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Restaurant Openings & Buzz

Week of May 1, 2006: Gribouille, Craftsteak, Ditch Plains, and Parea.


2 Hope St., at Roebling St., Williamsburg, Brooklyn; 718-384-3100
The only place French expat and Greenpoint resident Timothée Spitzer could find an éclair to meet his exacting Gallic standards was Payard. But clumping up to the Upper East Side every time the urge for puff pastry struck was taking its toll. “I ended up not going,” he says. So Spitzer did what any civic-minded Frenchman would do and opened a bright and cheerful café on his own Brooklyn turf. Jeanne Nievert, a former sous pastry chef at Gramercy Tavern, endured a pastry tutorial from some of Spitzer’s French friends and now makes textbook croissant, éclairs, and religieuses. Niçoise salad, quiche Lorraine, and tartes flambées round out the menu. It’s breakfast and lunch for now, but a weekend dinner prix fixe (and a liquor license) is in the works. And so, with any luck, is a broader selection of classic French pastries. “We have more recipes,” says Spitzer, “but I’m very picky, I’m very difficult, and I’m never satisfied.”

Porterhouse for two.  

85 Tenth Ave., at 15th St.; 212-400-6699
Despite his various achievements, including four restaurants and a burgeoning sandwich-shop empire, Tom Colicchio may forever be known as the man who made hen-of-the-woods a household name. At Craftsteak, opening this week on West Chelsea’s Iron Chef Alley, he seems to be shifting his ingredient-obsessed attention to Australian Wagyu beef, which is sprinkled throughout the big-ticket menu in everything from consommé and potatoes “confit” to a series of three-course tasting menus. But Craftsteak, like Craft, is all about choice, and there’s plenty to choose from, in Craft’s familiar mix-and-match format: Spanish-mackerel crudo and diver-scallop seviche, salads ranging from fava bean to Persian cucumber, and a veritable bazaar of high-grade beef. Wagyu’s not for you? Try a corn- or a grass-fed Black Angus, or a Hereford New York strip dry-aged in-house, from 28 to 56 days. And that’s just the steak. Chef de cuisine Chris Albrecht, who opened the original Las Vegas Craftsteak, transcends the genre’s stale formula with kurobuta pork chops, braised osso buco, and the entire spectrum of Colicchio-sanctioned sides— hen-of-the-woods included.

Ditch Plains
29 Bedford St., at Downing St.; 212-633-0202
Marc Murphy’s version of a New York fish shack has a lot in common with his first restaurant, Landmarc. They’re both unpretentious, heavy on half-bottles of wine, and open late. Ditch Plains also happens to be open early, serving the full menu from 7 a.m. on. That’s where it has nearby Mary’s Fish Camp and Pearl Oyster Bar beat: Where else can you breakfast on East Coast oysters, a $23 lobster roll, or hash and eggs with blood sausage? The former Yumcha space is mercifully free of surfer kitsch, but in a nice seaside touch, saltwater taffy arrives with the check.

Parea's Sawyer and Simon.  

36 E. 20th St., nr. Park Ave. S.; 212-777-8448
The floodlet of modern Greek restaurants continues apace with Parea, which distinguishes itself with an unlikely chef-partner, Cleveland culinary star Michael Symon. Introduced to his partners by his Greek-wine purveyor, Symon leapt at the chance to establish a New York presence and delve into the Hellenic half of his Italian-Greek heritage. (Never fear, Clevelanders: Symon’s staying put. Parea will be helmed by the chef’s understudy, Jonathon Sawyer, late of Symon’s Lolita.) In addition to his signature walleye, a lake fish that Symon’s serving grilled with lemon and capers, the meze-heavy menu features house-cured venison; seafood variously brined with dill, olives, and red-wine vinegar; and lobster dolmades. Good news for those who like to sample everything: Desserts are meze-size, too.


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