Food costs go up and up, but prices — especially high ones — aren’t supposed to. Given that the rent in most New York restaurants isn’t going to come down anytime soon, this creates a problem for owners. The Wall Street Journal did an excellent feature on this subject on Saturday, showing how some restaurants were dealing with it Blue Water Grill's selling beef trimmings as part of a chipotle roll, for example, or Ssäm Bar's dropping truffles. But we were curious about how some of the other chefs we know, particularly those with a well-heeled clientele, are making do. So we asked around, and here's what we heard.
We’re not surprised that Babbo is the city’s top Italian restaurant, according to Zagat's new America's 1,000 Top Italian Restaurants book — its popularity alone is enough, in Zagat-land, to ensure yearly dominance. And in fact, Babbo is a wonderful restaurant, four stars by our lights, and justly beloved. But if you had any doubt how unreliable the Zagat surveyors are, just check out number two: Village relic Il Mulino! Now, don’t get us wrong: Il Mulino is a fine restaurant and uses very expensive ingredients to good effect. The tuxedoed wait staff are as servile as ever. But it should be the second-most-popular Italian restaurant of 1958. Haven’t the matrons of Secaucus ever heard of A Voce? Or L’Impero? Or for that matter Del Posto? Don’t look for any of those at number three: The winner there is another beloved mummy, Roberto in the Bronx.
Zagat names Babbo New York's No. 1 Italian restaurant [NYDN]
Remember that little food bet Hizzoner made with Boston’s mayor over who’d win the Super Bowl? Well, pay-up time has come, and our northern neighbors will be donating 100 cups of New England clam chowder, 42 lbs. of coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts, twelve dozen Boston cream pies and twelve dozen Parker house rolls, 100 Old Tyme hot dogs and 100 Al Fresco chicken sausages, twenty pizzas, five cases of Brigham’s Boston You’re My Home ice cream, five cases of Cherry on the Top frozen-yogurt bars from Elan, and 100 servings of Stonyfield Farm Organic Yogurt to City Harvest. Happily, no one has to eat it. [Zagat Buzz]
Drop that Diet Coke! Researchers have found a correlation between the consumption of diet soda and incidences of metabolic syndrome, a series of unhealthful factors that can lead to diabetes and heart disease. [NYT]
More bad news for fish: The FDA confirmed that several outbreaks of ciguatera fish poisoning have taken place across the country due to consumption of fish harvested in the northern Gulf of Mexico. [AP]
Chelsea: RUB and Swich are just two under-$10 lunch options in this list devoted to the nabe. [Gridskipper]
East Village: A Spanish wine bar called Pata Negra opens Friday at 345 East 12th Street. [NYT]
Flatiron: A Voce pastry chef Josh Gripper classifies himself as single and dangerous. [Restaurant Girl]
Fort Greene: Don’t hold your breath waiting for lamb sliders from the French-Moroccan restaurant that was supposed to open on DeKalb Avenue; the space wasn’t completed, and the sign and menu have already been taken down. [Eat for Victory/VV]
Hell’s Kitchen: If you want to explore dining options outside our comprehensive Valentine’s Day Guide, you could look to Kyotofu, which is serving a three-course dessert prix fixe promising a raspberry Valrhona-dark-chocolate fondue and Hou Hou Shu pink-sparkling sake. [Kyotofu]
West Village: Commerce opens tomorrow in the former Blue Mill Tavern space and there will be a 20 percent discount on food through Monday. [NYT]; the last outlet of Flor’s Kitchen will shut itself down this Sunday citing problems with the landlord. [Eater]
Game season has started, but there’s only a handful of places in New York that make an effort to prepare wild animals the way the meat deserves. One such is A Voce, where Andrew Carmellini is cooking woodcock, a small woodland bird, for all it’s worth. “It’s not as gamey as grouse,” the chef says, “but it has a special wild taste that really needs to be experienced.” As always, mouse over the different elements to hear them described in the chef’s own words.
