April 5, 2004
First Brooklyn, Then the Web
Miss Williamsburg Porta Via is an East Village homecoming of sorts for Pilar Rigon, who left Il Bagatto for Brooklyn four and a half years ago to open the original Miss Williamsburg Diner with chef-partner Massimiliano Bartoli. Back in Manhattan, the couple (pictured, with partner Gian-Luca Bianco at left) specialize in the skillet-grilled Romagnan bread called piadina, roasted meats and fish, and oven-baked pastas like gnocchi soufflé, cannelloni, and lasagne all’Emiliana. But their sights are set on an even bigger market: That lasagne—the classic northern-Italian version with meat ragù and béchamel—is the first product in their new frozen-food line, available online at miss-williamsburg.com.
228 East 10th Street
Kemal Binici is Turkish, and finally, after a couple of short-lived French (La Bicyclette) and Italian (Il Fiore) incarnations, so is his Upper West Side restaurant, which he’s just rechristened Zeytin. (Once he bought out his partner, he was free to follow his own culinary path.) The name is Turkish for “olive,” and the fruit figures prominently in the mosaic-and-kilim redesign, as well as on the single-minded menu, which features an assortment of vegetable meze cooked with olive oil, lemon, and garlic. Main dishes range from simple kebabs to more elaborate items, like grilled quail wrapped in grape leaves and braised lamb shank encased in eggplant.
519 Columbus Avenue, at 85th Street
Out of the Blue
Gurbux Bhatia built up a loyal neighborhood and United Nations clientele over the past ten years at his Turtle Bay restaurant Basera, but it wasn’t enough. “I wanted a small boutique restaurant,” says the New Delhi native, and after a three-month renovation, he’s got one. Indigo Indian Bistro is lighter and brighter than its predecessor, with an uncluttered design and an unusually sophisticated take on regional Indian cuisine. Suvir Saran, the cookbook author and co-chef at Amma, consulted on the dinner menu (lunch is a less ambitious $9.95 buffet), which incorporates familiar street foods like bhel puri with inventive novelties like sweet-pepper-and-soybean curry. Flavored rice comes in a tasting trio of tamarind, tomato, and lemon, and everything from halibut and Cornish hen to lamb sausages and shrimp (pictured) gets the tandoori treatment.
357 East 50th Street
the underground gourmet
As hip Thai restaurants proliferate throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn, turning up the techno and backing down on the spice, it’s getting harder to tell them apart. That’s not a problem at Galanga, a friendly Greenwich Village newcomer whose stylish décor belies a kitchen that turns out some seriously delicious, vibrant food. Sweet-and-sour crispy-duck salad (pictured) is impeccably fresh and perfectly balanced. Chiang Mai noodles with yellow-curry sauce, its heat set at an enticing simmer, brims with pickled cabbage, shallots, and scallions. And the succulent pork chop, lavishly marinated in honey and soy, meets its perfect match in a roasted-rice-powder dipping sauce. The unlikely joint venture of a computer programmer whose family owns a curry company, a freelance Web designer—both of whom trained at Wondee Siam—and the owner of an advertising company, Galanga brings a fresh face—and infusion of flavor—to New York Thai.
149 West 4th Street
at the greenmarket
Egg season begins at Union Square.
You might say that the difference between a supermarket egg and a Greenmarket egg is night and day. Though city folk may not even realize it, eggs, like ramps and fiddlehead ferns, have a season: Prompted by the lengthening days of spring, chickens, ducks, geese, pheasant, and wild turkeys begin to lay in earnest. (Industrial poultry farms—very un-Greenmarket—use lights to create an endless season for their birds.) The resultant Greenmarket egg is richer, purer, fresher—and not easy to come by. Most, like the brown chicken and tiny olive-green pheasant eggs ($3 a dozen, pictured) from Quattro’s Farms, sell out early. So do the naturally pastel-colored Araucana chicken eggs from Windfall Farms ($5 a half dozen), which is better known for its pristine gourmet salad greens. But that may only be because owner Morse Pitts hides these coveted beauties in his truck and limits sales to a half-dozen per knowledgeable customer. The secret to their superior flavor? Giving the birds regular exercise, plenty of sunshine, and a spicy diet. “They love red mustard greens,” says Pitts. “They really chomp those down.” —Rob Patronite
Haven’t you had it with small plates and sharing?
I always dreamed my life would be a smorgasbord, and it is. I loved picking three or four $5 items and two or three at $10 and $15 to share with pals when chef Gerry Hayden promoted free choice at Amuse. But choice can unhinge the timid. The new menu still offers “tastes for sampling and sharing.” Creamy ham-and-cheese gougères, crisp porcini-and-Pecorino rice balls, and the caramelized Brussels sprouts are my favorites, followed by salmon two ways with chive potato cake, orecchiette with fennel sausage, or baked macaroni with mushrooms, all at modest prices. But now grazing-phobes will find comfort in a lineup boldly labeled “main dishes” that offers Hayden’s savory Moroccan-style mixed grill, pork tenderloin with risotto, five-hour-braised beef short ribs with caramelized scallops or a New York strip (a side of chipotle-aïoli fries is essential). If you’re too exhausted to decide, let the chef deliver his $55 sampling.
108 West 18th Street