|<< previous next >>|
“The Strong Buzz for October 22nd: The News (Irving MIll, Bun, How Sweet it Is, Athens), Events, My Dinner at Barfry”
The Strong Buzz for October 22nd: The News (Irving Mill, Bun, Athens, How Sweet it Is), Events, My Dinner at Barfry
The Strong Buzz on Bravo!
This week on my blog for Bravo for Foodies—What makes a restaurant a favorite and which ones made the cut to be in my top five? Read it now at Bravotv.com.
I’ve lived in the Union Square area for ten years now, and while we have some great restaurants in the vicinity—Casa Mono, Gramercy Tavern, Union Square Café, Tocqueville, 15 East, and Veritas among them—we don’t have a great regular American restaurant that’s sort of casual but still offers a sense of style and charm. That was until now. I must personally thank owners Sue, Mario and Sergio Riva for opening Irving Mill just a few short steps from my front door. I must also apologize if they get sick of seeing me sitting at the bar or at one of the oversized cloth-covered banquettes that fill this lofty farmhouse-styled dining room.
The exterior of Irving Mill
The kitchen of Irving Mill is under the careful direction of chef-partner Johnny Schaefer, who worked under Tom Colicchio at Gramercy Tavern since the day the restaurant opened its doors in 1994, and took over as executive chef in 2000. His style of cooking, as you might expect, is Greenmarket-driven, and his menu feels somewhere between The Red Cat and Gramercy Tavern. So, here’s what we got. For appetizers, there’s a Manila clam stew with chorizo, mustard greens and roasted tomatoes ($12), veal meatballs with fettuccini, sweetbreads, Roma and cranberry beans ($16), and grilled quail with sweet corn relish and smoked paprika ($16). Entrees will make decisions tough to come to. There’s a roasted artic char with farro, Savoy cabbage, speck, cipollini onions, and red wine ($26), a grilled pork chop with red cabbage, baked apple, figs and pine nuts ($26), a rabbit ragout with roasted shallots, black olives, garlic sausage, rosemary and potato puree ($24), and beef short ribs braised in stout with pepper relish, potato gratin and bone marrow ($28).
Pastry chef Colleen Grapes is doing peanut butter and milk chocolate parfaits, zucchini bread with orange marmalade and toffee walnuts, and apple and pumpkin strudel with crème caramel and apple cider beurre blanc ($9 each).
What’s also great about this place is that Peter Lucania is managing. For those of you who remember Peter, he was Katy’s barman at Quilty’s, and also the smile behind the bar at The Harrison. He’s someone who’s got hospitality in his blood, and I know once you come know him you’ll adore him. When you stop by, ask him to show you the private dining room—a great venue for a celebratory dinner or cocktail party. It feels like something out of a wine cellar in Tuscany, but it’s just around the corner. Irving Mill is located at 116 East 16th Street, between Irving Place and Union Square East, 212-254-1600.
From chef Michael Huynh, the man who brought us Bao 111 and Bao Noodles (he's severed his ties with those restaurants) and Mai House (where he’s still a partner), comes Bún (say Boone, like the character from Lost). The restaurant, which will open Monday October 29th, is owned with his wife Thao Nguyen and former Duran Duran guitarist Warren Cuccurullo. Bet you wondered what good old Warren was up to after “Save a Prayer.” Now you know. Michael’s menu will spotlight Vietnamese noodle dishes and plates served at a 60-foot dining food bar (and about 12 tables). His menu is easy on the wallet (everything is under $12). You can start with an order of fresh buns, like the ones stuffed with smoked eel, cucumber, rau ram, and Daikon radish ($5), move onto a bowl of spicy curry shrimp with roasted pig and water spinach ($12), a market fish with turmeric, dill, cucumber, lettuce. and anchovy sauce ($12), and a plate of poached silk chicken and egg with ginseng, sweetbreads and chanterelles ($12). The extensive menu makes this spot a good one to bookmark for a group dinner where you can take and pass and really get a sense of the cuisine. Bún will be open from 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. and will offer breakfast, starting in December. Interestingly, Bún will not accept reservations, but they’ll have a private reservation line for chefs and industry folks who must present a business card on arrival. That policy seems ripe for abuse and conflict. Bún is located at143 Grand Street at Lafayette, 212-431-7999.
