For many people, cooking is a second career. For Dr. Miguel Sánchez Romera, who opens Romera in the Dream Downtown hotel next month, it’s an essential form of artistic expression and as demanding of discipline and scholarship as his primary occupation, neurology. From a philosophical melding of the two, and the desire to trigger sensorial and emotional reactions through food, he’s coined a new term—neurogastronomy—and what he considers a new culinary style, one he’s honed over fourteen years at L’Esguard, the Michelin-starred restaurant outside Barcelona that he closed in 2008 to move to New York. The fact that this new cuisine can be had by the $245 twelve-course prix fixe in the basement of a hip new boutique hotel, of all places, isn’t as surprising as the fact that it’s here at all. Just at the precise moment when the New York food scene seems vanquished by burgers, pizza, and taco trucks, a few ambitious newcomers arrive to remind us that we’re living in what many consider the culinary capital of the world.
Although Argentine by birth, Romera has been associated with the Spanish so-called molecular gastronomists because of his scientific background and L’Esguard’s Costa Brava location. But he resists the comparison. “I don’t have any technology,” he says, referring to the equipment required to achieve the modifications in texture and form that characterize the culinary avant-garde. “A kitchen is made to work with one’s hands. All of technological cuisine sacrifices something, which is the taste. And to solve this problem, you have to add chemical additives.” The doctor is less disparaging of natural additives: Ten years ago, he patented a substance called Micri, an odorless, tasteless gel derived from cassava, which when used in cooking can replace fats and extend flavor without sacrificing mouthfeel. He integrates the next-generation version, Cassavia, into many of his artfully constructed plates, from his signature vegetable dish, Isis, to chocolate soup. For him, this is no mere gimmick but a practical solution to the twin evils of fat and sugar in the modern-day diet. “I can’t make anything that’s against nutrition,” he says. “All of this is in the Hippocratic oath.” 355 W. 16th st. nr. Ninth Ave.;212-929-5800. Sept.
La Mar Cebicheria Peruana
Gastón Acurio is a celebrity chef in Latin America, especially in his native Peru. A law-school dropout who trained in Paris, Acurio gradually shed his French affectations to become a leading light of cocina novoandina, or modern Peruvian cooking. He somehow managed to open 29 restaurants around the world before landing in New York, where he intends to hook us on his native cuisine using ceviche as bait: “This very light, very organic, original and tasty and colorful dish that represents everything the world is looking for in a plate.” Executing that mission will be Acurio’s longtime deputy, Victoriano Lopez, who will cater to the New York grazing instinct by emphasizing small portions of ceviches, tiraditos, and appetizers. “In Lima,” says Acurio, “they like to have one big plate in the middle. In New York, we’ll put a little more details on the plate.” 11 Madison Ave., at 25th St.; 212-612-3388; Sept.
Jung Sik Dang
Jung Sik Yim, the Korean-born chef of Jung Sik Dang, wants you to think of his “New Korean Cuisine” as a kinder, gentler molecular gastronomy. Before he opened two hit restaurants in Seoul, he did time not only at Bouley, Aquavit, and Zuberoa and Akelare in Spain but also in the South Korean Army, where his commandant liked his cooking so much he promoted him to be his personal chef. Next month, he’s bringing his $125 create-your-own five-course menu and signature dishes like “five senses satisfaction pork belly,” and a caprese salad of sorts served bibimbap style, to the old Chanterelle space. 2 Harrison St., at Hudson St.; 212-219-0900; Sept.