Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A night at The Plaza

No, I didn't get to spend the night in the Eloise Suite. But I did get to spend a few hours at one of New York's most famous hotels. Some friends were in town for the weekend (bringing their almost 7 year old on her FIRST TRIP TO NYC!), and I was looking for someplace fun and a little bit special to meet them for dinner. When you live in a city like New York, there is a lot of pressure to deliver good dining experiences to out-of-towners. New York has some of the best food in the world, and it often comes at a you want them to be impressed!

After consulting my foodie friends and racking my brain a bit, I came up with what I thought was a good idea: Todd English's Food Hall at The Plaza Hotel!

Food halls are pretty trendy in New York right now -- this isn't a new concept (think Harrods in London, Takashimaya in Japan), but now top foodies are tripping over each other to develop the quintessential NYC food hall experience. Mario Batali has Eataly, Jeffrey Chodorow has FoodParc, but the trend really started with Todd English's contribution, which is located in the basement of the newly renovated Plaza Hotel.

I thought this would be perfect for my friends. First, the food was supposed to be fantastic. That really had to be first priority. Second, my "niece" (I'm Aunt Ali, at least in name!) is a foodie who loves some Top Chef. Todd isn't exactly Tom Colicchio, but he's definitely a player in the celeb chef world and I think he's even been a TC guest judge. Third, The Plaza Hotel is an NYC institution and is a great little stop on a first visit, especially for little girls who have grown up reading Eloise. Eloise is ALL OVER the new and improved(?) Plaza -- she's on a flag waving on the front of the building, she's in a portrait in the lobby, and her likeness is available on all kinds of books and jewelry and clothes and toys in her very own gift shop. 

And I'm happy to say our visit was a total success! The Food Hall is huge but not overwhelming, popular but not too crowded (a nice contrast from Eataly, which is absolutely mobbed all the time). There are 8 different food stations, serving a variety of choices including sushi, pizza, carved meats, salads, and dumplings. You're seated on stools around one of the various stations, but the menu is inclusive and everyone can order from any station. There aren't a lot of places where your dining companions can be enjoying good sushi and great flatbread pizza at the same time! And while you're waiting for your food, you get to watch your stations chef in action -- the slicing and dicing, the pots bubbling over on the stove. Dinner and a show!

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The seating initially posed a small bit of a challenge for our group of 4. We were seated in a row, and our conversation was a bit of a game of telephone, trying to pass messages down the line. Eventually 4 seats on the corner opened up and we were able to move so we could face each other as we chatted. I wanted to hear all about their big day in the city! There were multiple Naked Cowboys involved. 

So, the food. A-MAZ-ING! Everyone was really happy with their meal, but I think mine might have been best. My friend went with sushi and a seaweed salad (which we dared her to order because it sounded weird, and she ended up LOVING), her husband got gyros, and her daughter got beef sliders and fries (super cute presentation on that one). I went with the 1/2 organic rotisserie chicken, which came with bread and pickled vegetables (umm...?), and I added a side order of haricots verts. And here is what I got. First, the chicken:

Thanks, Interwebz -- I totally devoured mine before I snapped a photo
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What a feast! I couldn't eat all of the meat, though I really wanted to because it was perfectly tender and juicy. This is the kind of flavor that you just can't get when you make it at home.

And the haricots verts were like dessert -- SO tasty! Green beans topped with walnuts, cheese, and a bit of pepper for some spice. Oh my god, I wanted to lick the bowl! I usually eat my green beans steamed, but this was quite a nice treat. I need to try to recreate this at home.

We were all too full for dessert, but they had quite a nice looking little bakery. I spotted some French macarons, so I'll definitely try to save room next time. And I do plan on going back -- there are so many more things I need to try on the menu! Prime rib, gourmet pizzas, big salads -- yum, yum, and yum. I'll definitely suggest this for out of town guests, but this would be a great spot for a date or a girls' night. We can't let tourists have all of the Plaza fun!


  1. okay…seriously. That just about did me in. Now I need to eat there. That sounds amazing!!

  2. Great write up on the Food Hall! I've heard about it but never been. I am coming to town this coming week, and I am thinking I owe this place a visit :)

  3. Amy -- it was really yummy! I want to go back and eat a big bowl of those green beans. It would be a fun place to take your little one in a few years :)

    Lindsay -- I definitely recommend it! Make sure you save room for dessert :)

  4. this place is great