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Week of March 18, 2002
Stephen Hanson opened the whale-size Blue Fin on New Year's Eve, and he's barely had time to come up for air before unveiling the long-awaited Fiamma ("flame" in Italian), his ambitious bid for SoHo stardom. Here, in an ultrasleek triplex equipped with two bars and a glass elevator shuttling between them, he's partnered with sommelier Paolo Novello and chef Michael White, a veteran of high-profile kitchens in Chicago and Emilia-Romagna. But just because the chef was born in Wisconsin, don't expect a sauce-and-cheese-fest: The multiregional menu traverses the boot for dishes like pan-roasted sea scallops with crispy artichokes and black trumpets, garganelli with prosciutto ragù, and sheep's-milk-ricotta beignets.
206 Spring Street
 Cuisine: Italian



Blue Smoke
Danny Meyer is the last person we'd expect to see slobbering over a rack of baby-back ribs, napkin tucked in collar, sauce dribbling down chin. But the man is a perfectionist, and when he announced he was opening a barbecue joint called Blue Smoke — this from the guy whose quartet of high-end restaurants (Gramercy Tavern, Eleven Madison Park, Tabla, and Union Square Café) practically define elegant urban dining — we knew he'd risk every necktie he owns to do all the research required. It's not too much of a stretch: Meyer's from St. Louis, a hub of American barbecue. When he wasn't picnic-table-hopping along the U.S. barbecue circuit, Meyer supervised the transformation of the former 27 Standard (opened by his cousin, who remains a partner at Blue Smoke and the Jazz Standard downstairs) into a much more rough-hewn establishment, opening March 19, with a woody barroom full of high-back red-vinyl booths, a skylit dining room, recession-friendly prices, and a serious jukebox. The pièce de résistance, though, is the pair of Missouri-made pit smokers hooked up to a million-dollar ventilation system that conducts the applewood smoke to the roof, where it should waft away without vexing the local vegans (who, incidentally, should stop reading right here). The menu goes whole hog, from pulled pork and hot links to baby-back and spare ribs. Meyer clearly plumbed his childhood for St. Louis specialties like toasted ravioli and Fitz's root beer, a rarity in New York. And at Blue Smoke, you don't even need a sommelier to tell you that. -- ROBIN RAISFELD
116 East 27th Street
 Cuisine: Barbecue



After dabbling in sushi and habanero sauce, David Ruggerio has returned to his classic French roots. At Rouge, which opens this Friday, Ruggerio-who's been more of a one-man restaurant — hatching machine than a whisk-wielder lately — will be back at the stove, reprising the type of cooking he earned a reputation for at La Caravelle and Le Chantilly. Unlike at those high-flying kitchens, though, Ruggerio will keep à la carte entrées like braised breast of veal and roasted skate with red cabbage and mustard sauce below $20, and more than half the wines will be under $23. "You're going to see less-expensive ingredients, but done in a beautiful way," he says. The elegant space, a landmark townhouse (formerly Maratti) has a looser look and feel, too, with arty photographs of redheads lining the walls.
135 East 62nd Street
 Cuisine: French


Long Island City hasn't been much of a dining destination since Pearson's Texas BBQ relocated to Jackson Heights, and that deficit was keenly felt by Pascal Escriout, the former maître d' at Artisanal and a neighborhood resident. Rather than follow the example of countless Brooklyn-bound restaurateurs before him, he opted to fill the steak-frites void in his own backyard. At Tournesol (French for sunflower), he and his sister wait tables, her boyfriend cooks, and the apparently famished neighborhood fills the 40-seat premises for gently priced fish soup, mussels, homemade foie gras terrine, and plats du jour like cassoulet and coq au vin.
50-12 Vernon Boulevard, Queens
 Cuisine: French



Openings Archive

Week of March 11
Elmo, Rochjin Asian Noodle, Soy, Nong, Si Si
Week of March 4
Bonita, Wondee Siam II, Barocco Hots
Week of February 25
NYC, Beekman Kitchen, Bemelman's Bar

and more ...

Photos: From top to bottom- Kenneth Chen (first and third photos), Patrik Rytikangas (second and fourth photos)
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