There's no doubt about the food at Sel Gris, WW's 2008 Restaurant of the Year and a culinary inspiration in an unassuming section of Hawthorne. But Sel Gris is so much more than a restaurant—it's an opportunity to watch master chef Daniel Mondok at work. The best seats in the notoriously small dining room are at the bar, just a few feet from the kitchen, where you can observe the preparation of each dish before it's served. Mondok specializes in rich, decadent offerings: "salt-and-pepper" calamari served with Thai basil and the sweet-acidic dash of preserved lemons; thick risotto with truffles and a fried egg on top; an assortment of foie gras. For a fancy joint, Sel Gris doesn't skimp on the portions, either, which leaves you both completely full and totally satisfied.
Order this: The bay scallops, quickly seared and served with gnocchi and creamy corn pudding.
Best deal: "Salt-and-pepper" calamari, a plate so big it's hard for a couple to finish.
I'll pass: Dessert, because you'll be far too full by then.