Joining the Hope & Anchor diner and 360 bistro in the hinterlands of Red Hook, Baked brings the erstwhile rough-and-tumble neighborhood what it’s been sorely lacking—homemade chocolate marshmallows and oodles of buttercream frosting. If the bakery’s artsy aesthetic seems familiar—not to mention its logo’d T-shirts and hoodies—it’s because the owners all come from fashion and advertising backgrounds, and one of them was a founding partner at Chocolate Bar, the West Village’s Über-hip candy shop. Despite this provenance, Baked aspires to be a cozy neighborhood hangout, furnishing residents and intrepid day-trippers alike with Brooklyn-roasted Gorilla coffee, breakfast scones, pear tarts, chipotle-cinnamon brownies, and specialty cakes like the Red Hook Red Hot and the proudly lard-enhanced Chocolate Chubby. A light lunch menu of soups, salads, and sandwiches launches in February.—Robin Raisfeld
359 Van Brunt St., nr. Dikeman St., Red Hook, Brooklyn718-222-0345
Masatoshi “Gari” Sugio has made the Upper East Side a raw-fish destination with Sushi of Gari, where his obsessive clientele are content to put themselves in his expert hands, letting him design exquisite platters of the freshest fish prepared in his distinctive style: otoro drizzled with bean-curd foam, say, or a leafy snapper “salad.” Having outgrown his modest quarters, Gari brings his artistry (and a couple of top-notch deputies) to the West Side, where the raw is joined by the elaborately cooked. Chef-partner Mike Lim’s menu runs along the Japanese-fusion lines of lemongrass-lentil miso soup, balsamic teriyaki duck breast with pickled kumquat, and Chilean sea bass with sake-infused Chinese black beans.
370 Columbus Ave., nr. 77th St.; 212-362-4816
There’s always been more than a touch of showmanship in Shelly Fireman’s restaurants: Trattoria dell’Arte, Brooklyn Diner U.S.A., Shelly’s New York. So it’s fitting that his grandest project to date would materialize in Times Square, on the sprawling site of an old nightclub, and later, Bond’s clothing store (known for its two pairs of pants with every suit). The crowd-pleasing menu covers lots of trendy regional-Italian territory (pasta in true primi portions, steak Fiorentina, fried calamari, crudi), and features a few unfamiliar novelties, like a thin, cheese-stuffed Ligurian focaccia baked in special imported copper pans. And true to form, Fireman has set the theatrical stage with a fabulous Prohibition-era bar, cozy booths with slidable dividers, and a multitude of food bars devoted to shellfish, roasted meats, and most intriguingly, fresh housemade mozzarella.
154 W. 45th St., nr. Seventh Ave.; 212-869-4545
Can Thai food taste truly Thai without fish sauce? Pukk, the newest member of the Peep/Highline family, set to open January 20, aims to find out, with an entirely vegetarian menu of faux-chicken, faux-duck, faux-salmon, and three types of tofu.
71 First Avenue, nr. Fifth St.; 212-253-2741
After introducing New Yorkers to Calcutta-style street food at the Kati Roll Company, owner Payal Saha delves deeper into her native cuisine at Babu, a much larger subterranean space in the same building. The menu reflects Calcutta’s eclectic culinary legacy, with dishes labeled Chinese (shrimp toast), Bangla (malai curry), Tibetan (chicken momos), Muslim (mutton rezala), and Continental (beef roast).
99 Macdougal St., nr. Bleecker St.; 212-979-2228
Lower Manhattan needn’t feel neglected by the recent cheesesteak boom anymore: Carl’s Steaks spreads the grease-soaked Philly-style gospel with its first downtown branch.
79 Chambers St., nr. Broadway; 212-566-2828
On the flip nutritional side, salad specialist Chop’t sprouts a midtown outpost.
60 E. 56th St., nr. Park Ave.; 212-750-2467
On Thin Ice
The ever-inventive Maury Rubin seems to have borrowed a page from David Letterman’s stunt manual to launch the 13th Annual City Bakery Hot Chocolate Festival: On January 30th, he’s shutting down 18th Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues, trucking in snow to pile on the sidewalks, and installing a portable ice rink. Free skating (and skate rentals) and a “Design Your Own Snowman” contest kick off the monthlong festivities, which include a daily featured flavor and special attractions ranging from the highbrow (an essay contest, a Moth-affiliated storytelling night on February 22) to the low (temporary tattoos and a mayo-enriched “Red State” hot chocolate). For more information, and to enter the essay contest, see hot-chocolate-festival.com.
Unless you’re in the market for cellared apples, Vermont maple syrup, or greenhouse lettuce, you probably bypass the Greenmarket this time of year. The chefs at Blue Hill, in their enduring support of local farmers and sustainable agriculture, endeavor to show you the error of your ways with a prix fixe dinner January 30th, highlighting winter’s unexpected bounty. Root vegetables might carry the night ($68, $103 with wine pairings; 75 Washington Pl., nr. Washington Sq. W.; 212-539-1776).
Ghost in the Machine
Even the most accomplished chefs are at the mercy of their equipment. It’s taken Jonathan Waxman almost a year to coax his temperamental wood-burning pizza oven into operation at Barbuto, where the new oblong pies (weekday lunch and Sunday dinner only) come in combinations like duck sausage and goat cheese, or squid with potato—but, according to Waxman, “no red sauce.”
Thanks to the munificence of a rapidly growing band of restaurateurs, there’s never been a better reason to eat dessert. Through February, a varying percentage of proceeds from dessert sales at participating restaurants will be donated to CARE’s tsunami relief efforts. So save room next time you dine at BLT Steak, Strip House, and Tocqueville, where pastry chef Ryan Butler has whipped up a new $25 chestnut financier with Perigord black-truffle ice cream and truffle honey for the occasion. (For participating restaurants, see sweetrelief.us.)