New York’s Most Splurge-Worthy Restaurants, According to 14 Chefs

Di An Di chef Dennis Ngo can’t get enough of Lilia.
Photo: Melissa Hom

It’s a fact: Sometimes you just need to go big. But where to head when you want to blow half a month’s rent on dinner? That’s exactly the question we posed to 14 chefs around the city, who — of course — have many interesting thoughts on the topic. Here’s where they suggest you go when you really want to splurge. Enjoy yourself.

Dennis Ngo
Chef-owner, Di An Di
Lilia was the first place my fiancée, Alia, and I went to when we had our first night off together after Di An Di opened, and we’ve been going back regularly since (when we can get a table that is). Alicia, the general manager, and chef Aaron are executing chef Missy’s vision at an extremely high level that is so enjoyable and delicious.”

Allison Kave
Co-founder, Butter & Scotch
“There are plenty of steakhouses in NYC, but I generally head to Peter Luger when I want to treat myself. While I loved the rib eye I shared with friends on my birthday last year (and the warm, efficient service we enjoyed), my favorite way to experience this institution is by grabbing a weekday lunchtime seat at the bar for the Luger Burger (a half-pound of their ground dry-aged beef, medium rare), a gin Martini, and their superlative hot fudge sundae with ‘Schlag,’ their utterly perfect homemade whipped cream.”

Sohui Kim
Chef-owner, Insa and the Good Fork
“Hands down, it’s Gramercy Tavern. It’s fueled by my relationship with the executive chef, Michael Anthony. I started my culinary career with him when he was a chef of Blue Hill. Since then, he has been a great mentor and friend. Whenever I have a great cook moving on from the Good Fork, I take them to Gramercy. I think of G.T. as a mother ship of great classic American, responsible restaurant management. Ah, and the food is impeccable and inspiring!”

Caroline Schiff
Pastry chef and founder, the Paradigm Schiff
“I have to give it up for Kajitsu. They serve stunning, intricate eight or ten course vegetarian tasting menus of shojin cuisine — the culinary tradition in Japanese Zen Buddhist monasteries. It’s one of the most unique and tranquil dining experiences in the city and the vegetarian menu is mind-blowing. Dishes are literal works of art and the flavors and ingredients are so unique. The whole dinner transports you. You can spend this kind of money at a lot of places, but you won’t find this experience anywhere else, and seeing that Kajitsu translates to ‘fine day’ or ‘day of celebration’ I think makes it the perfect place to splurge!”

Crown Shy’s James Kent says go all-in on the steak omakase at Cote.
Photo: Melissa Hom

James Kent
Chef-owner, Crown Shy
“I worked at fancy fine-dining restaurants for over a decade. When I want to splurge, I don’t go to a four-star temple to excess. I go to Cote. It’s dark, sexy, and moody. Yes, you can go to Cote for a standard date night and order à la carte, but when you want to go big, get the steak omakase. In general, I try to steer clear of fatty protein, but I make an exception for Cote’s dry-aged umami-bomb beef. Add a 125 gram tin of Osetra caviar because if you’re splurging, you might as well gild the lily. It’s a place you can go for any occasion. I recently brought a friend for his birthday, and my family to celebrate after my wife and I ran a half marathon. It isn’t fussy, but it’s decadent.”

Diego Moya
Executive chef de cuisine, Racines NY
“When I get the urge to treat myself to a special meal, Momofuku Ko is usually at the top of the list. I’ve been a big fan of Sean Grey’s particularly fun progression of dishes. The experience is always luxurious without seeming stuffy, with plenty of personality and over-the-top deliciousness. It’s really singular in that top tier of fine dining in New York. I’m also a huge fan of the wine list.”

