Jay Cheshes

Jay Cheshes

Listings and reviews (72)

St. Anselm

St. Anselm

4 out of 5 stars

From New Jersey-style burger-and-dog shack to upmarket grill house, St. Anslem is still kitted with a dust-bowl collection of rusty saw blades on the walls and light fixtures supplemented now with banners from an old Masonic temple. But the food these days is much more ambitious than cheese fries and artisanal brats. Owner Joe Carroll (Spuyten Duyvil, Fette Sau) swapped out the griddle and fryer for a blazing gas grill and created a well-rounded menu, heavy on veggies, that combines Mediterranean, Asian and all-American flavors—the fiery preparation tying them all together. The kitchen aces the grill, adding wood chips like seasoning, moderating heat so the sear is always right for the job. Among the many delicate, flamed small plates are charred fresh sardines with ponzu and pickled lotus root, littleneck clams drizzled in rich garlic butter, and miniature fire-roasted eggplants with fried goat cheese and honey. It's all smart and sophisticated but soulful, too. The grill touches nearly every hot dish, and many cold ones, too—even the most unlikely ingredients benefit from at least a quick sear. A big, bracing salad of pea greens and long beans comes with delicious, smoky slabs of grilled halloumi. A bright spin on caprese combines creamy burrata with Greenmarket tomatoes kissed by the flames. The main-event proteins, meanwhile, are just gilded enough to be interesting but not so encumbered you can't taste the grill. There's cool, minty yogurt enhancing a beautiful thick-cu

Pies ’n’ Thighs

Pies ’n’ Thighs

3 out of 5 stars

Beginning as a drunk-food closet at the back of a bar, this Southern-fried grease trap run by the three chefs—Carolyn Bane, Erika Geldzahler and Sarah Buck, who met working at Diner—retains the DIY, seat-of-the-pants spirit of the dive that it sprang from: food specials scrawled on sheets of paper, chairs and tables that might have been salvaged from a public school, and borderline aggressive bright overhead lighting. The food, not the venue, is clearly the draw. The down-and-dirty Southern fare—honest, cheap and often delicious—includes antibiotic- and hormone-free chickens, but you won’t find the name of the farm where they came from on the menu. The hot sauce is Frank’s Original RedHot, the grits Quaker Instant, the pickles B&G deli classics. As a result, Pies ’n’ Thighs feels as authentic as any venerable Dixieland food shack. The fried chicken—simply brined, floured and fried—is among the city’s most succulent, with a greaseless, extra-crispy crust. The fried catfish is also exceptional, coated in an expertly seasoned layer of cornmeal. Among the superlative sides, the baked beans—thick with molasses and studded with brisket scraps—and buttery cheddar-swirled grits are the standouts. But perhaps the tastiest thing on the menu isn’t a meal or a side, but a snack: a classic buttery biscuit enclosing a small pounded chicken cutlet coated in an irresistibly trashy emulsion of honey-butter and hot sauce. The pies that account as much as the chicken for the restaurant’s cult

Carbone

Carbone

5 out of 5 stars

This red-sauce West Village hot spot, from tag-team chefs Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone, is a Godfather hangout on steroids, more fantastical set piece than history-bound throwback. Under brass chandeliers, on navy walls, hangs brash modern art on old-school Italianate themes. The seasoned crew of waiters wear wide-lapelled burgundy tuxes designed by Zac Posen. And the moneyed swells blowing their bankrolls in the front room and VIP inner sanctum (out back near the kitchen) aren’t capos or dons but young bankers and food-obsessed hipsters. Whether you know a guy who knows a guy or simply scored your seat on OpenTable, you’ll feel like an insider as you pass under the antique neon sign hanging above the door, left over from Rocco, the 90-year-old joint this nouveau ristorante replaced. Those swarming waiters ply every table with complimentary extras, swooping in with a hollowed cheese, big as a drum, stuffed with sharp chianti-soaked Parmesan nuggets (aged up the block at Murray’s), with smoky whispers of Broadbent ham carved from a haunch on a dining room pedestal. The enormous menu, which opens as wide as The New York Times, reads like an encyclopedia of red-checkered classics. But co-chefs Torrisi and Carbone have made such dramatic improvements, you’ll barely recognize anything. You’ve never had a Caesar salad like their tableside masterpiece, a beautifully dressed, nuanced variation on the classic, amplified with warm garlic-bread croutons, two types of anchovies and thr

Salvation Taco

Salvation Taco

3 out of 5 stars

This rainbow-splashed lounge set inside the Pod 39 Hotel feels more like a happy-hour rec room than a tacqueria. The sprawling space is as colorful as a Mexican blanket, decked out in a spectrum of thrift-store junk, two long votive-lit bars, plush couches for lounging and Ping-Pong tables in glass-enclosed nooks. It is first and foremost a place to imbibe, its Mexicanish finger food mostly designed for easy consumption while clutching an icy cerveza. In the kitchen, April Bloomfield (the Spotted Pig, the Breslin) and taco maestro Roberto Santibañez (Fonda) raise the bar on dirt-cheap Mexican snacks, turning out tiny tortillas—made fresh to order from Nixtamal masa—stuffed with primo ingredients from all over the place: tender skirt steak swaddled in a Texas-style smoky pecan-and-chipotle salsa, coconut-curry cauliflower crowned with fried mint, beer-battered fish padded with pickled red onion. The restaurant is well worth wading through the clamorous front bar but beware: By the time your piping-hot churros arrive, the place may be mobbed with Murray Hill’s after-work revelers too soused to really care what they eat.

