Outdoor Dining at Xilonen and Oxomoco in Greenpoint, Brooklyn

Oxomoco, a Michelin star Mexican restaurant in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, makes the best steak tacos in the city. When I ate my steak tacos, I was immediately floored. Everything about the taco was perfect–the sauce, the seasoning, the melty texture of the meat. Melt-in-your-mouth is an overused description when it comes to excellent meat, but in this case, it was totally appropriate.

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Eleven Madison Park EMP At Home Roast Duck Dinner

It’s been a very, very hard year for restaurants. Many have been able to pivot to a mostly take-out or a food/wine retail model, but what do you do when you’re a fine dining restaurant like Eleven Madison Park? You’re known for bringing out course after beautiful course in a gorgeous dining room, but executing this outdoors and in cold weather is impossible. Some places like Daniel have gone the outdoor route, which certainly has some issues, while EMP has remained closed during the pandemic and is instead offering “EMP At Home” dinner kits. These dinner kits are outrageously expensive–the EMP At Home holiday Roast Duck dinner kit for 4 cost $475 pre-tax, $518.16 all in. But what the hell, I was in a festive mood, I wanted to do something a little special for New Year’s, I probably saved a lot of money this year from not eating out, so I decided to treat myself with this Eleven Madison Park EMP At Home Roast Duck meal kit.

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Outdoor Dining at Daniel (The Terrace)

There are certain chefs in New York who are so acclaimed that they need only go by their first names. Daniel of Daniel Boulud is one of those lucky few. His two Michelin star restaurant Daniel on the Upper East Side is a famous fine-dining destination that’s typically reserved for special occasions. Or perhaps if you’re a fabulous wealthy UES local, it’s just your local neighborhood spot. The pandemic has been especially rough on the fine dining segment. Coordinating multiple plates of a meticulous tasting just doesn’t work when you’re outdoors. So Daniel has momentarily put the tasting on hold and has pivoted to a more casual bistro format–The Terrace at Daniel–although the prices remain sky high. Now Daniel has resumed indoor dining, something I am not quite ready for, but The Terrace remains open.

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Jungsik Seoul in Cheong-dam – 2 Michelin Star Lunch Tasting

Fine dining Korean restaurants are very much en vogue these days (pre-covid of course), but that wasn’t the case roughly a decade ago. Jungsik in Tribeca deserves a lot of credit for being one of the pioneers of this style of Korean cooking in New York, and it’s been very successful doing so, earning 2 Michelin stars in the process. Jungsik’s original location is in the Cheongdam neighborhood in Seoul, and when I booked my tickets to Korea I wanted to make a meal here a priority. I was absolutely blown away by the 5 course lunch tasting that I had here recently and could see how they deserve their 2 stars. If you have to splurge on one fancy meal in Korea, I would recommend the tasting menu at Jungsik. The lunch tasting is very reasonable at an all-inclusive 78,000 KRW (~$65) per person for four courses, 98,000 KRW (~$80) for the five course option.

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Oxalis in Prospect Heights

The resumes of these Brooklyn restaurants are starting to look the same. Chef trained at some fancy restaurant (Daniel, French Laundry, Alinea, etc) and wants to cook more casual, seasonally driven food, in a restaurant with an outdoor patio, of course. They all look the same, but it’s a formula that works. The latest addition to the pedigreed Brooklyn restaurant community is Oxalis in Prospect Heights. The chef Nico Russell trained at Daniel and Mirazur in Menton, France, and now it looks like people might be seeking him out for work, seeing as how Oxalis earned a Michelin star this year. The Oxalis tasting menu was quite impressive–and relatively affordable!–and was proof that the star was well deserved.

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