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Restaurant Openings & Buzz
Week of February 17, 2003
best of the week


When P.J. Clarke’s reopens on February 20, the new owners—actor Timothy Hutton and veteran restaurateur Phil (Docks) Scotti among them—won’t mind a bit if their painstaking yearlong construction job goes unnoticed. In fact, they’d prefer it. That’s why, even though they gutted the ghost-ridden saloon and modernized the infrastructure, they kept careful track of where every last relic went, including the jukebox, the chalkboard menus, and the ashes of an especially loyal former customer. Change is most apparent upstairs at the Sidecar, a posh, artfully aged addition with a separate entrance, a 280-bottle wine list, and its own kitchen, whence will come Key West stone crabs, char-grilled lobster, and various other upscale alternatives to P.J.’s signature bacon cheeseburger and home fries.
P.J. Clarke's
915 Third Avenue, at 55th Street

Parish & Co.

At Orsons, the restaurant Shaun Rosenberg opened in the East Village a decade ago, the menu melded French, Italian, and Asian accents in the then-burgeoning New American style. Apparently, Rosenberg hasn’t lost his appetite for it: Last week, he and his brother Jeremy opened Parish & Co., where chef Frank Castronovo (an alumnus of Bouley and Jean Claude) goes global, with dishes as diverse as sesame-sprinkled cold buckwheat noodles and pappardelle with braised-pork ragù. The restaurant caters to another culinary trend, the two-tiered portion—small for tasting, large for sharing—which makes it easy to graze through a selection of crostini, seasonal vegetables, eclectic pastas, even rack of lamb with caponata.
202 Ninth Avenue, near 22nd St.

· Cuisine: Eclectic


Little Korea isn’t lacking for barbecue joints where diners can grill their own bits of marinated meat over portable charcoal pots. But 36-92, with its quasi-industrial décor, Starck chairs, and friendly service, is still a welcome addition to the kimchi district. The menu, while not as voluminous as some of the neighbors’, covers all the basics, from pajun and bibimbap to casseroles and stews. The main attraction, though, is the black-Angus beef—the sirloin, the skirt, and especially the short ribs—that you grill, then wrap with rice in lettuce leaves slathered with sweet pepper paste.
5 West 36th Street

· Cuisine: Korean


Let's Roll

One more reason why, even if Dr. Atkins is right, we’re willing to die young and pudgy: Italian rice balls, a.k.a. arancine. Once a humble street snack associated with Brooklyn pizzerias or found under the odd Mulberry Street heat lamp, the softball-size Sicilian orbs stuffed with a little ragù, cheese, and peas, then bread-crumbed and deep-fried, have cleaned up their act, slimmed down (just a little), and are running with a much tonier crowd.

Otto Enoteca Pizzeria
1 Fifth Avenue
Never one to waste a crumb, Mario Batali coats his arancine—stuffed with chicken-liver ragù, mirepoix, and buffalo mozzarella—with whatever’s left in the bottom of the bags of his daily Sullivan Street Bakery order. As the seasons change, so do the fillings (and the leftovers), so look for inspirations like caponatina, yellow squash, and garlic chives, or sweet-and-sour pumpkin with caciocavallo come October. Wednesdays only.

208 West 70th Street
Chef Neil Annis calls them saffron risotto fritters on his menu and serves them atop a squiggle of red-pepper coulis, but he can’t fool us. Any Sicilian grandmother would recognize them for what they are at twenty paces.

240 West 14th Street
Frank Crispo must have read The Sopranos Family Cookbook, wherein the fictional muse, Artie Bucco, reveals his modern-Italian-cooking philosophy—“innovate or die.” That would explain Crispo’s fever-pitched rotating roster of rice balls, from one filled with scampi, chervil, and lemon on a blanket of eggplant-and-tomato confit to another stuffed with wild mushrooms and Parmesan and served with pristine greens.

7 West 20th Street
Arancine means “little oranges” in Italian, a reference to the rice ball’s appearance. Bondi’s version, six to an order, are more like clementines. They’re stuffed with a tasty ragù or mozzarella and peas, which (it’s said) represent the seeds of the orange. Don’t squeeze ’em for your morning juice, though.

47 East 19th Street
A fontina-and-Pecorino filling instead of the more common mozzarella, a pool of piquant tomato sauce, and elegant presentation elevate these otherwise traditionalist rice balls out of the ordinary and into our greedy little mouths.

Going With the Grain

Two new quirky imports from Kiuchi—the 180-year-old Japanese sake producer that crossed over into the beer business a few years ago—continue to wean us off Sapporo. If you’re an indecisive sake and beer drinker, try the Hitachino Nest Red Rice Ale. Beautifully colored, with a pungently sweet-and-bitter, berrylike finish, it’s made from both sake and ale yeasts. "It’s the most sakelike beer in the world,” says Richard Scholz of Brooklyn’s gourmet beer emporium, Bierkraft. If you’re lactose-intolerant, do not try Hitachino’s Sweet Lacto Stout, made from 10 percent milk sugar—a rare interpretation of an old British style, sweet and not bitter at all, the opposite of drier, more astringent Irish stouts. According to Scholz, it’s the type of old-fashioned sweet stout once recommended to pregnant women and small children.
177 South 4th Street, Williamsburg

Ask Gael
I’m tired of trendy—let it be tried-and-true.
You won’t find licorice sticks in your lamb chops at Ouest. When it’s new on the menu, it’s simply yet another lip-smacking toss of some familiar food, most likely scented with garlic or punctuated with bits of pork. Like the new quick olive-oil sauté of calamari with a “ton of garlic,” chef Tom Valenti notes, swimming in a puddle of lightly stewed tomato with, oh yes, chopped soppressata. Or like pappardelle with braised lamb, with garlic, of course. Tonight I’m rhapsodizing over the new sturgeon steak, meaty and slightly rare, with black-trumpet mushrooms and sweet peas on carnaroli rice steeped in mushroom broth with truffle purée, and garlic purée too. Riding the fish is a little salad, dressed simply in lemon and olive oil, sprinkled on top with—toasted garlic chips. It’s always a challenge for chefs to rotate old favorites off the menu, says Valenti: “Customers made us bring back the duck ragù with gnocchi.” So be it.
2315 Broadway, near 84th Street

In the Archives

Restaurant Openings

Restaurant Buzz

Photos: Tina Rupp (1& 5), Patrik Rytikangas, Ellie Miller, Kenneth Chen (4 & 6).

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