Fatty Crab chef Corwin Kave is living our childhood fantasy: His mom owns a candy store. Roni-Sue Kave first introduced diners to her buttercrunch at Borough Food & Drink through the good offices of Zak Pelaccio, the restaurant’s consulting chef. It was first sold at the retail counter, but now demand has put it on the menu. Kave’s store at the Essex Street Market will stock her even better fruit-flavored chocolate truffles. We had a little tasting here at the Grub Street offices, and each one was better than the last. There is none of the disgusting, cloying sweetness or gag-inducing cream innards you find in most fruit-filled chocolates. These taste like actual fruit (strawberry-rhubarb, mango) with a dark-chocolate oomph. Does Corwin have a sister? With food this good running in the family, we’ll marry her sight unseen.
Fatty Crab has been a huge critical success for Zak Pelaccio, and you can hardly squeeze into the place, but for some of his fans (like us) nothing on that turbo-charged Malaysian menu lives up to the stuff he did at 5 Ninth and Chickenbone Café. So we are psyched that Pelaccio and his chief lieutenant, Corwin Kave, have resurrected some of the chef’s greatest hits for a special bar menu being featured on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. And each one comes with a drink pairing (it being a bar menu, after all.)
Pixar’s Ratatouille owned the nation’s box offices this past weekend, a tribute both to its makers and the country’s seemingly inexhaustible appetite for shows about cooks and cooking. Ratatouille’s pedigree on this score is as impeccable as Pixar money could make it: The studio hired Thomas Keller of the French Laundry and Per Se as a consultant. The title dish which the movie’s rat hero Remy and his human assistant Linguini make is actually one that was served in the French Laundry. And, according to somebody who should know, Remy as a chef was wholly Keller-esque.
For city gastronomes (we won’t say chowhounds), there are three reasons to be excited about Borough Food and Drink, the Jeffrey Chodorow and Zak Pelaccio gastropub opening this week. First, there’s Z-Man’s return to the kind of freewheeling, Eurocentric fare that he used to do at Williamsburg’s Chickenbone Café, back before he became an Asian-food guru. (Pelaccio created the menu and trained the staff but will not be cooking at the restaurant.)
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]
When we heard that the Latin American food vendors in Red Hook Park might lose their temporary-use permit at the end of the summer, the news hit us like a goat taco after a night of heavy drinking. And we weren’t alone. An animated Chowhound thread immediately formed (and was almost as quickly censored), and a protest site sprang into existence. Hidden within Red Hook, the vendors have created a community of cooking, a cultural exchange as much as a place to eat. (Click here to take a video tour with Paladar chef Aaron Sanchez.) We canvassed the city’s food elite for their take on the situation; here is what we heard.
Zak Pelaccio leaves 5 Ninth to pursue projects with Jeffrey Chodorow; his replacement, Dan Perilla, a.k.a. Chino, is a Pelaccio protégé who will oversee the restaurant’s move away from Asian flavors. [Mouthing Off/Food & Wine]
The competition is brutal for Hamptons restaurants, and only the strong survive more than a season or two. [Newsday]
The current lobster-roll craze started at the Pearl Oyster Bar, and its shameless imitators really ought to admit who influenced them. [Serious Eats]
Jeffrey Chodorow is opening a restaurant with Tom Valenti right next to his new restaurant with Zak Pelaccio; also, a new Rickshaw will open in the Village. [Eater]
Related: Chodorow and Pelaccio Planning a ‘Malaysian Coffeehouse’ [Grub Street]
We’re in the middle of a rum renaissance, with “heavy, thick and funky” British varieties and “smooth and sugary” Spanish-Caribbean ones. [NYDN]
Jay-Z’s 40/40 Club defends itself against charges of unfair labor practices: “Everyone makes the minimum wage at the club.” [NYDN]
Fatty Crab may not be coming to the Upper West Side, but locals need not fret — we’ve learned that Jeffrey Chodorow and Zak Pelaccio are in discussion to do a Malaysian place called Kopi Tiam in the neighborhood. A kopi tiam is what Chodorow calls a “Malaysian coffeehouse,” and this one would occupy the 77th Street space that formerly housed Fishs Eddy. Kopi tiams, Chodorow tells us, “are popular throughout Malaysia and frequently serve both Malaysian and Western foods this restaurant would be very different from Fatty Crab.”
