Best New Restaurants

Atelier Gabriel Kreuther's refined yet playful French food evokes Jean-Georges Vongerichten's cuisine, which is no surprise: Kreuther was chef de cuisine at Jean Georges for three years. Atelier, at the new Ritz-Carlton, gives him his own showcase--and a different vantage point on Central Park from his previous restaurant, just a few blocks away (50 Central Park South; 212-521-6125).

Bid York Avenue, no restaurant row, now lays claim to Bid, on the ground floor of Sotheby's auction house. Gramercy Tavern veteran Matt Seeber's French-American creations--buttery seared scallops with bacon; sautéed black sea bass with bok choy, fennel and saffron-tomato broth--should keep Upper East Siders and visiting collectors happy (1334 York Ave.; 212-988-7730).

Blue Smoke Restaurateur Danny Meyer's Union Square Cafe and Gramercy Tavern are anything but joints. Which helps explain all the excitement over his foray into the world of barbecue. The kitchen uses state-of-the-art equipment to slow-smoke meat; try the tender pulled pork (116 E. 27th St.; 212-447-7733).

Fiamma Osteria With this first-rate SoHo restaurant, owner Stephen Hanson--who runs big, crowd-pleasing places like Blue Fin, Blue Water Grill, Park Avalon and Ruby Foo's--proves the cynics wrong. Chef Michael White turns out some of the city's most vibrant Italian cuisine (206 Spring St.; 212-653-0100).

The Harrison Opened in Tribeca just after September 11, The Harrison has been packed from the start. Chef Joey Campanaro combines elegance and comfort in dishes like sautéed sweetbreads with Alsatian choucroute, juniper and bacon, and a juicy pork chop with eggplant Parmesan and teardrop tomatoes. Co-owner Jimmy Bradley of Chelsea's wonderful Red Cat oversees all (355 Greenwich St.; 212-274-9310).

Kai Diners enter through a beautifully designed street-level tea shop before ascending to the dining room, where chef Hitoshi Kagawa creates lovely kaiseki-style Japanese meals--parades of smallish dishes with subtle, multilayered flavors (822 Madison Ave.; 212-988-7277).

Olica Chef Jean-Yves Schillinger attracted a cult following at L'Actuel with his innovative takes on French classics. At Olica, he continues the tradition with such inspired offerings as a tarte flambée with bluefin tuna and wasabi (145 E. 50th St.; 212-583-0001).

Washington Park Chef Jonathan Waxman became an '80s culinary icon with his groundbreaking California cuisine at Manhattan's Jams. Now he's back--at Washington Park, on a historical stretch of lower Fifth Avenue. Waxman's star dish is back too: His famous JW Chicken and Fries is an unglamorous-sounding but glorious piece of crisp-skinned poultry served with perfect fries (24 Fifth Ave.; 212-529-4400).

Next-door Spin-offs

Cantinetta Its neighbor and sibling Da Silvano has the celebrity sightings; Cantinetta has the mellow ambience, the simple, inexpensive dishes and the great breakfasts (260 Sixth Ave.; 212-844-0282).

Craftbar Tom Colicchio (an F&W Best New Chef 1991) of year-old Craft has opened an offshoot with the same unpretentious, Euro-American style--ably interpreted by chef Marco Canora--but with a more casual feel (there's a no-reservations policy) and much lower prices (47 E. 19th St.; 212-780-0880).

Menu Overhaul

La Caravelle The talented Troy Dupuy gives us new reasons to visit this romantic midtown spot. In addition to "Classiques de la Caravelle," such as pike quenelles in lobster cream sauce, the menu lists Dupuy's modern, deceptively simple-sounding dishes--including an excellent steamed black bass in shrimp broth, and lamb three ways with buckwheat and curry sauce (33 W. 55th St.; 212-586-4252).

Bar Scene

Butter Keith Harry, previously a sous-chef at Chanterelle, sends out delicious French-American dishes, but the center of gravity is downstairs in the lounge, where models, downtown types and curious onlookers converge (415 Lafayette St.; 212-253-2828).

Industry (food) This chalet-themed (and unfortunately punctuated) East Village spot, run by a group of Mercer Kitchen alumni, was conceived as a chefs' hangout. In addition to the dining room, the two bar areas offer ample people-watching and a chance to taste chef Alex Freij's New American dishes (509 E. Sixth St.; 212-777-5920).

Meet Located in the meatpacking district (hence the name) and offering such dishes as chef Ten Vong's walnut-crusted rack of lamb, this spacious, energetic restaurant also provides plenty of meet-and-greet opportunities in the bar area, which wraps around the front half of the dining room (71–73 Gansevoort St.; 212-242-0990).

Cheap / Snack

aKa Cafe From chef Scott Ehrlich, who trained at the ambitious 71 Clinton Fresh Food, comes this Lower East Side haven with an ingenious menu of inexpensive small plates--a pressed hanger-steak slider on a bialy, an empanada stuffed with gingery pork and a cilantro–collard greens relish (49 Clinton St.; 212-979-6096).

BB Sandwich Bar This tiny space near New York University isn't much to look at, but the Philadelphia-style cheese steaks chef Gary Thompson prepares are worth a detour. Get there early, before they sell out. Purists may quibble over the kaiser rolls and chile-pepper sauce, but that just means more sandwiches for the rest of us (120 W. 3rd St.; 212-473-7500).