When Josh DeChellis opened up BarFry, we were a little skeptical. It seems a waste of the chef’s prodigal talent to just be throwing stuff into a pot of oil, which is pretty much what we imagine tempura cooking to be. Well, not to worry. Like he did at Sumile Sushi, DeChellis is breaking out his brilliant composed dishes.
They say that if you abuse somebody enough, it means that you secretly love them. But in the case of Gordon Ramsay, the man’s insufferable ego, vituperation, bombast, and general skeeviness have somehow made him almost admirable to us. (We say nothing of his food, which neither we nor anyone we know has ever eaten.) But with his latest act of effrontery, Ramsay has gone beyond the beyonds. We now have to either destroy him or marry him, because last night the Surly Scotchman actually presumed, on national television, to teach Larry King how to schmear a bagel.
Food-blog newcomer Metromix takes it to the street today to interview the Vendy Award nominees in anticipation of the ceremony on Saturday. Even if the Q&As don’t plumb quite as deep into the world of food carts as did New York’s Street Fare package, we get some interesting tidbits: Veronica Julien of Veronica’s Kitchen who is scouting downtown Manhattan for a restaurant location rises at 3 a.m. to stew oxtail for three hours, and Muhammed Rahman of Kwik Meal awakens at a schoolgirlish 6 a.m. Word from NY Dosas, the King of Falafel and Shawarma, and Super Tacos, too.
Street Meet [Metromix NY]
Related:Street Fare [NYM]
Earlier this month, Frank Bruni assailed Borough Food and Drink for its service, referring to it as “loopy, stop-and-go befuddlement.” How did that happen in a Jeffrey Chodorow restaurant? Turns out chef Paul Williams took ill and Bruni visited during his absence. Williams has taken a temporary leave from the restaurant, a publicist says, and the kitchen is now under the control of former Asia de Cuba chef Robert Trainor, an old Chodorow hand. No word yet on when Williams will return, but we hope it’s soon.
Related:Dining Briefs [NYT]
Community Board 4 was surprised to hear Richie Akiva tell us that he and partner Scott Sartiano are planning to open their new spot 1OAK (remember? The one that will “change the face of nightlife”?) on October 19. According to a board member, the Butter boys don’t exactly have their papers in order, since they applied for a cabaret license without going through the CB as required. They’ve now agreed to withdraw the application until the CB votes in early November.
As you might expect from a high-class operation like Grub Street, we're frequently out at the opera, taking in Roméo et Juliette, and getting hungry during the second act. Naturally, our thoughts drift toward the Grand Tier, the tall restaurant in Lincoln Center whose vast Chagall murals overlook the fountain. It's been closed for a while, but the place is now reopening under chef Michael Burbella, an alum of Gramercy Tavern and Gotham Bar and Grill. The score Burbella will be arranging has a tonic note of modern Mediterranean cooking, with a leitmotif of autumn flavors. The place, formerly open just to operagoers, is now open to anyone with tickets to Avery Fisher Hall or the New York State Theater.
Though rumor had Double Happiness and its upstairs bar Palais Royale closing in late August to make way for former Tenjune promoter Emma Cleary’s restaurant and lounge Femme Fatale, it remains open. Now we can report that September 29 will be the place’s last night, when we can only assume that nostalgic types who did their first bump in the bathroom will tear the abacuses from the wall before the double doors are chained shut once and for all. Don’t like the idea of another velvet rope in the neighborhood? Just remember, the current incarnation was supposedly a gay social club and mafia hangout. Emma’s door will be a breeze in comparison.
Earlier:Double Happiness to Get $1 Million Makeover, Reopen to Privileged Few
Tavern on the Green just got hit with major charges — and unlike the accusations made in recent years against the likes of Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Daniel Boulud, it's not just some irate ex-employees doing the talking. It's the Feds. According to Crain's, the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission charges them with “severe and pervasive sexual, racial and national origin harassment,” and for leaning on employees who complained against it. It's a major step, and nothing the famously profitable, famously mediocre eatery can laugh off.
Tavern on the Green Accused of Discrimination [Crain's NY]
If you get into your Sunday groove by reading Amanda Hesser’s bouncy food coverage in the Times Magazine, you may have a cold winter ahead of you: Mrs. Latte has gone on a long leave to work on a book and is being replaced in the interim by Jill Santopietro, a lesser being in the Times firmament but one with much experience doing short recipe and travel pieces and the occasional feature. Will those obsolescent recipes continue? Will there be more pieces à la T Style’s "Mantry" series? We can only hope. Hesser is scheduled to return to the Times in March.
Greg Brier, owner of Amalia (where Ivy Stark may checking out), may be in hot water because of alleged labor-law violations at his ski-lodge-themed restaurant, Aspen and we don’t mean the Jacuzzi. Attorney Michael Falliache has brought a lawsuit against Brier and Aspen alleging that six named employees (including line cooks and a dishwasher) worked at pay rates such as $303 for 60 hours per week (i.e. about $5 per hour) with no overtime or regular breaks. “This is a typical case of a restaurant hiring workers who are at a disadvantage and taking advantage of them by not paying them overtime or minimum wage,” Falliache told us. The class-action suit represents the grievances of fifteen workers who, should they win, probably won’t be celebrating with a ski vacation.
Jose Zurita et. al vs. Aspen and Greg Brier [PDF]
The corner of Avenue B and 11th Street has a troubled history for restaurants. Paolina, despite fresh, authentic, inexpensive Italian food, went out of business there, and then Matt Hamilton’s Uovo, despite favorable reception, also closed, thanks to its lack of a liquor license. Now comes a third try, La Scarpetta, a traditional Puglian restaurant from Pasquale Martinelli. Martinelli was the chef at Bellavitae, a restaurant beloved by Adam Platt, so there’s some hope, but at the current East Village rents, and with the presence of something approaching a curse, we have to wonder if it will play. Fate has to be kind, but if we were Martinelli, we’d be more worried about the community board. They’re throwing liquor licenses around these days like they were manhole covers.
