New York Chefs Confront Rising Food Costs With Whip and ChairFood costs go up and up, but prices — especially high ones — aren’t supposed to. Given that the rent in most New York restaurants isn’t going to come down anytime soon, this creates a problem for owners. The Wall Street Journal did an excellent feature on this subject on Saturday, showing how some restaurants were dealing with it — Blue Water Grill’s selling beef trimmings as part of a chipotle roll, for example, or Ssäm Bar’s dropping truffles. But we were curious about how some of the other chefs we know, particularly those with a well-heeled clientele, are making do. So we asked around, and here’s what we heard.
The New York Diet
Top Chef Hung Huynh Has the ‘Most Amazing Chinese Meal Ever’Last season’s Top Chef winner Hung Huynh, who previously cooked at Per Se, Gilt, Manhattan Ocean Club, and others, is back from a year and a half at Guy Savoy in Las Vegas — this week he started as executive chef at Solo. The Mediterranean-Asian restaurant happens to be kosher, meaning Huynh can’t use his beloved fish sauce or sherry vinegar. “I’m pretty limited to proteins,” he tells us. “I have to be a little bit more creative with my flavor profiles.” If Padma and Tom paid a visit, he says, he’d probably serve them his sweetbreads glazed with truffles and served with lemon-honey carrots. But forget what he’s cooking; we’re more interested in what he ate this week.
Tony Bourdain’s Kitchen Is Just Like Yours; New York Chefs Cook for 50 CentSelf-styled badass chef Tony Bourdain plays 20 Questions, revealing that he lives with his wife and daughter on the Upper East Side these days — “proximity to Baby Gap is a priority” — and has a kitchen that is “small and functional and very crowded with baby food, cat food, a few essentials.” [Chicago Tribune]
Frank Bruni takes a moment to sort through the piles of food-related tomes that landed on his desk this year, finding his favorites to be David Kamp’s The Food Snob’s Dictionary and the recently released Secret Ingredients: The New Yorker Book of Food and Drink. [Diner’s Journal/NYT]
Related: David Kamp Adds Two More Entries to the Food Snob’s Dictionary
A recent NYU grad is suing Times Square club Arena for $2 million over a June incident in which he was overcharged by $1,000, beat up by the bouncer, and arrested for not buying enough alcohol. [NYP]
Gilt Besieged by ‘Gossip Girl’ Wannabes; More of the Old EastThe bar at Gilt is besieged by “a parade of ripe Lolitas,” all clamoring for cocktails like their idols on Gossip Girl. Unhappily for the nymphets, and any well-heeled Humbert Humberts who happen to be hanging around, you have to be 21 to drink in the real-world version of the bar. [Insatiable Critic]
Two of the last holdouts of the old East Village, Sophie’s and Mona’s, are both for sale. What will replace them? Trustafarian discos? Hookah bars? Collegiate-style ale houses? Somewhere Rockets Redglare is rolling in his grave. [NYP]
To help allay the bitterness of exile, the New York Food Anywhere blog will show you where to find New York food in places that aren’t New York. It’s depressing, but it does make you appreciate the fact that you don’t need to use it. [New York Food Anywhere via Serious Eats]
The Annotated Dish
Gilt’s ‘Gossip Girl’ Grilled CheeseGilt’s ultra-luxe opulence, known previously mostly to gastronomes and jet-setting bons vivants, entered the national consciousness via Gossip Girl ’s slimiest character, the monstrous Chuck Bass, who lives in his father’s hotel, the New York Palace. Though never named, Gilt is frequently shown as a hangout for the show’s telegenic young plutocrats, and in the pilot episode Chuck ordered a truffled grilled cheese sandwich from Gilt chef Chris Lee. Of course, the sandwich was for the drunk and beautiful Serena van der Woodsen, who Chuck later tried to rape. The sandwich went from TV to reality, and it’s now a popular menu item at Gilt, for the low price of $50 a shot. As always, mouse over the different parts of the dish to hear it described in the chef’s own words.
