‘Times’ Releases Ethnic Grocery List; Porter House Looking for aAstoria: McLoughlin’s on Broadway at 31st Street is featuring the German lager Spaten through February. [Joey in Astoria]
Chelsea: Morimoto’s $24.07 prix fixe lunch deal is more filling and generous than you might expect. [Bottomless Dish/Citysearch]
Clinton Hill: If you’re too “bored by the fresh produce, too cold/lazy to trek to Fairway” to cook for yourself in winter like this blogger, here are some of the nabe’s good takeout options, including Luz and Bombay Masala. [Clinton Hill Blog]
Columbus Circle: Porter House New York is looking for a new wine director now that veteran in the biz Beth Von Benz has moved on to new projects. [Grub Street]
Lower East Side: This list of ethnic groceries includes Pueblo Deli at 129-135 Ridge Street where you’ll find “brittle, tasteless cassabe (a yuca bread Dominicans find neither brittle nor tasteless)” but also “‘merengue’ flavored Country Club soda, Induveca salami, Bay Rum Constanza antiseptic, and candles dedicated to saints or those who may become them.” [NYT via Serious Eats]
Times Square: Cafe Edison has replaced its peachy-pink paint job with a nice soft tan color, and it’s “swell.” [Lost City]
Upper East Side: Bardolino at 78th Street and Second Avenue suffered interior and exterior damage caused by a fire last week, but they’ll reopen this weekend. [Upper East Side Informer]
Restaurant Titans Descend on Primehouse for a NightHere’s the thing about restaurateurs: They don’t really care about who has the best ramen in the East Village. They’re not really that interested in where Paul Liebrandt’s restaurant will be, and they find avant-garde desserts about as compelling as algebra. But when Steve Hanson opens a restaurant? That, that is something they’re interested in. The fine art of making money via replicable concept restaurants is one at which Hanson is an acknowledged master, and that helps to explain why the main room at Primehouse last Thursday looked like a who’s who of big-time restaurateurs.
The Toilet at Ninja: Toto-ly Awesome!
Rancho Jubilee’s restrooms aren’t the only cave-themed ones. There are La Caverna’s, for instance. But for swankier digs, it’s necessary to visit Ninja. The theme restaurant’s menu is sometimes unsuccessfully derivative — the black cod doesn’t measure up to Nobu’s a few doors down — but when we discovered they’ve recently installed an automatic Toto toilet in the handicap WC, we didn’t give two shits that Morimoto did it first. These actually work!
The New York Diet
Director Arden Wohl Only Eats Fish Twice a WeekLast fall during Fashion Week, rising director and headwear-loving “alternasocialite” Arden Wohl was walking the runway for Imitation of Christ. This time around, she’s been holed up in pre-production for her movie starring Leelee Sobieski (the narrator of her student film Coven) which she’ll shoot later this month in Long Island City. “It’s about New York women, and life. It’s about dreams,” she breathlessly told us before running to a premiere party where she slowed down for just one second to let us photograph her catching a drink. What else did this confessed leather-wearing pescatarian eat this week?
Meatopia V: Grilled Gore and Guts The response to our Meatopia V contest has been overwhelming. Grub Street is populated by committed carnivores who have filled our meat cooler with brilliant ideas for next year’s edible animal gala. We’ll highlight some of the best throughout the day and announce the winners tomorrow. (Entry deadline is 6 p.m. today.) Here are three of our favorites.
Pearl’s Oyster Bar Sues Ed’s Lobster Bar; Ducasse Taking OverThe owner of Pearl Oyster Bar sues the owner of Ed’s Lobster Bar for intellectual-property theft, accusing her former sous-chef of having stolen everything from the paint job to the Caesar salad dressing. [NYT]
Alain Ducasse has taken over Brasserie LCB and is looking to convert it into a bistro along the lines of Benoit, his casual place in Paris. [NYT]
It might not be such a good idea to hire a Top Chef. [NYO]
Time to Fill Out Our James Beard BracketsThe nominations for the James Beard Foundation Awards, the Oscars of the restaurant industry, will be announced Monday morning. We’ll report on that as it happens, but for now, here are picks for the main categories from Adam Platt, Rob Patronite and Robin Raisfeld, and Josh Ozersky. Our choices are admittedly New York–centric (the awards go to restaurants across the country), but the ceremony is held here, and the city always looms large in the proceedings.
