NYC Restaurant Week® in Manhattan
Scandinavian cuisine has exploded across the New York dining scene, led in part by this then cutting-edge Noho favorite from restaurateurs Jean-Marc Houmard, Jon Neidich and Huy Chi Le (Indochine, Tijuana Picnic). Following the departure of Danish executive chef Mads Refslund in December 2015, the trio enlisted chef-partner Brian Loiacono (db Bistro Moderne, Ruschmeyer’s in Montauk, NY) to oversee the restaurant’s transition from experimental new Nordic to more conservative Italian-French bistro fare. On the revamped menu are starters such as clams casino with bone marrow and a butternut squash steak, as well as meaty mains including brick chicken with leeks and skirt steak with caramelized endive. Though less of a comprehensive overhaul than the food menu, a design tweak brightens the rustic space with pieces from artists like Chuck Close, Robert Longo and Julian Schnabel.
Not every talented cook can make the transition from kitchen lieutenant to restaurateur—especially if the skills don’t extend beyond the stove to crafting a menu and scene that diners will dig. Haute French vet Andrew Carmellini—who many moons ago executed classics under Gray Kunz at Lespinasse—has had no trouble hatching venues diners flock to, perhaps taking a page from his other old boss, Daniel Boulud, one of the city’s savviest CEO chefs. Since going his own way, Carmellini—along with partners Josh Pickard and Luke Ostrom—has turned out crackling barn-burners in cuisines outside his training: Locanda Verde (raucous Italian) and the Dutch (an enlightened view of American). So his return to French food at Lafayette was rightfully anticipated: Heads would turn; fireworks would ensue. Yet Carmellini’s new Noho brasserie is more controlled burn than conflagration; you get the warmth and the glow, but not the stunning blaze. Everything in Lafayette glows: the blue-flamed rotisserie and wood oven, the soft lamps and candles, and the gently backlit bar. The large room enjoys a proper bustle, not a din. Lithe young things tilt their heads over glasses of Sancerre in that golden light at tables, and over at the bar, clutches of suits strain their necks to get the bartender’s attention. The menu, cooked by longtime Craft executive chef Damon Wise, is suffused with all sorts of food you’ll want to eat.
Fortunately, Toshio Suzuki wasn’t gone for long. A year after shuttering his 30-year-old Sushi Zen in midtown, the New York sushi icon has returned with a new raw-fish restaurant divided into three concepts.
In a city full of eateries striving to come across as authentically New York, it takes a Japanese-inspired London import to create a space that feels truly international. With locations in far-flung Dubai, Bangkok and Miami, Zuma’s globe-trotting influences play out in both appearance and menu at this New York outpost, which opened in 2015. The brainchild of German-born chef Rainer Becker, the 100-seat, iron-and-leather–clad concept centers on the informal Japanese style of izakaya dining, which typically involves shareable small plates along with a selection of sake.
Long before farm-to-table was more rule than exception—before cauliflower and kale became gastro fetishes, before dining rooms were fixed with reclaimed-wood slabs scattered with heirloom beets and petite brussels sprouts—Jonathan Waxman was leading the produce-driven way. From 1984 to 1989, Waxman, with wine-expert partner Melvyn Master, introduced his then-exotic brand of California cuisine —nurtured under the great Alice Waters at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, and at Michael’s in Santa Monica—to the Upper East Side via Jams, a cabernet-fueled clubhouse with easy elegance and a killer roast chicken.
Usually, a bar that’s been vandalized with tagging warrants police involvement, but not at the latest project from Chris Santos (Stanton Social, Beauty & Essex) and the TAO Group. British street artist Hush curated the bar’s art program, commissioning seven internationally recognized “vandals” to create street-art installations inside. Taking over the former home of the General, the 365-seat lounge offers a three-part cocktail list: a “Sweet” section featuring easy drinkers like the Miss Demeanor (Bacardi, lime juice, Angostura bitters); “Savory,” with spicier, more vegetal cups such as the La Palmitas (Ilegal Mezcal, Thai basil, grapefruit beer); and a barrel-aged category boasting the bourbon-based Trigger Finger (Cocchi Americano, raspberry). Small plates are inspired by global street fare—think jicama-shell tacos with butternut squash, chicken-and-tortilla-soup-dumplings and a white pizza topped with broccolini, nduja and toasted hazelnuts.
For more than 75 years, the gilded dining room nestled inside Central Park was a New York hallmark, a scenic magnet for tourists, brides and megawatt diners (Grace Kelly, John Lennon) alike. When the razzle-dazzle cash cow went bankrupt and shuttered in 2010, big-name backers from Danny Meyer to Donald Trump expressed interest in reviving the historic space. Imagine the surprise, then, when a pair of Philadelphia crepe-makers won the bid: Jim Caiola and David Salama, who revamp the landmark as an urban farmhouse decorated with wood-beam ceilings, leather-covered tables and multiple hearths. Mesa Grill alum Katy Sparks does a 180 from the original's Eisenhower-era plates for modern, fire-driven fare: wood-roasted Japanese eggplant with pomegranate and sheep's-milk yogurt, braised farro pasta with blistered sweet peppers, and lamb shank with creamed chards and mint gremolata. The 11,000-square-foot space—nearly half the size of the old Tavern—is enclosed in a glass cube overlooking the park, with a 300-seat couryard and outdoor bar.
The East Village needed a Hearth—an upscale yet relaxed place that wasn’t just another surprisingly good ethnic hole-in-the-wall. Skirting the small-plate trend, the hearty fare is big, rich and flavorful. Roasted and braised domestic lamb with lamb sausage, buttercup squash and chanterelle mushrooms is an excellent version of lamb three ways, and roasted sturgeon with prosciutto, sweet potatoes and sage is a novel treatment of this luxurious fish. There is a small hearth in the restaurant, but the real warmth comes from the staff, which takes pains in helping you pick the right dish, and is equally interested in finding out afterward what you thought of it.
Merde. French-Mediterranean bistro Marseille, which was once an oasis for conventioneers and office workers in the midtown culinary desert of 9th Ave, while still bustling at lunch, no longer merits the crowds. Despite a seasonal abundance, a starter of rock-hard haricots verts is barely redeemed by its drizzle of Roquefort and watery crème fraîche. A tuna steak, while served rare as requested, had the meaty chew of a fish past its prime and typical moules Provencal is just that—typical. Rounding out the meal was a cheese platter that tasted like it came from a grocery store deli counter; a suspicion that was hardly allayed by the server’s response when asked to describe the offerings: After evaluating a distinctly marbled wedge, he opined, “That one’s blue.”
Though this Lower East Side spot also serves dinner, it’s best known for its boozy brunch.