Taj Tribeca, which originally opened last year under the name Indian Express, is located on the edge of the Financial District—an area that doesn’t produce high dining expectations. Though the eatery could probably get by serving generically spiced, crowd-pleasing curries, owner Shekhar Gowda (Earthen Oven) and chef Alexander Xalxo (Tamarind, Earthen Oven) insist on delivering thoughtfully crafted Pan-Indian dishes. Unfortunately, their effort seems to have largely gone unnoticed: On a recent evening, few diners were enjoying the graceful service and elegant space, tastefully decorated with carved-wood--framed mirrors and an unobtrusive water wall. From the start, the attention to authentic spicing is apparent. Two spongy crab cakes exhibited a mild and pleasant fishiness that was matched by a peppery heat, while tomato soup featured fruity liquid inflected with fennel seeds and cooling cilantro. An entre of three lamb chops, reasonably priced at $19.95, was cooked through in the tandoor, but the garlic-and-ginger-marinated meat remained exceptionally tender and completely enjoyable. The Goan shrimp curry’s coconut-tomato sauce had a pungent funk that was so intriguing, we were compelled to inquire about it, prompting the staff to bring us unsolicited samples of tirphal and kokum, two rare spices, to take home. Even desserts transcended the usual syrupy confections: A chunky carrot pudding’s vegetal element balanced the sugar, and tangy-sweet strained yogurt was flavored with
The South Street Seaport is considered a dining destination...for tourists. But the area just north of Fulton Street boasts a handful of inviting eateries (Salud, Fresh Salt) that cater to locals. Among them is Onda, the Pan-Latin restaurant and bar from chef Raymond Mohan (Patria), designed with festive colors—red cabinets, aqua columns—that evoke the tropics. The kitchen turns out a wide range of dishes that, while mostly good, suffer from inconsistency. A tasty appetizer of Galician-style octopus featured crisped tentacle dressed with olive oil and pimenton. It appeared minuscule, however, next to a similarly priced taco sampler, a plate of soft corn tortillas stuffed with juicy shrimp and chorizo, tender fried mahi-mahi and (slightly bland) pulled pork. A fine crab-cake burger boasted plenty of fresh lump meat, but a side of cheese-topped fries reminded us of fast food. A rich marinated skirt steak was brought down by a salad of wan—and unseasonal—asparagus and cherry tomatoes. The discrepancies continued through dessert. One dish, described on the menu as “basil ice cream,” turned out to be a luscious bowl of sweet cream topped with shredded basil and pumpkin-seed praline—a winner, but a deceptive one given that the cream was neither frozen nor flavored with basil. Churros delivered on their promise: moist in the center with a salty caramel dipping sauce. Incongruences aside, Onda still beats out the Seaport’s more generic alternatives.
If you pine for the days when China Grill, Vong and the Quilted Giraffe were New York’s hot reservations, Sho Shaun Hergatt is your ticket to memory lane. The awkward mouthful of a restaurant, named for its Australian chef, harks back to the gilded age of junk bonds, Miami Vice fashions and late nights at Nell’s. A hermetic haven of retro luxury on the second floor of the unfinished Setai condo near Wall Street, it would make a convincing backdrop for a period flick set in the heyday of high-finance machismo and Pan-Asian chic. On a recent night the dining room hosted a confab of Gordon Gekkos. Just beyond them, the actor Don Johnson (I do not jest) hobnobbed with the chef. Even without a big star from the ’80s on hand, the setting, service and food will make you nostalgic. The front lounge-—channeling Bali with a lattice-wood bar—gives way to a corridor stacked on both sides with shimmering glass skyscrapers of wine. Dishes emerge from the glass-enclosed kitchen under porcelain cloches on large silver trays. The wine list is heavy on $400 bottles, the dining room packed with diners who might actually buy them. Everything here is designed to dazzle. Much of it, like the exhibition kitchen, is pure stagecraft. The menu descriptions fetishize even the most humdrum ingredients (a simple turnip salad with feta becomes “salad of organic Tokyo turnips, baby beets, garden radish, Persian feta”). Hergatt, who last worked at the Miami Beach Setai Hotel, goes overboard with the gold- a
Located in the attractive new Andaz Hotel on Wall Street, Wall & Water touts neither a celebrity chef—top toque Maximo Lopez May previously worked at the Park Hyatt in Buenos Aires—nor a raging boutique-hotel bar scene. In fact, the solid if predictable menu doesn’t particularly stand out, even in a neighborhood with little competition. But out-of-town guests may be perfectly sated by the geographically ambiguous roster of dishes. Lopez and his team—working in an open kitchen beneath a David Rockwell--designed sculptural wood ceiling—prepare simple, at times polished rib-sticking fare like succulent, spicy lamb merguez, and sweet potato soup that’s too potent with ginger. While a section of the menu is devoted to family-style dishes, many other entres are so generously portioned that they, too, ought to be labeled for sharing. Moist veal cheeks in a run-of-the-mill glaze come three to an order, with gigantic hunks of roasted carrot and celery root, while a beautifully blackened whole roasted branzino arrives in the cast-iron pan it was cooked in surrounded by more potatoes (golden roasted fingerlings) than you’d find in an order of supersized fries. Although the rustic cooking—desserts include a classic grandmotherly lemon-curd tart—is at odds with the spare, elegant setting, the familiar, accessible flavors may be just the thing for a right-off-the-plane, jet-lagged arrival.
