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Restaurant Openings & Buzz

Week of Nov. 29, 2004: Bouillabaisse 126, Restaurant 343, VietCafé, and seven other openings. Plus, the bottomless glass of wine and upstate barbecue comes to town.

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Openings
Bouillabaisse 126
Back before anyone thought to venture to Smith Street for dinner, lines formed nightly at chef Neil Ganic’s La Bouillabaisse, the late, lamented seafood bistro and, at its peak, one of Brooklyn Heights’ few redeeming culinary attractions. Now, with new partner (and Cobble Hill neighbor) Emmanuelle Chiche, a co-owner of Tribeca’s Bubble Lounge, Ganic is back in business, this time in the tin-ceilinged, ample-gardened former Carroll Gardens premises of Helen’s Fabulous Cheesecake. The chalkboard menu changes daily, but regulars can expect to find old favorites like Ganic’s crab cakes, seafood stew, and various versions of the eponymous dish (pictured, left). Ganic’s double rice pudding has its fans, but he’s anticipating top-flight confectionery assistance from River Café pastry chef Ellen Sternau. BYO until the license arrives, at which point Chiche’s moderately priced selection of wine—sparkling and otherwise—will freely flow.
126 Union St., nr. Columbia St., Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn; 718-855-4405


Restaurant 343
Clubby, wainscotted 343 isn’t the first restaurant Khalil Ayoubi named after its address. Almost 25 years ago, he opened Two Eleven in the West Broadway location that later became Layla. His second spot, Cal’s, became famous for its Black Angus burger, which he has faithfully reproduced at 343, Ayoubi’s vision of “an American mini-steakhouse, where a meal is like sitting in your own posh restaurant and being served by me.” Besides that chopped-sirloin burger, the small menu (overseen by Bouley veteran Derek Hunt) features a classic Caesar, two kinds of strip steak (one from Maine-pastured cattle), and Eberly Farm chicken three ways—with Dead Sea salt and white pepper, infused with lemon and lime, or herb-crusted. Desserts come from Martha Frances, the Upper East Side’s resident Mississippi-cheesecake maven.
343 E. 85th St., nr. First Ave.; 212-717-6200


VietCafé
Throughout her multiple careers as a Wall Street tech exec and Tribeca gallerist, Lan Tran Cao has dabbled in the culinary world—first in her native Vietnam, where she learned French patisserie, and then in Sydney, where she cooked in one Vietnamese restaurant and helped open another. Food and art are the best way to experience a culture, Cao believes, which is why on December 2 she’s opening VietCafé, next door to her Gallery Vietnam. She’s imported the café’s furniture from her homeland and assembled a team of French-trained chefs (including one from Ming Tsai’s Blue Ginger) to prepare the bánh mì thit, bo bia, and pho bo she grew up with—freeing her to lead the occasional Chinatown shopping expedition and cooking class.
345 Greenwich St., nr. Harrison St.; 212-431-5888

Osteria Gelsi
Peripatetic Italian chef Donato Deserio has reemerged in Hell’s Kitchen at Osteria Gelsi a Puglian-inspired newcomer named for mulberries, a nod to the Mulberry Street restaurant where Deserio first met his partner, Tony Pecora. Puglian fare, according to Deserio, is “simple peasant and fisherman’s food”—along the lines of octopus crudo, chicory and fava, and baked rice with mussels and potatoes.
507 Ninth Ave., at 38th St.; 212-244-0088

Komegashi Re-Construction Cuisine
Chef Tom Kurokawa has two restaurants in New Jersey and a loyal clientele that includes Queen Latifah. His first Manhattan spot specializes in a form of French-Japanese fusion that extends to inventive sushi, foie gras skewers, and an afternoon café menu of Japanese-style sandwiches (japanini) and tapas.
928 Broadway, nr. 22nd St.; 212-475-3000

Matador
The owners and chef are Cuban-American, the menu is predominantly Spanish, and the pear-mojito-fueled feel is Nuevo Latino New York. There are tapas at the bar and a menu featuring cornmeal-crusted fried oysters, roasted-corn-and-pumpkin tamales, and tamarind-and-panela-marinated pork loin.
57 Greenwich Avenue, at Perry St.; 212-691-0057

Sura
The awning at this new Korean restaurant reads "The King’s Meal," a reference to the $45 tasting menu fit, presumably, for New York royalty. The chef did time at Hangawi, where he picked up a knack for meatless dishes like pumpkin congee and vegetarian meatballs, but here he adds staples like spicy barbecue pork and seafood pajan to the mix.
105 E. 9th St., nr. Fourth Ave.; 212-982-6390

Ma*ya Hurapan Kitchen
Taweewat Hurapan, formerly of Rain and Rain East, has taken over the kitchen of an existing East Village Thai restaurant, newly named Ma*ya Hurapan Kitchen where he finds himself in the unique position of competing against his own son, Junnajet, who cooks next door at No. 1 Chinese. Considering that Hurapan’s menu is mostly Thai with a soupçon of Malaysian, there should be room enough in Alphabet City for both of them.
234 E. 4th St., nr. Ave. B.; 646-313-1987

Hummus Place
Hummus is the ideal liberal-arts college food—cheap, filling, and vegetarian. So it makes perfect sense that the second branch of Hummus Place be located within a chickpea toss of NYU.
99 Macdougal St., nr. Bleecker St.; 212-533-3089

Bongo Fry Shack
There are enough paddles, buoys, and various flotation devices on Bongo Fry Shack’s kitschy walls to escape Manhattan after a flash flood. The classic New England shack menu includes fried Ipswich clams, oysters, shrimp, and, of course, lobster rolls.
240 Ninth Ave., nr. 24th St.; 212-675-2692
—Robin Raisfeld


Superslosh Me
Further evidence that we are a supersize nation of gargantuan appetites and unquenchable thirsts that can’t be stopped: the wine menu at Silverleaf Tavern, where customers are given the option of a “bottomless” six-ounce glass of wine. Typically a tactic deployed with coffee at diners or chicken wings at Upper West Side frat bars, here it’s a way of encouraging the budding oenophile—or wino, as the case may be—to expand his horizons, and choose from three tiers priced at $35, $48, or $83, each comprising seven varietals, the point being to try them all, many times over if you like. Just tell the waitress to keep ’em coming.
43 East 38th St., at Park Ave.; 212-973-2550
—Rob Patronite



Right on ’Cue
Like a Second Avenue subway line, universally beloved local pit-smoked barbecue is something every right-thinking New Yorker longs for but never expects to encounter in his lifetime. Many have tried; many have failed. Enter the latest contender, Syracuse-based Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, which opens its first Manhattan branch this week with undaunted optimism and the honky-tonk charm of a Texas roadhouse. The pork ribs are carefully cooked low and slow in three hulking custom pits, then brushed and glazed with Dinosaur’s proprietary sauce. This, ever-skeptical ’cue hounds, could be it.
646 131st St., at Twelfth Ave.; 212-694-1777
—Rob Patronite


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