Le Bernardin tops vaunted ‘Liste’ as NYC eating places gear up for crucial vacation season

December can be a make-or-break month for a lot of Midtown eating places hobbled by sluggish lunch enterprise, however they’re not sweating it at Le Bernardin.

The West fiftieth Street seafood palace, the place Michelin just lately reaffirmed a treasured three-star score, was simply named the world’s No. 1 restaurant for 2023 by La Liste, the more and more influential rankings based mostly in Paris. The findings are based mostly on evaluation of 1000’s of guidebooks, media tales and on-line opinions worldwide, whereas Michelin depends on nameless inspector visits.

Eric Ripert, Le Bernardin’s chef and co-owner with Maguy Le Coze, celebrated the second time Le Bernardin has been so honored (it was additionally No. 1 on La Liste in 2019) as “excellent news for us. La Liste, which is only seven years old, is starting to impose itself,” and extensively adopted by guests to the Big Apple from Asian international locations together with Japan and Korea.

Le Bernardin hardly wants one other enhance.  

Ripert mentioned Le Bernardin, which was additionally named No. 1 by La Liste in 2019, has “never been so busy.”
Not all Midtown restaurants are experiencing the same kind of lunch success as Le Bernardin.
Not all Midtown eating places are experiencing the identical type of lunch success as Le Bernardin.
Robert Miller

“We have never been so busy,” Ripert mentioned —  at lunch in addition to at dinner.

But though tables are exhausting to come back by earlier than the top of the yr, the one-two punch of Michelin and La Liste “are much more important to us in January and February.”

However, not everyone in Midtown, the center of Manhattan’s restaurant trade, is prepared to interrupt out the Champagne. Holiday occasion bookings have been unexpectedly sturdy, however weak lunch visitors continues to be a lump of coal for places still recovering from the pandemic.

Although effective locations have opened similar to Fasano, Le Rock and Simon Oren’s buzzing new Monterey, and outdated favorites like Fresco by Scotto and Polo Bar seem to be continuous events, the pandemic felled the fabled ‘21’ Club and extra are on the brink.

Times Square Alliance president Tom Harris mentioned he’s “watching December closely.” He mentioned space restaurant enterprise is down 9% general from 2019 ranges. Reduced lunch demand stored locations similar to Jasmine’s on Restaurant Row darkish earlier than 4 p.m.

The turbulent scene retains savvy homeowners on their toes. Jeff Bank, CEO of Alicart Restaurant Group, which owns Carmine’s and Virgil’s, mentioned operators should “acknowledge the huge shifts in demographics and timing.”

Before COVID, “You pretty much knew what was going to happen at lunch and dinner,” he mentioned. But now, “We have to be flexible. It’s easier for [better-established places] that have multi-legs to stand on. We know Friday is dead due to empty offices, but we can pick up tourism on the weekend.”

Alicart Restaurant Group CEO Jeff Bank said restaurant operators must “acknowledge the huge shifts in demographics and timing.”
Alicart Restaurant Group CEO Jeff Bank mentioned restaurant operators should “acknowledge the huge shifts in demographics and timing.”

Owners or landlords of Gallagher’s, Bryant Park Grill and Nobu 57 all declare their revenues are working 20-25% increased than in 2019. But New York Hospitality Alliance’s Andrew Rigie mentioned, “For restaurants that relied heavily on office workers, it’s tough when the building upstairs is less than 50% occupied.”

The new Avra on Sixth Avenue all the time seems to be full, however accomplice Nick Tsoulos says his three eating places are solely “about 60% to 70% back” in contrast with pre-COVID ranges.

“I’m waiting to see [what happens] this Christmas season,” he mentioned. The
“power lunch” the place prime-movers did enterprise over their meals, “has faded,” he added.

Ben Grossman, CEO of Fireman Hospitality Group, mentioned that the corporate’s general enterprise is “close to pre-COVID.” But lunch is a bit softer at Italian spots Bond 45 and Trattoria Dell’ Arte.

Dinner nonetheless rocks, particularly at Trattoria throughout Seventh Avenue from Carnegie Hall.

“What’s missing in the area is lunch,” Grossman mentioned. “Friday which used to be our best lunch day is now the worst.”

Some lunch visitors is location-specific, based mostly on workplace occupancy in the identical buildings because the eating places. Porter House Bar & Grill at Columbus Circle has much less of a lunch crowd as a result of Deutsche Bank employees, who changed Time Warner upstairs, appear to take extra meals of their cafeteria than their media predecessors did.

Trattoria Dell’ Arte, like many restaurants in Midtown, is suffering from a softer lunch during the week.
Trattoria Dell’ Arte, like many eating places in Midtown, is affected by a softer lunch in the course of the week.
Helayne Seidman

However, chef/proprietor Michael Lomonaco mentioned, “Our private events have never been stronger since the summer” and his 260 seats are stuffed virtually each night time.

The non-public occasions frenzy is making up for slower lunch commerce — half as in 2019 — at Dino Arpaia’s Cellini on East 54th Street. The widespread spot has hosted latest events for Santander Bank, Jefferies, KPMG, Blackstone and Black Rock.

But, “They’re all condensed into Tuesday through Thursday because they don’t come in much on the other days,” Arpaia mentioned. “I’ve never been under such pressure” to accommodate company clients in a narrower time window.

At elegant Chinese restaurant Hutong, maitre’d and visitor relations head Raafet Olian additionally cited sturdy dinner and occasions enterprise, however known as lunch “still a struggle” — partly as a result of Bloomberg staffers, who have their headquarters within the tower, come much less persistently than up to now.

Like Deutsche Bank, Bloomberg has its personal in-house meals amenities. Some financial institution staff have even supplied leftovers to Hutong employees they meet within the elevators.

Olian joked, “Shouldn’t it be the other way around?”

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