Brushstroke

Brushstroke

New York chefs, particularly of the haute French persuasion, have long held a special affinity for Japanese cooking—inspired by its zen seasonality, spare and delicate plating, and reverence for the finest ingredients from both land and sea. And like Quentin Tarantino highlighting his favorite Hong Kong directors, a few have imported chefs they admire from across the Pacific and opened restaurants for them in Gotham. In 2011, David Bouley launched his first such curatorial effort: the long-delayed Brushstroke. A collaboration with Osaka’s Tsuji Culinary Institute, the restaurant brings kaiseki cuisine—the intricate, formal multicourse meals at the pinnacle of haute Japanese cooking—into a surprisingly relaxed and accessible setting. Bouley puts the remarkable cuisine of young chef Isao Yamada at the fore here, and hasn’t muddied the waters by getting too hands-on with the place. The chefs, designers, and manager are all Japanese—and promisingly, for that matter, so are quite a few patrons. The space, by Tokyo design stars Super Potato, features an artful mix of the serene and playful—blond wood walls in the dining room giving way in the adjoining Noodle Bar to 25,000 paperback books stacked pages out so they resemble crisscrossing planks. Despite the clean, elegant cooking, there’s great energy to the place—from its breezy service and jazz soundtrack to the furious (but silent) rush in the huge open kitchen. Yamada, brought west from Fukuoka in 2005, has spent his years in Ne

Rosemary's

Rosemary's

The bambini at Rosemary’s are treated to their own menu of Italian delights like cheese bread with house-made mozzarella and focaccia ($6) and penne with marinara ($9). On cool days, a half grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup will warm those tummies and prepare them for a yummy bowl of gelato and sorbet ($6). Be sure to grab some Italian cookies for the trek back home ($4).

Rosemary's

Rosemary's

This Italian trattoria has a special kid’s menu featuring simple favorites like focaccia with house-made mozzarella and penne with marinara, as well as Italian cookies for dessert. Veggies, herbs and other fresh ingredients come from the restaurant’s very own rooftop garden, which means the food on your plate is always local and in-season. Be advised: Rosemary’s can draw quite the evening crowd, and they only take reservations for parties of eight or more.  

Reynard

Reynard

4 out of 5 stars

The indications were there even before the high-rise condos began shooting up along the waterfront: in the twee fashion boutiques hawking $600 French frocks, in the retro bars devoted to serious craft cocktails, in the restaurants priced more for bankers than editorial assistants. Williamsburg, that once affordable beachhead of the postcollege set—entry-level New York for a generation of newcomers—was growing up fast. The tipping point is officially here. You’ll find it on the corner of Wythe Avenue and 11th Street, under an arty neon-lit sign that shimmers hotel. The Wythe, Williamsburg’s first blockbuster hotel, might seem to some like the beginning of the end for the neighborhood—Soho entering its shopping-mall phase—with its rooftop bar drawing long lines on the weekends, its hot scene of a ground-floor restaurant packing in pilgrims from across the East River. And it might have been, if not for the man behind those eating and drinking establishments. That restaurant, Reynards, and its upstairs sibling, the Ides, are the brainchildren of Andrew Tarlow, a restaurateur as responsible as any for Brooklyn’s culinary ascendancy. In 1998 he opened Diner, followed in 2002 by Marlow & Sons—restaurants with remarkable longevity that still carry the torch for the artisanal food movement they helped ignite. Tarlow’s new restaurant builds on everything he’s done so far, elevating all the usual Williamsburg tropes. The made-in-Brooklyn aesthetic he pioneered is much more polished in t

Montmartre

Montmartre

2 out of 5 stars

Restaurateur Gabriel Stulman is a turnaround artist, transforming ghost-town restaurant spaces into overnight hot spots. Montmartre—as with his basement Fedora and alleyway Perla—looks like another triumphant revival. The new salvage project features his usual convivial mix of eclectic art, bespoke cocktails, warm service and cool tunes, with a cozy front bar and inviting backyard (set to open later this spring). These elements might have added up to a winner, if the food on the tables were better. At the end of the day, though, Stulman has replaced one middling French bistro—the outdated Gascogne—with another. The impresario has had plenty of luck elsewhere, partnering with former kitchen lieutenants, giving understudies to Mario Batali and Montreal’s Martin Picard their first shots at the spotlight. But not all rising stars can hack it alone. Tien Ho, the David Chang acolyte who did such good work at MĂĄ PĂȘche, is struggling here by himself. His tweaked bistro standards feature a baffling array of miscalculations, in one off-key dish after another. Ho, who years back spent time at CafĂ© Boulud, seems to need a refresher on old-school French technique. Instead of pumping up classics, he’s watered them down, his flavors often floundering at polar extremes—either a salt lick or a bland washout, without much in between. The flubs begin with an opening snack, a warm crock of brandade, the soupy salt cod more sallow dip than the usual rich, thick slather for toast. Escargots, tradi

