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Restaurant Openings & Buzz

Week of Feb. 6, 2006: The Dining Room at Country, Noodle Bar, Cellar 72, and Hanco's.


The Dining Room at Country
90 Madison Ave., at 29th St.; 212-889-7100
After an extended warm-up at the downstairs café, Country’s Geoffrey Zakarian unveils the restaurant’s upstairs dining room this week, with its open kitchen, glassed-in meat-curing room, and a couple of minor modifications to the original plan. The $85 four-course prix-fixe menu still changes every two weeks. But Zakarian, wary perhaps of New Yorkers’ persnicketiness, has thought better of serving one set meal family style. By greeting guests with a champagne cocktail and amuses, he still hopes to capture a dinner-party spirit, but his opening menu offers four choices per course, from the simple (spit-roasted chicken for two) to the sophisticated (red-wine-poached egg with leek fondue and smoked-eel beignets). You can lead a diner to truffle-roasted sweetbreads, it seems, but you can’t make him eat.

Noodle Bar
26 Carmine St., nr. Bleecker St.; 212-524-6800
You can’t keep a good restaurateur down: After a short-lived foray into upscale Chinese cuisine at Yumcha, Quentin Danté blazes around the corner to open Noodle Bar. Taking the hawker stands of fifties Hong Kong as his inspiration, he tackles the genre with everything from steamed buns with barbecued pork to Shanghai broth noodles with roast duck. Dishes like the Chinese-Cuban roast pork, Swiss cheese, and pickled-lettuce sandwich, and five-spice cheesecake suggest that Yumcha’s haute-Asian-fusion spirit lives on.

Cellar 72
1355 Second Ave., at 72nd St.; 212-639-9463
Inside every restaurant sommelier beats the heart of a frustrated wineshop owner. To wit: Jean-Luc Le Dû absconded from Daniel to open Le Dû’s Wines, Scott Pactor traded Balthazar’s cellar for Appellation Wine & Spirits, and now Nice Matin sommelier Guy Goldstein has converted an Upper East Side bagel shop into the antiques-and-barrel-strewn Cellar 72. Not only will Goldstein lend his expertise to the enterprise, but he’s invited his counterparts at Per Se, Picholine, and elsewhere to indulge their own inner wine merchants, patrolling the sales floor and dispensing advice on what bottle goes best with tonight’s dinner party or Chinese takeout. A private room is dedicated to tastings and classes, and a tempered-glass floor panel overlooks the cellar below.

85 Bergen St., nr. Smith St., Boerum Hill, Brooklyn; 718-858-6818
Brooklynites with a craving for bánh mì, Vietnam’s exquisite gift to the world of hoagies, used to have to clump over to Sunset Park (a.k.a. Bánh Mì Central) to satisfy that urge. No longer. Hanco’s, an unassuming Boerum Hill snack shop, has introduced the delicate art of layering spicy ground pork, weird-looking lunch meat, and pâté on a toasted French baguette with cucumbers, carrots, cilantro, and daikon radish to the uncharted bánh mì territory of Smith Street’s restaurant row. Besides the classic, Hanco’s offers grilled-chicken and pork-chop variations, plus bubble teas, Vietnamese coffee, and an iced egg-yolk soda made with seltzer and condensed milk. Vietnam’s answer to the egg cream, perhaps?


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