No Plaza for Graydon; Mr. Rachael Ray Drops $35K for LunchboxGraydon Carter won’t be taking over the Plaza’s Oak Room, so you’ll still have to head downtown to the Waverly Inn for that truffled macaroni and cheese. [NYP]
Jean-Georges Vongerichten seeks the elusive fifth taste by serving “umami bombs” at his restaurants. [WSJ]
Related: Waiter, There’s a Fifth Element in My Soup
It’s possible that locally grown products have a comparable or even greater carbon footprint than food that travels long distances, so you can stop patting yourself on the back for being a greenmarket fanatic. [NYT]
Related: Local Schmocal [NYM]
Bobby Flay Enters the Burger Game; Serendipity 3 ReopensBobby Flay is entering the upscale-burger game with a chain of restaurants called Bobby’s Burger Palace. [GlobeSt.com via A Hamburger Today]
Gossip Girl fanatics will be happy to know that Gilt has added Serena’s much-beloved grilled cheese with truffle oil to the bar menu. Only $50! [Zagat]
Related: Is ‘Gossip Girl’ the Most Restauranty Show Since ‘Sex and the City’?
The Times says the entrée is on its way out at restaurants all over the country, thanks to a loss of interest in “big, protein-laden main dishes.” [NYT]
Eight-Cent Falafels Worth Every Penny in the East Village; Chris Lee Has aCobble Hill: Sahadi’s might have a fancy new sign to flaunt at Trader Joe’s, but are they cutting corners to compete? The Brooklyn Paper reports that customers are “fuming that the grocer has replaced the classic glass jars with generic plastic containers in the nuts, dried fruits and candies section.” [Brooklyn Heights Blog]
East Village: Next Friday, Tasty Falafel on St. Marks Place will sell sandwiches for 8 cents each from 4 to 9 p.m. and host a falafel-eating contest at 6. [Gridskipper]
Lower East Side: A new wine bar is on the way, and Gino and Guido are now accepting applications in the TRE space at 173 Ludlow. [Eat for Victory/VV]
Midtown East: Gilt has announced that chef Chris Lee has spent $8,000 on a 1.51-pound white truffle, which is “significantly larger than the truffle that Sirio Maccioni of Le Cirque won in a highly publicized October bidding.” We wonder what GM Elli Jafari thinks about that tougher tuber. [Bottomless Dish/Citysearch]
Upper East Side: Serendipity 3 has pushed back its reopening from tonight to December 5, after being closed by the DOH. [Eater]
Click and Save
Gael Greene’s Secrets of Restaurant SeductionIf there’s one thing you can count on Gael Greene to deliver, it’s tales of seduction by food — and her latest post has it in spades. This time, it’s from the male point of view, as Gael offers a “service feature on seduction,” courtesy of her friend Francesco, “the teflon Romeo, in and out of love constantly, an outright chauvinist pig, in fact, but as a pal, really fun, full of zest and unfailingly loyal.” Francesco’s advice includes the following helpful tips:
Liebrandt Previews New Restaurant at Autism BenefitLast Night’s “Autism Speaks to Wall Street” gala at Capitale was a power scene, all right; any event where tables cost up to $100,000 and Bob Wright is there making small talk has clearly left the foodies behind. Which is a shame, because the level of the food was magnificent. The gala’s format called for chefs who had been previously “bought” at auction to cook a dinner right there at the table: Thus, Eric Ripert cooked at an oven right next to Wylie Dufresne, Michael Psilakis next to Larry Forgione, who was next to Chris Lee of Gilt, and so on. The tables were close enough to allow tasting and trading, had anyone been interested in doing so (it didn’t look like they were). Maybe Darrell Hammond’s painfully unfunny routine at the evening’s start put off their appetites. Or maybe it was just all the deal-making.
Jimmy’s Secret Chef Performs Culinary Miracles in the East Village
We always like Jimmy’s — the Belgian beers, the sausage plates, the occasional bacon tasting. But nothing could have prepared us for our recent discovery of a living, breathing young chef working gastronomic magic in Jimmy’s ultraprimitive kitchen. Using only two hot plates and a toaster oven, Philip Kirschen-Clark, the former fish man at wd-50, is making surprising, inventive dishes every night at the East Village bar.