Jess Shadbolt
Chef, King
“Most weekends start with a discussion as to when we’ll head to Barbuto for a quick lunch, but there is no such thing as a quick lunch at Barbuto. They are long, indulgent, spirited meals that always seem to be bathed in sunshine and with a soundtrack of engaged conversation and laughter. The same order always goes in: Domaine Tempier, pasta, the chicken, the salad; but before we know it, we cannot resist the addition of whatever new dish catches our eye at a neighboring table. The generosity of this restaurant is infectious and before you know it, it’s 4 o’clock.”

Ovenly co-founder Agatha Kulaga loves everything at Sushi Yasuda.
Photo: Dennis Yermoshin/The New York Times/Redux

Agatha Kulaga
Co-founder, Ovenly
“When I’ve got cash to spend and want to treat myself, my go-to meal in NYC is omakase because it always feels so damn special. I’m not into fancy tablecloths, complicated flavors, or 12 people serving me at once, so Sushi Yasuda is one of my all-time favorite spots. There is something special about any restaurant in this city that’s been around for over 20 years, yet continues to feel timeless, unfussy, and intimate. Sitting at the sushi counter is the way to go, and it’s a great meal to enjoy alone or with a date. The fish has that melt-in-your-mouth feeling, the rice is perfectly prepared, and by the end of my meals there, my body is vibrating with pure joy.”

Melissa Rodriguez
Head chef, Del Posto
“I love Le Coucou. The food is classic, delicious, fancy, and rustic all at the same time. I love their rabbit entrée, better known as tout le lapin! It’s a delicious and simple preparation showcasing the entire animal. It’s hearty, delicate, simple, and complex all at the same time”

Jessica Craig
Executive pastry chef, L’Artusi
“My favorite restaurant splurge is Loring Place in Greenwich Village. I’m a vegetable-forward eater and Loring Place does it right with their seasonal menus. Their service is also top-notch and spot-on. The chocolate ‘hostess cupcake’ is a favorite of mine as it brings me back to childhood. I love the flavor of the sweet chocolate cake with the sharp acidity of the tangerine sherbet. I used to eat Oreo cookies with orange juice as a kid and that dish totally reminds me of that flavor combination. It may sound weird to most, but their pastry chef gets it in a really wonderful way.”

Miro Uskokovic
Head pastry chef, Gramercy Tavern
“When looking to splurge, my wife and I usually turn to Thai food. Our favorite spot to go is Ayada Thai in Elmhurst, Queens — we’re huge proponents for all things Queens! We like to think of Ayada Thai as our hidden gem. The food, intimate space, and relaxed atmosphere makes it for the perfect spot to order everything on the menu without judgement — I highly recommend their chive dumplings and Pad See Ew noodle.”

Erik Ramirez
Chef-owner, Llama Inn and Llamita
“For me, Eleven Madison Park hits all points of being a great restaurant. This restaurant makes every person who walks through its doors feel like royalty. Whether it’s the trip back to the beautifully built and immaculately kept kitchen or the way the staff pulled out the chair for my lady every time, it feels like a place you wish you could spend every night. Being pampered and spoiled the way they know how can only be accomplished by the best. The experience as a whole almost makes you forget that bill at the end. It’s truly amazing because they don’t drop a single ball. It’s almost like you are the lead actor in a movie of your life and this place is filming the perfect first and only take.”

Blue Hill at Stone Barns is worth the trip out of town.
Photo: Melissa Hom

Matt Griffin
Head chef, Simon & the Whale
“I have to hand it to Blue Hill at Stone Barns for next-level, epic dining. Being part of a working farm, they’re just on another level in terms of sourcing product. The last time I dined there was literally a seven-hour meal with my girlfriend where we didn’t even get to the dessert course because we had to catch the 1 a.m. train back from Tarrytown.”

Patch Troffer
Head chef, Marlow & Sons
“I recently had an amazing super-splurge dinner at Shoji at 69 Leonard that I can’t stop thinking about. The impeccable sourcing, simplicity, and thoughtfulness of chef Wilcox and his food are absolutely inspiring. No one dish sticks out too much — the whole experience feels incredibly balanced. I feel so fortunate to have dined there!”

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