189 Spring St., nr. Thompson St.; 212-966-7040
On the surface, Rheon Café, with its marble counters and back garden, looks like a promising new Soho lunch option, its menu crafted by consulting chef Hisanobu Osaka, formerly of Morimoto and the Japanese consulate in New Orleans. But the café also happens to be a savvy showpiece for its parent company, Rheon, a multinational Japanese corporation that manufactures high-tech and slightly sinister-sounding kitchen equipment like the Encrusting Machine, which the company’s Website calls “a robot with the delicate touch of a human palm,” used to make everything from chocolate-chip cookies to Scotch eggs. At the café, scheduled to open December 5, the kitchen dedicates itself to sandwiches like roast duck with cucumber and miso, or grilled portobello with tomato confit and chipotle sauce, all made on bread baked in-house—on prominently displayed Rheon equipment, naturally.
32-07 34th Ave., Astoria; 718-626-2000
When Philoxenia opened in Astoria three years ago, it managed to distinguish itself from the Hellenic pack with its simple, rustic cooking and notably homey vibe (the name, after all, means “hospitality”). But when the two-year lease wasn’t renewed, chef-owner Dionysia Germani and her daughter, Nancy Gavopoulou, closed up shop. On December 12, they plan to resuscitate Philoxenia in much larger quarters, joined by two faithful regulars turned partners. Germani’s menu still showcases signature dishes like the feta special, broiled in tinfoil with tomatoes and peppers, and her squat, tomato-sauced meatballs, plus the usual roster of spreads, salads, and charcoal-grilled whole fish priced by the pound.
142 W. 10th St., nr. Waverly Pl.; 212-255-2330
Can upscale culinary ambition, proper service, and fun peacefully co-exist under one West Village roof? According to the owners of Bar Blanc, the answer is a resounding “why not?” The three—Kiwon Standen, Didier Palange, and chef César Ramirez, all steely-eyed veterans of Bouley—plan to test their theory in the newly renovated space that recently housed the Place. But with delicious-sounding, cold-weather-friendly dishes like slow-roasted rabbit-and-sweetbread salad, braised-lamb-shoulder lasagne, and roast baby pig with cinnamon, star anise, and orange, who needs fun?