Back of the House
The Great Chef CrisisRecently, apropos nothing much, a prominent young chef we were chatting with launched into a tirade about the restaurant world’s “labor problem.” “None of us can get enough good cooks!” he exclaimed, by way of explanation. Between 2000 and 2006, only a handful of high-end restaurants — Lespinasse, Meigas, Quilty’s — have closed, and there has been an avalanche of major openings: Robuchon, Ramsay, Per Se, Masa, Craft, Del Posto, Morimoto, A Voce, the Modern, Lever House, Buddakan, Cafe Gray, Alto — the list goes on and on. “And it’s not just the massive boom of restaurants,” Adam Platt tells us. “They also have to be either bigger, or chefs have to open multiple places, so that they can enjoy the economies of scale they need to compete.”
Ask a Waiter
Your Secrets Are Safe With Katarina ‘the Shadow’ Auster of Morimoto
After graduating from Juilliard, Katarina Auster started a pop-rock band called Majorette that was signed to Sony. Instead of blowing her advance, she took a job as a server at Morimoto. Her boss there, music booker turned restaurateur Stephen Starr, tells her to thank him when she gets a Grammy; before that happens and she finally leaves, we thought we’d ask her what it’s like playing “shadow” in the vicinity of misbehaving celebrities, awful blind dates, mysterious fish thefts, and the Iron Chef’s fugu theatrics.
Morimoto’s TOTO Toilets: The Iron Chef Would Be Flush With EmbarrassmentWhen Gridskipper bestowed the honor of Best Toilet of 2006 on Morimoto’s newfangled flushers, the curmudgeon in us wondered, Do all the bells and whistles stand up to the porcelain palaces of yore? Rest assured, as soon as we entered Pritzker-winning architect Tadao Ando’s loos, we made a discovery that was as dizzying as a swirling-cyclone rim wash.
In the Magazine
Where to Eat 2007: The Lazy Man’s GuideWhere to Eat 2007, Adam Platt’s panoramic look at the New York restaurant scene, is a lot to digest (ahem) — thousands of words on the city’s best foods, high and low, from the big-box extravaganzas that constitute “Vegas on the Hudson” to the fetishized beef slabs that are “Designer Steaks.” As much as we enjoyed the essays, though, it’s the blurby lists, of course, that we went to first. Here are some highlights.
50K Spent on Fish at Uniqlo Store Opening?Sure, you can always pay $10,000 for AM to D.J. your store opening (that’s what a publicist who worked with him told us he pulled), but for true atmosphere, why not hire an Iron Chef to put on a promotional robe and cut up toro all night? We’re not sure how many $99.99 cashmere sweaters the new Uniqlo outpost will have to sell to make back Morimoto’s appearance fee, but we can tell you this much: While sipping sake from wooden Uniqlo boxes, we heard secondhand that one of the party’s organizers said the fish cost $50,000. (Morimoto’s people said the number was off but wouldn’t say by how much, or whether it included the charge for his actual appearance.) Whatever the store paid, it was worth seeing Morimoto wielding his sword (possibly the $30,000 one?) and mugging for the Japanese girls who must’ve popped off 100 photos of him while perched at his elbow. The Iron man’s sous-chef also hammed it up: When one attendee demanded the very last cut of toro, the chef grinned facetiously and, instead of rolling up rice, served it to him on a ball of wasabi.
Update: A publicist for Uniqlo informs us that the fish, a specially imported, 100-pound whole loin of bluefin tuna, only cost $4,000, though one ordering an equal amount of the fish from a sushi restaurant might spend $25,000. She would not say whether Morimoto’s appearance fee accounted for the remainder of the $50,000, if that figure was accurate at all.
