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Week of November 25, 2002

the underground gourmet
Fine Diner
"Do you have seltzer?" asks a blonde looking for something to go with her poached-salmon salad at the recently opened Lunchbox Food Co. "No, but we have a Spanish sparkling water," offers the strapping Australian waiter. Indeed: Despite the gleaming angular façade, terrazzo floor, and vinyl booths, Lunchbox is a diner in only the most abstract sense. "I had the menu in mind for years," says Jennifer Kohns, the alumnus of Le Bernardin who runs Lunchbox with partners Lawrence Rudolph and chef Shawn Glenn, "but we weren't looking specifically for a diner." To their credit, the trio made the most of the fifties stainless-steel Kullman, beautifully refurbishing it and painting the façade chartreuse and chocolate, a reference to the packaging of their sideline confections line, samples of which are for sale at the entrance.

But if chocolate-truffle lollipops aren't enough of a clue that you haven't landed at Mel's, there's the French sea salt on the tables, the freshly ground organic beef in the excellent Cheddar-bacon burger, the coconut–crème fraîche chicken salad wrapped in a rice-flour crêpe, and the well-dressed green garnishes meant to be eaten rather than to decorate (and nothing over $12.95). Not only does the kitchen cure its own salmon, but it makes its own doughnuts, and boils and bakes its own bagels, in iconoclastic flavors like orange zest and Parmesan. Sandwiches come on breads from Balthazar, which also supplies croissants for fabulous French toast, served at brunch with butternut-squash marmalade and meaty strips of bacon. The owners have succumbed to neighborhood demand and will soon start serving dinner, plus beer and wine. But don't push your luck and try to order hash.
Lunchbox Food Co.
357 West Street

best of the week
Thanksgiving at Daniel
It may not be a classic tradition yet, but we guarantee that Daniel Boulud is a better cook than your relatives. His three-course prix fixe is $89 and includes roast turkey and pumpkin soup, and positively no cylinders of canned cranberry sauce.
60 East 65th Street
To reserve, call 212-288-0033

object of desire
Good Golly, It's Thali
Hampton Chutney Co. draws post-yoga Soho hordes with its dosas, those rice-and-lentil-flour crêpes stuffed with everything from spiced potatoes to turkey and Monterey jack. Now the kitchen is branching out, with a dosaless special thali, the classic compartmentalized Indian lunch. The tray, which changes daily, features a vegetable dish (like Madras-spiced butternut squash or Punjabi-style Japanese eggplant), a vegetarian soup (toor dal, say, or south-Indian corn with corn dumplings), basmati rice, grilled nan, yogurt, and chutney. Even dosa devotees would agree that variety is the spice of life.
Hampton Chutney Co.

68 Spring Street


Ask Gael
I hear there's a soup to feed thousands.
Actually, it's a pretty little hardcover book called Stone Soup. Its pocket-size pages retell a folk tale (you may know it from the classic children's book by Marcia Brown) about an anxious and slightly paranoid village that discovers joy and community as a stranger turns four stones into dinner for everyone. A parable for perilous times in our own slightly paranoid city, Stone Soup was put together by Magnet Communications at the direction of CEO David Kratz especially for Citymeals-on-Wheels. It's perfect as a stocking stuffer, better yet as a greeting card. Each $10 book sold buys two holiday dinners for frail, elderly shut-ins. And Citymeals also sells greeting cards — five for $25, every card paying for a hand-delivered meal.
To order cards or the book, call Citymeals at 212-687-1234.

Bites & Buzz Archive

Week of November 18
Serious cider for holiday celebration; affordable lunch luxury at Lutece.
Week of November 11
New cheese courses; specialty food haven Blue Apron Foods; Fresco by Scotto on shelves nationwide; Gael checks out the beef for dinner.
Week of November 4
Daniel Boulud's newest achievement; organic microwaveable meals; Goupil & DeCarlo heads west; beating the blues at 11 Madison Park.

and more ...

Photos: Bruce Katz and Kenneth Chen

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