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Fall Preview: Restaurants

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Lower Manhattan

Dim Sum Go Go (5 East Broadway; no phone yet; November 1) Food writer and consultant Colette Rossant, partner Stephen Low, and their three Hong Kong chefs explore the hidden potential of the lowly dumpling in a 24-hour restaurant and takeout canteen built by Rossant's architect husband, James. These are dumplings as we've never seen them before: Unconventional dough wrappers made from things like rice flour and sesame seeds encase fillings that combine Eastern and Western ingredients. Pork and shrimp, yes, but also Swiss chard from the Greenmarket, Chinese wild mushrooms, Japanese pink garlic, and a choice of five sauces.

Lansky Lounge & Grill (138 Delancey Street; 212-677-5588; early November) For most of the twentieth century, Ratner's was the place to go for lush cheese blintzes, the world's softest onion rolls, and a Formica-clad, fluorescent-lit reminder of what the Lower East Side was like when your grandparents lived there. But three years ago, third-generation Ratner's owners Fred and Robert Harmatz thought they'd have better luck luring the area's influx of sideburn-sculpting hipsters with an illicit, back-room speakeasy named the Lansky Lounge than with their mushroom-barley soup. After careful consideration of how much it cost them to keep kosher (and closed on Friday nights), the brothers have now retired Ratner's as we know it, commissioning architect Larry Bogdanow to expand the back room and shrink the front, both of which will serve a few dairy dishes for posterity, plus a new menu of steaks, chops, and seafood.

Le Zinc (139 Duane Street; 212-513-0001; October) Blame the past year's delay on the Scylla and Charybdis of Lease Negotiation and Construction Setbacks. Finally, this fall, Karen and David Waltuck open the casual-bistro foil to their tastefully luxurious, special-occasion Chanterelle. Open daily, they say, from noon to 4 a.m., for hearty comfort food like pot-au-feu, chicken potpie, duck mixed grill, and Vidalia-onion fritters.

Pico (349 Greenwich Street; 212-343-0700; mid-October) Chef John Villa (Boathouse Cafe, JUdson Grill) has been scouting Portugal for culinary inspiration, which leads us to speculate that there might be some caldo verde in TriBeCa's near future. Architecturally sensitive remodeling will retain the old Bazzini nut-and-candy factory's landmarked façade and cast-iron pillars while making way for a chef's table off the kitchen and a private dining room downstairs.

SoHo

Hampton Chutney Co. (68 Prince Street; no phone yet; late October) Every now and again, Hamptonites have found that it's essential to drop out of the Nick & Toni's rat race and indulge in a more casual, countrified dining experience -- namely, a curry-chutney chicken dosa (stuffed sourdough crêpe) slathered with vibrant cilantro or mango chutney. And now the abnormally serene and cheerful owners, Isabel and Gary MacGurn, have decided to venture forth from their off-season hamlet and bring their chant recordings and crêpe batter to SoHo, where they will offer limited seating and (eventually) delivery service.

SoHo SoHo (475 West Broadway; 212-677-7172; late October) It's taken three years to find a suitable Manhattan location, but finally, top-ranked Long Island chef Guy Reuge (and his well-connected Upper East Side partner, Nello Balan) got hold of a great one -- the old Amici Miei space, anchoring a prime SoHo intersection. Anyone who's been to Reuge's Mirabelle will recognize his signature ginger-almond tart and "duck in two courses," but the chef has a few surprises up his sleeve: roasted squab breast with sweet-potato-apricot bastilla and pomegranate molasses, for instance.

Meatpacking District

Chinghalle (50 Gansevoort Street; 212-242-3200; October) Don't blame us. We were only passing along what we thought was good information last fall, that Campagna's Mark Strausman was setting up shop in the cobblestoned streets of the meatpacking district, but alas, it wasn't to be -- not in 1999, anyway. Now we say, with renewed confidence, it is. And what, exactly, is it? "A hipper, downtown Campagna," says Strausman -- but open later, with a simpler, less expensive menu, an international wine list, and tapaslike appetizers to share.

Gramercy

Craft (43 East 19th Street; 212-780-0880; early December) "The older I get," says Tom Colicchio, chef-partner at Gramercy Tavern, "the simpler my food gets. I'm tired of complicated dishes with eight things on the plate." The rest of us aren't, and we continue to flock to the Tavern for his award-winning cooking. But we respect him for trying something new, and Craft is certainly that. The menu reads like a shopping list, with individual categories for fish, meat, vegetables, mushrooms, and condiments, all ordered à la carte and served family-style. The emphasis is on the quality of the raw ingredient, not what the accomplished chef de cuisine, Gramercy veteran Marco Canora, does to jazz it up. It's dinner as improvisation: What do you want to eat? How do you want it cooked? What would you like on the side? And how about some olive oil to drizzle over your meat -- there are twenty to choose from.

Pipa (38 East 19th Street; 212-677-2233; early October) Nuevo Latino trendsetter Douglas Rodriguez is on a roll, having made a tremendous success of Chicama at ABC Carpet & Home. Such a success, in fact, that his home-furnishing landlords have prevailed upon him to convert the froufrou Parlour Cafe into a lively tapas-and-wine bar, an assignment that sent him off on an eating pilgrimage to Andalusia. The next phase of his Home remodeling plan: converting the Food Hall into the Mercado, a source for Latin-American groceries, made-to-order quesadillas, and dulce de leche crêpes.

Midtown East

Café Aquavit (58 Park Avenue, near 37th Street; 212-879-9779; late October) Where better to install a self-service satellite of New York's reigning Swedish restaurant than in the elegant new home of the American-Scandinavian Foundation, where the geographic theme extends from the furnishings (Arne Jacobsen "Ant" chairs, spruce floors bordered in Norwegian alta quartzite) to Marcus Samuelsson's gravlax, meatballs, and assorted sandwiches and salads?

D'Artagnan (152 East 46th Street; no phone yet; early November) The Newark-based foie gras wholesaler-to-the-stars -- star chefs, that is -- stakes its own claim to Manhattan's upmarket appetites with this rustic restaurant and takeout shop, designed to resemble a country house in southwestern France. In addition to nibbling fatty goose liver in all its delectable forms, feast on cassoulet, confit, magret, and spit-roasted organic poultry and game, accompanied by a generous selection of Gascogne wines and Armagnacs.

Tuscan Steak (622 Third Avenue, at 40th Street; no phone yet; November 1) Jeffrey Chodorow has big ideas about food -- namely, the bigger the portion size, the better. Which has been his guiding principle at China Grill, Asia de Cuba, and now a New York branch of his flourishing South Miami Florentine steakhouse, where the grilled T-bone with roasted-garlic purée comes in two sizes: large and larger. And a steak without sides -- in this case, smoked-onion mashed potatoes and white-truffle garlic bread -- would be no fun at all.


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