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Restaurant Openings

Week of November 3, 2008: The Oak Room, Rouge Tomate, and West Branch.

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The Oak Room
10 Central Park S., nr. Fifth Ave.; 212-758-7777
Last year, when it was closed for renovations, the Plaza’s legendary Oak Room turned 100. Early next month, the lavishly paneled, barrel-vaulted premises enter their second century with not only a minor aesthetic touch-up but a major culinary one. New managing partner Joey Allaham, owner of kosher restaurants Prime Grill and Solo, somehow persuaded Beard Award–winning chef Joël Antunès to leave his own Atlanta restaurant, Joël, in the hands of underlings while he attempts to turn the onetime tourist trap into a dining destination. How, precisely? By concocting elegant dishes like truffle flan with chestnut cream, glazed Brittany langoustines with pineapple-coriander broth, and Pennsylvania squab with medjool-date ravioli and Brussels-sprout leaves. Other new additions: a sommelier from Cru and an eight-seat chef’s table in the kitchen. The adjacent Oak Bar has its own (marginally) cheaper menu, and a $26 burger.


Rouge Tomate
10 E. 60th St., nr. Fifth Ave. 646-237-8977
Seven years after Emmanuel Verstraeten opened the first Rouge Tomate in Brussels, the onetime Mercedes-Benz salesman expands to New York, where he aims to indoctrinate us into the lofty ways of S.P.E. (Sanitas Per Escam, or Health Through Food). While this might sound like a fancy way of saying spa food, S.P.E. is actually a “nutritional charter,” espousing “social and environmental consciousness” and “a balanced approach to sourcing and preparing food.” Boulud and Robuchon alum Jeremy Bearman collaborated with an in-house nutritionist on dishes like curried carrot broth with black-pearl tapioca, and lettuce-and-root-vegetable cassoulet. The former Nicole Farhi store is now an airy street-level café with a downstairs dining room and à la carte and prix fixe pricing, respectively ($34 at lunch, $72 at dinner), and a bar that dispenses fresh juice and artisanal cocktails.


West Branch
2178 Broadway, at 77th St. 212-777-6764
Good news for those Upper West Siders who want to add more Tom Valenti to their diets. With the opening of West Branch, the chef-owner of Ouest has added 170 seats to his repertoire, 40 of them of the sidewalk-café variety. In the cash-strapped fashion of the day, the American brasserie menu skews casual—which is not to say it isn’t rife with Valenti-esque touches like foie gras agnolotti with soy-truffle broth and several crowd-pleasers from the chef’s ’Cesca days. On the other hand, he has put a hamburger on the menu—a momentous career first. “No short rib, no Wagyu, just good old house-ground burger meat,” he says.


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