Fall Preview: Restaurants

Lower Manhattan

Dim Sum Go Go (5 East Broadway; no phone yet; November 1) Food writer and consultant Colette Rossant, partner Stephen Low, and their three Hong Kong chefs explore the hidden potential of the lowly dumpling in a 24-hour restaurant and takeout canteen built by Rossant’s architect husband, James. These are dumplings as we’ve never seen them before: Unconventional dough wrappers made from things like rice flour and sesame seeds encase fillings that combine Eastern and Western ingredients. Pork and shrimp, yes, but also Swiss chard from the Greenmarket, Chinese wild mushrooms, Japanese pink garlic, and a choice of five sauces.

Lansky Lounge & Grill (138 Delancey Street; 212-677-5588; early November) For most of the twentieth century, Ratner’s was the place to go for lush cheese blintzes, the world’s softest onion rolls, and a Formica-clad, fluorescent-lit reminder of what the Lower East Side was like when your grandparents lived there. But three years ago, third-generation Ratner’s owners Fred and Robert Harmatz thought they’d have better luck luring the area’s influx of sideburn-sculpting hipsters with an illicit, back-room speakeasy named the Lansky Lounge than with their mushroom-barley soup. After careful consideration of how much it cost them to keep kosher (and closed on Friday nights), the brothers have now retired Ratner’s as we know it, commissioning architect Larry Bogdanow to expand the back room and shrink the front, both of which will serve a few dairy dishes for posterity, plus a new menu of steaks, chops, and seafood.

Le Zinc (139 Duane Street; 212-513-0001; October) Blame the past year’s delay on the Scylla and Charybdis of Lease Negotiation and Construction Setbacks. Finally, this fall, Karen and David Waltuck open the casual-bistro foil to their tastefully luxurious, special-occasion Chanterelle. Open daily, they say, from noon to 4 a.m., for hearty comfort food like pot-au-feu, chicken potpie, duck mixed grill, and Vidalia-onion fritters.

Pico (349 Greenwich Street; 212-343-0700; mid-October) Chef John Villa (Boathouse Cafe, JUdson Grill) has been scouting Portugal for culinary inspiration, which leads us to speculate that there might be some caldo verde in TriBeCa’s near future. Architecturally sensitive remodeling will retain the old Bazzini nut-and-candy factory’s landmarked façade and cast-iron pillars while making way for a chef’s table off the kitchen and a private dining room downstairs.


Hampton Chutney Co. (68 Prince Street; no phone yet; late October) Every now and again, Hamptonites have found that it’s essential to drop out of the Nick & Toni’s rat race and indulge in a more casual, countrified dining experience – namely, a curry-chutney chicken dosa (stuffed sourdough crêpe) slathered with vibrant cilantro or mango chutney. And now the abnormally serene and cheerful owners, Isabel and Gary MacGurn, have decided to venture forth from their off-season hamlet and bring their chant recordings and crêpe batter to SoHo, where they will offer limited seating and (eventually) delivery service.

SoHo SoHo (475 West Broadway; 212-677-7172; late October) It’s taken three years to find a suitable Manhattan location, but finally, top-ranked Long Island chef Guy Reuge (and his well-connected Upper East Side partner, Nello Balan) got hold of a great one – the old Amici Miei space, anchoring a prime SoHo intersection. Anyone who’s been to Reuge’s Mirabelle will recognize his signature ginger-almond tart and “duck in two courses,” but the chef has a few surprises up his sleeve: roasted squab breast with sweet-potato-apricot bastilla and pomegranate molasses, for instance.

Meatpacking District

Chinghalle (50 Gansevoort Street; 212-242-3200; October) Don’t blame us. We were only passing along what we thought was good information last fall, that Campagna’s Mark Strausman was setting up shop in the cobblestoned streets of the meatpacking district, but alas, it wasn’t to be – not in 1999, anyway. Now we say, with renewed confidence, it is. And what, exactly, is it? “A hipper, downtown Campagna,” says Strausman – but open later, with a simpler, less expensive menu, an international wine list, and tapaslike appetizers to share.


Craft (43 East 19th Street; 212-780-0880; early December) “The older I get,” says Tom Colicchio, chef-partner at Gramercy Tavern, “the simpler my food gets. I’m tired of complicated dishes with eight things on the plate.” The rest of us aren’t, and we continue to flock to the Tavern for his award-winning cooking. But we respect him for trying something new, and Craft is certainly that. The menu reads like a shopping list, with individual categories for fish, meat, vegetables, mushrooms, and condiments, all ordered à la carte and served family-style. The emphasis is on the quality of the raw ingredient, not what the accomplished chef de cuisine, Gramercy veteran Marco Canora, does to jazz it up. It’s dinner as improvisation: What do you want to eat? How do you want it cooked? What would you like on the side? And how about some olive oil to drizzle over your meat – there are twenty to choose from.