Manzanilla

Manzanilla

4 out of 5 stars

The food revolution that’s swept through Spain over the past 20 years has never made significant inroads in New York. While expat chef JosĂ© AndrĂ©s has done his bit elsewhere in the U.S., spreading the gospel of El Bulli, Mugaritz and Arzak in D.C., L.A. and Miami, attempts at avant-garde Spanish cooking in this town have gone up in a cloud of liquid-nitrogen smoke (see the hyped but short-lived Romera, Graffit and Bar Basque, each too pretentious or awkward). But Manzanilla, from Andalusian star Dani Garcia, may be the first modernist import with a real shot at success. The chef had the foresight to partner with a local pro, joining forces with Boqueria’s frontman, restaurateur Yann de Rochefort, and together they’ve opened a place that’s inviting enough for a drop-in snack at the bar. Instead of a rarefied temple of experimental excess like his Marbella flagship, two-Michelin-star Calima, Garcia’s new spot is a wide-open brasserie, with high mirror-topped walls, potted fronds and baroque chandeliers. The chef, best known for mixing nostalgic flavors with modern technique, delivers sleight-of-hand spins on Spanish classics—never too self-consciously showy—that display more novel accents than exclamation points. New-wave tapas to nibble with flutes of dry sherry include a delicious riff on pan con tomate (tomato-smeared toast), with cured tomato pulp seasoned like sirloin in a mock steak tartare, featuring the classic sharp condiments (mustard, capers et al.) and sweet-sour ro

Aska

Aska

4 out of 5 stars

Upstarts can lose their edge sometimes, trading in indie glory for prime time’s demands. And so it seemed at Aska—the permanent replacement for Frej, the New Nordic pop-up young Swede Fredrik Berselius ran for a while in Williamsburg’s Kinfolk Studios (with now-departed co-chef Richard Kuo). A December test-drive of the new incarnation found a longer, more expensive menu with fewer triumphs than at its thrilling precursor. In the months since, though, the avant-garde restaurant has steadied itself, recapturing the sense of wonder it had when the kitchen’s strange new ideas were also delicious to eat. Most nights, the new full-time version, which Berselius is driving solo, has the scrappy feel of very good improv. There’s a gung ho cohesion in the restaurant’s warm crew, all with hyphenate jobs—hostess-waitress, manager-barkeep, food runner–chef—as enchanted as their adventurous new Brooklyn patrons to be a part of this place. The cool, breezy space—a naturalist wood bar in the middle, small tables near the game-bird mural in back—serves experimental cooking by a risk-taking chef. His hyperseasonal menu, featuring the kinds of foraged ingredients and naturalist plating that have helped make Scandinavia’s cutting-edge restaurants among the hottest on earth, includes fun flights of fancy, occasional flashes of brilliance and, for most New York diners, lots of new tastes. To begin, you might dip a toe in at the bar. Even the budget snacks there showcase the kitchen’s self-confide

Red Gravy

Red Gravy

3 out of 5 stars

In late-’90s Brooklyn, before the rise of chef’s counters and roof gardens, the trailblazing seasonal restaurant Saul brought Manhattan-style white-tablecloth dining across the East River, kicking off a new restaurant row on Smith Street. In the 14 years since his flagship opened, chef-owner Saul Bolton has taken more chances elsewhere in the borough, like the spartan block of Prospect Heights where he launched the Vanderbilt in 2009. Earlier this year, Red Gravy, his new Italian venture, popped up on the edge of Brooklyn Heights—another stretch without many great restaurants. The spot’s debut hasn’t been entirely smooth: The vast space could be cozier, the vibe inside warmer—a slammed hostess sniped at diners one night, quoting much-longer-than-accurate waits; and a distracted barkeep passed over patrons hoping to eat at the bar. But despite its shaky service and casual decor—wine barrels to lean on and bare wooden tables—Bolton’s trattoria serves serious food with prices to match. The chef, who worked at Le Bernardin and Bouley before making the leap to Kings County, isn’t an Italian obsessive, but he’s hired a lieutenant who is, A Voce veteran Ayesha Nurdjaja. Together they’re sending out some of the neighborhood’s most vivacious high-end Italian cuisine. Bolton and his team layer on flavors, building real depth as they go. And so there are meaty medallions of braised octopus, charred on the grill and paired with bitter singed escarole, a punchy green-olive puree and brigh