What It’s Like to Go Out in New York City Right Now

·11 min read

A night out — remember those?

As the restrictions start to lift, New York is slowly coming back to life — and the fashion crowd’s favorite hot spots are once again opening their doors. With Mayor Bill de Blasio promising a full reopening of New York City by July 1, this may very well be just the beginning of the return of the city as we once knew it. Balthazar, beloved by the SoHo crowd for all-day power dining and home to many a Chanel party, reopened in late March after a full year of closure, to long lines and eager diners. Same goes for Indochine, which was open briefly during the pandemic before closing again and, hopefully for good this time, opened its doors back to loyalists on March 30. Butterfly at the Sixty SoHo hotel had just gotten acquainted with the fashion crowd since opening in 2019 pre-pandemic; now it is back serving cocktails to those looking for a drink with friends (and a highly photogenic backdrop). And capping off the night is, as ever, Le Bain, which resumed service on April 10.

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Here, WWD chats with these hot spots on what life is like in a reopening New York — and why now is a good time to get out and about in the city.

Roberta Delice, partner at Keith McNally Restaurants, and Erin Wendt, director of operations

What have the first few weeks of reopening been like?
“The reopening was like the Second Coming. It was also a great relief to see our customers and our staff back. There was a good deal of change to adapt to — new COVID-19 safety and protocols, outdoor service — but after a full year of uncertainty, we’re optimistic about the future. I just hope the city allows us — and all New York restaurants — to continue serving customers outside. It creates such a wonderfully festive atmosphere for New York.”

What changes have been made for the reopening — any new menu items, offerings, etc.?
“The entire team is very excited to be working with our new chef, Laurent Kalkatour. In addition to our classic dishes, he’s added new items such as the Country Pâté, the Dorade Crudo and Lobster Vol-au-Vent as well as seasonal dishes like the Loire Valley White Asparagus and Dover Sole with Swiss chard.

“We have also expanded our takeout and delivery services for the SoHo Bakery and we are now offering delivery from the restaurant as well.

“The biggest change is probably our new outdoor seating area; we are continuously adding new features to make it more comfortable and welcoming for our customers. But it works fantastically well for everybody.”

What is in store for the summer?
“Of course, we hope to be able to operate at full capacity, as well as being able to provide alfresco dining long-term.”

What have people been most excited about coming back for?
“We’re touched that so many of our longtime customers consider our reopening symbolic of the reopening of New York City. We also think people are just excited to be back at Balthazar and reunited with the familiar faces of our staff.”

Why is now a great time to go out in New York City?
“COVID-19 was an unprecedented experience for everyone. There were so many unknown factors and everyone was somehow in an unnatural setting. We were forced to maintain relationships at a distance and mostly in a virtual space behind social media or plexiglass screens. Now we feel that it is vital for people to reconnect. It’s so important to re-establish that normal human ‘in person’ connection and be able to share a meal together. We want to be a part of that. We are providing a safe space for people to feel comfortable and relaxed, and dining out will help restore a much-needed sense of ‘normality.’”

New menu offering: Faroe Island Salmon

Two 5-to-6 ounce salmon filets, skin-on, scaled and deboned
1.5 oz. English peas
2 oz. sugar snap peas
1.5 oz. snow peas
2 oz. French green beans
8 red grape tomatoes, halved
4 oz. yellow baby patty pan squash
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tbsp. olive oil
Sea salt

Sauce Ingredients:
2 cups chicken broth
1 pinch cayenne
4 sprigs lemon thyme
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
6 tbsp. butter
Pinch of saffron
Salt to taste
5 tbsp. diced red bell pepper

Prep for sauce:
Reduce the chicken broth with the cayenne and saffron by half, over medium heat, then add the thyme and steep for about 15 minutes and strain through a chinois, then add butter and lemon juice and emulsify with a hand blender, then stir in the bell pepper, taste for salt.

1. Blanch the vegetables by bringing a large pot of water to a boil with two tablespoons of sea salt (have a large bowl of ice water nearby).

2. As soon as the water boils, add all the vegetables except the tomatoes to the pot.

After 90 seconds, remove vegetables with a slotted spoon and transfer to the ice water and chill completely. Drain and pat dry, save for later.

Heat oven to 375 F, season the fish with sea salt, heat a nonstick pan with vegetable oil and sear the salmon skin side down, two minutes. Carefully turn over fish with a spatula and continue to cook for one minute on the stove top. Place the pan with the fish in the oven for six minutes for medium rare, eight minutes for medium, and 10 minutes for medium well.

While the fish is cooking in the oven, heat a sauté pan with olive oil and add the blanched vegetables and tomatoes, season with sea salt and sauté until vegetables are heated through and tomatoes release their juice, four minutes. Set aside the vegetables in pan, keep warm.

Remove pan with salmon from oven once desired temperature is achieved.

In two shallow, wide serving bowls divide equally the sauce and the heated vegetables and top each with a salmon filet, skin side up.

Jean-Marc Houmard, restaurateur

What have the first few weeks of reopening been like?
“It’s been busy! It’s really great to see all our regulars being so happy to be back: I can’t count how many times I heard ‘now that Indochine is back it feels like New York is back!’”

What changes have been made for the reopening — any new menu items, offerings, etc.?
“The menu is a little more concise for the time being but we are adding dishes every week, with also a few brand new items such as a Vietnamese barbecued chicken that’s been marinated for 24 hours in coconut milk, lemongrass, turmeric and various Asian spices. Other new dishes include crispy rock shrimp with kaffir-like leaves and chili, and a grilled pork collar marinated in sweet soy, cilantro root, chili and lime.”

