the underground gourmet
"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