Last October, Steven Duong opened Nam six blocks from ground zero while downtown was still nearly impenetrable. To his surprise, the shell-shocked neighborhood embraced the fresh, affordable Vietnamese food and the calming, stylishly understated décor. This week, he brings that winning formula to O Mai in Chelsea, where his Nam kitchen team has come up with a menu combining old favorites like wok-seared monkfish with new dishes like poached-shrimp-and-pork rolls wrapped in mustard leaves, chicken pho, and crispy duck breast with tamarind-ginger sauce.
158 Ninth Avenue, near 19th Street
· Cuisine: Vietnamese
best of the week
To the short list of authentic, high-quality Mexican restaurants (Zarela and
Zócalo come to mind), add Dos Caminos, where Stephen Hanson (of Blue Water
Grill) and his new partners will be dishing out complex regional dishes
you'll never see at your local tortilla joint.
373 Park Avenue South, near 27th Street
· Cuisine: Mexican
Like his own résumé, British-born, French-trained Julian Clauss-Ehlers's menu at the new Link restaurant and lounge bridges several cultural divides. To start lunch, you have a choice of either minestrone with chopped parsley or coconut-curry soup with poached crab dumplings. For dinner, there's everything from tempura-fried cod and garlic frites to Thai rice-vermicelli with spicy vegetables, ending perhaps with Ehlers's signature dessert, a fruit-and-nut b'steeya borrowed from his recent stint at Zitoune, the Moroccan restaurant in the meatpacking district. The gastronomic globetrotting gets even fiercer with the late-night "amuse" menu, which offers pan-seared haloumi cheese alongside shrimp falafel on a mini Israeli salad.
120 East 15th Street
· Cuisine: Continental
Cafe Del Bar
Good news for customers of A, the bantam byob French-Caribbean bistro: Its owners have turned the space next door into the equally intimate Cafe Del Bar. With its red light bulbs, perpetual reggae soundtrack, photos of vintage Fords, and minuscule Montego Bay menu (curried lamb pies, beef patties, $3 Red Stripes, and rum drinks served in bottles of Ting and Jamaican ginger beer), the joint has a vaguely illicit speakeasy feel and the slapdash appeal of an impromptu house party. And should too many guests arrive, there's always the backyard and the basement, which management plans to convert into an accessories shop by day, hangout by night, this fall.
945 Columbus Avenue, near 106th Street
· Cuisine: French-Caribbean
Coconut Grove, the short-lived, ambitious purveyor of Indian cuisine from the coastal state of Kerala, has come under new management, which has seen fit to expand the regional menu and offer a $9.95 buffet lunch-a downright bargain in this high-rent precinct.
44 West 56th Street
· Cuisine: Indian
Maison Saigon and Tacu Tacu
For perhaps the first time in recorded history-or at least, in
Williamsburg-Peruvian and Vietnamese cuisines share one lofty space done up in semi-tropical décor and serviced by two separate kitchens. So the next time one of you wants roast chicken and seviche and the other has a hankering for cold summer rolls, you won't have to toss a coin.
134–136 N. 6th St., Williamsburg, Brooklyn
· Cuisine: Peruvian and Vietnamese