Week of September 29, 2003
Import of Import
The Tocai Friulano will flow from September 25 through October 13 as the viticultural component of Friuli New York 2003, an annual festival that celebrates the food and wine of the northeastern Italian region sandwiched between the Alps and the Adriatic. This particular bottling of the fruity, floral vino, a collaboration among a dozen different producers, comes from grapes harvested on September 11, 2001, and proceeds from its sale benefit Windows of Hope. For a list of participating restaurants, including Felidia, Il Buco, and I Trulli, go to www.friulinewyork.org.
Pop Burger, the collaboration between owner Roy Liebenthal (Cafe Tabac, the Lemon, Pop) and designer Ali Tayar, could be Wallpaper* magazine’s Platonic ideal of a highway truck stop, tailor-made for the meatpacking district’s hungry, trendy masses yearning for slick surroundings and thick shakes. During the day, a streetside fast-food counter dispenses burgers, dogs, onion rings, and fries. At night, there’s the added attraction of the back room, a luxe pool hall and lounge outfitted with low-slung banquettes, a kicky sound system, and its own limited snacky menu. Expect lobster nachos, shrimp rolls, and grilled baby-lamb chops—and to see branches popping up elsewhere in the near future.
58–60 Ninth Avenue
For their second venture together, chef-partners Josh Cohen and Maio Martinez have gone from one extreme—the labor-intensive, slow-cooked Carolina-style barbecue at Biscuit—to another. At Sample Conservas, the kitchen is relieved from cooking altogether: Ingredients arrive jarred, canned, pre-smoked, salt-cured, or air-dried, and the prep work involves little more than a can opener and a slotted spoon. Inspired by a conserva bar in Spain, this type of restaurant makes things easy on the kitchen (unless the “chef” is confronted with a recalcitrant lid). An international assortment of preserved foods, from Lebanese bastyrma to Turkish stuffed peppers and Malaysian litchi-coconut jelly, make for eclectic sampling, and thanks to consulting sommelier Roger Dagorn, the theme extends to beverages, with twenty wines by the glass and a selection of microbrewed sakes.
152 Smith Street, Boerum Hill, Brooklyn
Atkins, schmatkins: Michael Huynh, chef-architect of the East Village hotspot Bao 111, has won a lot of fans with his sophisticated Vietnamese cooking, and they’re clamoring for more. Hence the more casual, inexpensive, and soup-centric Bao Noodles, where Huynh focuses on four distinct Vietnamese cooking styles—Mekong River, Hanoi, Saigon, and Hue—each represented by a $15 prix fixe family-style meal. He rounds out the menu with spring and summer rolls, seared-beef and seafood salads, clay-pot and stir-fried specialties, and, of course, oodles of noodles. Takeout and delivery, too.
391 Second Avenue, near 23rd Street
Another high-design sweet shop in the Rice to Riches mode, this one plies chocolates and fancy, airy ice cream, in flavors like mocha hazelnut and strawberry cheesecake.
115 St. Marks Pl.
This bigger, ritzier branch of Candle Cafe entices Upper East Siders to eat their vegetables—not to mention their beans, grains, and tofu. The vegan bar scene revolves around organic wines and healthy snacks like satays and nori rolls, and the feng shui–adjusted premises have plenty of room for cooking classes, chef demos, and baby showers.
154 E. 79th St.
Tadashi Ono’s home-style Japanese cooking seems the perfect match for the subterranean restaurant and sushi bar at the Maritime Hotel, sure to become many a hipster’s high-style home away from home. The chef, late of Sono and La Caravelle, adheres (for the most part) to tradition in dishes like duck-noodle soup, sea-eel tempura, broiled pompano with white miso, and black-sesame panna cotta.
88 Ninth Ave.
The meatpacking district’s latest lounge has a Haitian theme, a Creole tapas menu, and a design scheme that its publicists compare to “a forsaken gentleman’s club in the tropics.” While you’re pondering what that might mean exactly, and where they’re hiding the mosquito net, keep up your strength with a rice-and-beans timbale, and lime chicken with plantains.
50 Gansevoort St.
object of desire
Brit restaurateur and Francophile Keith McNally calls Welsh rabbit (or rarebit, if you prefer) “the one English dish I like.” That figures: The grandaddy of toasted cheese sandwiches may also be the one English dish that the French don’t hold in contempt—it was a trendy hit in Paris a century ago, and even the famous French gastronome Brillat-Savarin deemed it worthy of a recipe (although he forgot to include the bread). After briefly serving a rarefied rabbit at Pastis, McNally has tweaked the recipe for the menu of his latest hot spot, Schiller’s Liquor Bar. Worcestershire sauce, mustard, beer, and a dash of Tabasco go into the mix of Cheddar and Stilton, giving it an irresistible bite. Then it’s spread out over lightly toasted Balthazar rye, topped with tomato, and given a good browning in the salamander. It goes nicely with some cheap French wine, as pictured, but it’s even better with a good English ale. (131 Rivington Street; 212-260-4555.)
I’ll go anywhere if the food is good.
My expectations are zero when I enter Patio Dining through the slammin’ bar next door. Patio? It’s a funky curtained-off alcove with a kitchen and half a dozen tables. But as long as Picholine-prepped Eric Korsh is doing his manic magic act at the range, expect to be impressed by impeccable products, deft seasoning, and a mature simplicity. Butter-poached lobster on purée of late-summer corn with pea greens. Juicy pan-roasted Niman Ranch pork chop with just-made applesauce. Young pheasant from D’Artagnan—the legs confit’d, breast roasted mid-rare, with pancetta-flecked oven-caramelized Brussels sprouts. Mornings spent in the Greenmarket dictate a daily changing menu. But Patio’s much-loved spaghetti baked to a crunch with tomato, pine nuts, and spinach is a constant. Sure, the sound blasts nastily through the curtain—but stick around for a fresh ricotta tart with citrus zest. Luscious and clear, almond ice cream tops autumn’s first apples warmed in honey.
31 Second Avenue