The restaurant business is as combustible as any, with lucrative partnerships often ending in acrimonious splits. So it is with the BLT Restaurant Group, whose international brand has spawned restaurants in New York, Honolulu, Hong Kong and beyond. Earlier this year the chain lost the chef who cofounded it, continuing to develop new eateries without the “LT”—Laurent Tourondel—on board. But can a concept thrive without its creator? BLT Bar & Grill, which debuted this summer in the new W Hotel and is the first outpost to open without the French chef involved, doesn’t inspire much confidence. The clone-ready restaurant—a generic New American tavern with leather booths and TV-topped bars on two sprawling floors—is a personality-free zone, and an embarrassment to the man whose initials still adorn the marquee. The place follows the same basic formula as its precursors, offering a spare menu of French and American standards, and a warm signature bread to kick things off. But while BLT Steak serves ethereal popovers, and BLT Market had, when it opened, the world’s most luxurious garlic bread, at the new spot you get flaccid focaccia topped with lukewarm gremolata. And it doesn’t get any better. The rest of the menu, from new corporate chef Christophe Bellanca (Le Cirque), is as ho-hum as the decor, an odd mix of high and low classics, lobster risotto on the same menu as beer-battered fish—a diner designed with off-duty bankers in mind. One recent evening, that lobster risotto pro
Photographs: Roxana Marroquin The unseen forces that can hurt a career in the kitchen—personality clashes, poor timing, bad business deals—have bumped chef Rick Laakkonen nearly off the island (to its southern tip, to be exact). After a few questionable gigs (Buddha Bar, Tao), the toque once touted by critics as among the city’s most inventive has quietly settled into Delmonico’s. Taking into consideration the venue—a relic just below Wall Street—and the clumsy food, the position doesn’t seem to be about much more than a paycheck. Delmonico’s, which opened on William Street in 1831, was the country’s first fine-dining establishment. Today, long past its heyday, it’s become little more than a tourist trap. Laakkonen’s arrival isn’t likely to restore any of its luster. In fact, it seems pretty clear that Delmonico’s patrons neither know nor care who’s running the kitchen. If bankers still gather there for conspiratorial powwows, it’s surely only out of habit or convenience. The dining room was half empty on recent visits, and the blas waiters—in burgundy vests that match the wall-to-wall carpeting—seem accustomed to doing little. Instead of making a connection with the setting and the food—offering modern riffs on old-fashioned fare—Laakkonen delivers contemporary compositions that are utterly out of place. One starter—a classic combination of goat cheese, toasted hazelnuts and beets—made a visual splash with beets shaved into ribbons and chopped into a sort of tartare, yet it
In its decor and its menu, the new hotel restaurant Plein Sud evokes a bistro in Provence. The farmhouse planks on the ceiling, lavender sprouts in the window and long list of French classics all seem to celebrate rustic tradition. Despite the restaurant’s premise, chef Ed Cotton (last of BLT Market) appears to have little interest in authenticity, cooking up an enormous menu of both classic and reimagined French standards—neither executed with particular aplomb. And so his escargots arrive out of the shell, tossed with whole hazelnuts and burnished hen-of-the-woods mushrooms. The snails, bland and rubbery, are missing the best part of the old-fashioned brasserie dish—the garlic-sopped butter no Francophile can resist. A thin, crisp pissaladire—the sweet and savory Cte d’Azur tart, blanketed in caramelized onions—is much more traditional, though unfortunately saddled with mealy anchovies and an overpowering layer of lemon zest. Cotton’s moules frites, meanwhile, abandon France altogether; the overcooked mussels are served in a Southeast Asian coconut curry with chalky fries that are more boardwalk than bistro. His coq au vin, too, takes an international detour, with a bland side of Germanic spaetzle and red-wine jus as thick and syrupy as jarred barbecue sauce. Desserts are just as muddled: A vanilla souffl is dense and eggy, while three too-sweet pots de crme have the consistency of Jell-O pudding. Despite appearances, Plein Sud isn’t really a bistro at all—the waiters, stru
