Eat Global, Dine Local: Enjoy an International Christmas in New York

International Christmas in New YorkYears past, if you found yourself stuck in the city, dinner out on Christmas typically used to be the province of sad hotel buffets, the odd greasy diner, and, of course, the traditional holiday destination for Jewish New Yorkers: the local Chinese restaurant.

Times have changed and the city is never a ghost town, not even on Christmas. Some of the city’s finest restaurants have seized the challenge of making holiday meals worthy of their stellar reputations. So whether you’re avoiding your extended family, keeping it local with a staycation, or your dreams to make it to St. Bart’s this year didn’t quite pan out, you can still travel virtually and enjoy a great meal while you’re at it. Bonus points for not having to hear about politics while your Uncle Lou talks with his mouth full.

Here where to enjoy an international Christmas in New York City:

Wallsé
Kurt Gutenbrunner’s flagship temple to the art of Austrian cuisine serves an elegant, visually vibrant $145 Christmas day tasting menu that’s true to its roots featuring Goose and Venison loin as the evening’s headliners. After sampling his dessert of Gingerbread Soufflé crowned in Egg Nog, good luck finding room for the Christmas cookies that follow. Somehow, you’ll manage.

International Christmas in New York

Aquavit
Skip the long flight to Stockholm and dive into Aquavit’s annual Julboard smorgasbord table. This over the top $95 Christmas Even menu includes three types of cured Salmon, nine types of herring (pictured below) and, yes, plenty of Swedish meatballs. If, for some reason, that’s that’s not your cup of tea, you can just gorge on the assortment of 16 desserts including Kladdkaka, a rich, gooey traditional chocolate cake. [Photo courtesy of @AquavitNYC]

International Christmas in New York

Otto
Mario Batali’s packed to the, ahem, gills West Village pizzeria, Otto, serves up an bargain-priced Feast of the Seven Fishes through Christmas Eve for a mere $45 per person for the whole shebang or $9 for individual samplings. The menu ranges from creamy Baccala (Cod) to a feisty Shrimp & Ceci spiked with ginger and chiles, pictured. You can wash all the deliciousness down with a quartino from Otto’s massive wine list.

International Christmas in New York

Russian Tea Room
Equal parts kitsch and opulence collide here at to celebrate decadence with the Russian Tea Room’s $125 three-course holiday menu ($50 version for kids). On Christmas Day, kick off with Borscht or Blinchicki (mushroom and goat cheese stuffed crepes) followed by a classic selection of artery-clogging entrées including Beef à la Stroganoff and melted butter-spewing Chicken Kiev. You can finish with a relatively restrained Chocolate Mousse cake or just go for broke by requesting a Czarist-inspired Nougat cream parfait topped with, what else, edible gold. A caviar course is extra; fur is optional.

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Christmas Eve Dining: 15 Rave Reviews for the Feast of the Seven Fishes

bouill blogSure, we’re just now able to button our pants after last week’s indulgent Thanksgiving dinner and, yet, we’re already dreaming of more holiday dining. If you’re of Italian descent, or if you just LOVE Italian cuisine (which we know you do), you’re probably familiar with the Christmas Eve culinary tradition of the feast of the seven fishes. A delicious ritual that began in southern Italy, the feast of the seven fishes has ties to Catholicism and the practice of eschewing meat on Christmas Eve. Restaurants have embraced the custom, offering up gourmet spins on different fish dishes to diners on December 24. My family and I indulged at Oceana last year, and every bite was pious perfection. Find out what other diners had to say about their experiences with this fabulous holiday treat — and book your feast of the seven fishes reservations for Christmas Eve. More than just being delicious and festive, the meal is said to bring luck in the new year. 

Bar Eolo: Sicilian Kitchen & Wines, New York, New York: “Our family came here for the feast of the seven fishes on Christmas Eve and had a delightful dinner. The seafood lovers in the family enjoyed it the most, of course, but everyone managed to find something to their taste. The recommended wine was delicious and reasonably priced and the restaurant was very festive with friendly service — a great evening!”

Bella Tuscany, Windermere, Florida: “Bella Tuscany has had consistently good reviews and they lived up to their reputation on Christmas Eve with both their full menu and the fixed price (or a la carte) feast of the seven fishes. The five-course menu included generous servings of lobster bisque, scallops, a seafood linguini course with mussels, clams, and calamari, and a main course of mahi mahi and super-sweet lobster tail. Bella finished the evening with tiramisu and the creativity, presentation, and preparation were all right on.”

Bimini Twist, West Palm Beach, Florida: “The family went to Bimini Twist to celebrate the feast of the seven fishes. The restaurant had a great selection of fish dishes. The service was unreal…perfect. We had a GREAT waitress, bolstered by other wait staff. This restaurant is a definite stop again when in the area.”

* Blue Water Grill, New York, New York: “Blue Water Grill was open on Christmas Eve, which was a godsend as I was hosting my family for the holiday. I reserved the table a couple days in advance, ensuring a spot. We ate in the main dining room, and it was great. Surrounded by other families celebrating the holidays, the overall ambiance was warm. The food was great and diverse. With traditional Christmas fare, oysters, sushi and even a feast of the seven fishes special, everyone in my family was happy.”

Cinghiale Osteria, Baltimore, Maryland: “With my mother-in-law in town, my wife and I booked for the Christmas Eve feast at Cinghiale, which was the executive chef’s interpretation of a Christmas Eve fish feast. The feast was seven courses of absolute perfection. It is rare to encounter seafood prepared to perfection with consistency; usually it is overcooked and rubbery, but every dish was absolutely perfect, from the oyster starter to the fish filet (with perfectly prepared melt-in-your-mouth calimari). We loved every second of it.”

Fiola, Washington, D.C.: “My husband and I celebrated his birthday (Christmas Eve) at Fiola for the second time. Their feast of seven fishes is MAGNIFICENT! We splurged and got the wine pairing. Our server (who we knew from Fiola and Poste) was amazingly knowledgeable of both the food (preparation, what made each dish unique) and the wine. She was always present when each course was served, to give an overview of the dish and why the pairing was perfect. We had a wonderful experience, and would highly recommend the feast and pairing for future Christmas Eves!”

Imperial, Portland, Oregon: “Christmas Eve dinner with good friends and a meal fit for the three kings. The traditional feast of seven fishes” needs to make it to the main menu, this was one of the best executed Cioppinos I’ve ever had with a sauce that begged for the house bread to soak it up. Few establishments truly enjoy being open on a holiday night, but the staff of the Imperial expressed only joy. This has become a new tradition with many more visits in-between. Well done, Imperial!”

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On Our Plate: OpenTable on ‘Chuck’; Winter Restaurant Weeks Start Soon in Alexandria, Baltimore, Oakland, Providence, Sacramento, San Diego + San Francisco

Chuck Bartowski is most definitely an OpenTable VIP.

Happenings on and around OpenTable…

* It’s not too late to get a great table on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day! Check your metro start page for details on where to dine over the holidays!

* Not sure how to ring in 2012? Check out our round-up of restaurants that are celebrating New Year’s Eve in style!

* Winter Restaurant Week reservations are open in Alexandria, Baltimore, Center City/Philadelphia, Oakland, Providence, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, and Washington, D.C. Restaurant Week. Stay tuned for additional announcements!

* OpenTable played a key role in a recent episode of Chuck. Thanks for the nod!

* The nice folks at TimeDog gave our mobile app two paws up. Woof!