Week of November 3, 2003
Mandler’s: The Original Sausage Co.
Ronnie Mandler had a dream, and it came on a bun with sauerkraut. Last week, the garment-district executive opened Mandler’s: The Original Sausage Co., the first of what he hopes will become a chain of Euro-style shops selling the kind of gemütlich fast food he adored on frequent business trips to Europe. Translating his passion into our town’s prevailing hot-dog preferences required certain concessions: “You go to Yankee Stadium,” he says, “you have that bite, you have that snap.” Not so his precious German bratwurst. To Mandler, the meat’s the thing, not the casing, but after some recipe development with local manufacturers, he reached a happy compromise. “You have the bite, but you don’t have that snap.” His sausages are nine and a half inches long, swaddled in custom-made rolls—an Americanized version of the crusty Euro paradigm—and topped with everything from tahini and jalapeños to horseradish mustard. Besides offering the traditional wurst, Mandler’s sells seafood, veggie, and poultry varieties, some available sans bun as “healthy plates.” But don’t expect Mandler to stray too far from his cherished sausage sandwich. “I’m not a food person,” he says, “but this is the love of my life.”
26 East 17th Street
I Tre Merli Bistro
In contrast to Paolo Secondo’s large-scale Soho standbys Barolo and I Tre Merli, his new West Village offshoot, I Tre Merli Bistro, is a hole in the wall—albeit one with an elegant copper bar, friendly service, and a kitchen overseen by Barolo’s Maurizio Marfoglia. According to partner Marjanne Motamedi, the nook aspires to be more hangout than bustling scene, which accounts for entrée prices no higher than $14 and, eventually, all-day service, from eggs and doughnuts for breakfast to panini and salads at lunch and Italian steak-frites for dinner.
183 West 10th Street
Chai Home Kitchen
It takes more than guts to open a Southeast Asian restaurant up the street from SEA, the Thai restaurant and nightclub that swallowed Williamsburg, and around the corner from the equally popular Planet Thailand. It takes a talented kitchen, stylish design, and an irresistible molten-chocolate cake—all of which Chai Home Kitchen has, thanks to the wide-ranging experiences of its husband-and-wife owners. Japanese architect Futoshi Fukuda designed the homey but hip 30-seat spot, planting a river of smooth black stones in the floor and floating delicate blossoms in a concrete fountain. His Thai wife, Amornrat, cooked at the Elephant and Mercer Kitchen, where she first encountered said dessert. But throughout her French-kitchen stints, she never lost the vibrant Thai seasoning that enlivens Chai’s grilled-beef and roast-duck salads, served on artisanal Thai pottery. Sweet Chinese sausage with chili vinaigrette, Vietnamese pork chops, and vegetarian duck add to Chai’s Pan-Asian appeal, as will the Japanese tapas Fukuda plans to serve with sake once the liquor license arrives. There’s more than one way, after all, to curry favor.
124 North 6th Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Veronica Schwartz and Pablo Castro are that rare, oxymoronic breed: vegetarians from Argentina. When they eliminated meat from their diet, they substituted amaranth, a nutty, nutritious grain that’s become the foundation of their fledgling business. dr-cow gran_ola, available at Bedford Cheese Shop, combines popped amaranth seeds with roasted oats, almonds, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, orange peel, and thyme. If that all sounds a tad too healthy, just wait: a granola-suffused chocolate bar is in the works. ($7.99 per six-ounce jar)
218 Bedford Avenue, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
object of desire
Stranger With Cupcakes
If you’re too old for trick-or-treating and too wise to plunge into the mosh pit that is the line at Magnolia Bakery, try one of Amy Sedaris’s Halloween cupcakes, available at Joe, the new West Village coffee bar. The actress, writer, and sometime Mary’s Fish Camp waitress bakes, decorates, and delivers these little gems herself—but only when the spirit moves her. When she negotiated the cupcake gig with Joe owner Jonathan Rubinstein, “it was funny because it was all negatives,” Sedaris says. “I was like, ‘I don’t know when I’ll bring them in, never call me at home, I only take cash,’ and Jonathan was like, ‘Great!’ ”
141 Waverly Place
You might consider Craft of Cooking (Clarkson Potter; $37.50) to be Tom Colicchio’s knuckle-rapping rebuke to the critics who didn’t understand that he just wanted to “make good food.” It’s all about the ingredients is the Craft chef’s message, and Colicchio tells you where to get them, how to choose them, and what to do in order to get at their essence. Day-in-the-life-of-a-restaurant snapshots and don’t-try-this-at-home techniques (butchering whole baby lamb, brining an entire pig) punctuate the recipes for Craft’s beloved duck ham, hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, and roasted sea scallops. “We haven’t reinvented restaurant dining,” writes Colicchio, “we have simply pulled the symphony apart and presented a chorus of really great soloists.”
Where would Magellan be heading about now?
Boldfaced names turn up in the oddest places—but then, they’re invited. Now let’s see what fearless explorers among us paying civilians can find the way to the vast, stylish cavern that is Matsuri on faraway Ninth Avenue. Ex–Caravelle chef Tadashi Ono’s elegant touch is instantly evident in the smart yuzu edge of a toss starring shrimp, octopus, and squid, and in lush ribbons of tuna piled atop a mountain of potato sticks. Even the ubiquitous edamame stand out, served warm with Japanese sea salt, and a small sea eel slithers in greaseless tempura, sporting a pepper accessory like a chic little handbag. The four of us require encores of Kobe beef plus deep-fried tofu and eggplant in a soy-ginger broth, luscious yellowtail sashimi, and a couple of hand rolls before moving on to sake black cod, a crusty rice ball, and a bowl of fragrant udon (hot) with vegetables and a dashi dipping sauce. Definitely worth the hunt for that red door.
369 West 16th Street