What is in store for the summer?
“People are really liking our outdoor structure, so I think we’ll have a great summer with outdoor seating for the first time in 37 years! We are also planning to start serving an Asian brunch on weekends in the next few weeks — also a first since we opened.”

What have people been most excited about coming back for?
“It seems people have really been craving their favorite dishes, as we see some guests coming back two or three times a week — which is so nice and encouraging. And they’ve missed the staff, with whom they’ve created so many bonds over the years: the first few weeks felt like a reunion of friends who have been missing each other for too long.”

Why is now a great time to go out in New York City?
“After a year of lethargy and isolation it feels like New Yorkers are ready to be social again and have a good time being out with friends, so I think New York will be a fun place to be in the next few months.”

New menu items: Épices du Mékong cocktail and Vietnamese BBQ chicken

Épices du Mékong
2 oz. Leblon Cachaça
1 oz. lemongrass/Thai chili syrup
.75 oz. lime juice
.5 oz. guava juice
3-5 muddled kaffir lime leaves

Shake all the ingredients with ice and strain over fresh ice in a rocks glass. Garnish with a lemongrass stalk.

Syrup: add an equal quantity of sugar and water in a small pot; add a few Thai chilies and three to four chopped lemongrass stalks. Boil for a few minutes; let cool and strain.

Vietnamese BBQ chicken.
For the marinade :
13 oz. coconut milk
4 fresh lemongrass stalks
2 tbsp. whole coriander seeds
1 tbsp. whole black pepper
1 tbsp. whole cumin seeds
1-1/2 tbsp. turmeric powder
2 tbsp. kosher salt
1-1/2 tbsp. sugar

Marinade: Toss the spices in a pan over medium heat and toast them a few minutes until they’re fragrant (shake the pan frequently to prevent burning). Chop the lemongrass and combine all the ingredients in a blender until you get a smooth mixture.

Protein: 2 each whole free-range chicken (debone the chicken by carving out the breasts and thighs and Frenching the wings.)

1/4 cup kosher salt
1 qt. cold water

After having deboned the chicken, mix 1/4 cup salt and water, immerse the chicken in the brine and let it rest for four hours.

Get the chicken out of the brine and pat dry. Transfer to a Ziploc bag, making sure it is in one layer, with the skin facing up. Place in a sous vide machine at 147.2 F for one hour and 30 minutes (or immerse in a pot filled with barely simmering water). After the cooking time, transfer to an ice bath.

Grill over medium-temperature grill until well-charred. Slice and drizzle with some fresh herbs and a squeeze of lime. Adjust saltiness if needed.

Butterfly at Sixty SoHo
Nur Khan, partner at Butterfly

What have the first few weeks of reopening been like?
“The first few weeks of reopening have been exciting. With the curfew still in place, it’s been great to see everyone coming out and starting their evenings on the early side and having dinner in Butterfly.”

What changes have been made for the reopening — any new menu items, offerings, etc.?
“The curfew actually gave us an opportunity to create a fancier, more labor-intensive cocktail program; since we don’t have the late-night rush, we can offer more of an exotic specialty cocktail atmosphere, which we will keep in place as we can open up.”

What is in store for the summer?
“We are very excited to preview our private rooftop A60 Rooftop bar, which offers panoramic views of the skyline. We will be opening this week.”

What have people been most excited about coming back for?
“People are excited to come back to Butterfly and A60 Rooftop bar to hang out and reconnect with close friends again. To enjoy these familiar environments they have missed.”

Why is now a great time to go out in New York City?
“It’s always a great time to go out in New York City, but with things poised to open up in the next two weeks people are excited now to get the party started again and revisit all their favorite places and actually have fun with friends.”

New menu offering: Brimstone cocktail, named after a butterfly and created by mixologist Fausto Fernandez.
Brimstone: Signature mango, spicy margarita
2 oz. house tequila
1 oz. mango syrup
.75 oz. fresh lime juice
.5 oz. pear liqueur
1 dropper full of habanero tincture

Add all the ingredients to a cocktail shaker; shake vigorously and serve in a rocks glass with ice and half cayenne salt rim. Garnish with a lime wheel and a Fresno pepper.

Le Bain at The Standard
Amar Lalvani, chief executive officer of Standard International

What have the first few weeks of reopening been like?
“Amazing. It feels so great to bring our community together again. At a beautiful time of year. Everyone has been lovely and respectful. Incredibly positive energy. Safe and fun.”

What changes have been made for the reopening — any new menu items, offerings, etc.?
“We added a new selection of spring/summer cocktails alongside our favorites. We also added some tasty snacks to go with the drinks given the new set-up (see attached). And of course the music. Our DJ lineup is back. It’s probably what everyone missed most, aside from our sunsets.”

What is in store for the summer?
“Our focus will be on the music. Our friends in that world were hit so hard. And for a decade they have been the soul of Le Bain. Couldn’t be happier to welcome them back. So expect great tunes all summer long.”

What have people been most excited about coming back for?
“The views, the music, the cocktails. Sunsets. But most importantly reconnecting with friends. And having fun again.”

Why is now a great time to go out in New York City?
“Because the weather is beautiful. We’re blessed to have stunning outdoor spaces and an effective vaccination program. And fun is an essential part of life that we’ve missed. And it’s what we do best.”

New menu offering: If Only for One Night cocktail
Tequila, orange liqueur, blueberry, jalapeño, lime
Garnish with firestick flower.

Launch Gallery: New York City Hotspots Reopen

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