Big Salad

September 20, 2004

Onera restaurant in New York.
Photo: Carina Salvi

Feta Accompli
At Ecco on Long Island, chef Michael Psilakis integrates Italian flavors into his upscale American menu; at Onera, his new Manhattan restaurant, he borrows instead from his ancestral Greek, dressing lamb carpaccio with feta and Kalamata olives, and grilled branzino with avgolemono sauce. Raw scallops come with tsatsiki, sea urchin with haloumi-cheese fondue—and through September 30, everything comes with a 15 percent preview discount. Greece figures heavily on the wine list and in the décor: Glossy blue and white paint has transformed what used to be the eccentrically cluttered Two Two Two.
222 West 79th Street

Applewood restaurant in New York.
Photo: Kenneth Chen

Fresh Direct
David and Laura Shea met at cooking school, and next week—after stints upstate at the Old Chatham Sheepherding Company and in Chicago, where David was chef at Spruce and Twelve 12—they open Applewood in Park Slope. As you might surmise from their memberships in the Park Slope Food Co-op and adherence to the Slow Food manifesto, the Sheas are disciples of the local-organic-seasonal school of cooking. It’s a movement they plan to promote with frequent meet-the-farmer dinners and an American menu incorporating as much fresh produce as possible—some of it grown expressly for them by friends in Pine Plains, and materializing in dishes like end-of-summer vegetable fricassée with fresh herb salad.
501 11th Street, Park Slope, Brooklyn

Couvron restaurant in New York.
Photo: Kenneth Chen

Cross-Country Comeback
Nine years in Oregon was enough for chef Anthony Demes and his wife, Maura Jarach, who plan to open a New York version of their acclaimed Portland restaurant Couvron by the end of September. Portland may have a burgeoning restaurant scene, but according to Jarach, who works front of the house, “It’s a very early city. They only want to eat between 6:30 and 7:30.” The couple expect downtown Manhattan to keep later hours, and to have an appetite for dishes like $36 Maine day-boat lobster with white-corn-and-Vidalia-onion ragout that extends beyond the special-occasion splurge. In their move east, the couple have gone from 32 seats to 60, but have retained their French-heavy wine cellar and much of their West Coast menu, including cold-smoked Oregon quail with fingerling-potato purée, and peach Tatin with apricot sorbet.
508 Greenwich Street

Babbo Under the Arch
Mario Batali, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Matthew Broderick host this September 20 dinner and auction benefiting the Washington Square Park Council, a non-profit dedicated to the upkeep of Greenwich Village’s vibrant community space. Cocktails kick off at 6 p.m., followed by a live auction and four-course dinner cooked by Batali and his formidable team from Babbo, Lupa, and Otto. And the setting can’t be beat: A chandeliered tent under the park’s iconic, newly renovated arch. Tickets start at $200 (cocktail party and auction only) and top off at $1000.
For tickets call 212-333-3288, ext. 22.

The Madison Salad at Coco Pazzo  in New York.
Photo: Kenneth Chen

Big Salad
Say what you will about the well-heeled and diet-crazed: Their peculiar eating habits inspire chefs to do great things with lettuce. That’s how, over a decade ago, Coco Pazzo’s Mark Strausman came up with the famous orgy of chopped veggies, Parmesan, and canned tuna he calls the Madison salad. Specifically designed and painstakingly cut into manageable bits for the demanding ladies who lunch and their not-so-easy-to-clean Chanel, the Madison makes its triumphant return this week along with Strausman’s new lunch menu.
23 East 74th Street

Nicky's Vietnamese Sandwiches in New York.
Photo: Carina Salvi

Why Aren’t We in Vietnam?
“Most banh mi or Vietnamese sandwich shops are tucked away in Asian communities; we wanted to introduce them to a wider audience,” says Teresa Ng, who along with her husband, Stanley, has opened Nicky’s Vietnamese Sandwiches, an East Village takeout shop named for the couple’s sandwich-obsessed 2-year-old son. Having grown up at An Dông, her father’s banh mi place in Sunset Park, Ng has unimpeachable credentials. Under Dad’s watchful eye, she’s faithfully reproduced his classic: pâté, ham, ground pork, pickled carrot, cucumbers, cilantro, jalapeño, and gobs of mayo on a baguette. Thanks to some unsolicited focus-group input from concerned passersby, a vegetarian portobello banh mi is in the works.
150 East 2nd Street

The Sea Grill in New York.
Photo: Carina Salvi

Ask Gael
Is there a chef who digs my carbophobia?
No need to compromise your carbophobic vows at The Sea Grill. Just tell the waiter you want the kitchen to do you a carb-light tasting. Chef Ed Brown shed 30 pounds on Atkins and keeps his trim on modified South Beach, so he’s your guru. At dinner, he has more time to dazzle, but at a recent lunch he sent out cured salmon-belly tartare spiked with wasabi tobiko in little cones made of spring-roll wrappers (“just vapors of carb,” Brown insists). Then we shared lush raw hamachi marinated in a mild ginger “milk,” yuzu juice, and spring onion. A hint of garlic and chili gave a lift to Chatham cod steamed with cockles in their juice, served with fava beans and lush ripe tomato. Tropical fruits will appear in their season. I finished with mango, nashi pear, and Chilean plums. But Brown has challenged his pastry chef to wring the carbs from conventional desserts. He expects a low-carb cheesecake will be the first triumph.
Rockefeller Center, 19 West 49th Street

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