The Hotel Lobby Restaurant Is Back

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By Nikita Richardson

If you’ve been tuning into “The White Lotus” on HBO every week, then you know that the hotel lobby is ripe for excitement. Much of that has to do with its public-private nature: You may not be able to explore the floors above, but just about anyone can waltz into the lobby.

This city in particular has a longstanding tradition of standout hotel lobby bars — Bemelmans Bar in the Carlyle, King Cole Bar at the St. Regis — but the status of the great hotel lobby restaurant is shakier. The NoMad hotel, and its accompanying restaurant run by Daniel Humm, is no more. Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Mercer Kitchen at the Mercer will close on Dec. 18. And Ai Fiori at the Langham recently lost its Michelin star.

But there’s hope yet. Here are some hotel lobby restaurants that have caught my eye.

Israeli Challah Rolls and Deep-Fried Halloumi

I recently had dinner at K’Far Brooklyn, the two-week-old restaurant in the lobby of the Hoxton in Williamsburg. As with Laser Wolf, also at the Hoxton, the original K’Far is based in Philadelphia, where you can enjoy forearm-size Jerusalem bagel sandwiches and flaky borekas for breakfast and lunch. But at the Brooklyn location, they’ll also feed you dinner, down the stairs and to the right of the main lobby.

If Laser Wolf is a stadium concert, K’Far is an indie show. It’s quiet, cozy, romantic. The menu is more streamlined than at its rooftop counterpart: small plates, large plates, sides, desserts. My perfect order would be the pull-apart challah rolls, so slick with butter that you can see your reflection in them; deep-fried halloumi served baklava-style with quince and pistachio; the warm, roasted-fennel Caesar salad; and either of the fish dishes, because they have yet to let me down in that category. (And do get both the pecan cake and the chocolate kanafi for dessert.)

Viennese Bread Service and a Lobby Snack

Our restaurant critic, Pete Wells, is a big fan of the Viennese-inspired dishes that the chef Markus Glocker prepares at Koloman, a new restaurant in the lobby of the Ace Hotel in Manhattan.

I had an easy enough time securing a table (though that may no longer be the case since Pete’s Nov. 29 review) and followed faithfully in his steps. The bread service: top tier. The shallot-filled gougères and the cheese soufflé: light as air. The salmon en croute with its crispy, buttery crust: still thinking about it. And, oh my God, the desserts: eight to choose from, all as exciting as the next, but the caramelized milk bread was my favorite.

The third member of this trifecta of hotel lobby restaurants is Corner Bar, the latest project from the chef Ignacio Mattos at the Nine Orchard hotel. I don’t know what to make of this restaurant. Is it lovely to look at? Yes. Is the service good? Quite. But should a chicken dish, no matter how excellent, cost $62? I don’t think so! The city’s premier chicken — at Barbuto — is half the price.

My advice: Go to the hotel’s Swan Room instead, and order a drink and a snack. The experience will feel glamorous — after all, you’re in a pink-marbled 110-year-old bank, where guests are encouraged to “dress for a night out” — but the bill won’t be a total shock. And if that isn’t the true ethos (and ecstasy) of the hotel lobby lifestyle, I don’t know what is.

In Other News …

As Tejal Rao says in her newsletter, The Veggie: One more thing! I’d love to help you all out with any Christmas and holiday-themed questions. If you’d like options on how to make the season bright, or have any other pressing food-related holiday questions, just send me an email at [email protected] and you may see your query here.

This week, Pete Wells reviewed S & P Lunch, formerly known as Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop (and before that, well, S & P Lunch). While the premises has changed a bit, he found that Court Street Grocers’ management has made “everything slightly better — and in some cases, more than slightly — without pushing the flavors to their limits or twisting things into creative new shapes.”

Openings: Following in the steps of Naro, Jupiter and Le Rock, the chef Greg Baxtrom has opened Five Acres at Rockefeller Center; Christophe Bellanca, of Le Cirque fame, will open his own restaurant, Essential by Christophe, on the Upper West Side tomorrow; and cocktails and oysters are on offer at Down & Out in the East Village.

Felipe Valls, the Cuban exile turned restaurateur and inventor of Miami’s walk-up coffee windows, died on Nov. 26 at 89. Our reporter Christina Morales, who grew up in Hialeah, Fla., wrote his Times obituary.

Robert Simonson reported on the return of the not shaken, not stirred, but thrown cocktail, as well as a number of bars where you can experience the thrown magic for yourself.

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