There’s a new, high-powered young dessert chef in town. And get this — he’s homegrown! His name is Joshua Gripper, and his new boss, A Voce’s Andrew Carmellini, vouches for him thusly: “He’s the shit.” Gripper, a 27-year-old Queens native, has worked with Carmellini at Café Boulud and is also a member of A.C.’s hip-hop combo, the Crown. Primarily, though, he’s said to be a talented technician with a simpatico sensibility and eight years of classical training. So what is he doing at A Voce?
The Post returned to an evergreen feature idea today, every editor’s best friend: the “overrated” list. Since our philosophy has always been to slavishly ape the Post in every way short of peppering our posts with the phrase “tot-slay suspect,” we thought we might add a few of our own. Since the Post didn’t limit itself to specific dishes at specific restaurants, we won’t either. Here are a few things that we find ourselves less than overawed with these days.
We hear from multiple sources that plans are under way to re-create A Voce in other cities. At least two are in the works, we hear, but chef Andrew Carmellini warns us that no leases are signed yet. “You can have meetings every day, but it’s all bullshit until you sign on the dotted line.” We couldn’t agree more!
Meatopia, the Woodstock of edible animals, has captured the imagination of Grub Street readers. Suggestions for next year’s theme have flooded in, nearly overwhelming both the Grub Street in-box and our wildest expectations. Send your idea to firstname.lastname@example.org by 6 p.m., and we might see you tomorrow. Among the contenders:
It’s 4 p.m., and that means it’s time to play Two for Eight. We just asked ten restaurants the best time they can squeeze a couple in for dinner; you need only make your chosen reservation. (As always, we make the calls but don’t guarantee the results.) Today: Gourmet Italian.
Fat is where it’s at in New York today, thanks to the efforts of what Adam Platt would call the “refined meathead” school of chefs like David Chang and Zak Pelaccio. [NYT]
Related: You Know You’re a Meathead When… [NYM]
Kyochon Chicken, the Korean chain behind the current wave of Korean fried-chicken restaurants, has opened in Flushing. Two more locations are planned for Bayside. [NYT]
Ilan Hall defeated Sam Talbot in their outdoor Top Chef rematch yesterday, Hall’s soft-shell crab salad triumphing over Talbot's grilled quail and potatoes. [NYDN]
New Orleans native Nicoye Banks has been a captain at A Voce ever since its buzzy opening last year (he was at the Tribeca Grand before that). In addition, he’s acted in movies such as Invincible and the upcoming Colin Farrell and Ed Norton drama Pride and Glory. Though he’s not one to “do the Hollywood thing” on the job, he’s had opportunity not only to serve but also to sit down with heroes like Denzel Washington and Laurence Fishburne, and his acting background has proven more than handy in selling duck meatballs to just about everyone who walks in.
Considering how successful Andrew Carmellini’s A Voce has been, we were hardly surprised to hear he was looking at new projects. But Carmellini tells us that, although “I’d like to open another [A Voce] in a good urban market,” he has other, more intriguing (to us, anyway) plans in store too. Carmellini wants to create a multi-ethnic American restaurant at some point in the near future. Given that he made his name at Café Boulud cooking from a wide range of traditions, the idea seems a natural for him.
Top Chef is roundly mocked in culinary circles, but that might change with the opening of Perilla, announced by Rob and Robin in this week’s issue. The winner of the show’s first season, Harold Dieterle, has launched a small but serious Pan-Asian restaurant in the West Village, and its menu doesn’t look like the work of a cheesy TV wannabe. Spicy duck meatballs look like a response to the famous Italian version served at A Voce; crispy sautéed skate wing with watermelon pickles, Thai basil, and hibiscus broth reads like a Zak Pelaccio homage. Dieterle has entered the real-world top-chef competition that is New York, and it looks like he’s starting out strong.
Openings: Spirito Ristorante, Perilla, Casellula Cheese & Wine Café, and Sandro’s [NYM]
Times are changing in the restaurant world – but just how fast? Tonight’s James Beard Awards will help answer the question of whether the traditional tablecloth restaurants, which seem to be on the way out, still wield their old clout in the gastronomic Establishment.