This new Gastro-Greek Taverna represents a dream come true for Antonia Sapounakis, a woman who came to New York 20 years ago from Greece and started waiting tables to support herself while she figured out how to open her own restaurant. With partner Nicos Gregoriou and consulting chef Yianni Baxevanis of Athens’ Yiorti restaurant, she’s finally doing it. The menu starts off with an extensive list of mezedes like eggplant croquettes with mint, dill, cheese and parsley ($7), caramelized figs with Cypriot goat cheese ($7), marinated fresh anchovies ($8) and meatballs in tomato sauce with feta ($11.95). Fish, rather than being sold by the pound (which can act as a vacuum for your wallet), is sold by the dish. There’s grilled grouper stuffed with basil sauce and black eyed peas ($22), wild poached salmon with spinach and fennel ($17) and whole fish over charcoal ($M/P), as well as whole fish baked and stuffed with wild greens ($24). Gregoriou is an avid hunter so you can also expect venison, grouse, pheasant, and wild turkeys on “Game Fridays.” Athens Tavern is located at 23-01 31st Street, Astoria, (718) 267-0800.
How Sweet it Is
Pastry chefs Beth Pilar and Ellen Sternau have spent most of their careers in “private practice”—as custom-bakers to the stars. They’ve made cakes for everyone from singer John Mayer to designer Donna Karan. Lucky for us, they’ve opened a new retail shop called How Sweet it Is, so now Donna’s cakes can be yours too. Their menu includes seasonal morning muffins and breads served with espresso and coffee from Counter Culture, and afternoon snacks like brownies and bars, cookies, and gelato sandwiches, and specialties like Lemony Cheese Puffs, Devil's Food Chocolate Mousse Cupcakes, Chocolate Caramel Sea Salt Tarts, and Linzer Tarts, as well as selection of pies, tarts and cakes. The bakery is open 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, and 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. How Sweet it Is is located at 157 Allen Street, between Delancey and Rivington, (212) 777-0408, or visit www.howsweetitispastry.com.
The Bar Menu at Artisanal
I like a restaurant with a good bar menu. Sometimes you really don’t want a big entrée or just an appetizer. You want a menu that’s sort of made for eating at the bar, with little fun snacks and shareable plates to pick on as the night develops. Terrance Brennan feels the same way. This week, he added a new bar menu to his cheese-centric bistro, Artisanal. The menu is organized into Amuses (smoked paprika popcorn, gougers, grilled cheeses bites and crisp brandade cakes, $3.50-$8.50), Petit Plats (duck and foie rilletes, mac’ n cheese, burger, and wild Burgundy snails, $9.50-$16.50), To Share (pissaladiere, raw bar) and, of course, platters of lovely cheese and charcuterie. There are over 160 wines available by the glass, which is quite nice, especially when you consider that their 10-m-closing “Happy Hour,” which slashes the bistro’s entire wine list—both by the glass and full bottles—to half price. Brennan has also added wine and beer pairing flights and for fall, with Selles-sur-Cher, a creamy goat’s milk from France, with Hofbräu Original. Artisanal is located at 2 Park Avenue on 32nd between Madison and Park, 212-725-8585.
Eat-pisode might be the worst name for a restaurant I’ve heard of in years (eat-pisode? Are you kidding me?), but the menu sounds good and the space is really quite nice looking with amber lighting, warm woods, soft silk cushioned banquettes, and bamboo faucets in the bathrooms. So, maybe the name will sort of fade away?
