| EDITED BY ROBIN
RAISFELD AND ROB PATRONITE
Week of July 30, 2001
| Just for the
halibut: Quilty's steamed filet with wild mussels.
Spots to Catch Halibut
is the new tuna," declares Canteen
owner John MacDonald of the flaky fish that's suddenly
as ubiquitous as chopped salad. Throw your impressions
of dried-out seafood-house fillets overboard: The low-fat
snowy flesh, if not overcooked, is a perfect blank canvas
for the sauces and stylings of creative cooks. "There's
hardly a muscle in it," marvels Jonathan Eismann, chef
in the 60 Thompson hotel. "If you cook it gently, it's
subtle and wonderful." Steaming, poaching, searing,
and flash-grilling are the methods of choice, and the
preparation possibilities are endless.
The Lure: Steamed fillet served over purée
of sugar snow peas and sweet peas, with a sauce of black-truffle
butter, snow peas, fava beans, and asparagus, flavored
155 West 51st Street
The Lure: Halibut fillet steamed over aromatic
herbs with wild-mussel-and-watercress fumet, pickled
chanterelles, and Iroquois corn griddle cake.
177 Prince Street
The Lure: Lightly grilled halibut over jasmine
and sticky rice, in lemongrass broth topped with arugula.
205 East 75th Street
The Lure: Soy-ginger-steamed halibut with Chinese
sausage and bok choy.
21 West 17th Street
The Lure: Pan-seared halibut with fennel-potato
purée, salsify, cèpes, and vanilla-saffron-butter
sauce, topped with fresh greens and lemon juice.
24 West 55th Street
The Lure: Layered tower of honey-glazed halibut,
cilantro-infused rice, rum-soaked black beans, avocado,
and tomato escabèche.
39 Downing Street
The Lure: Halibut poached in olive oil, served
with braised fennel and slow-cooked tomatoes.
15 West 56th Street
-- BETH LANDMAN
Object of Desire
Apricots, glazed with brandy and sugar, then
super-slow-roasted, served on buttered toasted filone bread, and topped with
vanilla-scented whipped cream: This seasonal dessert at al di là is
chef-partner Anna Klinger's whimsical dessert reincarnation of bruschetta. Chased with a
sweet bubbly dessert wine, it's pure summer on a plate. -- PETER KAMINSKY
al di là
248 Fifth Avenue, at Carroll
Street, Brooklyn 718-783-4565
For a time The Tonic was too hot not to cool down.
When the feckless armies of the night decamped, veteran
restaurateurs Steve Tsolis and Nicola Kotsoni shifted
gears. Now the woody tavern has been softened with burgundy
banquettes, upholstered slipper chairs, and ottomans.
Beyond the din, in the sedate dining room with its full-blown
roses, and chef Joey Fortunato (pictured) bossing the
range, we revel in a quartet of sensational starters:
perfectly seared sea scallops on spicy-merguez-confetti'd
polenta with tangy grape-and-olive salad. Three frisky
fish tartars deliciously spiked with Key-lime vinaigrette.
And lush rabbit ravioli with morels, peas, and a Vidalia-onion
confit. None of us can get enough of the chef's lamb three
ways. So I'm puzzled by a dreary swamp of fettuccine,
sulky seafood stew, and the too-cooked halibut that follow.
Happily, pastry whiz Dalia Jurgensen quickly melts the
chill with warm banana tarte Tatin, her lemon blast with
shortbread and blueberry frozen yogurt, and tingling sorbets.
Having loved Fortunato's ways at Layla,
Scarabée, and Quantum 56, I want to believe he's
on his way to mastering the menu. -- GAEL GREENE
108 West 18th Street
What's this about a price war in the Hamptons?
Reality strikes. Some of the greediest restaurants in the Goldhamptons are bending low to woo penny-pinchers and
the affluent wounded. At least mercilessly expensive Pacific East runs its $19.99 early-bird discount all night Thursdays. Don't
expect to see the price-cut menu till you ask, of course. So eat some humble pie to get
Prince Edward Island mussels in a kicky coconut red-curry broth, and deliciously
caramelized lamb shank on garlic mashed potatoes or the cautiously crumbed Moroccan
salmon. And rice-pudding fans will swoon over the haunting sticky rice goo in a coconut
shell. Lurid sunsets over a tranquil marina that could be somewhere in small-town America
draw crowds to their no-reservation fate at otherwise friendly Beacon, where the prices are gentler to start. The
two-course $22 prix fixe offers soup or salad and the entrée of the day. Tonight: a
rich puddle of creamy chowder with smoked shrimp or iceberg wedges and poached tomatoes in
Roquefort dressing, and then roast chicken. Twelve minutes to get a Bloody Mary? It's
amateur night at Lure at the Independent, where the $23 menu is a secret unless you know to ask. Tonight we have a choice of
sprightly gazpacho with smoked shrimp or the lackluster Caesar. And one of three
entrées. No substitutes, please. One day the chef may learn to spare the soy and to
sear tuna rare but not cool. The salmon isn't so thrilling, either, but boneless organic
chicken is fine and all the adornments -- summer-corn succotash, smashed Bliss potatoes,
baked Yukon Golds -- are appealing. Granted, we're tough to please. And the portions are
huge -- including three generous scoops of sorbet or ice cream. I'm figuring the same deal
à la carte could run $47. How can they afford to do it? I ask the waitress. "Beats
me," she says.
415 Main Street,
West Water Street, Sag Harbor
Lure at the Independent
2468 Main Street, Bridgehampton
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Fermentation in the Heartland, Proseccheria's pop culture,
Gael goes global
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Citarella to go, Gael on La Fondita
Photos: Dasha Wright Ewing