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Restaurant Openings & Buzz
Week of May 26, 2003

Max Cafe
From humble beginnings on Avenue B, Max has grown into a chainlet of cheap, delicious pasta parlors with locations in Carroll Gardens and Morningside Heights. The uptown branch is packed nightly, and in an attempt to relieve the congestion—and catch the overflow—the owners have opened the roomy Max Cafe down the street. With thrift-shop furnishings and a bar fashioned from an antique wine barrel, the cozy café invites the sort of post-dinner lingering that isn’t possible in the bustling restaurant. And it’s open from 7 a.m. till midnight, serving pastries and frittate for breakfast and all-day nibbles like chicken-liver crostini, mortadella panini, and assorted antipasti, all priced between $3 and $7.
1262 Amsterdam Avenue, near 122nd Street

Flatiron Lounge
We may still have a ways to go before we reach another golden age of the cocktail, but the opening of the handsomely renovated Flatiron Lounge should be a big step in that direction. Partner Julie Reiner, who made a name for herself at C3 with her inspired infusions and apple martinis, takes a cheflike approach to her craft, so you can count on plenty of fresh juices, much muddling and mincing, and precision layers of flavors—not to mention good booze galore and a rotating cocktail menu that, as chefs like to say, changes with the season. Themed flights of drinks like “The Flight Back in Time” (mini Sazerac, Sidecar, and Aviation Cocktail) are the nightly specials, and if you notice that your Juniper Breeze has a distinctly feminine touch, it’s because Reiner’s three mixologist-partners are also women. Why? “Well, not to sound sexist,” she says, “but I find that women are better bartenders; they tend to be more cautious with quantities, and quantities are a big deal.” And here we thought that women believed size doesn’t matter.
37 West 19th Street;

Eleven Madison Park Hotdog Cart
Hinckley, Ohio, has its buzzards; San Juan Capistrano its swallows; and here in Madison Square Park, we have Danny Meyer’s hot-dog cart, a sure sign that spring has arrived, however late. Now through September 30, you can feast on its tasty though geographically challenged Chicago-style dogs, chocolate-truffle cookies, and lemon-verbena ade, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays. One hundred percent of the profits go toward the park’s upkeep.
Madison Square Park

best of the week

Big Apple Barbecue Block Party
Pitmasters from across the South and West (plus Blue Smoke’s Ken Callaghan) gather to demonstrate the regional subtleties of grilled meat—with free jazz and blues rounding out the sensory experience.
May 31 and June 1, noon to 6pm
plates $6, sides $1, workshops $5
Call 212-576-2232 for details

Jazz Standard
116 E. 27th Street

Richard Farnabe, who’s cooked in a nightclub (Lotus) and a private club (Bruno’s), seems to have renounced velvet ropes and membership fees. As of May 29, he’ll be stirring the pots at the much more egalitarian (if not exactly proletarian) Aïgo, a new coastal-Mediterranean restaurant named for aïgo boulido, the Provençal garlic soup. Joining that potent potage on the inventive menu will be rabbit ravioli with tomato-olive sauce, citrus-crusted loin of veal with falafel, and codfish over brandade.
1608 First Avenue, near 83rd Street


object of desire


Super Frico
Morrells Restaurant’s Michael Haimowitz has come up with the perfect bar snack for his wine-themed restaurant: Frico, the pancake-shaped crisps made from grated montasio cheese, are a traditional form of sustenance for Friulian vineyard workers. Haimowitz stuffs his with smashed Yukon golds and leeks, evoking thoughts of a highly evolved potato knish. But don’t get cute and ask for a Cel-Ray soda—an excellent Friulian white is the way to go.
Morrells Restaurant
900 Broadway, near 20th Street


Spring Fever
Fauchon’s Florian Bellanger must be spending time frolicking in the garden these days, chasing butterflies and gulping fresh spring air. How else to explain the batch of kooky-sounding ice creams and sorbets we recently received in the mail? Toulouse-violet, peach-lavender, rose-petal—we were skeptical at first, but with the exception of that last one, which left us thinking of French bath soap, we found a delectable harmony, especially in the sorbets. Both the intensely tart lemon-basil and the raspberry-chili-pepper, with its subtle, irresistible heat, work equally well as an intermezzo palate-cleanser and as a summer dessert.
1000 Madison Avenue, near 77th Street


Ask Gael
Well, are we amused by Amuse?
That name—it makes me gag. But I’ll overlook that for chef-co-owner Gerry Hayden’s luscious little porcini-stuffed arancini and the fat sardine heaped with sweet and tart balsamic-roasted onions in parsley pesto. My Village pal mourns the loss of the mellowed old Tonic taproom, lost in the spiffed-up cool of Amuse, but we’re both seduced by the chef’s vibrant ways—as in grapefruit-marinated fluke with ginger crisps and the lush asparagus-and-sweet-pea risotto. The menu of “tastes for sampling and sharing” divided by price is eccentric but not as annoying as Craft’s. Even les nouveaux pauvres can eat well, with enough savory options at $5 and $10. We happily divvy up rustic orecchiette in spicy duck ragù and lacquered squab on curried couscous (only $15) and rare peppered duck breast as meaty as sirloin. As a sworn enemy of herb-zonked dessert, I’m relieved I can barely taste cilantro in the lime granita on pineapple tartare.
108 West 18th Street

In the Archives

May 19, 2003
Crudo, Bacchus, Dumonet, Il Fiore, Klatch, Say Cheese; comfort eats at Mooncake Foods; salad perfection at Prune; meatless midtown eats; splurge for lunch at Shun Lee.

May 5, 2003
Mother's Day Dining; 'Wichcraft and Snackbar open; L'Impero's new espresso lunch; Pelagos is an easy please.

April 28, 2003
Ocean's 21, 360; craftbar's brown-sugar delight; buffalo yogurt; gourmet shopping in Park Slope; Avenue C's new hot-spot.

More Openings & Buzz

Photos: Ellie Miller (1, 5), Patrik Rytikangas (2, 6), Carina Salvi (3, 4).

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