Typical flower vender on the streets.
China TownWe stayed at a fairly new hotel, the Chatwal, located on W. 44th near the theater district. Bottom line: great spot. The room was comfortable and very modern, including a television that would materialize in the bathroom mirror at the touch of a button. Window shades were operated electronically, there was a nice desk in the room, and no expense had been spared on the bedding. We did not book dinner at the restaurant, The Lamb's Club, but our breakfast there was very good. The staff was helpful and attentive, and you're a short walk from Grand Central, Bryant Park, or Time's Square.
Grand Central needs a mention. Even folks who've visited NYC several times cannot help but enjoy a view over the Grand Concourse and the flurry of human commotion. Our favorite perch is the bar at Michael Jordan's restaurant, where my name never fails to attract attention. The unhurried view of the ceiling is spectacular and provides a nice contrast to the bustle on the main floor. A great spot for lunch, if you're a seafood lover, is the storied Oyster House tucked away beneath the concourse. The arched, stone, ceiling is itself worth a visit, but the real find is--surprise--the vast array of fresh oysters that have made us repeat visitors.
Less well known is the Campell Apartment, a stunning bar hidden in a corner of Grand Central. Although there are two ways of accessing the Apartment, we recommend asking a security guard for directions. We became pretty twisted around trying to find it the first time and thought we'd spend the rest of our vacation roaming lost corridors of Grand Central. The Apartment was built by the wealthy Mr. Campbell in the 1920's as an office and reception area. Officially, I understand, it was classified as an apartment to obtain a cheaper tax evaluation. In any event, it is a glorious room, with a twenty-five feet high ceiling constructed by European craftsmen brought over for the task. The ceiling is beautifully painted and you'll find yourself staring upwards as you nurse a cocktail, of which there are several interesting offerings. There's a massive stone fireplace and other interesting architectural details that will hold your attention.
For dinner our first evening, we visited Ai Fiori in the Setai on Fifth Avenue. I'm not prone to raving, but it's time to make an exception. We both thought it was one of our best meals ever. One example: my entree, a perfectly prepared halibut, was accompanied by morels stuffed with foie gras. Need more be said? The sommelier was helpful and we paired wines with each course. The ambiance and service were sublime. A great evening, and we enjoyed a jazz group in the downstairs bar on the way out--even enjoying a post-dinner snack of truffled popcorn.
In the next posting, we'll discuss the shows we enjoyed, a few more restaurants we visited, some memorable bars, and a couple of other spots that help make NYC the special city that it is.