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The Platt List

Cherche Midi.  

Return to Opulence

The gospel of comfort food is still being preached far and wide throughout this great dining city, but as the economy slowly recovers from the recession and people rediscover the joys of a proper slab of prime rib au jus and a good soufflé, sprouts of old-world richesse are beginning to pop up here and there around the city’s parched, burger-saturated culinary landscape. If you don’t believe me, I suggest you make your way down to the Bowery, where dignified fressers of a certain age are tucking in to all sorts of nostalgic, old-fashioned delicacies at Keith McNally’s newly retooled bistro, Cherche Midi. The boxy, brick-walled space on the corner of Houston and Bowery once housed the great restaurateur’s failed experiment in pizza-making, but now the kitchen turns out lavish throwback delicacies like seared foie gras; flash-fried, pleasingly garlicky frogs’ legs; and a stout filet mignon version of steak au poivre. There’s a Gruyère-smothered prime-rib burger on the menu, of course, but if you’re in a beef-eating mood, the dish to get is the marbled, bone-in rib chop, which is dry-aged to a gentle gaminess and served in classic style with a stack of balloon-light pommes soufflés on the side.

Not so long ago, Long Island City was a place for hardened big-city gastronauts to stop off for a bit of culture, or maybe a cup of coffee, before proceeding to the bountiful noodle-and-dumpling shops out in Flushing. But with the arrival of Sarah Obraitis and Hugue Dufour’s M. Wells Steakhouse in an old garage space on Crescent Street, you can now gorge on sweetbreads blanquette under the shadow of the Citigroup tower, along with other strangely decadent nose-to-tail specialties like pig’s head roasted with mushrooms, and the deliciously over-the-top “Solomon Gundy,” which the kitchen constructs with a lumberjack-size stack of fresh-made waffles, several generous spoonfuls of crème fraîche, and a gentle sprinkling of trout roe.

The last time I checked, there wasn’t any trout roe on the menu of Walker Stern and Joseph Ogrodnek’s sparely designed new Court Street restaurant, Dover. The ambitious kitchen offers a first-rate caviar pie (it’s dappled, in grand Continental style, with crushed eggs and comes with warm, silver-dollar-size buckwheat blinis), and the superb chicken for two (served, during the winter months, with truffle stuffing and a densely creamy gratin made with layers of root vegetables) is as accomplished as any of the elaborately hyped chicken dishes being served across the river in the stately old hotels of Manhattan.

If you feel like dropping a giant wad of cash on a high-end Japanese feast after a hard day trawling the galleries and boutiques along Madison Avenue, then join the mobs of art-world sharpies elbowing their way into Masa Takayama’s elegantly appointed new outpost, Kappo Masa, which opened not long ago below the Gagosian gallery on Madison and 76th. The omakase dinner at Sushi Nakazawa, in the West Village, is still my favorite new venue in town for a blowout expense-account sushi dinner, although many of the trend-conscious downtown sushi addicts I know are lining up for a taste of the exotic, toro-and-caviar-heavy omakase at Shuko, which the talented former Neta chefs Nick Kim and Jimmy Lau opened a month or so back in a discreet little 20-seat space just below Union Square. When I dropped in not long ago, there were forbidden Tokyo delicacies like fried fugu sperm on the menu, along with bounty from the Greenmarket up the street (carrots and turnips, a white-miso-accented slice of apple for dessert), which Kim and his partner transform into a kaiseki-style feast for the boom-era price of $175 per person.

You could end up paying much more than that if you call, like I did, for the 52-day-aged priced-by-weight côte de boeuf at Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone’s festive new establishment, Dirty French, which opened a couple of months ago across from Katz’s Delicatessen on the Lower East Side. On the evening I ordered it, the price of this thick slab of Niman Ranch beef came to $234, so save your money for inventive fusion recipes like tubes of gently warmed foie gras wrapped in brik pastry; thin strips of lamb carpaccio drizzled in Moroccan spices; and the inspired house version of tarte Tatin, which the pastry chef, Heather Bertinetti, bakes with pineapple instead of apples and tops with a melting, boozy scoop of rum-raisin ice cream.