“I feel like I’m in Paris,” said my friend as we settled into a large L-shaped sofa. We had installed ourselves in one of many “garden rooms” on the rooftop Park & Wine Terrace of the new store from home furnishings company Restoration Hardware, in New York’s Meatpacking District. Surrounded by fountains and trellised containers of trees, we had a 360-degree view of the city, including the Empire State Building and World Trade Center. The sun was setting over the Hudson River, and a playlist seemingly lifted from Hôtel Costes vibed in the background. It was pretty magical.
I say this somewhat reluctantly. RH New York (as the store is now called) occupies the same historic building that was once home to Pastis, a beloved French bistro from the same team as Balthazar, Minetta Tavern and Morandi. It was a fixture of the neighbourhood and, as a longtime resident of the area and a Pastis regular, I was devastated when it closed over four years ago. But I attended the RH opening party and was impressed by the massive but stylish space, so the next week I snagged a same-day dinner reservation at what is, for the time being, something of a secret spot.
It did not disappoint. We started with an alfresco glass of Pinot Noir before heading indoors for dinner. This is not the sort of place where anyone can saunter onto the rooftop – you must check in and be seated – but we were never rushed to finish our drinks and the atmosphere was both relaxed and exclusive.
I’m embarrassed to admit that prior to dining I didn’t know that the restaurant is under the purview of Brendan Sodikoff, the chef behind several restaurants in my native Chicago, including the impossible-to-get-into Au Cheval. This “upscale diner” is famed for its burger – which was deemed the “best in America” by Bon Appétit magazine in 2012 – and, according to our waiter, the RH burger ($24) is one and the same. We ordered it, along with the truffled grilled cheese ($21) and a gem lettuce salad ($18) from the seasonal ingredients-driven menu. Our waiter insinuated that perhaps this was too much food, as both entrées come with the also legendary fries. He was right. But I devoured as much as I could of the burger, which – and I’m not prone to hyperbole – was genuinely one of the best I’ve ever had; my friend, an amateur chef, was similarly blown away. So much so that he went back the next night, when the wait for a table was over an hour. By the time you read this the secret may be well and truly out.