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Jordana Rothman

Jordana Rothman

Listings and reviews (5)

Alder

Alder

4 out of 5 stars

In certain circles—where pork belly’s sustainability and the legitimacy of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants are subjects of debate—Wylie Dufresne can be as disruptive a topic as harem pants, cilantro or Benghazi. Drop his name into polite conversation and watch the mood ripple. The chef’s particular brand of gastronomic black arts has been dividing opinion for more than a decade at wd~50—the original nucleus of North American avant-garde cuisine. There he cultivated his modernist, tongue-in-cheek approach, spawning curiosities like deep-fried mayonnaise and scrambled-egg ravioli. Critics call it gimmicky, fans find it magical, but either way you’ve got to hand it to him: Whereas other chefs of his standing cashed in with soulless expansion plans, the man stayed focused on his Lower East Side spot, lapping every other New York kitchen in innovation and sheer pluck. So it was something of a bombshell when Dufresne announced he’d be opening a second restaurant, one that seemed attuned to the way the food world has changed—downscaled and relaxed—since wd~50 debuted in 2003. At his new gastropub, Alder, Dufresne is still challenging the orthodoxy of serious cooking, presenting familiar flavors in surprising new frameworks. Whatever you think of the twisty byways he’s exploring with his kitchen lieutenant, John Bignelli, this food is awfully easy to like. To enjoy a pigs-in-a-blanket riff, for example, you don’t need to know that the wrappers encasing sweet Chinese sausage are Peppe

Nightingale 9

Nightingale 9

3 out of 5 stars

It isn’t pretty, this murky brown salad. Take a look at those splinters of green papaya, gnarly rings of fried shallots and clots of air-dried beef. It could be a box of matches spilled in dishwater—certainly too homely for the pages of any respectable food magazine. But we’re evolved eaters here in New York City, too sophisticated to deny ugly things their fair shake. Taste it and understand the moral of a thousand children’s parables about inner beauty: This funky, crunchy bombshell of compulsive flavor might be the most interesting salad in Kings County. Like so many things at Nightingale 9, the papaya salad dressing is fortified with nuoc cham, a condiment as ubiquitous in Vietnam as mustard is in Germany. The sauce is a trick chef Robert Newton picked up while traveling through the Southeast Asian country before opening this passion project in February. Bottles of the stuff—made here with fish sauce, lime juice, rice wine vinegar, sugar, garlic and chilies—are in bins on every table, and dashes of it enhance just about everything. Follow its recklessly potent aroma through the menu of street food and noodle bowls, and you can eat very well at Nightingale 9. A toss of fluke and sweet crabmeat makes for a light on-ramp: The seafood is served in a shallow rice paper bowl with diced cucumber, sparks of Thai bird chilies and drifts of finely shredded coconut. The iconic Hanoi dish cha ca la vong—typically turmeric-blasted fish served with a pickler’s pantry worth of dill—is s

The Pines

The Pines

4 out of 5 stars

When an ambitious restaurant opens on fringe territory in New York, critics and buzz prospectors have a collective conniption. We trip over ourselves to declare a neighborhood an up-and-comer—Bed-Stuy, Harlem, Long Island City—fanning down our excitement like a pack of overheated Scarlett O’Haras. That’s the tragic thing about a great chef planting a flag on virgin turf: The neighborhood story tends to overshadow the culinary one. But we’re not going to do that today. Because while the Pines may indeed be remote—a few treacherous sniffs away from the Gowanus Canal—the real news is that it’s simply an excellent restaurant. The chef is Angelo Romano, a Roberta’s vet who went on to cook serious food at the short-lived Masten Lake in Williamsburg. He’s the woolly linebacker overseeing the open kitchen in back of the Pines—a gob-smacking, aggressive-growth kind of talent and one of New York City’s more interesting iconoclasts right now. With his evocations of huckleberry and hyssop, knotweed and kumquat, Romano’s menu makes a powerful point up front: ain’t gonna be no hamburgers here. Instead, you might start with torn hunks of craggy semolina bread, plated among rosettes of locally cured beef bresaola and a puree of fermented tangerine. There are wispy slices of compressed testa—like an offal lover’s birthday cake—with crumbles of lemony pastry and strawberries scattered over the patchwork of sticky, lush headcheese. An uni starter is a bicoastal duet, with the crunch of puffed a

Bill’s Townhouse

Bill’s Townhouse

2 out of 5 stars

We don’t hunt rhino horn or elephant tusk in New York City. The big game in this town—for restaurateurs, anyway—is old-world dining rooms. Recently, many of our withering restaurant institutions have been sold off, scrubbed clean and rebranded: Cigarette smoke patinas approximated with sponge painting, the scratchy purr of phonograph music piped in through cutting-edge sound systems. The best of these restaurants function as savvy preservations—better a raw-bar tower than a bank branch, after all. Keith McNally did stellar work at Minetta Tavern; Gabe Stulman at Fedora; Wilson Tang at Nom Wah Tea Parlor. But other projects, like Bill’s Food & Drink, feel a touch more cynical. Until a landlord dispute forced its saloon doors to swing shut in March 2012, the Prohibition-vintage barroom Bill’s Gay Nineties had a die-hard fandom. Whiskey flowed, shrimp cocktails were gobbled up on green-checked tablecloths, and pianist Rick McDonald banged out standards on the creaky upright. But late last year, the reins of this 88-year legacy—held since the ’70s by Barbara Bart Olmsted, who inherited the place from her father—were handed to John DeLucie, a chef with plenty of experience cashing in on urban nostalgia at spots like the Waverly Inn and the Lion. In place of the period-authentic vaudeville Playbills and prizefighter placards that used to line the dining room walls, there are now gilded mirrors, mounted taxidermy and arbitrary portraits of plutocrats. Where once there were unfussy f

Pearl & Ash

Pearl & Ash

2 out of 5 stars

Let’s all ease into a rocking chair for a moment and remember a time in New York—not so long ago—when you could recognize a French bistro by the aroma of its coq au vin and a Spanish spot by the crust on its paella. Much has changed in the past few years. Many of our chefs have hopped the rails, rejecting the limitations of a single cuisine and borrowing from a global pantry. For the most part, this has been a very good thing. Neofusion has yielded lots of delicious things to eat, like Korean tacos, jambalaya arancini and matzo-ball ramen soup. But this culinary Wild West has also spawned its share of confused restaurants, helmed by chefs short-circuiting their efforts with too many possibilities. So it is at ambitious Bowery newcomer Pearl & Ash: There are plenty of good ideas brewing, but the restaurant feels caught in a creative fog. The chef is Richard Kuo, a Taiwan-born Australian who logged time at Corton and wd~50 before opening Williamsburg’s celebrated but short-lived New Nordic pop-up Frej with Fredrik Berselius. Pearl & Ash, his first solo project, occupies a long space in the ground floor of the Bowery House, a flophouse turned chic hostel. It smacks a bit of Momofuku with bare wooden tables, backless stools at the bar and a fresh-faced sommelier sporting a Joy Division tee. But here the seats are lined with blue velvet, and a strange ’90s soundtrack of Sublime and Marcy Playground warbles through the speakers. Kuo leans on Asian flavors (bonito, shiso) for his gl