Date Night at The National NYC
This year, I wanted to make sure that I did something really, really special for the man that I adore and my best friend- and so special I did.
Last time I was in NYC celebrating my son’s birthday we stayed at The (fabulous) Benjamin hotel. We had a blast and the kids loved the royal treatment from the Winks Kidzzz Club. I caught my husband eyeing the menu for The National, located right at the lobby level of the hotel and also one of the many highly successful dining destinations by chef Geoffrey Zakarian. This time, we left the kids home and I booked a room again at The Benjamin and made reservations at The National for dinner. I will admit even I was giddy.
One of the things that I hate about “trendy” restaurants in NYC is that the vibe can be a bit pretentious, unwelcoming and cold. Part of this has to do with the clients who go – none of which ever really turn into loyal customers, but rather trend seekers – and another part is in how the restaurant wants to present itself.
One thing that you will find surprising about The National is the despite it being an upscale restaurant, the atmosphere is laid back and comfortable. The balance between the two was interesting to experience because the truth is most people want the great service, the great food, and the beautiful locale, but no one wants to work that hard at just going out to a nice dinner. And The National was perfect.
When you go, definitely make reservations, and if you can request a booth or table at the right side of the restaurant when you walk in off of Lexington Avenue, do it. You get a comfortable spot that gives you a full view of the bar and restaurant while you dine (I don’t know about you, but I love to people watch at restaurants and see what everyone else is ordering).
The soft lit candle on our table set the tone our romantic night.
I was a bit nervous about the food because sometimes you don’t know if a restaurant is popular because the forces behind them are (we New Yorkers love our celebrity chefs!) or because the food is good. Executive Chef Paul Corsentino proved to me that both can live in harmony and provide a lovely experience.
Start your dinner off with a cocktail – specifically with the Jalapeño Margarita with Sauza Hornito’s Reposado, Fresh Jalapeño & Lime, Smoked Sea Salt Rim. Sounds intense and it is. Your taste buds will absolutely adore you for it, and it’s a wonderful way to prep your palate for the awesome that follows.
Our dinner was full of flavorful, perfectly prepared dishes. I inspected, and even expected something to be meh, but nothing was. I made it all the way through my meal before finally accepting that it’s all true – The National truly does provide one of the best dining experiences in New York City, and Chef Corsentino is great in serving many of the French-American culinary trade marks for which Chef Zakarian is best know and celebrated.
I was really surprised by their Branzino, which I only ordered because my husband ordered the steak and we each wanted to try something different. I expected my meal to be just OK – I mean, it’s fish. But instead this tender fish had that wonderful taste that comes from charring, which I craved from the steak and still managed to get with my fish. Combined with the white asparagus and white corn chowder it made for a light, satisfying dish. I was really, really impressed.
The steak was perfectly cooked, juicy and tender and the spices – oh man, the spices – had a party in my mouth with each bite I stole from my husband’s plate. You know that perfect balance of saltiness and pepper that crumble in your mouth and melt over the juices of a medium steak as you chew? Yeah, that kind of heavenly.
It wasn’t my birthday, but I feel like I got a pretty awesome treat anyway. It was fun and comfortable. The service was friendly and laid back, the food was in every way deserving of the reputation that precedes its chefs.
Whether you go for the celebrity or for the trendy-factor, I promise that you will want to return for the food. Oh, and if you have extra room, order the Ugly Burger, you won’t regret it. You can always just stay at The Benjamin, order a bunch of extra comfy pillows from the Sleep Concierge and doze off into satisfied sleepy wonderland.
The National – 557Lexington Avenue at 50th Street, New York, NY 10022 Tel. 212 715 2400
Many thanks to The National NYC for helping to make my husband’s birthday such a great one!