Is ‘Gossip Girl’ the Most Restauranty Show Since ‘Sex and the When we spoke to Gilt waiter Chris Wilgos the other day, he had colorful things to say about his old-timer patrons, but the place played to the teens in last night’s premiere episode of Gossip Girl. In one clip, a prep student whose parents supposedly own the place hilariously bribes a cook to make his date her favorite dish: a grilled cheese sandwich with truffle oil. Watch as our hero Serena van der Woodsen downs a martini faster than you can say “extra dirty.” Really, Gilt? Really? Serving minors? Either way, between this, the dinner scene at Geisha, and (believe it) the sex scene at the Campbell Apartment, we’re confident this show will spark the most exclamations of “Hey! I’ve eaten there!” since Sex and the City. After the jump, the kids take over Gilt.
Ask a Waiter
Chris Wilgos of Gilt Serves the Anonymous Superrich
Under chef Christopher Lee, Chris Wilgos worked his way up from a runner to a captain at Philadelphia’s premier restaurant, the Striped Bass. When Lee replaced chef Paul Liebrandt at Gilt about a year ago, Wilgos followed. He’s been waiting tables and acting here ever since. We asked him about his wealthy clientele and those who yearn for Le Cirque.
Gilt Shows Midtown East the HandBattery Park City: Flurt frozen yogurt looks almost complete on South End Avenue. [Eater]
East Village: Wannabistro 26 Seats has just changed owners, but for now the menu will remain the same. [Grub Street]
Flatiron: The Gansevoort people plan to open another hotel on Park Avenue South somewhere in the Twenties. [Down by the Hipster]
Midtown East: Gilt will close for the last two weeks in August, before chef Christopher Lee debuts the fall menu. [Grub Street]
Sunset Park: Sunset Park locals fight to keep out Papa John’s pizza: “I feel like this is the neighborhood’s last stand,” says one pie protester. [NYT]
Upper West Side : Aix brasserie will host a six-course wine dinner next Monday night showcasing rosé. [Grub Street]
Colors Workers Rebel; Whole Foods Getting Into Craft BeerThe workers of Colors, originally envisioned as a co-op for orphaned Windows on the World employees, have sued the restaurant and the advocacy group that runs it, claiming that in fact none of them actually own any part of it. [NYP]
Related: Marxist Meals Served at Co-op Eateries
Whole Foods will be opening up a craft-beer bar with tap brews sold in carryout growlers — in September. [NYS]
Animal activism has come of age, which is good news for calves, old hogs, and other unlucky beings that might otherwise be facing unspeakable fates. [NYT]
DiFara Fans All at Sea; Gray Kunz Enters the Small-Plate WarsBrooklyn held hostage, day four: DiFara fans reeling from this latest, pointless blow from the Department of Health. “It hurts. It’s the best pizza in my life, ever.” [NYT]
SliceNY uses the DiFara time-out to point out that, in recent months, the Saint of Avenue J has been burning his pizzas pretty badly around the edges. [SliceNY]
Gray Kunz’s new small-plates restaurant, Grayz, joins a growing number of such restaurants run by lesser beings. [Diner’s Journal/NYT]
The Other Critics
Cuozzo Hammers the Shake Shack; Much Hodgson Love for InsiemeSteve Cuozzo uses his bully pulpit in the Post to come down hard on the Shake Shack, calling the place out for insanely long lines and “a hamburger that’s an also-ran at best.”
Related: Kyle Dureau Wants Shake Shack to Be Open 24/7 As Much As You Do [Grub Street]
Having weathered a major two-star review by Adam Platt, Insieme finally gets its first three-star one, from Moira Hodgson, who is impressed by how perfectly executed every dish is, lavishing special praise on one of the place’s more overlooked features, co-owner Paul Grieco’s wine list. [NYO]
Related: Italian, Old and New [NYM]
The Times gives Katz’s the full Frank Bruni treatment, and the place comes out of it with one star, much loving description, and an eerie semi-confirmation of our earlier report that the place might be sold. [NYT]
Related: Mother of Mercy! Is This the End of Katz’s? [Grub Street]
The Other Critics
Wild Salmon Starts Its Upstream Journey Strongly; Craftsteak UpgradedAlan Richman has a few qualms about Wild Salmon – its reason for being, for example – but likes both the food (except for the sauces) and the service (when it’s not too friendly). Given how ready Richman is to knock restaurants, owner Jeffrey Chodorow has to feel pretty good about this one. [Bloomberg]
Related: Wild Salmon Swims Into View. Yes, ‘Pun Intended’ [Grub Street]
The newly revamped Craftsteak and Craftbar get rereviewed by Bruni, who awards the less than the white-hot former a much-needed second star, and the latter, “more or less back on track” after earlier troubles, a (borderline) single star. [NYT]
Time Out’s Randall Lane lays four stars (out of six) on Gilt, finding Chris Lee’s cooking admirable all around, if less risky than that of his predecessor, Paul Liebrandt, who still keeps popping up whenever the restaurant is discussed. [TONY]
Related: Gramercy Rehab [NYM]
Urgent All Points Bulletin for Spring Vegetables
You don’t have to look far to see spring vegetables on menus all over New York. But look for local spring vegetables, and you may find they’re AWOL. Unseasonal weather has put the kibosh on many area sources, and for chefs that pride themselves on local ingredients, it’s a problem.
