A decade ago, a hotel restaurant was mostly an afterthought, the sad stomping grounds of weary business travelers and harried families who couldn't make it off site to somewhere better. But in the last few years particularly, an on-site eatery has become a property's star attraction drawing both well-heeled locals as well as discerning out-of-towners. This season it's Manhattan's turn for some new hotel joints helmed by some of the city's top chefs. Last week, for example, I checked out Danny Meyer's new Maialino in the Gramercy Park Hotel, an inspired take on a typical Roman trattoria. Two weeks before, I had dined at a similar spot in Italy's capital and I have to say that the food in Meyer's place was even better: classic pasta alla amatriciana (spicy tomato and pancetta sauce), lip smacking lamb chops "Scottadito," which literally means finger-blistering, and a delicious whole spigola, sea bass delicately cooked with olive oil and a touch of lemon. The place was bustling but friendly and the wine list excellent, albeit a bit pricier than its more humble Italian counterparts. This week, the restaurant is also launching its breakfast service.
But Meyer isn't the only New York celeb chef opening a hotel outpost. The new Breslin in the Ace Hotel, the latest from April Bloomfield (who made a big name for herself at the Spotted Pig and the late John Dory), will be on my must-stop list for the new year.