Restaurant Openings & Buzz
Week of March 17, 2003

Rice Avenue

Jackson Heights’ newest Thai restaurant, Rice Avenue, is one more reason Manhattanites should hop the 7 train. “Over there, in Manhattan, people cannot handle too spicy,” says owner Juttana “Moo” Rimrearpwate, who’s also a partner in the popular chainlet Spice. “Over here, in Queens, this is the real Thai.” True to his word, Moo’s kitchen turns out unflinchingly hot dishes like pork larb, a fiery green-curry fried rice, and crisp and fatty duck in basil sauce, all gently priced and full of pungent, distinctive Thai flavors that come with their own exclamation marks. To lure the inner-borough crowd, he’s given the streamlined restaurant a very mod Manhattan look, with a periphery of artificial rice sprouts and a creamy white color scheme to match the motif.
72–19 Roosevelt Avenue, Jackson Heights

Ivo & Lulu
Fans of A, the itty-bitty French-Caribbean café on the Upper West Side, will feel right at home at Ivo & Lulu, its marginally roomier offshoot near the entrance to the Holland Tunnel. The twenty-seat storefront shares A’s mellow vibe, its BYO policy, and its commitment to organic produce, D’Artagnan game, and Silver Moon Bakery bread. Chef-owner Roberto Reid used to cook at A, where he mastered the art of stuffing grilled avocados with spinach mousse and swathing truffle-scented pheasant terrine in an herbed Brie crust. There are four other dishes on the minuscule menu—plus one dessert—and everything falls in the equally palatable $6 to $10 range.
558 Broome Street

Basso Est
With New York practically drowning in red sauce, it’s almost impossible to tell one new Italian restaurant from the next. Basso Est distinguishes itself with a refreshingly warm welcome; enthusiastic, accommodating service; and chef-owner Paolo Catini’s toothsome pastas, especially the maccheroni alla chitarra with lamb ragù, a specialty of his native Abruzzi. The all-Italian wine list offers nine by the glass, all priced fairly at $6 or $7. And in keeping with the spirit of the neighborhood—basso est means “lower east”—nothing costs more than $17, which buys a trio of herb-marinated lamb chops or a sliced grilled steak.
198 Orchard Street


24-Hour Party Person

Ever since an early-nineties stint at 44, Adam Newton’s been on a trendy-restaurant roll. As a partner at Cafeteria, he’s got his finger on Chelsea’s comfort-food-craving pulse, and he hasn’t strayed far, geographically or gastronomically, for his latest venture. The Carriage House is located in—you guessed it—a nineteenth-century carriage house outfitted with tangerine mosaic tiles, a communal table suspended from the ceiling, and a desert-landscape photomural that would give Gus Van Sant flashbacks. Global accents pervade the eclectic American menu in dishes like jalapeño-spiked merluza seviche, sautéed cod with banana basmati rice, and thousand-layer cake with dulce de leche.
The Carriage House
136 West 18th Street
object of desire

Down-home Scone

If currant scones with clotted cream are too froufrou for you, try one stuffed with a layer of portobello and ground sirloin at Podunk, the homey East Village tearoom. The compelling juxtaposition of airy dough, meaty filling, and a hint of citrus brings up a point of etiquette: Should you raise your pinky ever so slightly, or keep it firmly planted? Either way, they’re delicious, especially served warm with apricot-ginger and lingonberry-cayenne dipping sauces. “I’m from the Midwest,” says Podunk’s Elspeth Treadwell. “I’ve got to have some corn-fed stuff on my menu.”
231 East 5th Street


Ask Gael
Should I join a club that’s willing to have me?
As maître d’ at Daniel, Bruno Jamais managed to offend everyone but his pet clients. So when he baldly trumpeted that he didn’t want you or me at his Bruno Jamais Restaurant Club ($7,000 annual fee), I predicted that he’d be humbled. Braving the townhouse anyway—its awkward space handsomely tamed by designer Tony Chi—I find a lively dinner crowd on a wintry Tuesday. It can’t be about the food, not this amateurish mucilage of lobster bisque. But the rib-eye and my $36 veal chop—a juicy onion-Parmesan-truffle-oil-crusted slab with penne gratin on the side—are safe bets. And there are wonderful touches, like Balthazar bread served toasty-warm with fresh-tasting red-pepper-tomato marmalade. The crush amazes even Jamais: “I’m really difficult, taking only people I know.” Still, he’s hedged his risk by leasing display space to assorted merchants. Headless mannequins in see-through La Perla teddies are a tease. Amazingly, vintage playboys are still pouring in after midnight for late supper, and to wiggle their fannies to the D.J.’s irresistible mix of oldies.
Bruno Jamais Restaurant Club
24 East 81st Street

In the Archives

March 10, 2003
Molyvos's Lent pie; Kudo Beans, Flaco's Tacos & Tequila, Baldo Vino, Sage; Beacon's new Irish Sage cocktail; Gotham's hot white chocolate; tasting nirvana at Diwan.

March 3, 2003
Bill Devin Benefit at Fairway Steakhouse; OLA, The Green Table, Re Sette, and Maria's Mexican Bistro open; Gael visits Django.

February 24, 2003
Bobby Flay takes up tapas at Bolo; Rocco DiSpirito ditches the steaks at Tuscan; and Orhan Yegen, formerly of Beyoglu, pops up at Efendi.

Photos: Patrik Rytikangas (First & Last), Kenneth Chen (2nd & 4th), Tina Rupp (3rd & 5th).