Food

100 Best Restaurants 2008: CityZen

No. 2: CityZen

★★★★

Cuisine: A dazzling mix of French, Asian, and American regional influences that, for all its finesse, never seems pretentious. Chef Eric Ziebold, a Thomas Keller disciple, is equally adept at raising the eyebrows of the palate-fatigued—with, say, chili consommé with chili-powder mousse—as he is at coaxing sighs from the unsuspecting with his butter-sheened Parker House rolls.

Mood: High ceilings, stone pillars, oversize swag lamps, and a serious waitstaff make it hard to forget you’re in a temple of exalted cuisine. But when the dining room is full, as it is most of the time, there’s a communal hum of satisfaction.

Best for: Impressing pals or clients from New York or toasting a milestone.

Best dishes: Plumjack cocktail made with plum extract and Jack Daniel’s on the rocks; a signature amuse-bouche of olive-oil custard with red-chili sauce on top; chili consommé with an oval of chili-powder mousse to cool the liquid fire; grilled sirloin of Kagoshima Wagyu beef, worth every penny of the $30 surcharge; succulent roast shoulder of shoat with caramelized salsify; rib eye with caramelized short ribs and chestnuts; cheeses from the trolley; “s’mores” crepe with marshmallow soufflé and smoky milk-chocolate sauce; Valrhona-chocolate croquettes with pears.

Insider tips: Ask for a second round of those gemlike Parker House rolls and the server will “have to check,” but there’s a 50/50 chance you’ll get another box. If you have a child in tow, don’t hesitate to inquire about an alternative to the fixed-price three-course menu ($75) or six-course tasting menu ($105). The result might be fresh fettuccine you’ll want yourself. A three-course, $50 menu at the bar is a good option if you’re dining alone.

Service: ••••

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