In the Magazine
Chefs Try to Take It to the Next Level in This Week’s Issue
Five established chefs take center stage in this week’s issue – or six, if you count Kurt Gutenbrunner, who, per In Season, has a way with white asparagus. The others? Michael Anthony, the Blue Hill Haute Barnyard prodigy who stepped into Tom Colicchio’s shoes at Gramercy Tavern; Christopher Lee, a major rising talent who filled big shoes at Gilt; Kerry Simon, a Las Vegas–based Vongerichten lieutenant who is now doing the food for a giant karaoke bar; and finally Marco Canora and Asian dessert master Pichet Ong, whose long-awaited debuts, Insieme and P*Ong, respectively, open this week. All this star power, along with two short lists that couldn’t be more different, awaits in this week’s magazine.
I Am Stalking Gramercy Tavern’s Former Dessert Chef
Dear Grub Street,I have been an occasional customer of Gramercy Tavern over the past several years. On a recent visit, I was greatly dismayed to find that my favorite dessert, a chocolate dacquoise, was no longer on the menu. It was explained to me that Gramercy has a new pastry chef and he has put his stamp on the dessert menu, apparently at the expense of my dacquoise. I was wondering if perchance you knew the name of the former pastry chef and whether he is working elsewhere.Mark Raskin
Give a Fast-Food Receipt, Get a MetroCardThe city, seeking to find out just how badly New Yorkers eat prior to implementing its new calorie-info law, is trading MetroCards for meal receipts. [Nation’s Restaurant News]
Akthar Nawab of E.U., Michael Anthony of Gramercy Tavern, and Chris Lee of Gilt all talk about the challenges of taking over an established restaurant (getting reviewed too soon, finding the fuse box, etc.). [NYP]
The Spotted Pig’s April Bloomfield is being named Food & Wine’s Best New Chef. [NYP]
Nick Morgenstern Rips Gilt a New OneFormer Gilt pastry chef Nick Morgenstern has given us the inside dope on his firing last week. According to Morgenstern, chef Chris Lee and hotel management are pinning the move on each other: “They’re doing a little dance, pointing at each other, and they don’t want to give me any severance,” he tells us. Meanwhile, he’s heard that Lee’s pastry-chef buddy David Carmichael (formerly of Oceana and the Russian Tea Room) was seen checking out Morgenstern’s kitchen while the chef was out of town. But why did he get canned, anyhow?
Gilt’s Tradition-Defying Tuna WellingtonOvershadowed at first by his controversial predecessor, Paul Liebrandt, Gilt’s Christopher Lee is finally being recognized as one of the city’s most accomplished chefs. His signature dish, tuna Wellington, is characteristically inventive, intense, and well balanced. “I wanted to do a classic in a different light,” he tells us. Get his description of each painstakingly chosen ingredient by mousing over the arrows.
Back of the House
Can Paul Liebrandt Make New York Safe for Molecular Gastronomy?The details aren’t yet clear, but it seems that one way or another, Paul Liebrandt will soon be leading a restaurant in New York. (Snack asserts that it will be Montrachet, but Vogue’s Jeffrey Steingarten tells us that it will be a new venture with Drew Nieporent; the two are searching for a space.) Add to that the launch of Sam Mason’s Tailor, the buzz around Jordan Kahn’s work at Varietal, and the mainstreaming of tropes like foams, and it looks like molecular gastronomy will have another shot with New York diners.