In any case, the restaurant is owned by husband-wife team Wara Supulchai and Natalee Plenpanich who also own Tai Thai in the East Village and Williamsburg and Poh Tree Thai Spa, across the street from the restaurant. Their vision was to offer Thailand’s home-style cooking with many recipe from Wara’s family repertoire. (Wara, who’s also the chef, is splitting time with Tai Thai for now, and was formerly the chef of Rain Restaurant, and Foong Kearn (Blue Wave restaurant) in Hua Hin, Thailand.) He’s cooking Mee Krob—sweet and sour crispy rice noodles, Mee Kra-ti—minced chicken with tofu, bean sprouts, and chives over noodles in coconut sauce, Pla Choo-Chee—grilled filet of fish with choo-chee curry and kaffir lime sauce, and Yum Duck Salad—slow roasted duck with pineapples and green apple, crushed peanuts and chile-lime dressing, as well as a variety of fried rice, pad Thai, and curries. Eat-pisode is located at 123 Ludlow Street, between Delancey and Rivington Street, 212-677-7624.
Judith Jones at Bottlerocket
On Wednesday October 24th, Judith Jones will be at Bottlerocket to promote her new memoir, The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food (Knopf, November 2007).
Judith, who’s an editor and the Vice President of Knopf, is known for publishing Anne Frank’s Diary, translating the works of Camus, discovering Julia Child, and editing everyone from Updike to Bastianich. In addition to being a visionary editor, she’s also a wonderful writer and storyteller. I have not been able to put this book down since I started it last week. It’s very much like Julia Child’s memoir of her life in France in that it tells the story of an amazingly courageous, I’d say fearless, woman who pursued her own dreams, her love of food, cooking (and of Paris), and along the way, shaped the world of food and cooking as we now know it. Without Judith, there may have never been a Julia, a Claudia, a Lidia, a Madhur. I was lucky enough to work with her on Katy’s book, Sparks in the Kitchen, and I remember feeling so inspired every time I left her office, not just to write recipes that were approachable, not just to write text that was precise and descriptive, but to cook more, to share more, to life a live with courage, with strength of conviction, and with fearless amounts of passion, both in the kitchen and out. I’m quite honored to have worked with her, even for just one project. So, needless to say, I’ll be there on Wednesday to hear her speak about her book, and I hope to see you there too. The event is from 6-8pm at Bottlerocket, 5 West 19th Street, between 5th and 6th Avenues. No reservations are required and the event is free.
From October 22nd-28th, it’s Lance Armstrong Foundation week at Hill Country. Whether you order pork by the pound or baked beans by the cup, a portion of sales will support people with cancer and their families. Donations of any amount will also be accepted when you pay your bill to support the cancer care services of the LAF. Hill Country is located at 30 West 26th Street (between Broadway and Sixth avenue). (212) 255-4544, www.hillcountryny.com.
STRONG BUZZ CLASSIFIED OF THE WEEK!
It’s been a busy week for the CLASSIFIEDS! Whole Foods is looking for Specialty Cheese Professionals, Morgan’s Hotel Group is looking for Assistant Bar Managers in New York, San Francisco & Scottsdale, Reservationists are needed on the UES, managers are needed for a new restaurant, and Lounge managers are needed at PS 450/Vig27. Check out The Strong Buzz to search for more ads or post your own ad today!
MY DINNER AT BARFRY
The writing was on the walls. Literally. In dusty white chalk scratched on the slate gray blackboard: “I love this place!” “Josh rocks!” “Call me at 917-349-XXXX” Let’s get it on!” With all that’s been written about Barfry, chef-partner Josh DeChellis’ cool new temple of tempura, I’ve yet to find mention of the bathroom walls and the wild writing on them. Maybe other writers don’t visit the bathrooms? Maybe they’re too concerned with the scene in the dining room or the food on their plates? I can understand that, but come on, these walls are priceless! There’s material here, people. Look, I was quite interested in the scene (low light, loud music, barstools pulled together by couples sharing dinner, four-tops of sexy folks drinking sake and beer and dunking battered bites into assorted dipping sauces), and what was on my plate (wooden boxes housing tangles of tempura), but I was also pretty interested in the writing on bathroom walls. This stuff was hilarious. There were notes about lovers, comments about the food (good and bad, these walls are not censored), complaints about Bush, phone numbers for all manner of services, shout-outs to friends, and in one corner, climbing up the wall, possibly the solution to the Iraq war. It would’ve been easy to stay in there all night. But people might’ve started to worry, and there was eating to be done.