Pipa (38 East 19th Street; 212-677-2233; early October) Nuevo Latino trendsetter Douglas Rodriguez is on a roll, having made a tremendous success of Chicama at ABC Carpet & Home. Such a success, in fact, that his home-furnishing landlords have prevailed upon him to convert the froufrou Parlour Cafe into a lively tapas-and-wine bar, an assignment that sent him off on an eating pilgrimage to Andalusia. The next phase of his Home remodeling plan: converting the Food Hall into the Mercado, a source for Latin-American groceries, made-to-order quesadillas, and dulce de leche crêpes.

Midtown East

Café Aquavit (58 Park Avenue, near 37th Street; 212-879-9779; late October) Where better to install a self-service satellite of New York’s reigning Swedish restaurant than in the elegant new home of the American-Scandinavian Foundation, where the geographic theme extends from the furnishings (Arne Jacobsen “Ant” chairs, spruce floors bordered in Norwegian alta quartzite) to Marcus Samuelsson’s gravlax, meatballs, and assorted sandwiches and salads?

D’Artagnan (152 East 46th Street; no phone yet; early November) The Newark-based foie gras wholesaler-to-the-stars – star chefs, that is – stakes its own claim to Manhattan’s upmarket appetites with this rustic restaurant and takeout shop, designed to resemble a country house in southwestern France. In addition to nibbling fatty goose liver in all its delectable forms, feast on cassoulet, confit, magret, and spit-roasted organic poultry and game, accompanied by a generous selection of Gascogne wines and Armagnacs.

Tuscan Steak (622 Third Avenue, at 40th Street; no phone yet; November 1) Jeffrey Chodorow has big ideas about food – namely, the bigger the portion size, the better. Which has been his guiding principle at China Grill, Asia de Cuba, and now a New York branch of his flourishing South Miami Florentine steakhouse, where the grilled T-bone with roasted-garlic purée comes in two sizes: large and larger. And a steak without sides – in this case, smoked-onion mashed potatoes and white-truffle garlic bread – would be no fun at all.

Midtown West

Alfredo of Rome (4 West 49th Street; 212-397-0100; mid-October) In 1914, the legend goes, an Italian guy named Alfredo invented the pasta dish that would become his claim to fame. Sixty-three years later, he passes the highly guarded secret recipe (butter, Parmigiano-Reggiano, egg noodles) along to a buddy of his who opens his own restaurant in New York’s Citicorp Center and names it Alfredo. Alas, the Manhattan branch closes after an eighteen-year run. Come next month, New Yorkers will once again have access to “authentic” fettuccine Alfredo, not to mention Roman-banquet menus and rolled antipasti called “piccolo tesori,” at a new Rockefeller Center location outfitted with black marble, red leather, and a display case full of boutique olive oils for sale.

Citarella (1240 Sixth Avenue, at 49th Street; 212-332-1515; early November) In the past few years, everybody’s favorite fish store has grown up, spawning East Side and Long Island outposts and beefing up its extrapiscatory departments. So chef Bryan Young (Le Bernardin, Pop) is just as likely to serve up a steak as he is a fillet o’ fish – or a sushi platter, for that matter. And who knows what awesome flights of confectionery fancy will be perpetrated by Bill Yosses, formerly of Bouley Bakery? Next door, a more casual takeout annex will offer prepared foods like sandwiches, salads, rotisserie chicken, and fish.

District (130 West 46th Street; 212-485-2999; mid-October) As in “Theater,” the neighborhood where this American brasserie in the ground floor of the Muse boutique hotel is situated – a location that accounts for architect David Rockwell’s stage set of proscenium arches, banks of spotlights, and a drawn stainless-steel open-weave “curtain” at the entrance. Chef-partner Sam DeMarco (of the East Village’s First) has an all-inclusive idea of what constitutes “American”: crispy oysters with seaweed salad and wasabi mayo, for example, or warm goat-cheese souffle.

Ilo (40 West 40th Street; 212-642-2255; mid-October) Rick Laakkonen, longtime chef at the River Café, relinquishes his cinematic views for a permanent residency at Philip Pilevsky’s new Bryant Park Hotel. Ilo means “a place of joy and good spirits” in Finnish, but that’s the extent of the Scandinavian connection; Laakkonen’s ragout of grilled octopus and Manila clams with saffron pastina, and pan-roasted guinea hen with buckwheat groats, speak a more universal culinary language.

