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Restaurant Openings

Week of February 11, 2008: Bar Tano and Merkato 55.


Bar Tano
457 Third Ave., at 9th St., Gowanus; 718-499-3400
On the surface, Bar Tano (opening in the no-foodie’s-land between Park Slope and Carroll Gardens on February 7), bears more than a slight resemblance to its older sibling, Park Slope’s Bar Toto. They share an atmospheric old-world vibe, tin ceilings, and a long, inviting bar (zinc in this case, imported from Texas). But Bar Tano, according to partner Peter Sclafani (“Tano” was his grandfather’s nickname), is “more of a bar, with a lot more alcohol.” To wit: ten tap beers, 30 Italian wines by the glass, and house cocktails like a “dirty beet” martini. Tano’s menu is lighter and snackier, and runs the enoteca gamut from arancini to baccalà bruschette and a Taleggio panino with fig jam and escarole. Expect also a few simple pastas, and a selection of grilled pizzas.

Merkato 55
55 Gansevoort St., nr. Greenwich St.; 212-255-8555
At his new Merkato 55, the Ethiopia-born, Sweden-raised chef Marcus Samuelsson wants to do for the cuisines of Africa what he did for Scandinavia at Aquavit: reinterpret them for the modern Manhattanite. It’s not Samuelsson’s first foray beyond meatballs and gravlax: He installed a sushi bar at the Japanese-inspired Riingo, and at Merkato, named for a market in Addis Ababa, he’s concocted a “kidogo bar” menu of African breads (benne, meali) and toppings like long-bean sambal. Think of them as cocktail-accompanying prelude to such Pan-African fare as steak Dakar with wild-coriander butter, and chicken doro wat. Dutch artist Menno Schmitz’s design integrates batik, burlap, and African proverbs and poems.


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