The Dining Room at Barfry
I headed to Barfry on another all-too-warm night last week with Alison and Debbie. I was craving someplace fun, where we wouldn’t need a reservation, wouldn’t drop too much money, and wouldn’t have to deal with the formality of a three-course dinner. I just wanted to sit and hang out with my friends, drink some beer, and share a nice meal. In this town, that plan can sometimes be quite a challenge. Not so at Barfry. It’s built for situations just like that—a spontaneous get together, a craving for a cold beer, a pang of hunger that needs immediate attention. Barfry’s your place.
Momofuku has its ramen, Rickshaw has its dumplings, Magnolia has its cupcakes, and Barfry has its tempura. The menu offers 17 tempura options (from cod and shrimp, to peppers to onion rings, pork cutlets to dumplings and chicken fried steak), plus a selection of Po’ Boys, boxes (combo meals), sides and daily specials that reflect Josh’s skill as a chef with a reach that exceeds the grip of his triple fryer.
Alison and I got there a bit early and found two seats at the bar where we were started off with some (free) Nori-dusted popcorn, slightly sweet and delicately salty, and quite addictive. It’s the sort of snack that will have you reaching for your beverage with some amount of regularity. It took all of five minutes until I was slurping the last drops of my Rosemary Julep ($12)—a refreshing hi-ball made from gin, fresh pear, lime juice and ginger beer. Alison had ordered an Asahi ($13), which arrived in a one-liter mini keg. The beer was practically as big as her. She looked alarmed, and I assured her that I’d help her with it, which I did. By the time Debbie walked in around 8:45, we’d finished half of it. A table had just opened up so we carted our little keg over our table against the subway tiled wall lined with black leather banquettes and got to work on some more beer and some dinner.
A fine way to start a meal at Barfry is to get right to the tempuras. But before I get to what I thought, let me explain the factors that I use to judge tempura (The Tempura Factors—TFs). I like a crispy batter, with an airy flake, low grease content and finally, the product inside the batter should be cooked correctly—vegetables should not be overcooked or mealy, meats and fish should not be raw.
We ordered a selection of three—pumpkin ($4), shrimp (3 for $6) and string beans ($4). All tempuras come with a quartet of sauces—jalapeno-soy, sweet miso, wasabi mayo, and red hot chili citrus. While I had heard mixed reviews of the tempura, I was impressed. After one bite of the pumpkin, which went nicely with the sweet miso, Alison turned to me and said: “He could fry (sh*t) in this batter and I’d eat it.” While excrement is not on the menu at the moment, I can see where she’s coming from. To get his tempura this correct, Josh worked through about 100 recipes before he found one that he was pleased with and then took a few weeks of time before he perfected the recipe with the right blend of oil—rice bran and canola. (He switches the oil twice a night and at the end of each shift, recycles it for bio-diesel fuel.) He’s also worked hard at the art of the drop (it’s all in the wrist) and the pick-up (at the golden moment, it’s gotta come out fast). The man is ready to teach Tempura 101, which is probably why the pumpkin met all my TFs—its batter was golden, and quite delicate, almost like a custom-fitted crispy crepe. The grease content was low, though not invisible, but there was no oily sogginess to it. And finally, the pumpkin was cooked perfectly—firm but tender. That’s an A minus. The string beans were an A plus: long and lean and cloaked in a shell of crunchy batter. They were so good that we (honestly) sliced the last one in three small pieces. And as for the shrimp, ditto in terms of the TFs. My only comment would be that I want more, please.
