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Restaurant Openings & Buzz

Week of May 9, 2005: Filip's, Secretes, Light Bar and Restaurant, Salon, Big Booty Bread Co., and a new branch of Sarabeth's.


Wedged into a thrifty block between a $9.95 haircut hut and a taco joint touting a $6.95 “Fabulous Lunch” special, Fillip’s sticks out like a chocolate soufflé on a Krispy Kreme conveyor belt. “I wanted to bring a little sophistication to Chelsea,” says chef-partner Joshua Smookler, who took a circuitous route to the kitchen. After toiling for eighteen years in the front of the house, most recently as wine director at Bouley, Smookler channeled a series of spare-time cooking stages into an elegant French-American menu of his own. A Lespinasse-worthy floral arrangement, careful but casual service, and impressive entrées (truffled chicken sous vide, and rack of lamb with parsnip purée) that surge upwards of $22 set the refined mood. But the $20.05 prix fixe lunch is in keeping with the penny-pinching spirit of the neighborhood, and the wine’s a good deal, too: Smookler charges cost plus $15 for every bottle on his well-chosen list, and serves them in sleek Schott Zwiesel stemware.
202 Seventh Ave., nr. 22nd St.; 212-242-4787

On the surface, chef Jordy Lavanderos has a bit in common with culinary trendsetter Wylie Dufresne: They both worked for Jean-Georges Vongerichten (in Lavanderos’s case, at the Mercer Kitchen and Vong). They’re both heavily influenced by Spanish avant-gardists Ferran Adrià and Juan Mari Arzak. And they both like to fashion “pasta” out of foodstuffs like calamari and cucumber. But unlike Dufresne, who follows the typical appetizer-entrée-dessert pattern at WD-50, Lavanderos has gone the global-tapas route at his new Secretes, where he serves diminutive tastes of salmon spirals with steamed edamame, and red grapes filled with smoked-oyster purée. BYO for now.
513 E. 6th St., nr. Ave. A; 212-228-2775

Named in honor of the family-owned bulb-and-fixture store that preceded it, Light Bar and Restaurant opens this weekend with a modern-American menu and what one has to assume will be flattering lighting. The kitchen, manned by a chef who cooked at Jefferson, will deliver such eclectic fare as duck-fat-poached tuna confit, Guinness-braised lamb shank, and Thai bouillabaisse (107 Ave. A, nr. 7th St.; 212-253-4933).

Salon has opened in an incongruous corner of the ramshackle Riverview Hotel, with a Weimar aesthetic and a “modern eclectic” menu by a chef who worked at Daniel. Duck schnitzel comes with Hudson River views and a choice of some twenty signature cocktails (505 West St., at Jane St.; 212-929-4303).

Figuring that midtowners, if given the opportunity, would opt for a stiff drink over a jar of strawberry-rhubarb jam every time, pancake princess Sarabeth Levine has installed a fully stocked bar where the preserves-and-pastry counter would customarily go at her latest branch of Sarabeth’s. She’s gussied up the menu too, adding dishes like butter-poached lobster salad, and Muscovy duck breast with apricot-truffle jus to her signature homey repertoire (40 Central Park S., nr. Fifth Ave.; 212-826-5959).

Like so many food purveyors these days who flout the truth- in-advertising dictum, Big Booty Bread Co., a new Latin-flavored bakery and sandwich shop, doesn’t guarantee that eating their homemade guava bread or dulce de leche buns will actually increase the size of your buttocks, but it can’t hurt (261 W. 23rd St., nr. Eighth Ave.; 212-414-3056).


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