittering establishment located in the East Village is almost impossible to get into but definitely worth the effort. Momofuku Ko’s 23-seat chef’s counter provides an intimate dining experience and a memorable tasting menu of Asian-influenced American fare. Some of Chef David Chang’s signature dishes include foie gras served on lychee, pine nut brittle and riesling jelly, gently smoked lobster tail served with spaghetti squash, scallops complemented with basil and pineapple liquid, and kabocha tortellini. Each plate is unconventional and visually elegant, but just like the space in which the restaurant resides, each dish remains unpretentious. Reservations for parties of up to four are offered 15 days ahead. For parties of four to six, table reservations are offered 30 days ahead. Interested diners are urged to check for seat availability at 10am on the first day of every month.
On the other side of the island in the West Village sits an understated Japanese sushi restaurant called Soto. There is no sign on the restaurant’s front door to distinguish it, but regular diners understand that this is not some flashy temple to sushi but rather an authentic and traditional Japanese establishment. Chef Sotohiro Kosugi showcases culinary dominance and expertise alongside his two loyal assistants in an austere dining room that seats only 42 people. The restaurant prides itself on masterful preparation of luxurious raw seafood that is flown in from around the globe five times a week. The presentation of each dish is often inventive and sophisticated, and each meal can be complemented by a comprehensive sake list.