88 Tenth Ave., at 16th St.; 212-989-8883
Masaharu Morimoto—onetime Nobu chef, eternal Iron Chef—has spent the last four years in the hinterlands, as New York food snobs like to call Philadelphia. But this week, he makes his ballyhooed return to open a Manhattan branch of Morimoto, stage one of partner Stephen Starr’s high-design incursion into Chelsea Market (a Buddakan outpost opens there this month). Architect Tadao Ando, the Pritzker Prize winner responsible for Japan’s Buddhist Water Temple and Tom Ford’s house in New Mexico, has partitioned the dining room with glass privacy screens, built a water-bottle wall, and lined the open kitchen with a 24-seat sushi bar and an eight-seat omakase counter where shoeless guests can pay $120 for the chef’s tasting menu. As Iron Chef fans can attest, Morimoto is well-versed in Eastern and Western ingredients and techniques, which he manages to fuse in dishes like yellowtail pastrami, lamb carpaccio, and red miso soufflé with yuzu ice cream.
290 Hudson St., nr. Spring St.; 212-989-6410
After Douglas Rodriguez, Cuban Alex Garcia might be the name most closely associated with Nuevo Latino cooking, a style he practices as executive chef at Calle Ocho. But now Garcia’s embarked on a sideline project, Novo, a long, narrow Latin bistro where he consults on the gently priced menu. Seviches are a house specialty, and Spanish accents appear in dishes like a gussied-up tortilla española, made with lobster and garnished with romesco, and Iberian-inspired pastas like cavatelli with braised oxtail, manchego, and truffle oil. Finicky diners can take the steakhouse approach, choosing a meat or fish to be grilled à la plancha and paired with a choice of sides, and four varieties of rice can be similarly customized with mix-and-match toppings like shredded short ribs or chicken adobo. The liquor license (and fifteen kinds of sangria) has yet to arrive, but fresh-fruit aguas frescas and batidos are a refreshing alternative.
AND … David Chang of Momofuku fame will bring his celebrated buns a couple blocks uptown this summer when he opens Ssam Bar at 207 Second Avenue, at 13th Street. The 40-odd-seat spot will have counter service and delivery, and the fast-food focus will be on ssam, the Korean finger food Chang likens to an Asian burrito of sorts. Chang anticipates a laid-back late-night scene, fortified with a raw bar, some stinky cheeses, and those signature steamed buns.
The secret-formula dough of the Roman-style pizza at Palà makes for what its husband-and-wife owners claim is a healthier, less filling crust. The proof is in the pie—offbeat combinations like pumpkin and pancetta with scamorza cheese, and smoked cod with hummus and mint. Presumably, that leaves more room for fritti, antipasti, and dessert (198 Allen St., nr. Stanton St.; 212-614-7252).
Hampton Chutney Co. started on the East End, expanded to Soho, and has just arrived on the Upper West Side, foot-long dosas and signature chutneys in tow. The new store has a kid’s menu and a “kiddie corner,” tailored to the stroller-saturated neighborhood (464 Amsterdam Ave., nr. 82nd St.; 212-362-5050).