We hear from an impeccable source deep inside B.R. Guest that Ivy Stark is returning to Steve Hanson’s corporate embrace, to cook at Dos Caminos. Stark, for her part, only denies half of it. “First of all, I’ve been made an offer but haven’t accepted it,” the Amalia chef says. “It’s not Dos Caminos. It might be some projects with B.R. Guest, but I wouldn’t necessarily be leaving Amalia.”
We’re hearing that at last night’s full CB2 meeting, the board unanimously accepted the business committee’s earlier vote to recommend denying Ivan Kane’s application for a liquor license at 19 Kenmare. Kane, who was not present, was presumably in Vegas easing his nerves in front of a pair of pasties. It remains to be seen whether Kane will continue pursuing the space, where he has started and stopped construction.
We have it on good authority that one of David Bouley’s sweetest and longest-delayed dreams is going to come true soon: The Tsuji Culinary Academy, the largest and most prestigious cooking school in Japan, is about to open a restaurant here in New York with Bouley to run the place. This isn’t as unlikely as it sounds: The pioneering fusion chef and the school’s head, Yoshiki Tsuji, have been working together for over fifteen years, traveling between New York and Osaka and experimenting in Bouley’s New York test kitchen. We’re waiting on a call from Bouley for more details; we’ll pass them on to you as soon as we hear.
New Amsterdam Public, the locavores trying to build a year-round indoor market at South Street Seaport, last night issued a strongly worded statement to the city while cold-shouldering uptown suitors for a new food market. At a fund-raiser catered by Essex Street purveyor Saxelby Cheesemongers, New Amsterdam founder Robert LaValva insisted that the city owed the public a food hall in two old Fulton Fish Market buildings. “This place has markets in its blood,” LaValva told us, while supporters sipped wine and nibbled. The city’s reaction has been tepid, and one of the megadevelopers vying to build Hudson Yards recently approached New Amsterdam about a bid there.
Details recently put out a list of “The Best New Steak Houses in America,” and it was not inaccurate. Most of the places across the country that delight enlightened meatheads made the cut: Cut in LA, Michael Mina’s butter-crazed Stripsteak in Vegas, and Robert’s (ill-served by an unrepresentative piece of choice beef in the picture) are indeed among the best going. But writers and diners alike are too happy to be served a big steak to gauge it accurately, which makes all steakhouse features unreliable at best.
When we spoke to Gilt waiter Chris Wilgos the other day, he had colorful things to say about his old-timer patrons, but the place played to the teens in last night’s premiere episode of Gossip Girl. In one clip, a prep student whose parents supposedly own the place hilariously bribes a cook to make his date her favorite dish: a grilled cheese sandwich with truffle oil. Watch as our hero Serena van der Woodsen downs a martini faster than you can say “extra dirty.” Really, Gilt? Really? Serving minors? Either way, between this, the dinner scene at Geisha, and (believe it) the sex scene at the Campbell Apartment, we’re confident this show will spark the most exclamations of “Hey! I’ve eaten there!” since Sex and the City. After the jump, the kids take over Gilt.
We’re still scratching our heads over an essay in Slate today, in which a British journalist, fretting over what he considers the unseemliness of today’s food writing, declares himself out of the game. Is it for real? Something about the piece had the whiff of a put-on, like Ernie Kovacs’s poet character, Percy Dovetonsils, or one of those stuffy authority figures who get hit with a pie in a TV commercial appealing to teenagers. “The food writing that’s in vogue today consists chiefly of a bellow of bravado,” writes Paul Levy, formerly of the British newspaper The Observer. Today’s food writers, he says, “thrive on the undertow of violence they detect in the professional kitchen, and like to linger on the unappetizing aspects of food preparation. The gross-out factor trumps tasting good as well as good taste.” Is he kidding?
In the latest labor-law fiasco, thirteen employees of Wild Edibles, which sells seafood to restaurants like Union Square Cafe and Pastis as well as the general public via its retail stores, have filed a lawsuit against the company for failure to pay overtime. According to the plaintiffs’ lawyer, David Rankin, and as is evident in copies of the complaint we’ve obtained, the individuals most of them warehouse workers worked in excess of 50 hours a week for flat wages varying from $450 to $550 (“right on the edge of minimum-wage violations,” Rankin says, though he decided not to pursue those charges). Rankin also says that four workers were unjustly fired after they requested overtime pay at the end of August, and that another worker was unfairly written up for stealing fish. A motion for a restraining order, which we’ve also obtained, will be heard in court tomorrow. Between the overfishing and underpaying, caviar is truly getting hard to swallow.
Cesar A. Barturen, et al. vs. Wild Edibles [PDF]
Memorandum in Support of Restraining Order [PDF]
So it’s not anywhere near as dishy as Chodorow’s site, but it seems Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s two-week-old blog is at least sticking to its promise to update us every Tuesday on “what I’ve been cooking, where I’ve been traveling, and what I’ve been thinking.” (It's a Blogger site with a pretty standard template did Jean-Georges make this himself?) Even if he isn’t slamming Bruni and Platt, Vongo is at least confessing to cooking with a machine developed for Kentucky Fried Chicken (scandalous!) and getting his daughter’s birthday cake from a bakery instead of from his dessert man Johnny Iuzzini (c’est impossible!). Another shocker: “I love eating in New York. From the tacos and margaritas at Los Dados (where I often stop after a night of cooking at Spice Market).” Jean-Georges is still cooking at Spice Market?
Jean-Georges Vongerichten [Blog]