Star of India

October 4, 2004

Devi in New York.
Photo: Kenneth Chen

Suvir Saran isn’t just a caterer and cooking teacher—he’s also a marquee name in the Indian-restaurant world. Having previously lent his luster to Amma as a chef and his expertise to Indigo as a consultant, he reemerges this week at Dévi, the newest member of the burgeoning Baluchi’s family, and if Saran and co-chef Hemant Mathur have their way, the most distinctive. The $55 tasting menus may be the best introduction to Saran’s style, but it’s apparent in everything from the Bombay bhel puri (pictured) to more elaborate dishes like jackfruit biryani and bruschetta of veal-brain-and-kidney stir-fry—many of which can be found in Saran’s recently published Indian Home Cooking.
8 East 18th Street

EN Japanese Brasserie in New York
Photo: Carina Salvi

EN Japanese Brasserie
Bunkei Yo and his family own two dozen restaurants and a line of prepared foods in their native Japan, and this week, they establish a sizable American foothold in the West Village. The location formerly housed the home-furnishings boutique Room Interior Products, and EN Japanese Brasserie takes a similarly domestic approach to its traditional Japanese home cooking, as well as to its décor (the mezzanine is meant to resemble the living room, dining room, and library of a Japanese home). The owners are betting that New Yorkers’ growing sophistication about Japanese food will yield a receptive audience for mochi croquettes with sautéed duck and pork shoulder grilled with sake lees. Vegetarians should feel especially at home: Tofu is made fresh several times a day and served warm, on a Krispy Kreme–like schedule, every hour and a half, with ponzu and soy milk.
435 Hudson Street

Bar Tonno
Out with the tuna tramezzini, in with the tuna belly with tomato and cucumber in a ricci di mare vinaigrette. L’Impero chef Scott Conant calls his new pet project in the old Bar Veloce space a modern Italian raw bar, which in his dexterous hands means much more than a pile of oysters and clams on the half shell.
17 Cleveland Pl.

After toiling anonymously around town, pinch-hitting when Gary Robins left Aja and Tadashi Ono left Celadon, Gavin Citron opens a place with a name that leaves little doubt about who’s in the kitchen. The eclectic menu is big on small plates paired with the appropriate beverage, and the abstract art is by WPA painter (and Gavin’s grandmother) Minna Citron.
228 Bleecker St.

Serafina Broadway
Same pizza, new location—this time in the new Dream Hotel, where David Rockwell’s Fellini-inspired design incorporates frescoes, glass chandeliers, and images projected on vaulted ceilings.
210 W. 55th St.

The View
The revolving restaurant and lounge on the 47th floor of the Marriott Marquis reopens after a $4 million renovation, gunning for a clientele that extends beyond Times Square tourists. Dale DeGroff consulted on cocktails and Kevin Zraly had a hand in the New York State–centric wine list, designed to complement all the Coach Farm goat cheese and Long Island duckling on the tasting menu.
1535 Broadway, near. 46th St.

Rick's Picks in New York.
Photo: Carina Salvi

At The Greenmarket
Brine and Dandy
A 21st-century pickle man arrives at Union Square.
Rick Field is an unlikely pickle man. Tall and skinny with long flowing locks, he glides about his new Greenmarket stand, slicing samples of his pickles, called Rick’s Picks (, with a rock-star swagger, the polar opposite of the burly, wisecracking guys clustered below Delancey. He’s also a former television director and producer, and if he’s not the only Yale graduate selling pickles for a living, then he must be the only one brining them in wasabi and soy. Because Field buys his raw materials from local farmers, he’s allowed to peddle his pickles at the Greenmarket (Union Square on Wednesdays, Inwood on Saturdays). Although he expects to keep building his line, the four varieties in his current repertoire are superb—nicely balanced and surprisingly sophisticated. Crunchy green beans get ample doses of garlic and cayenne; traditional dill spears receive a new flavor profile from a hit of lime. The sliced bread-and-butter specimens are the furthest thing from classic (or Vlasic), incorporating dried cherries, ginger, and coconut flakes (all varieties cost $9 a pint). Up next: pickled garlic scapes, beets, and red pickle peppers. “We’re not trying to compete with Guss’s,” says Field. “We want to be urban sophisticates and simple country bumpkins all at once, and credible in both camps.”—Rob Patronite

Les Babouches in New York.
Photo: Carina Salvi

The Underground Gourmet
Trading Up, Not Selling Out
When a great hole-in-the-wall restaurant outgrows its cramped quarters and moves into fancier premises, it risks sacrificing down-home substance for polished style, or at least legroom. Not so at Les Babouches, the Moroccan sophomore effort from Bouabid Gassimi, whose La Maison du Couscous built a following in Bay Ridge and beyond. Despite the relatively posh setting (plush banquettes strewn with pillows, Moroccan artifacts for sale), the kitchen hasn’t lost a step. Fluffy couscous, succulent lamb, chicken, or fish tagines (pictured), and even a kafta burger slathered with harissa on a baguette taste just as authentic as they did two blocks over, in the company of discerning expats gabbing on cell phones.
7803 Third Avenue, Bay Ridge, Brooklyn

San Domenico NY 's brunch menu.
Photo: Kenneth Chen

Always on Sunday
There is no more vocal advocate—some would say nitpicker—for authentic Italian cuisine that San Domenico NY’s Tony May, whose mission in life is to educate and feed in equal measure. To compete in an increasingly crowded market, May’s given his dining room a fresh new look and his chefs an extra weekend shift. San Domenico’s new Sunday brunch is thoroughly Italian (even though, as May explains, Italians don’t do brunch) and downright luxurious, beginning with complimentary carafes of Prosecco and fresh-squeezed orange juice and a bread basket filled with bomboloni and zeppole. Eggs come blanketed with basil-scented tomato sauce (pictured), or whipped up, by May himself, into a lush vegetable frittata. And because this is New York—and May’s as much New Yorker as Italian by now—there’s even a bagel, albeit one served with Stracchino instead of cream cheese.
240 Central Park South

La Grenouille in New York.
Photo: Kenneth Chen

Ask Gael
What’s left of ancienGallic grandeur?
With Lutèce, La Côte Basque, and La Caravelle all six forks under, it’s thrilling that La Grenouille thrives. Owning the building helps the bottom line, of course, and owner Charles Masson’s youthful makeover—opening up the façade with glass, an all-day bar menu, switching captains from tuxedos into dark suits—leaves the once hoity-toity Frog Pond less forbidding. So it’s not just lacquered socialites and powermongers hogging the scene but boomers too, and even younger people. Floral exuberance still explodes in every corner, and, in the ultimate surrender to reality, the menu—mixing classic and new—is finally translated into English. Alas, the iconic frog’s legs taste exhausted. Burgundy-braised oxtail is much better. And the splendid chicken in champagne sauce recalls what these Gallic temples did best. But I’d need my brain Botoxed not to mind dropping $620 to feed four (including $28 extra for a green salad to replace the too-salty foie gras my guest sent back). I almost feel sorry for our waiter—an old-timer I remember from the days of haute snoot—forced now to be civil even to us.
3 East 52nd Street

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