The Other Critics
Chodorow Sure to Be Pissed Over New ‘Times’ Steakhouse ReviewThis one is bound to kill Chodorow. Bruni visits a steakhouse even more vulgar than Kobe Club and awards it one star: Robert’s Steakhouse, inside the Penthouse Executive Club. Adam Perry Lang, as most recognize, is one of the city’s top meat guys. [NYT]
Meehan affirms that Kefi’s has terrific food at a bargain. He notes that it was strangely quiet the nights he was there, but that has changed, we’re told, since the Underground Gourmet gave the restaurant four stars. [NYT]
Think of this less as a review of Gilt than an excuse for Steve Cuozzo to acknowledge Chris Lee, one of the city’s most underappreciated chefs, whose ill fortune it was to follow Paul Liebrandt and his alienating high-concept cookery. [NYP]
Going for Gold in the Gilt RestroomsFirst Le Cirque 2000 was out at the over-the-top opulent Palace Hotel and Gilt was in; then foam fiend Paul Liebrant was out, along with his wallet-busting lunches, and the more sedate Christopher Lee was in. We wondered how the bathrooms were surviving the changes (had the toilets been sold on eBay along with the bar?), so we slipped into the surprisingly shabby stairwell leading to a carpeted hallway.
Sam Mason: “It’s Like the Special Olympics”Sam Mason, the former star pastry chef at wd-50, will be launching his own restaurant and lounge, Tailor, at the beginning of March. In the weeks leading up to then, he’ll take us behind the scenes of a hot restaurant opening.
Hunger Gala to Help Feed Recently Fired ChefPaul Liebrandt, the talented young chef recently handed the mitten at Gilt, will be back in action next Wednesday, cooking at the Action Against Hunger fall gala. Liebrandt, one of the few unemployed chefs in New York with his own Website, will be prepping the main course, chef Joe Murphy of Jean Georges will be doing the dessert, and Andy Gold of the Institute of Culinary Education is handling the appetizer. Though the focus, we admit, will probably be on the honorees, Susan Sarandon and Dr. Daniel Py, and the presenters, Christy Turlington and movie director Terry George. The event will be held at Capitale, the opulent former bank space where we so recently attended the Batali roast. We expect this to be far more dignified. And far more expensive.
World Food Day Gala, November 15, Capitale
The Other Critics
No Love for Love; Another Arty Eatery; Tapas That RockIn this week’s reviews, Cuozzo draws his six-shooter on Tim Love and Ted Turner, Ryan Sutton drinks the $12 bottled water at Gilt, Andrea Strong’s blood boils over the pricey wines at Devin Tavern, and more.
Cuozzo to Tim Love and Ted Turner: “Welcome to New York: Now leave!” [NYP]
Ryan Sutton takes the temperature at Gilt now that the foam has cleared and finds that “if Liebrandt’s cuisine was hyperactive, [new chef Christopher] Lee’s is hyper-restrained.” Though the grub’s a bit cheaper, there’s still a $12 “you just got fleeced” fee on bottled water. [Bloomberg]
Julia Moskin visits the Morgan’s dining room, the latest in arty eateries, and finds the nicest restaurant salad she’s had in years. Of the beef Wellington: “Some dishes, like musicals, should never be revived.” [NYT]
Paul Adams contemplates the sublime porkiness of Momofuku Ssäm Bar [NYS]
At Palo Santo, a Pan-Latin joint on a Slope side street, $25-and-Under (not the super-stingy Meehan we’ve been loving) unearths off-the-menu items like beef-cheek asopado. [NYT]
Reeling from “Spain’s 10,” Augie taps the tapas at Boqueria and finds they rock almost as hard as Jane’s Addiction doing “Ripple.” [Augieland]
Taking up the good fight alongside Meehan, Andrea Strong visits Devin Tavern and her blood boils over the $40-plus wine list: “This is not very tavern like. Come on.” [Strong Buzz]
Ignoring the Gobbler’s advice on how not to get made, the Amateur Gourmet is exposed at Country. [Amateur Gourmet]
Katie Julian weighs in on the Tasting Room and agrees with everyone else: Some dishes work (porcini topped with a fried egg and crispy pork skin), and others don’t (raw matsutake-mushroom slices drizzled with “cheese-pumpkin juice”). [NYer]
BlackBook delves into Haute Barnyard at Flatbush Farm. [BlackBook]