“ Address: 130 West 46th Street / New York / NY 10036 „
We went to this restaurant during our visit to New York in early September this year. We were lucky enough to get tickets to watch Cirque du Soleil on its final night Sunday 30th September at Radio City Music Hall. The show started at 8pm and they recommended you arrive around 19:30 so we knew we would need to have an early meal that evening. I decided to book in advance prior to the holiday so looked on the internet for restaurants within close walking distance of Radio City. I got a bit worried when I found that most restaurants on the doorstep were already fully booked (4 weeks in advance!) but was really pleased to come across Nio's restaurant, located within 'The Muse Hotel' (Kimpton owned) and only a 5 minute walk to Radio City.
The restaurant is located on 46th Street between 6th and 7th avenues. It is very close to the Rockefeller Centre and as mentioned above only a 5 minute walk to the Radio City Music Hall. We walked to the restaurant but were aware that valet parking is available for diners in the hotels car park.
I used the online booking facility on the restaurants website which re-directed me to opentable.com which is an American website used by almost all major restaurants to handle bookings. I made the reservation for 18:30 and left my name and contact number. The booking was easy and didn't require any pre-payment.
From the outside the restaurant is quite ordinary and blends in as part of the hotel so isnt very noticeable in its own right. We knew to look out for The Muse Hotel so didn't have trouble finding it. You walk in through the hotels lobby and the restaurant is located on the left. When we walked into the restaurant we were immediately approached by one of the waiters who asked if we had a reservation then showed us to our table. The restaurant was fairly empty as it was early and we were pleased to be given a table for two in a private corner.
The restaurant has two rooms, the room we were sat in is the bar and dining area which consists of a large bar area taking up half of the space with a few seating areas around it. The other half is the dining area with about ten spaced out tables which was where we were seated. To begin with I thought this was it, but after going to the toilet I noticed a further room behind this which was a dedicated dining room and was much more luxurious than the area we were seated in. This room was empty and I got the feeling they would only start using it when the restaurant became a bit busier. Despite the other room being more luxurious I still preferred where we were sat which was a more open space and the tables were much further apart.
After being in the restaurant a while we noticed that the bar was a bar in its own right and a few people came to have drinks whilst sat at the bar. It didn't get busy while we were there but I can imagine it might be quite popular later on and could be quite noisy, therefore the other dining room would probably be more appealing later on. Despite eating at 18:30 when it was still broad daylight I very much felt like we were having an evening meal thanks to the dimly lit glamorous atmosphere in the restaurant. We had dressed up for the theatre and were worried about feeling overdressed when dining so early, but this was certainly not an issue. The restaurant is decorated in dark luxurious colours and has a truly sophisticated feel which we enjoyed. The music playing is very relaxed and modern and matched the décor perfectly.
The toilets in the hotel are very interesting, you walk into a unisex room with various frosted glass doors each labelled with a different word, for example: 'Glam', 'Rebel', 'Envy' and 'Hunk'. So you just pick a random one and when you enter you have your own vanity area inside with sink, mirror etc and of course the toilet. They are probably the most glamorous toilets I have seen and immaculate. Whilst the unisex concept is unnerving at first (when I went in there was 12 year old boy lurking around...awkward!!) its nice to have your own private area to wash your hands etc.
Because it was quite early we didn't really feel in the mood for wine so decided to try a cocktail instead. The cocktail menu consists of about 10 cocktails which are very unique and have been created in-house and given special names. I went for 'love calypso' which is vodka, cilantro, lime, sugar, cayenne and pineapple. All the cocktails were as elaborate as this one and contained unique ingredients that you wouldn't usually see in a drink.
When it arrived, however, I was slightly disappointed as it arrived in a very ordinary straight glass with normal block ice and a lime on the edge of the glass. The glass was exactly like the boring glasses we had been given the water in. I know the liquid inside is the most important thing, but it was still disappointing to have it served in a normal glass with normal ice, I would have much preferred a slightly different glass and crushed ice. I also expected some sort of fruit adornment on the glass. Despite this the cocktail was really nice and tasted very unique but in a good way. It was also strong alcohol wise which made it worth the $14 price (£10).
The restaurant offer a normal menu but also a Pre-Theatre Menu which consists of a 3 course meal (with a choice of 7 options per course) for $45 each (£30). We decided to try the pre-theatre menu which looked like great value. For my starter I chose the Organic Greens which is a leafy salad with a lemon and lavender vinaigrette, smoked goats cheese, beets and apples. There were bigger options than this such as duck, shrimp, tuna, octopus etc, but I thought I'd go for a light starter.
