Week of October 6, 2003
Pearson’s Texas Barbecue
“The big cuts of meat—the pork shoulders and briskets—get cooked overnight; they go for twelve, fourteen, sixteen hours,” says barbecue legend Robert Pearson, who comes out of retirement this week to open Pearson’s Texas Barbecue with partners Ken Aretsky and Ellen Goldberg in the old Butterfield 81 space. “The smaller cuts, the racks of ribs, are done during the day for about five hours,” he says, further detailing his ’cue production cycle. “The idea is to never stop cooking.” Let’s hope so.
170 East 81st Street
We first tasted Lauren Collura’s robust, stylish Mediterranean cooking years ago at Emporio Armani’s chic basement café, and were thrilled to rediscover her at the bottom of another flight of stairs—this time at the newly opened Grotto, on the Lower East Side. Grotto inhabits a space below the Monterone espresso bar; both are owned by a German couple with a serious Italian infatuation (one of them spent childhood summers in Ischia). For now, Collura’s limited menu features toothsome crostini, an invigorating hazelnut-flecked smoked-trout salad, and rosemary-tinged chicken spiedini grilled in the backyard. Once Con Ed turns on the gas, she’ll debut the elegant pastas we remember from her boutique-basement days.
100 Forsyth Street
Michael Momm (a.k.a. D.J. Foosh) was born in New York but grew up in Cologne, and he’s modeled his new restaurant and biergarten Loreley after that city’s brewpubs. A dozen German beers are on tap just in time for Oktoberfest, and next week, the kitchen swings into gear with a menu built by Momm’s own mom, who aims to reveal German food’s little-known lighter side—liverwurst on organic seven-grain with sprouts, cod with mustard sauce and cucumber-dill salad, and even a Loreley Cobb.
7 Rivington Street
Jack’s Luxury Oyster Bar
Restaurateurs Jack and Grace Lamb like staying close to home: They live across the street from their sushi bar, Jewel Bako, and around the corner from their Blue Goose Café. But their latest venture, Jack’s Luxury Oyster Bar, is even more convenient—it occupies the first and second floors of their own carriage house. Downstairs, below a bronze Baccarat chandelier, a four-seat raw bar and a handful of tables accommodate walk-ins; upstairs, a twelve-seat dining room adjoins the tiny kitchen where Allison Vines pickles peaches and peppers, makes pimiento cheese, and channels her eclectic training (at Ducasse and at Brennan’s in New Orleans) into dishes like deconstructed oysters Rockefeller and bananas-Foster baba au rhum.
246 East 5th Street
With its backyard-barbecue vibe, spacious fenced-in porch, and leafy deck, Pacifico feels much farther than half a block from the Smith Street fray. Owner Jimmy Mamary (of Patois, Schnäck, and Gowanus Yacht Club fame) has built on the site of a lot that was once used for parking off-duty frankfurter carts, but chef (and Mesa Grill graduate) Joe Pounds’s “glorified taco stand” menu (flank-steak fajitas, chile rellenos, and chorizo skewers) shouldn’t conjure up any dirty-water-dog ghosts.
269 Pacific Street, Boerum Hill, Brooklyn
the underground gourmet
An elusive Brooklyn chef returns to the range. (Sort of.)
Neil Ganic blazed onto Brooklyn’s culinary scene a decade ago at La Bouillabaisse, the modest bistro that spawned a school of seafood-centric spinoffs (Petite Crevette, Chez Nic). Having cut his ties with all of them and taken three years off, Ganic’s reemerged in the unlikeliest of places: For the past three months, he’s been whipping up his signature crab cakes and soothing seafood stews, almost clandestinely, at Sammy’s, an entrenched luncheonette that’s been dispensing morning coffee and Latin lunches to Long Island College Hospital workers for years. “I always liked this location,” says Ganic, who brokered a time-share deal between owner Sarwat (Sammy) Samir and Kevin Moore, a chef and restaurateur who teamed up with Ganic to turn the coffee-shop-by-day into an eighteen-seat bistro by night. Ganic plays down his role, calling himself a behind-the-scenes consultant to chef Moore—but on the nights we visited, Ganic was the one assembling pristine beet salads and shellfish-studded cioppino, a delicious prelude to Moore’s densely fudgy chocolate pâté, swathed in pistachio crème anglaise. Everything about the place, from the chalkboard menu to the Thai-inspired oyster stew, evokes the early days of La Bouillabaisse (including a cash-only and byo policy). Coming soon: a rejiggering of Sammy’s lunch menu, adding fish and chips and grilled fish burgers, plus takeout lunch boxes for kids. Once a neighborhood place, always a neighborhood place.
391 Henry Street, Cobble Hill, Brooklyn
A Ducasse Decrease
With peanut butter and jelly on toast, macaroni and cheese two ways, and chocolate pizza on his Mix in New York menu, who could argue that Alain Ducasse does not aim to please the locals these days? Even the prix fixe pricing—kinder, gentler, but still very Ducassian at $48, $58, or $72, depending on the plan—offers one welcome surprise: Choose the chicken potpie as a main course, and M. Ducasse will knock six bucks off the check.
68 West 58th Street
I want to try Indian food I’ve never tasted.
Amma takes on sophisticated airs with its own sommelier and a duo of new chef-partners in the kitchen—gifted tandoori veteran Hemant Mathur (from Diwan Grill and Tamarind) and my friend Suvir Saran, with a preview from his book-in-progress on Indian home cooking. Saran first became obsessed with food in his grandmother’s New Delhi kitchen, where the cooks did the Mughal food of Lucknow. The fabulous slivers of eggplant pickle that spike savory stuffed chicken legs, peppery fried spinach with mung beans, and the sweet-and-sour pear chutney with lamb chops are his memories of home. But other corners of India are heard from in street snacks: Bombay’s crispy bel puri and the south’s steamed idli dumplings sautéed with curry, mustard seed, and coconut. We’re wild for fiery Manchurian cauliflower, elegant stuffed vegetables, and the samosa tasting plate with its rainbow of condiments. Salmon is rare at the heart, with torrid tomato chutney. Clever fusion brings kulfi in citrus soup and mango cheesecake for dessert. Order à la carte, or choose the $50 seven-course tasting, $85 paired with Josh Wesson’s wine choices.
246 East 51st Street