Chef's tables used to be the final word on special treatment: the one table in a good restaurant to which the chef paid personal attention. But as the entertainment ante is upped each year blurring the line between gastronomy and theater chef's tables have given way to the even more intimate chef's counters. There, the lucky diner sits only a few feet of burnished wood away from the action. From the high-end bar at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon to the counter-only option at Momofuku Ko, diners are eager to see the sausage being made. Here are a few of our favorite counters, each an example of the narrow border between feeder and fed.
Despaña, our favorite spot for a café bonbon (a thick, caramel-like coffee made with condensed milk) and an extravagant sandwich, has been missing one thing until recently — churros, the Spanish doughnuts that Madrileños eat at the bar while playing One-Armed Bandits. Maybe in response to our threats to picket the place unless they added churros to the takeout menu, they're now serving four of them swaddled in paper for $5, or two of them with chocolate a la taza (a small cup of thick hot chocolate) for $3.50. The pre-fried, frozen Casimiro churros are also available by the box ($15) should you want to bake them at home.
Dear Grub Street, My cousin is coming in next week from Indiana and wants to see the "hottest" NYC restaurants that he has read about on your Weblog and in New York Magazine. Where do you think I should take him? He likes “edgy” places and doesn't have a lot of money to spend (nor do I). Should we go to the Spotted Pig or Casa Mono?Momofuku Ssäm Bar? Where? Any advice would be great. Gloria
Don’t envy Las Vegas for having the very newest Batali-Bastianich restaurant, B&B Ristorante: We are about to get two more. A source high inside the restaurant organization tells us that a second Spotted Pig is on the way, this one a seafood concept helmed by newly minted Food & Wine Best New Chef April Bloomfield of the West Village original. Moreover, Casa Mono is also set to get a spinoff somewhere in NYC. The locations will be revealed when the deal is closed within a few days; in the meantime, this is good news for anyone who ever fought in vain to get into either place.
The nominations for the James Beard Foundation Awards, the Oscars of the restaurant industry, will be announced Monday morning. We’ll report on that as it happens, but for now, here are picks for the main categories from Adam Platt, Rob Patronite and Robin Raisfeld, and Josh Ozersky. Our choices are admittedly New York–centric (the awards go to restaurants across the country), but the ceremony is held here, and the city always looms large in the proceedings.