The Upper West Side is becoming a veritable center of gastronomy. What with the Fatty Crab, the Shake Shack, and other downtown stalwarts making their way uptown to our fair neighborhood, it’s hardly necessary to go below 14th Street to eat any more.
One notable addition to the local dining scene is Restaurant 81, which is located on its eponymous street between Central Park West and Columbus. The food, which is delicious, matches the sleek interior, uncluttered and clean. And unlike so many other high-end restaurants, where you have to make an effort to screen out your neighbor’s conversation, table spacing is ample.
The amuse bouche started things off with a bang. It was a silky polenta soup that was rich and creamy and still tasted distinctly of corn. Since we wanted to sample as much of the menu as possible, we decided to shared three small plates and one main course. I adore leeks and these were silky and delicious with a perfectly cooked egg perched on top. A special treat was a small slice of brioche, topped with a truffle. The only item that failed to please was a foie gras and chicken terrine; the chicken was overcooked and even the rich liver couldn’t make up for the resulting dryness.
For a main course, we ordered Lamb Three Ways, which consisted of a roasted loin, a rack, and a confit of shoulder, accompanied by sheep’s milk ricotta gnocchi. Juicy and flavorful, the lamb was among the best I’ve ever eaten. I’m a huge gnocchi fan and these cylinder-shaped dumplings were as light and airy as I’ve ever tasted them.
Dessert was equally splendid. My Meyer lemon frozen soufflé was divine, and the banana bread pudding was equally toothsome.
Service is gracious and the waiter never steered us wrong when we asked for advice. For all this, expect to pay top dollar. Entrees range from $29-$39.
45 W. 81st St.
New York, NY
212 873 8181