Flay to Battle Morimoto in Atlantic CitySaturday’s “Women in Wine” event at the Borgata in Atlantic City would be worth going to just for the wine (23 female vintners from around the country) and the chefs (the Borgata’s resident all-star team, featuring Bobby Flay, Michael Mina, Wolfgang Puck, Susanna Foo, and in-house celebrity chef Luke Palladino). But the real draw is something you’ll never see on television: two of the Food Network’s Iron Chefs, Flay and Masaharu Morimoto, going head to head to see whose cuisine reigns supreme. (Normally, Iron Chefs only compete against guest challengers.) The event, which will cost $195 to attend, benefits Living Beyond Breast Cancer and the Atlantic County Women’s Center in New Jersey. Tickets can be purchased here or by calling 866-900-4849.
Women in Wine, Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, Atlantic City, N.J.
Saturday, November 11
More Than Just a Taste of New York
Last night’s A Taste of New York, a major culinary gala presented by New York Magazine at the Puck Building and benefiting City Harvest, was an orgy of food and mirth. Over 30 of the city’s best restaurants, from Alain Ducasse to wd-50, set up tables with a signature dish, and a boisterous crowd of well-heeled foodies circulated around, trying the food and chatting up the chefs.
The Annotated Dish
An Illustrated Guide to Morimoto’s Toro TartareWelcome to the Annotated Dish, where the creator of a buzzed-about New York entrée walks you through its essential components. Simply scroll over the arrows on the image to get quotes from the chef. (We’ve got Oompa-Loompas working around the clock on a taste component, but no promises.) Generally, we’ll be choosing a dish from a new or of-the-moment restaurant, with a special eye to the creations of important or rising chefs. Today, “Iron Chef” Masaharu Morimoto breaks down the toro tartare served at his eponymous West Side restaurant. A paragon of Japanese simplicity, the dish is served at lunch and dinner.
The Other Critics
The Economics of Big-Box Dining
Regina Schrambling’s long L.A. Times feature on New York big-box restaurants might be a must-read for observers of the New York dining scene. Although better known as her brilliantly arch and caustic blog Gastropoda, Schrambling is a rock-solid food reporter when not in harridan mode, and she helps get to the bottom of a basic question. How, in a city where even small spaces are astronomically expensive, can it pay to open a restaurant the size of a bus terminal? The answer is volume, but the how and why of the way restaurants like Morimoto, Buddakan, and the Hawaiian Tropic Zone operate might not be immediately apparent to readers who don’t know a lot about the restaurant business.
‘Izakaya’ Boom Hits Chelsea; Japanese Chains Plant Flags Uptown
If you still don’t know what an izakaya is (or haven’t lately been to St. Marks Place, where most of them are clustered), enlighten yourself at Izakaya Ten, the latest iteration of the space that was the French-Korean D’or Ahn, and then, for a nanosecond, the sushi restaurant Anzu. Owner Lannie Ahn has hired a veteran of Morimoto and Nobu to supplement the raw fish with a selection of small plates of the home-style Japanese fare one finds in a sake bar or pub — not your basic mozzarella sticks or buffalo wings but more exotic tidbits like natto omelettes, ginger pork belly, pan-seared rice balls, and the ever-popular chicken-meatball skewer.
Back of the House
City Fears Unflaky Pie Crusts, Turns to Whoppers and Whiskey• The city bans trans fats from restaurants, despite the fact that nobody minds the stuff, the industry is against the regulations, and New Yorkers stand to lose their flaky pie crusts. (NYT)
• McDonald’s, meanwhile, donates $2 million to childhood-obesity research. (Nation’s Restaurant News)
• And hackers bust open Burger King’s free Whopper offer. (A Hamburger Today)
• More women are hitting the hard stuff. (NYDN)
• In a champagne-and-caviar matchup, fired Gilt chef Paul Liebrandt will consult for Stephen Starr, the mogul behind Buddakan and Morimoto. (Snack)
Back of the House
Top Chefs Convene in New York, Party
We learned a lot hanging out at StarChefs.com Congress. The conference, which convened some of the most famous cooks from the four corners of the earth on Tuesday and Wednesday, cost an arm and a leg to get into — $850 for a two-day “industry pass” — but it was worth it.
‘Iron Chef’ Fans Drive Morimoto MenuIron Chef Morimoto, with his stern visage and poetic imagination, is utterly compelling, as television owners from Kyoto to Kentucky now know. But how closely does the menu of his vast West Side restaurant, Morimoto, hew to his work on the small screen? Sometimes, rather closely.