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Restaurant Openings & Buzz

Week of Feb. 13, 2006: El Centro, El Dar, Pasanella and Son Vintners, and Little Dishes.

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El Centro  

EL CENTRO
824 Ninth Ave., at 54th St.; 646-763-6585
As he opens, closes, and relocates his various Clinton holdings, restaurateur John Dempsey continues to treat Ninth Avenue like his own personal Monopoly board. Having moved Vynl to spiffy new premises three blocks south, he opens El Centro this week in its place. An offshoot of Dempsey’s popular Hell’s Kitchen, and overseen by its chef, Jorge Pareja, El Centro is dedicated to the increasingly trendy realm of Mexican street foods. Taco fans have their choice of hard- or soft-shelled varieties—plus a selection of posoles, enchiladas, chilaquiles, tamales, and empanadas.

AND . . . What constitutes Mediterranean cuisine? At El Dar, recently opened in the old Alphabet Kitchen space, the owners interpret it as an eclectic mélange of Egyptian, Moroccan, southern Italian, and American pub grub, from moussaka and fava-bean falafel to nachos and French onion soup (171 Ave. A, nr. 11th St.; 212-353-5327).

Pasanella and Son Vintners, located steps away from South Street Seaport, is a new wine shop with an elegant antique aesthetic. Handwritten signs and drawings offer user-friendly food-pairing suggestions, and so does the friendly staff (115 South St., nr. Peck Slip; 212-233-8383).


Grilled baby octopus.  

LITTLE DISHES
434 Seventh Ave., nr. 15th St., Park Slope, Brooklyn; 718-369-3144

It’s surprising, in this golden age of grazing, that it took someone this long to come up with a restaurant name like Little Dishes. The name and the place are the brainchild of Mira Friedlaender and her chef-husband, Colin Wright. When the South Slope couple envisaged their small-plates restaurant, they took Turkey’s meze-centric fish houses as their conceptual guide. But don’t go looking for hummus and cacik: Wright’s menu is pure American eclectic, as you might expect from anyone who did time at the original Shopsin’s. The idea, cramped table space permitting, is to tuck into several “little dishes” like salt-cod fritters, slow-roasted pork butt and beans, even a wedge of blue-cheese-dappled iceberg, before working up to a toothsome braised lamb shank or a whole grilled fish of the day. BYO for now.


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