NoLita

Chefs Club by Food & Wine

Open Kitchen view 2, Chefs Club

There’s something to be said for good bones. Restaurant decor can go a long way in transforming an odd space into a good one – see Claudette, for example – but when you start with something as architecturally impressive as the interior of the Puck Building, you have more leeway in what you can hang on the walls – and put on the menu. It’s an unusual concept to open a restaurant that’s not the vision of any one particular chef or restauranteur but a magazine. Fortunately Chefs Club by Food & Wine Magazine gets a certain gravitas from the surroundings, whereas otherwise it might seem utterly newfangled. (more…)

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Cherche Midi

Bar, Cherche MidiIt was 25 minutes past our reservation time on a Tuesday night, and still our table at Cherche Midi hadn’t materialized. Aside from the wait, this can be a bad sign about a newish restaurant. Are the servers overwhelmed? Or the kitchen? Yet Shane McBride, the chef of Cherche Midi, who looks like someone you probably wouldn’t want to run into in a dark alley in Dublin, was leaning against the kitchen pass through, completely unperturbed.  (more…)

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Rubirosa

Interior, Rubirosa

Formerly the street of forgotten red sauce joints and San Gennaro tourists, Mulberry Street in Little Italy was recently declared “the city’s hottest new restaurant row” by the New York Post. This surprising renaissance began after local diners had pretty much abandoned it, then Torrisi Italian Specialties sprang up out of the ashes. The lines outside there continue to grow (even at lunch), and underground drinking den the Mulberry Project adds even more caché to the street. Rubirosa fills in the last piece of the puzzle, the Italian pizza spot. (more…)

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Asiadog

Corn dogs are best avoided if you can’t help wondering when the actual hot dog last saw the light of day before it was encrypted in a wall of starchy, mysteriously cylindrical corn breading. Last month? Or several millennia ago?

The Dog and Kimchi Pancake Corndog, Asiadog

So it was with some trepidation that I ordered the kimchi pancake corndog ($6) at the new eight-seat restaurant and takeout joint Asiadog on Kenmare street. Theirs was no machine-made corn dog, however, but a reassuringly asymmetrical dog, pictured right, much like an actual kimchi pancake would look when recently wrapped around a beef hot dog and deep fried until golden brown. The results were astoundingly delicious, drizzled with a sweet and spicy homemade sauce a lot like the addictive sauce in a good bulgogi.  (more…)

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Torrisi Italian Specialties

Lace Curtain, Torrisi Italian Specialties

It sounds like a scenario out of a magazine quiz: “Are You Really a New Yorker?” Would you be willing to wait in line in the bitter cold and pay $50 per person for a candlelit meal in… a deli? The answer should be yes, not because everybody else is doing it, but because the re-envisioned Little Italy fare at Torrisi Italian Specialties is too good to be a passing fad. (more…)

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Brinkley’s

Brinkley’s may be new, but this pubby Nolita spot has an old-school preppy vibe, with Steve Miller Band and the Doobie Brothers playing on the stereo. Outfitted with a huge backlit bar, subway-tiled dining room, and horseshoe-shaped banquettes good for parties of six, Brinkley’s draws a similar bankers-and-ex-debs crowd as Southside downstairs.

Brinkley's, Exterior

Still, there’s a downtown edge to the darkly lit space with industrial light fixtures, vintage prints on the wall, and coy wallpaper in the bathrooms with illustrations of farm animal breeds (including an “Improved Tennessee Sheep”). It’s as if your old friend Dorrian grew up, developed some taste in food and decor and moved to a loft downtown. (more…)

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Macondo

Tom Tom and I stopped into Macondo the other evening for a drink or three. Though it would be cruel to subject a place to an official review just a couple of days after it opened, Macondo is already showing some winning traits.

The decor verges on the kitschy, with rope baskets slung above the bar holding bananas and pineapples, but it’s also creative, since rope netting is used elsewhere as a screen to separate the dining room from the bar area. One side of the room is tricked out in the grocery-staples-as-decor trend, this time focusing on a Latin theme, while the other side of the room is a long bar. At 5:30pm when we visited, the four bar stools outside on the street were already taken for al fresco cocktails. LES shopping break, anyone?


We came more for the cocktails for the food, but the food at this pan-Latin spot, brought to you by the folks behind Rayuela, more than stands up to the drinks menu. The humita, a sweet corn tamal dressed with a black bean sauce and surrounded by generous hunks of morcila, a spicy sausage I haven’t seen on these shores before. The spicy thread continued with the zingy ecuatoriano, a shrimp ceviche made with rocotto cheese, a hidden pepper ingredient, and lots of citrus. Fortunately for the non-spicy Tom Tom the carne empanada was a nice counterpart to the heat.


There were a ton of specialty ingredients in the cocktails, some of which were unfortunately not available, like the guanabana-coco and rum frozen cocktail (Zaya rum, Kahlua Sour SOP, coco, and lime), alas. Next time? When asked how they could possibly source all these ingredients, the bartender confided: Whole Foods. Of course! We should have known the comprehensive wackiness that is Whole Foods’ buying strategy would pay off in the cocktail world.

Banana + Cachaca was as good as an alcoholic smoothie, though the chunks of banana made it hard to swallow. Acai + Ron might have been my favorite: a mix of pomegranate syrup, acai juice, mint, Bacardi Razz rum, and Sprite. Thankfully they aren’t above using Sprite at this cocktail bar.

All in all, Macondo looks like a promising place to bring friends, especially that bizarre breed of friend that always wants to meet at the dinner hour “for drinks.” Here the unsuspecting friend could be easily tricked into ordering food, even anorexics posing as vegetarians, since there are many vegetarian dishes here as well.

Cocktails for a liquid diet, food for everyone–what more could you ask for? Macondo should be around for the long haul.

Macondo
157 East Houston Street
between Eldridge and Allen Streets
New York, New York
212-473-9900


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