It feels like you’re ducking out of the city for a while when eating at this bright, modern pizzeria on quaint Stone Street. The kitchen prepares nicely charred specimens featuring delectable toppings like the rich quattro formaggi. You can eat your pie at a standing-room-only bar, but we recommend stopping by for dinner, when you can savor your meal—small plates or entrées like baked sea scallops and ravioli al formaggio—in the sleek, wood-accented dining room.
Owner Mouhamad Shami found the city’s falafel too oily, so he introduced his own at this cafeteria-style lunch spot, which also serves fine shawarma, kebabs, baba ghanoush and other Middle Eastern standards. The crunchy chickpea fritters are worth a detour: The tasty patties are lighter than most and subtly spiced with cumin and coriander. The results are good enough to grace “Best Falafel” lists, and have amassed a large following among Financial District workers. It’s healthier than most takeout, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t cheap (a falafel sandwich goes for $5, a platter $9) or fast.
Located on the idyllic cobblestone corner of Fulton & Front Streets, Ambrose Beer and Lobster is a rustic chic craft beer hall, which embodies the look and feel of the historic downtown South Street Seaport. An ever-changing rotation of 12 seasonal and locally-sourced brews are served from two custom-built black iron tap towers in front of a curated selection of artisanal and small batch whiskey, scotch, bourbon, gin, and tequila offerings. The food menu specializes in all things lobster! Menu items consist of our famous Maine Lobster Roll, Warm Connecticut Lobster Roll, Fresh Lobster Salad, Lobster Grilled Cheese, Parmesan and Truffle Oil French Fries and more! Signature cocktails such as The Starboard, The Shipwreck and Jacobs Ladder round out the offerings with light, refreshing takes on vodka and rum.
A dramatic portrait of a matador marks the entrance of this popular tapas spot. Israeli-born chef and co-owner Dan Lerner is drawn to eclectic Spanish cuisine. Hence you’ll find dishes like brik (a Tunisian import of seasonal mushroom-stuffed pastry) and pintxos morunos de pollo (a chicken kebab). Azafrán is Spanish for “saffron”—if you crave it, budget an extra 20 minutes for the paella. Better yet, pair your meal with one of several Spanish wines by the bottle. Every other Wednesday night, live flamenco music and a $45 three-course prix-fixe dinner (that includes a glass of sangria) are a couple more reasons to visit.
Barleycorn Craft Bar & Grill is an american bistro located at the southern end of Tribeca, just a few blocks from the World Trade Center. Boasting 72 beers on draft, and 100 bottled varieties, as well as an array of the best spirits, and finely crafted cocktails. In addition, we offer a full service menu for lunch, dinner, and late night which includes a lunch carvery, raw bar, and gourmet brick oven pizza kitchen. With over 10,000 square feet of space on two levels, Barleycorn is the perfect location for dining, semi-private & private events, or simply to gather with friends.
If anything can get you to the tip of Manhattan, the likable, energetically flavored dishes from chef Tommy Lee (no, not that one) will. The room is nothing special—think bland wedding hall—but the food is terrific. You can feast on colorful thin-crust pizzas, pepper-crusted sirloin and an excellent cut of beef tenderloin in a tangy burgundy sauce. The fish selection includes smoked salmon with chipotle rémoulade, miso-glazed sea bass and a grilled seafood platter. Take to a seat by the window for a grand view of the New York Harbor.