Nick & Stef’s Steakhouse (9 Penn Plaza; 212-563-4444; September 28) Of all the groundbreaking ways you’d expect L.A. celebrity chef Joachim Splichal to make his New York debut, opening a steakhouse above Penn Station isn’t one of them. But where better to sell red meat than outside a sports arena? The formula has already succeeded on Splichal’s home turf, where he and his wife, Christine, opened the original Nick & Stef’s last fall, minutes from the Staples Center. Now Knicks season-ticket-holders and L.I.R.R. monthly-pass-holders alike can experience Splichal’s celebrated take on strip loin, lobster, lamb, potatoes every which way, and signature sauces like field mushroom and Napa red wine. Where’s the beef? Front and center, hung out to dry in a stainless-steel-and-glass aging chamber.

ONEcps (1 Central Park South; 212-583-1111; September 15) Alan Stillman, ambassador of the steak, the chop, and other he-man victuals, as purveyed throughout his national kingdom of Smith & Wollenskys, Park Avenue Cafes, and Maloney and Porcellis, is remaking the Edwardian Room of the Plaza in his own (and executive chef David Burke’s) image, with significant help from Adam Tihany, who knows a little something about building contemporary dining rooms in stately old hotels. We envision red meat, a stellar wine list, and a terrific view of Central Park.

Red Square (68 West 58th Street; 212-751-2323; November) China Grill honcho Jeffrey Chodorow debuted this bolshie bar and restaurant in Miami Beach, where the signature ice-covered bar is as much a climatic necessity as a cool design feature. But he might find himself waging a cold war of his own if he’s intent on selling frozen vodkas, caviar, and Musco-bites like smothered blinis with beurre blanc, and goat-cheese potato piroshki, right around the corner from the Russian Tea Room.

Town (13 West 56th Street; 212-582-4445; late October) A few years ago, chef Geoffrey Zakarian left a comfortable berth at “44” in the Royalton for Patroon, and now he’s checking back into a hip midtown hotel, Chambers, developed by the same people who brought us the Mercer. His opening menu includes things like tomato-watermelon salad, escargot risotto, and cod pot roast but will change quarterly with the seasons – as will David Rockwell’s design.

Upper East Side

Lentini (1564 Second Avenue, at 81st Street; no phone yet; early October) After feeding the in crowd at Elio’s for the past sixteen years, chef Giuseppe Lentini finally strikes out on his own … three blocks south, where he and his partner, Ralph Schaller of the venerable Schaller and Weber meat market, have taken over the old Mazzei space. Pasta, antipasto, and – if only they can find the right purveyor – maybe some sausage and game.

Upper West Side

(2315 Broadway, at 84th Street; no phone yet; early December) Devotees of chef Tom Valenti have stalked him (and his signature slow-cooked lamb shanks) from Alison on Dominick to Cascabel, and uptown to Butterfield 81. Come fall, they’ll find him across town, where he’s opening what he calls a “really simple, straightforward American restaurant” – primarily because he hasn’t thought of a name yet. In his endearingly low-key way, Valenti wants to make his new neighbors feel instantly comfortable in the dark, cozy quasi-tavern, whether they crave a burger at the roomy bar or something more along the luxurious lines of foie gras ravioli or salmon gravlax drizzled with caviar.

Sushi a Go-Go (1900 Broadway, near 64th Street; no phone yet; mid-October) Partners David Ruggerio and Gerard Renny enlisted architect Jack Baum to create a whimsical swinging-sixties interior, with a shimmering Mylar wall and a maître d’ stand modeled after a go-go dancer’s cage – the sort of place where Austin Powers would be a regular. Since Ruggerio is better known for his way with Italian and French cuisines, he’s entrusting the kitchen to a Japanese chef, who will incorporate hard-to-find, exotic shellfish and global seafood into traditional sushi and sashimi, just the thing to satisfy the discerning appetite of an international man of mystery.


Kino (1 Main Street, Brooklyn; 718-243-9815; September 21) The dumbo community might rail against the impending gentrification of its hotly contested stretch of waterfront, but we suspect that it will put up no resistance to this satellite of Raoul’s and its tartar bar, fondues, roasted pheasant, and steak au poivre. Floor-to-ceiling windows provide killer views of Manhattan, a spectacle that will have to compete against indoor movies, live music, and art exhibits. Plus the film footage of customers making an entrance, a nifty way to bring out the narcissist in all of us.

Fall Preview: Restaurants