When it arrived I was so impressed, I've never what is essentially just a salad, look so appealing and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was served on a very large plate with the lettuce heaped in the middle and the goats cheese, beets and apples sprinkled amongst it and a large helping of vinaigrette both mixed on the leaves but also artistically spread across the plate. Everything on the plate tasted really fresh and it was just right as a starter and not too filling. The lettuce was dressed just enough, there wasn't so much dressing on it that it was drowned and soggy but it was definitely covered giving it a great taste and it never once tasted like a boring salad. My boyfriend has the Crispy Pork Belly which came with a rosemary-apple puree, salad, fried garlic and jus. I didn't try any of it myself but he said it was delicious and very well booked. For a starter was a generous serving of pork which he was pleased about as he eats quite a lot!
For my main course I ordered the Sirloin Strip with grilled figs, royal trumpets, spinach, pee-wee potato and cipolloni purree. I'm not going to lie, I had no idea what a few of those things were such as royal trumpets and pee-wee potato!! Other options included Chicken, Lamb and Salmon. Anyway it arrived and looked marvellous, it was served on a rectangular white plate and was laid out beautifully, like something straight from Masterchef! Its probably the closest I've come to 'fine dining' (and yes that includes Gordon Ramsays New York restaurant!)
The sirloin was a generous portion and cooked just right. I had been asked when ordering how I wanted it cooked and requested medium which is exactly how it came. The 'royal trumpets' turned out to be Italian mushrooms which were cooked nicely and went well with the steak. The grilled figs also complimented the meat nicely, I wasn't even sure I liked figs but they gave the dish a sweet edge which mixed well with the other flavours. I discovered that Pee-Wee Potatoes are tiny little potatoes the size of marbles. They were slightly sweeter than normal potatoes and really tasty. The chipollini puree is basically blended chipollini onions and was nicer than it sounds and gave the dish some liquid preventing it from becoming too dry. I really enjoyed the meal and appreciated the fact that the menu involved foods and techniques that are a bit out of the ordinary and different from other places. As I mentioned before it was like something from Masterchef and was really exciting trying new things.
We then got our desserts, I chose the chocolate mousse cake with peanut butter and whipped cream. By this time we were getting quite full especially with having the cocktail as well, but the dessert was too delicious to leave. It came on a small rectangular plate and like the other courses it was arranged beautifully. The mousse cake was actually quite big and shaped in a perfect circle. It had a lovely light bubbly texture and also a nice powdery texture on the outside which was lovely. The cream and peanut butter were generous scoops positioned carefully next to the mousse and went perfectly. The dessert was very sweet and very filling which was perfect.
Overall I was so impressed with the food, it was one of the best meals I've had and worth every penny, in fact I would have happily paid much more for a meal like that. The menu was innovative and unique, clearly risks have been taken with the recipes but it paid off and every dish was exciting and different but delicious at the same time. I have had many nice meals but never had such an exciting experience as this one, and have rarely seen things on a menu that I haven't heard of, so this was on another level.
We were looked after by the same waiter for the whole of our visit. He was very attentive and happy to take time explaining the menu and giving his recommendations. It was nice to have this level of attention. Yet at the same time he knew to give us space and wasn't overwhelming. He also came to check how our food was and regularly offered us more water. To be fair, the majority of the time we were in the restaurant was very quiet so it was easy for the waiter to give us his time so I don't know what it would be like if you came when it was busier. But even though it was so quiet it was still nice that he was so helpful, as some waiters would still ignore you even if the place was dead! The food arrived at just the right pace, it didn't come too quick so we spent a nice amount of time in the restaurant and never felt rushed. It also gave us chance to recover between courses! Yet no course took too long either, which was a relief as we did have a timeframe for getting to the theatre.
The problem came when we were finished and wanted the bill, we had quite a struggle getting the waiters attention. It didn't help that by this time the restaurant was much busier so we didn't have his exclusive attention as we had done at the start. We had decided to ask for the bill early in case it took a while to be generated so we still had plenty of time, otherwise I would have gone up to the bar and asked for the bill directly! But it just felt like we were waiting and waiting to get his attention, and by the time we did we were in quite a rush and asked if he could bring our change as quickly as possible.
Despite this I would still say that overall the service was very good and I think the waiter just lost track towards the end and probably hadn't realised we were ready to leave or that we would want the bill quite quickly. In a way I was grateful that he wasn't rushing us to leave either as this would have been more annoying! He did notice our urgency once we did ask for it and brought it over very quickly and ensured change was given quickly which we appreciated.
The bill came to $118 (£76) for 3 courses each and 2 cocktails. I was very happy to pay this bill and considered it excellent value for the amazing quality food we received and the overall enjoyable experience. The waiter brought our change back allowing us to leave an optional $10 tip, so in total we spent $128.
We had a fantastic experience at this restaurant and would recommend it to others visiting New York. I would highly recommend the pre-theatre menu which was full of unique, high quality dishes which were delicious. The whole experience from the surroundings, to the food to the service was perfect and even better the bill wasn't too high considering the quality. I don't think this restaurant is suitable for children as the menu is quite sophisticated, but I would recommend it to anyone else.
130 West 46th Street
Tel: (212) 485-2999