Tempura box at Barfry
After a round of tempura, we delved into the non-fried off the menu blackboard specials. Josh is someone who was rather secreted away at Sumile and didn’t get enough attention at Jovia either. His talents have not been adequately recognized. It’s a shame that many people didn’t get to know his gifts with sushi and seafood, or his skill with simpler tasks like making killer salad dressings. (Barfry, I imagine will eventually jar and package all their sauces and dressings so you can use them at home, or better yet, Josh should do a cookbook. Call me, Josh. We’ll talk.)
For instance, a pickled watermelon and avocado salad ($9) is tossed with baby arugula in a vivid vinaigrette called HD’s Green Hot—a zippy, eye-watering dressing made from fresh jalapeños that wakes up the avocado, and turns on the watermelon, and leaves you a little heated up, too. Nice.
His sashimi of fluke ($12) is also a 3D flavor experience—there’s the pearly fish sliced in slender rectangles, the spicy white soy sauce, the shower of diced chives and the hit of yuzu that finishes it off with a lemony pinch in the back of your cheek. Tuna tartar ($12) is served in a deep bowl, cleverly folded in with pickled ramps, and dressed with a bit of soy and citrus as well to cut the richness of the fish. The sautéed pea leaves ($7) are terrific as well—verdant leafy shoots that resemble baby spinach, sautéed and dressed with XO sauce and lemon zest for that splash of spark that Josh never leaves off the plate.
While we weren’t really hungry any more at this point, we were having a great time and really enjoying the food, and so we did want to eat more. This is a problem of mine. When food is good, I want to eat it, and the fact that I have no appetite nor any room for it in my stomach is really beside the point. And so we shared an oyster po’ boy, and, why not, a couple of pints of JD’s Gaijin Pale Ale, a bright, slightly bitter ale made special for Josh by Rogue in Oregon. For his Po’ Boy, Josh uses traditional fluffy inside, crusty outside hero bread that he pimps out with old bay mayo, wasabi mayo, sauce gribiche, and a fistful of tempura flake to keep the crunch in the sandwich. Then he piles on some peppery wasabi pickles and the fried oysters. I have to say that while the idea of the sandwich was terrific, unfortunately, the oysters just sort of get squished in there, and their brine leaks out and makes the oysters sort of soggy. So, next time I’m going to try a po’ boy with pork cutlet that’s piled high with kimchee, cilantro and sambal dressing ($12), or the chicken fried steak garnished with horseradish, marinated shiitakes and arugula ($14) or the shrimp one, topped off with spicy slaw and XO dressing ($14). Just ‘cause one didn’t work, doesn’t mean the others aren’t worth a shot.
As we finished off the beer, we contemplated dessert at Market Table next door (love their apple crisp), but then we discovered there is dessert at Barfry. It comes in the form of green tea cupcakes. I don’t know about you, but I’m always up for a cupcake. This one is oversized, and frosted in green, as you might’ve guessed. The color of a tree frog, the cupcakes are soft, moist and fluffy and frosted with a swirl of green tea buttercream, just a slight scent and tannins of green tea. It’s nice to know that food the color of frogs can be yummy. Before we left and walked home, I paid a visit to the ladies’ room. The chalk was there, the walls called me. I’ve never written on a bathroom wall, but then again, I’m not sure I’ve ever had this ease of this sort of opportunity. And so, I figured, why not. I picked up a piece of chalk and pressed it against the smooth slate and wrote. But, I’m not telling you what I wrote. I want you to go over there, have some dinner (or lunch) and let me know if you find it.
Barfry is located at 50 Carmine Street, 212-929-5050, www.barfrynyc.com.
And that’s THE STRONG BUZZ for this week! As always, thanks for reading, and until Thursday, READ IT AND EAT!
|<< previous next >>|
Share ! Post a comment
No comments yet. Be the first to post!
Advertise on the
StrongBuzz site and emails.