5 New York Restaurants with a Feast for the Eyes

By Artland Editors

As Artland heads to New York for the Independent Art Fair, we are thinking about our stomachs as well as our eyes, and what could be better than combining the two? For those in New York with us and for those who might be visiting soon, we’ve included a small selection of restaurants in New York that quite literally have a feast fit for the eyes.

1. Atomix: menu cards fit for the walls

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Atomix is a Korean restaurant with an elegant solution to the modern menu card. These days, menus are pared down, often reduced to the basic components of a dish — “sea bass, fennel, samphire” or “blueberries, cream, mint.” For those who enjoy a more verbal approach, their options are a chatty server or a restaurant review, or perhaps the detailed menu cards served up at Romera, where dishes come with names like “Euterpes” and “Policromi.” However, at Atomix, the menu cards are ones that get you talking, resembling flashcards that any foreign language learner will be familiar with.

Atomix’s menu cards display a stylised version of the dish on the front, and an introduction on the back. They first began as a way to educate diners about Korean food, almost like a “flashcards to Korean cuisine,” as Eater NY writes. Aside from being informative, these menu cards also act as souvenirs for guests, a well thought-out accompaniment to the dining experience in the Instagram era. Atomix’s meticulous attention to design and detail is not limited to their menus and their food, but also extends to the interior of the restaurant, which is predominantly filled with Korean, design except for the light by German designer Ingo Maurer at the entrance.

Located in the lower level of the bi-level townhouse, the Chef’s Counter at Atomix is a $175 communal ten-course tasting menu experience for up to 14 guests. Atomix also offers a walk-in only bar, which serves a-la-carte small plates. Food here is traditional Korean with a twist, whether that’s a sesame oil ice cream with corn marmalade or a duck with a gochujang mole, the small plates are clearly inspired by Korean banchan, but are just different enough to feel slightly foreign to both a Western and Korean palate.

2. Wallsé: the chef's choice of art

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Named after Chef Gutenbrunner’s Austrian hometown, Wallsé is a Michelin-star establishment open since 2000 in the West Village, and is conveniently located near the Whitney Museum of American Art. Inside Wallsé, Chef Gutenbrunner’s love for food and art is omnipresent, perhaps most prominently displayed by his towering portrait, where he is shown almost flambéed by blue light. Artist and filmmaker Julian Schnabel, a regular at the restaurant, was given carte blanche to decorate the restaurant, and is a frequent visitor to this very day.

As Chef Gutenbrunner tells the Village Voice, his next two restaurants, Café Sabarsky and Blaue Gans were both inspired by his love of art. “‘We gave New York City something they didn’t expect from us. Mr. Lauder gave a great museum of art. I gave them a Viennese coffeehouse [ . . .]  I did Blaue Gans because of the art.’” Is it any wonder that his debut cookbook with Italian publisher Rizzoli — Neue Cuisine: The Elegant Tastes of Vienna — combines two of his greatest loves? The book is a portrait of the dishes served at his restaurants, and also focuses on the art and design of Vienna at the turn of the 20th century.

At Wallsé, we recommend the spätzle with braised rabbit and noodle, a warm bowl of buttery noodles that are a staple of Austrian cuisine, and of course the veal Wiener schnitzel. To sweeten things up at the end, we suggest their Mozartkugel with nougat and pistachio, as well as their triple-decker spin on the soufflé known as a Salzburger knockerl, accompanied by hot caramel and huckleberries.

3. Casa Lever: a tribute to Andy Warhol

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It’s not often that The New York Times calls your restaurant “deeply likeable.” Nestled between the mass of skyscrapers north of Grand Central is Lever House, one of the first curtain-wall buildings in New York. Designed by Gordon Bunshaft, its futuristic looking exterior belies a cosy interior softened  by lush carpeting and artfully placed chandeliers. Yet what is most striking about Casa Lever is the seemingly-endless row of Warhol prints lining the wall, which belong to the owner of the building and art collector Aby Rosen.

The Italian menu draws inspiration from its location and its roots. There is amatriciana made with tuna instead of the typical guanciale, or jowl bacon, Milanese veal and a bone-in New York Strip, which are just some of the many choices to feast on while your eyes take in the silk-screen portraits of Audrey Hepburn, Judy Garland, Ernesto Eposito and Douglas Cramer on the walls.

4. Trattoria Dell' Arte: inside the artist's atelier 

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Trattoria Dell’Arte lives up to its name. A design landmark as well as a favourite for concertgoers at the nearby Carnegie Hall, the anatomically-themed interior of this restaurant is designed by the legendary Milton Glaser. At the entrance, you are greeted with a giant, white nose, perhaps a nod to how great food must appeal to more than the palate. Inside, the restaurant is meant to look like an artist’s atelier, with anatomical drawings surrounding the diners, including an entire wall devoted to pictures of noses. The restaurant serves typical Italian fare, but we recommend the antipasto bar with its array of cured meats and seafood. Just be prepared to wait in line, an activity which any seasoned museum goer will be well-acquainted with.

5. Vandal: where urban art meets street food

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Moving away from uppercrust fine dining and homey, cosy fare, we end with Vandal. As restaurants go, Vandal may not be the newest kid on the block, but it has definitely earned its street cred, proving that “street food” can be taken off the street and put in a new context, which is especially relevant in the food truck dense New York City. From the outside, Vandal looks more like a bar than a restaurant, but the Rockwell Group-designed space, located on Bowery, clears up any misconceptions quickly. The restaurant boasts a staggering variety of spaces, including open and private dining areas, a “secret garden,” a subterranean lounge, and most interestingly a dark, minimalistic flower shop at the entrance — a collaboration between Rockwell Group and boutique floral designer Ovando.

Perhaps the piece that exemplifies Vandal’s particular brand of urban whimsy best is the 11-foot-tall breakdancing bunny. Rockwell Group was so inspired by breakdancing culture they actually recreated a now-discontinued shade of Krylon spray paint called “Icy Grape” specifically to lacquer the rabbit, a shade of paint so popular that the paint company stopped producing it, in part to discourage graffiti.

Celebrated British street artist Hush was instrumental in creating Vandal’s interior design. In addition to contributing his own large-scale murals to the decor, he chose seven other street artists to “vandalize” the space, such as the mural and lights by Tristan Eaton and a plaster niche by Vhils. If you haven’t had your fill already in the art-saturated space, you could try the hot pretzel kobe beef tartare or macaron frozen yogurt sandwich — like the restaurant, it’s hard to imagine before you see it.