Monday, March 7, 2011


111 E. 29th Street
(between Park and Lex)
New York, NY 10016
(212) 685-5585 

Bring your appetite, and leave the Resto to them 

Let's face it, Murray Hill isn't really known for its gourmet dining options. It's better known as a place where overgrown fraternity guys go to die. So when I stumbled upon Resto, in desperate search of a hamburger one night, I felt like I found a white swan in a sea of ugly ducklings.

Resto's inviting atmosphere welcomes you into a cozy Belgian beer bar and restaurant. Right away you feel like you've been transported to a different city (or at least to a different part of New York City.) While it's minimally decorated (wooden floors, wooden slab-like tables, and brushed metal chairs and stools), Resto has a warm and homey feel. And whether you get drinks at the bar or sit for a meal, you get to select your beverage from a big book of beer options. (Literally, they hand you a novel that has their beer list printed over the pages.)

You may remember that I've been searching for a new favorite hamburger place after the infamous PJ Clarke's meat-switch fiasco. Well, after having the burger at Resto, I think I may have found it. On the menu, the burger is simply described: gruyere, red onion, pickle, mayo, frites, greens. It took me by surprise though, that when I told the waiter I wanted my burger medium rare, he said they cook all their burgers the same way, but promised I'd be happy with the outcome. I was extremely skeptical. Especially because if a burger is cooked a shade more than medium rare, I won't eat it. When I asked the waiter why this was their policy, he said something about the meat having pork fat in it, which has to be cooked past a certain temperature. Anyhow, I took my chances and put my fate in the hands of the chefs at Resto.

Let me just tell you, that thinking about the Resto burger is making my mouth water. It's a shame that on my first visit there I agreed to share the burger and the mussels with my boyfriend, because I wanted the burger all to myself. (Side note, the mussels were nothing special.) Anyhow, I don't care what kind of fat they put in that burger or how they have to cook it, it was one of the juiciest, most flavorful burgers I've ever had. It was perfectly pink and served modestly, with the gruyere melting off the sides, on a soft, supermarket-style bun. The pickles added a delicious crunch, and for an extra bit of flavor, I put some of the side greens on top.

The frites at Resto are also worth an honorable mention. They are cut short and chunky, and have a thick, crunchy outer shell. Some of the dishes come with frites, but they also offer a frites platter that comes with all 10 of their dipping sauces. Write down the ones you like because you'll never remember for next time. So far I can only remember the gribiche, it was my favorite.

After doing some research, I read that Resto is also known for its brunch, so my second and third trip there were on weekend mornings. I was always seated promptly (they accept reservations) and I appreciated that it's not a "scene." My first brunch experience, though, was mediocre at best. I ordered the Egg Sammy: eggs, gruyere, guanciale, hollandaise, english muffin. I could have ordered the Egg McMuffin at McDonalds and it would have been the same; maybe better. Big disappointment. My friend got the Eggs Benedict served over a lardon liege waffle with hollandaise, homefries, and greens. I didn't taste it, but on looks alone, I'd say she made the better choice. She said it tasted as good as it looked. On my second brunch visit, I was a lot wiser and ordered the burger. (It was a late brunch.) My sister ordered what I am calling the most delicious grilled cheese sandwich ever made. On the menu it was described as: vermont cheddar, gruyere, bacon, pork belly, greens. As you can see by the pictures below, this was a behemoth of a sandwich to begin with. The texture of bread reminded me of sourdough with a rich butter crust. The cheeses were plentiful and gooey and the bacon and pork belly added the most delicious smoky, salty flavor. Every bite of that sandwich was worth the calories of  butter, cheese, and bacon.

For a restaurant whose tagline is "bringing fat back," I'd say Resto is living up to its name!

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