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Restaurant Openings

Week of July 16, 2007: The Diamond, Oklahoma Smoke BBQ, and Sea Salt.


The Diamond
43 Franklin St., nr. Calyer St., Greenpoint, Brooklyn; 718-383-5030
Only a full-fledged beer geek would use the word session as a verb—as in, “You wouldn’t session eight pints of Aventinus.” What you would session, according to Dave Pollack, co-owner (with his wife, Alex, a New York photo editor) of the new Greenpoint bar the Diamond, are beers that are lower in alcohol but no less complex than the high-butane monsters most craft-beer bars aim to annihilate you with. Pollack, who cultivated his brew obsession working for the importer B. United International, has also bartended at Williamsburg’s Spuyten Duyvil. But the Diamond’s list is smaller and simpler, tailored to Pollack’s taste, and features a few rarities like St. Georgen Bräu Keller Bier, Pays d’Auge cider, and two notoriously temperamental Belgian brews that come with “buyer beware” caveats. Patrons can supplement their sessioning with rounds of shuffleboard and rubber-ring quoits, the predecessor of horseshoes, and a small food menu the Pollacks hope to launch within a month.

Oklahoma Smoke BBQ
231 W. 145th St., nr. Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd.; 212-862-5335
Harlem isn’t hurting for barbecued ribs and sweet-potato pie, a fact that isn’t lost on first-time restaurateur Paul Packard. But he and his partner, Gary Smith, have a couple advantages over the competition: Packard’s majority interest in Better Crust Pie Company, the beloved bakery that has been dormant for a decade, and a secret dry-rub recipe passed down from his grandfather, who owned the R & G Café in Lawton, Oklahoma. They’ve also got chef Jeffrie Toney, who’s cooked, at various times, for Willie Brown, Whitney Houston, and the Duchess of York. At the diminutive Oklahoma Smoke, which aims to open for takeout and catering by July 21, Toney will wood-smoke everything from short ribs to shrimp (pictured), all accompanied by classic southern sides. Plans to launch a food-preparation job-training program on-premises and to revive Better Crust’s dinner rolls and apple pie make this venture especially sweet.

Sea Salt
99 Second Ave., nr. 6th St.; 212-979-5400
Pearl Oyster Bar’s Rebecca Charles may have invented the modern Manhattan clam shack—not to mention the English-muffin crouton—but when it comes to simply grilled whole fish, Orhan Yegen is your man. The passionate, ponytailed chef’s new restaurant, Sea Salt, opens in the East Village this week, and although he does not dispute that God or a higher being other than himself created the finny things, he stands firm on the question of who first seasoned them with salt, tossed them on the grill, and served them whole with lemon. “I opened my fish restaurant Deniz in 1994, before this Milos or this Avra,” he explains with a sigh. Unfortunately, “people did not order whole fish back then because of the bones,” he says. “Now, everybody does it; now, they are ready for me.”

Besides himself, what they are ready for, according to Yegen, is a splashy–for–Second Avenue setting (fish-scale wall, atmospheric black-and-white seascapes) and seafood that, unlike the competition’s, is not “incredibly expensive” or “horribly burnt.” The menu reads like a newfangled hybrid of an Atlantic Seaboard fish shack and a tavern along the Bosporus, with stuffed lobster and fish cakes offered alongside mussel dolmas and spinach böreks. Large parties can order whole striped bass or red snapper crusted with salt and baked in the oven, a signature cooking method that Yegen reluctantly admits he did not invent, but he might as well have: “Mine is so perfect it looks like a statue; you don’t want to eat it.”


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