Restaurant Openings & Buzz
Week of April 14, 2003
the holidays

Soak This Up
Sponge cake may be a typical Passover dessert, but it’s doubtful that you’ve seen anything like Taste chef Scott Bieber’s towering lemon-meringue version on your Seder table. Made with matzo meal instead of the usual all-purpose flour, and quintuple-layered with lemon curd, it’s a lighter, airier variation on Bieber’s show-stopping signature confection, available at Eli’s Manhattan for $65.
Eli's Manhattan
1411 Third Avenue, near 80th Street

Easter Dinner at Patsy's
At the West 56th Street restaurant that Sinatra adored (entirely separate from the similarly named midtown chain), roasted baby goat and rack of lamb top special holiday menu. Kids are especially welcome there'll be a fancy pizza special waiting for them.
236 West 56th Street

Top 5 Seder Restaurants
Five options for the Four Questions.

Passover Recipes
Create a Seder meal as old as tradition but sparked with a few surprises: salmon in the gefilte fish? Don't plotz. (March 2002)

Holiday Happenings
It's time to hunt eggs, listen to Bach, and catch up on Dante.

Chennai Garden

For Pradeep Shinde, co-owner of the new Chennai Garden, a successful restaurant has universal appeal. “Nobody should say no,” he says, and to that end, his kosher, meatless, mostly South Indian menu appeals to vegetarians, Orthodox Jews, and Muslims alike. So does lots of the Curry Hill competition, but according to Shinde, they’re all following in his trend-setting footsteps: He claims to have launched the kosher-Indian trend at Madras Mahal a decade ago. In colorful new digs on a quiet side street, his kitchen’s turning out a fresh, flavorful roster of dosai, uthappam, and Punjabi and Gujarati curries, plus a $5.95 weekday lunch buffet and $13.95 combination dinners.
129 East 27th Street

Barking Dog
The third branch of this comfort-food chainlet features the same canine paraphernalia as its predecessors, but since it’s located in a hotel, it also serves breakfast. Dog people and those who love them can sit indoors or out, at a patio equipped with rocking chairs, flower boxes, and a “dog bar.”
50 East 34th Street

Kitchen 82
When Charlie Palmer converted Alva into Kitchen 22, he created the perfect neighborhood restaurant for these not-exactly-flush times. Now he’s brought the $25 prix fixe formula (and equally affordable wines) to a new neighborhood, where the locals will happily line up without reservations for seasonal American fare like beef carpaccio with green lentils and eggplant caviar, and roasted chicken with porcini risotto.
461 Columbus Avenue, at 82nd Street

the underground gourmet

Modern English

Tony Powe is a Brit who grew up in France, went to school in Scotland, and opened Jarnac, a French-Mediterranean bistro in the West Village. That might explain why he uses the phrase “cross-Channel cooking” to describe the fusion fare at Café Topsy, his second Village venture. The restaurant formerly known as Papillon has endured several chef and identity changes, but seems to finally make sense—attached, as it is, to an Irish bar called the French Paddy. Powe and Jarnac chef Maryann Terillo have devised a menu that caters to every neighborhood need, from morning pastries and Italian wood-roasted espresso to soup and sandwiches at lunch and hearty dinner entrées like shepherd’s pie and lamb shank “Irish-stew-style.” Chicken and chips come with malt-vinegar dip, tender brisket is braised in Guinness, and a “coddler” of rib bacon, garlic sausage, and potatoes cooked in sauerkraut is cross-Channel choucroute. Sunday brings ploughman’s brunch and a $25 prix fixe roast with Yorkshire pudding and all the trimmings. You can bring the boy out of Britain, it seems, but he’s bound to bring his hankering for Sunday roast with him.
Café Topsy
575 Hudson Street

The Big Finale

With the introduction of his $25 dessert tasting, Blue Hill pastry chef Pierre Reboul addresses the burning issue of where to go just for dessert. His sophisticated parade of sweets (available nightly after 9:30) will change with the seasons, but for now, it begins delicately with a palate-cleansing litchi-champagne sorbet before progressing to a triplex of crushed avocado under thin layers of lime sorbet and salted-caramel wafer, dense chocolate bread pudding, and mango rolls stuffed with tropical-fruit curd in a coconut-tapioca puddle. He builds up to a confectionery crescendo with an espresso cup of tart passion-fruit soufflé and a Chinese soup spoon of passion-fruit ice cream, then winds down with petits fours, and finally a batch of warm financiers wrapped in a linen napkin—which you might, at that point, be tempted to use as a white flag.
Blue Hill
75 Washington Place

in print

Lobster Rolls & Blueberry Pie
Even when the tiny Pearl Oyster Bar expands into the neighboring space next month, scoring a seat won’t be easy, but you can while away the wait reading chef Rebecca Charles’s new book, Lobster Rolls & Blueberry Pie (ReganBooks; $27.95). Part family memoir, part culinary reminiscence, and, of course, part cookbook (from clam chowder to pecan brittle), Lobster Rolls is especially a tribute to Charles’s grandmother, Pearle Goldsmith, and to Maine, where she spent summers in Kennebunkport. Over the years, the seaside town wove a magical spell over Pearle and her liberal Jewish family, even though when they first started visiting, only one hotel in the Waspy enclave would accommodate Jews. But the place had other mitigating charms. As Charles’s great-uncle Sam, the first member of the clan to blaze a vacation trail Down East, put it in a postcard to Pearle’s husband: “You must come up here dear brother . . . The beach is lovely but the food, ahhh!”

Ask Gael
How many lives can a restaurant have?
In one of those sense-tingling moments, I savor the first sublime taste of halibut “porterhouse,” exquisitely barely cooked, smartly piquant, and I think that maybe Ken Aretsky, hand-in-hand with Pico chef-owner John Villa, can jolt Patroon awake. No denying the crab is prime and jumbo. And the lone seared scallop shines alongside braised oxtail. Still, hefty appetizer prices and some mingy portions seem unpatriotic, if not un-American. Crackling pork shank is luscious (by definition seriously fatty), and an impeccably singed strip of rare sirloin scarcely needs béarnaise. We’re lapping up the sauce on excellent fries. Too bad old-fashioned roast duck off the rotisserie comes padded with fat in a cloyingly sweet orange sauce that cries for vinegar. Happily, Dan Rundell’s almondy pear tart and everything chocolate end the exercise with a high.
160 East 46th Street

In the Archives

March 31, 2003
The Mermaid Inn, Ten Sushi, Rice to Riches, Scopello; backstage access at The Restaurant at Spotlight Studios; Dos Caminos Soho and Le Zoccole debut soon; grand dining at Capitale.

March 24, 2003
Pampano, Mexican Sandwich Company, Hacienda de Argentina, Heartland Brewery; Grace foods go to Brooklyn; Rocco DiSpirito's new Tuscan.

March 17, 2003
Rice Avenue, Ivo & Lulu, Basso Est, The Carriage House; inventive scones at Podunk; Gael visits the Bruno Jamais Restaurant Club.

More Openings & Buzz

Photos: Patrik Rytikangas, Carina Savi (2, 5, &6), Tina Rupp (3 & 4).