This week, I spent a cool 26 hours in New York City. For many Angelinos, the cross-country flight is something we’ve become accustomed to and a bicoastal lifestyle is all the rage. Just picture it, dining on the coast in Malibu one morning and partying ‘til sunrise in Manhattan the same night. It’s the best of both worlds if you can swing it. And especially if you know all the hotspots to hit to make the most of your time.
If you’re a veteran New Yorker, you know (as I do) that there is nothing – literally nothing – like a New York summer. But if you’re visiting New York for the first time, I would recommend going in the fall: late October through Thanksgiving week is an ideal time to travel to the Big Apple. You get to pack your boots and leather trenches, enjoy the chill in the air, visit the ice-skating rink in Central Park, see the tree at Rockefeller Center, and witness the store windows fully decorated for the winter holidays – the Saks on 5th is always a must, with a full light show included. But when time is limited in a city saturated with restaurant choices, where do you decide to dine? Well, with my single day in the city, I made my way to the East Village to eat at Cathedral, and my experience was best-in-class on all fronts.
Cathedral, located in the Moxy Hotel, has been making quite a splash lately with celeb sightings and exclusive events galore. Balenciaga hosted their Met Gala after-party at the large, basement-level restaurant and Justin Bieber grabbed the mic for a thirty-minute set. Oh to be a fly on the wall that night! And just last month, Kendal Jenner hosted a tasting for 818 Tequila, her premier brand, alongside her usual A-list crowd. So of course I had to see what all the buzz was about.
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We arrived at the hotel with a group of 10 people for our 8:15 reservation. We’d actually made two separate reservations – one for 8 and one for 2 – due to the availability on their online portal, but the hostesses were more than generous, and they graciously offered to combine our tables before I’d even fixed my lips to make the ask. They instructed us to wait at the bar while they prepared our seating. The whole space seemed to have a golden glow created by the décor and the dim, majestic lighting. The bar was a large square with plenty of stools and a navy-blue base separated from the dining area and surrounded by chaise-like lounges set against the walls. I ordered a Mezcal Old Fashion, which is perhaps my favorite cocktail but one I’m often afraid to order as I’ve had it messed up too many times (I think even most bartenders don’t love the smoky taste of that particular liquor and end up adding too much sweetness). But OH EM GEE, this was arguably the best rendition I’ve ever had, and I had to use all my willpower to pace myself. The cocktail was balanced, bitters-forward, and with all the smoky undertones I desire. It was safe to say we were off to a good start.
As we stood around the bar mixing and mingling within our large group, time seemed to fly by. New York City energy was in the air and our spirits were high (pun intended), and I personally didn’t even notice that a full hour had passed when they brought us to our table. The manager, who had been keeping one of my friends updated periodically, was apologetic about the wait and told us he’d be sending out a number of appetizers in return for our patience. I am one to be frustrated when I’m made to wait for a table, but in this circumstance (and especially since they were combining two reservations), I was truly unbothered – the delicious cocktails subdued any anxious hunger. However, I am also not one to refuse a free app, and before we knew it our table had three different appetizers for sampling and multiple plates of each. Let me emphasize here that this is what I think of when I say five-star service. Having worked in restaurants, I’m aware of how easy it is to send out a complimentary dish, and doing so to calm the woes of worried customers is always a good idea. Not only was the manager completely on top of the entire venue, but he was also kind and knowledgeable and joked around with us as we covered him in gratitude – did I mention he was handsome, too? Okay, now down to business; here’s what they delivered: Steak Tartar, Octopus Grillé, and Potato Chip Omelette. The Steak Tartar served with waffle-style potato chips, was by far the best I’ve tasted. The bite of horseradish and the sting of olive tapenade transformed the raw meat into a Mediterranean delight, bringing all of the classic flavors of the region into one delectable bite. The Octopus Grillé, something I’m often afraid to try, was swimming in a Tomato Ragoút that had capers galore and reduced white wine. For a nervous Octopus eater, the sauce was so enveloping that I could barely stop myself from gorging – I even wanted to soak up the extra sauce with some bread. But the real show-stealer with the Potato Chip Omelette. Topped with Kaluga Caviar (pause for amazement) and Créme Fraiche, this was a surprising bite that took the entire experience to a fine dining level. It was delicate and even whimsical, but with sophistication and refinement; a bouquet of textures, with the crunch of potato chip topping it off. Remind me to eat my caviar like this from now on.
The table filled with Ohs and Ahs as each of us bit into the array of exquisite flavors, and we were so satisfied with the plethora provided, we jumped right into entrees when it came to ordering on our own. I opted for the Steak Frites which were served with Escargot Butter. I’d eaten steak a few times recently, each time feeling underwhelmed, so I was really seeking a solid New York steak moment. And, as with everything else, Cathedral did deliver. This was a steak I’d fly across the country for. (Y’all, I’m genuinely drooling just writing this). Cooked to perfection, a slab of butter oozing across the top with the very French escargot flavoring (which I generally explain as similar to pesto sauce), each slice I bit into melted against my teeth and sent me to a world all my own. There is actually a video on social media which scans the table, and I’m removed from the conversation and instead of engaging with my steak. My friend who sat next to me also ordered the same dish; she texted me later asking “what did I do to deserve that steak?” Food so delicious you question your own good karma? Yes, it was like that.
Anxious to hop over to Las Lap (my usual ‘last lap’ on a New York night) we skipped dessert. However, if you peep the menu you’ll notice they list dessert first, and the part of me that likes to prioritize eating over socializing is slightly kicking myself for that skip. But, I’m going back to Cathedral as soon as possible and I’m ordering two to make up for it (‘I’ll take a Créme Caramel and a Chocolate Profiterole, please’).
My list of best restaurants on the granite island is beyond extensive. You’d need weeks just to try all my recommendations. But I will say, I’m bumping a few favorites further down the list to give Cathedral a top spot. Beyond the palate-gasm the otherworldly food provided, I really must admit it was the service that sends Cathedral skyrocketing up my list. It just feels so good to be catered to, even on a casual night out. No wonder so many celebs are filling the guest list!