Carroll Gardens: Faan has average food but festive décor, and it’s the only decent delivery in the neighborhood. [Brooklyn Record] But a new French bistro is coming to town. [Lost City]
Fort Greene: The Greene Grape showcases its rosé selection with a series of tastings tonight through Sunday. [Clinton Hill Blog]
Midtown East: A photomontage of Bon Chon’s Korean fried chicken. [Gothamist]
Union Square : Mario Batali will team with Crocs, the maker of his trademark rubber clogs, and come up with an even more durable line to debut later this summer. Until then, the regular versions are available at Paragon Sports. [The Food Section]
Upper West Side: Could the Chodorow-Pelaccio agreement culminate in a Fatty Crab taking over the old Fish’s Eddy space? [Eater]
When the Underground Gourmet ponders flashes of fusion brilliance in the sandwich realm, he thinks of Zak Pelaccio’s interpretive Cubano at 5 Ninth, made with prosciutto and Boerenkass; the Greenpoint sandwich, a.k.a., the Polish bánh mì, at Williamsburg’s Silent H; and Sullivan St. Bakery’s deranged but delicious PBM (pancetta, basil, and mango). Add to this illustrious list the tamarind-pork sandwich at Lassi.
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]
A car plows into the venerable Hop Kee restaurant in Chinatown. The restaurant is damaged, and one person is hurt. [Downtown Express]
Izakaya invasion! The city now boasts everything from simple sake joints with food to full-blown small-plate restaurants. [NYDN]
The official Times take on the Neroni Affair includes this classic quote, in defense of the Desperate Chef: “If Marco didn’t want anyone signing checks, including Jason, he should have put the checkbook in the safe.” [NYT]
5 Ninth’s interim chef de cuisine Richard Sterling is now 5 Ninth’s former interim chef de cuisine. The cook, previously of SushiSamba, took over from Mary Ellen Heavner on an extended trial when Heavner headed uptown to Amalia. He apparently did some brilliant work in his short time there, but executive chef Zak Pelaccio tells us that Sterling’s problem wasn’t behind the stove: Chef de cuisines have to do a lot more than cook, and it seems he wasn’t up to the administrative duties. Pelaccio’s back from London and running the kitchen until a permanent replacement is hired. That lucky person will then implement a revamped menu, which we’re told will have less of an emphasis on Asian ingredients and techniques.
Jeffrey Chodorow had done a lot of not-so-smart things lately, but planning a restaurant called the Spotted Dick was not one of them. The eatery, which will occupy the let’s-not-say-cursed space that formerly housed Rocco’s and Caviar & Banana, looks to be one of Chodorow’s coolest ventures: His company confirms that it will be a New York gastropub called Boroughs, helmed by none other than Zak Pelaccio. (And here we thought Jeffrey was done with name chefs.)
The Underground Gourmet isn’t saying that his mother was a disaster in the kitchen, but her idea of sprucing up the young UG’s burgers before she cooked them to a fine crisp was to fling a packetful of Lipton onion-soup mix into the ground beef. The UG was reminded of this culinary catastrophe as he bit into a Fatty Slider the other day, at the inaugural brunch at Zak Pelaccio’s Fatty Crab. Before you get the wrong idea, you should know that a Fatty Slider is not a Lipton onion burger — far from it. But it does fall into the same general category of spiced-up ground-beef patties, however great the temporal and culinary divide between seventies suburbia and 2007 meatpacking district.
Zak Pelaccio’s new London restaurant (first announced here) finally opens and issues a press release with a menu. [Snack]
In a recent post, we called Michael Ruhlman a mandarin and critiqued his hauteur. Count us wrong on both counts: This response, titled “Grub Street Wankers,” and the vitriol that follows in the comment section, isn’t exactly high-minded. [Ruhlman]
Related: In Defense of Rachael Ray and the Food Network [Grub Street]
The big billboards erected on Hudson Street by the Hotel Gansevoort are so ugly that Pastis’ Keith McNally and 5 Ninth’s Joel Michel are refusing to take hotel reservations in protest. [NYP]
Blogger Buddha Drinks Fanta gets around — she has posts on Southeast Asia and Australia as well as the U.S. Which is partly why we’re flattered that her new photo essay, “Tongues and Bungs: BDF Does Chinatown,” was inspired by Zak Pelaccio’s picks in this issue’s Chinatown guide. BDF also drops in on several places Pelaccio didn’t mention, including some especially interesting meat stores. Those of you with vegetarians in the office: These pics are most definitely NSFW.
Tongues and Bungs: BDF Does Chinatown [Buddha Drinks Fanta]
Zak on the Prowl [NYM]
In this week’s magazine, high-end restaurants and the doings of midtown Michelin hopefuls take a back seat to the wonders of Chinatown — and the pleasures, spread out across the city, of the Year of the Pig.