Remember those Hidden Valley Ranch commercials in which kids gleefully devour buckets of cauliflower popcorn and broccoli shaped like ice-cream cones? At Piora—Korean for “blossom”—that ad-agency pipe dream actually exists in the form of a playfully elegant pile of 14 fruits and vegetables. Candied squash blossoms, shards of dehydrated tomatoes and caramelized crumbles of “sunchoke soil”—better than bacon bits—are dusted with an invigoratingly tangy powder made from Thousand Island dressing.
This dish reprises a version from chef Chris Cipollone’s stint at the short-lived Tenpenny, a slapdash spot crammed into midtown’s Gotham Hotel.The chef, now tinting New American plates with the flavors of Italy and Korea, has found a more becoming home. Set on a mellow run of Hudson Street, Piora’s serene dining room gets a pastoral air from reclaimed-wood beams and a cluster of illuminated trees outside the glass back wall.
Striking vegetation is a hallmark not just of the decor, but of Cipollone’s food. Confited chicken nuggets—nestled into a luxurious pillow of pureed potatoes and runny egg—stand poised to steal the show. But it’s artichokes laced with white wine that levitate the buttery dish. Crisp-skinned ocean trout spiked with salty nduja—a pork-sausage spread—is pulled from the briny brink by sweet pear puree.
In an outré pasta, rigatoni infused with red wine is earthy and acid-tinged, enriched by fat-slicked duck sausage, and given extra tooth by chewy, kalelike spigarello. Compared with the showstopping vegetables in Cipollone’s signature salad, those quiet curls of green do yeoman’s work. But without them, that pasta falls flat; proof enough that this vegetable maestro knows when to blow it out and when to pull back. Now more than ever, his cooking is in full bloom.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Meal highlights: Monkey bread, market vegetables, egg with chicken wing, rigatoni
From the bar: White-jacketed bartenders hand-carve ice cubes for studied cocktails. Try the smoky but refreshing P&T (short for “peat and tonic”).
Vibe: The window wall of lit trees lends the sleek space a touch of bucolic romance, perfect for a relaxing date.
Cocktail chatter: On a trip to Korea last year, Cipollone and owner Simon Kim found a traditional Korean potter, who hand-crafts the restaurant’s large bowls.
Soundcheck: Small, jamming spots like this are often tinderboxes of noise, but the steady rumble of voices never reaches a fever pitch, even if the crowd does.
By Daniel S. Meyer