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 Restaurants
Restaurant Openings & Buzz
EDITED BY ROB PATRONITE AND ROBIN RAISFELD
Week of February 24, 2003
 
opening


Tutti Friuli

The Bastianiches aren’t the only ones with a Friuli fixation. Emanuele Simeoni, a native of that Italian region, has just opened Barbalùc—a stylishly handsome two-level space with a sophisticated, pricey menu featuring regional dishes like polenta with porcini sauce, a soft version of frico (fried cheese), and sautéed John Dory in brodetto, not to mention Friulian wines and ingredients like prosciutto di San Daniele and Montasio cheese. As it is more or less explained on the menu, the legend of the Barbalùc (a kind of elfin spirit of vino who resides inside your wineglass and scares children) sounds like something out of The Lost Weekend, but that hasn’t deterred the Ciprianiesque crowd already packing the chic upstairs bar.
135 East 65th Street
212-774-1999

· Cuisine: Italian


 
the underground gourmet

Begin Yegen

If you know anything about the eccentric Orhan Yegen, formerly of Beyoglu and currently the brains behind Efendi, you know he’s something like the Jennifer Lopez of Turkish restaurants—he loves ’em, and several months later, he leaves ’em. Which is why, when it comes to any Yegen-run restaurant, the Underground Gourmet breaks with the custom of allowing new kitchens a probationary period and adopts a strict get-it-while-the-getting-is-good policy.

So far at Efendi, the getting has been very good indeed: Yegen has reprised most of Beyoglu’s meze, soups, and salads and added puffy homemade pita and a terrific feta-stuffed grilled phyllo dough to his repertoire. Creamy hummus, garlicky mashed-eggplant salad, and lemony mint-and-yogurt soup are as irresistible as ever. Equally impressive, though, is the new daily changing roster of homey, hearty entrées. Yegen calls it quick-service Turkish food—the dishes are cooked that day, and although they’re served from a steam table, the Blarney Stone it ain’t. Everything including a meaty, melting braised lamb shank; a lush moussaka enveloped in bubbly, oily tomato sauce; and ground-beef-and-rice-stuffed cabbage drizzled with tangy homemade yogurt is succulent, satisfying, and meticulously presented. For dessert, the creamy almond pudding is so good it could force its chocolate, butterscotch, rice, and tapioca competition into early retirement. Although service is still spotty—you approach the steam table, collar a waiter, pick out what you’d like, and either get it to go or have it delivered to your table, usually resulting in minor chaos—don’t wait too long for Yegen to work out all the kinks.— ROB PATRONITE
Efendi
1030 Second Avenue, near 54th Street
212-421-3004
 
best of the week

The James Beard House Culinary Sale

Julia Child's old kitchen is in the Smithsonian, but James Beard's has stayed put, and the Beard House is letting cooks and fans buy his pots, bakeware, cookbooks and much more.
The Beard House
167 West 12th Street
For more information, call 212-675-4984.
 
talent

Pulling Up Steaks

You can’t be a star chef these days without a consulting gig. Witness Luis Bollo at Suba, Geoffrey Zakarian at Théo, and now Rocco DiSpirito at Tuscan Steak, which reopens February 27 with a longer menu and a shorter name. At the not strictly Tuscan Tuscan, DiSpirito returns to his Campanian roots after years of dabbling in Asian exotica at Union Pacific, his haute home base. Designer Jeffrey Beers has installed cypress topiaries and an antipasto bar, soon to be stocked with an abbondanza of salumi, cheese, frittatas, and vegetables. The Florentine T-bone hasn’t vanished—it’s just been jazzed up with red and green condimenti. And coming off her French-inflected work at Brasserie and Town, pastry chef Nancy Kershner is poised to put a Tuscan spin on dessert.
Tuscan
622 Third Avenue, at 40th Street
212-404-1700
 
tasting

 

Hero's Welcome
Claudia Fleming’s been recruited by Pret A Manger, Tom Colicchio’s practicing ’wich craft, and Nancy Silverton is drawing lactophile Los Angeles crowds with her weekly grilled-cheese night at Campanile. There’s just no question that the upper echelon of American chefdom has two-handedly embraced the humble sandwich. Further proof came last week at City Bakery, where pressed sandwiches completely overtook chef Ilene Rosen’s lunch-counter menu. She’s still tweaking, but an early visit found such inspired combinations as juicy chicken and queso blanco slathered with zesty cilantro sauce on Sullivan Street sourdough Pullman bread, buttery Fontina and pickled onions on toasted Tom Cat semolina, and Cypriot haloumi with grilled radicchio and a swipe of harissa on a multigrain baguette. Rosen has also revived her vegetarian banh mi (a soy-saturated Vietnamese sub) and her oozing Canadian Cheddar on a Portuguese muffin. A quirky pickle plate of Japanese daikon, Taiwanese shallots, Thai garlic, and New Jersey half-sours cuts through all that butterfat. Even dessert doesn’t deviate from the theme: Pastry chef and owner Maury Rubin’s pressed croissant with dulce de leche and addictive grilled chocolate sandwich are icing on the crust.
City Bakery
3 West 18th Street
212-366-1414

 
new menu

 

Think Small
When Bobby Flay opened Bolo ten years ago, tapas were mysteriously absent from his nouvelle Spanish menu. In Madrid, he’d seen people juggling tiny plates of food and casually discarding toothpicks and napkins on the floor, as is, apparently, the custom. (Says Flay, “I didn’t think it would work on 22nd Street.”) A recent trip to Barcelona—and Manhattan’s current small-plate craze—changed his mind, and he’s just introduced a dozen delectable tapas, inspired by Spanish ingredients and flavors but lightened and modernized for the New York palate, and served in compartmentalized plates (any four for $15). Mix and match diverse mouthfuls like white anchovies with tangerine, serrano ham on toasted tomato bread, and lamb tenderloin with oven-dried tomatoes—but please, keep your napkins and toothpicks to yourself.
Bolo
23 E. 22nd Street
212-228-2200

 
 

Ask Gael
I’d like a new spot to feed my craving for Chinese.
Congee gets high marks for effort, with a blue-sky ceiling, trompe l’oeil stained-glass windows, hanging grapes, and crockery art that could be homage to Schnabel. Maybe it wasn't good feng shui to open quite so soon after 9/11, but the owners are fresh and still smiling. No way would we ignore the namesake rice soup, usually a breakfast porridge, that comes in all flavors. Six of us share a bowl studded with preserved egg and pork and another with duck and meatballs—fabulously sweet, almost gelatinous, a perfect foil to the bitter wintry chill. Lemon slices add tang to a splendid stir-fry of salt-baked squid with sweet peppers and cashews. We rediscover chive stems—once with razor clams, another time with juicy, rare chunks of T-bone steak. Memories of sautéed crab with soy and ginger, black-pepper scallops with broccoli, and crisp chicken under a flurry of scallion and garlic crackles make us eager to return.
Congee
98 Bowery
212-965-5028


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Photos: Kenneth Chen (1 & 3), Carina Salvi (2 & 5), Ellie Miller.

 
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