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Inside the Topsy-Turvy World of New York Barbecue

Has the cold weather got you nostalgic for barbecue? We've got good and bad news, plus fallout from an ugly incident upstate. First, the good: Pitmaster Scotty Smith is now serving two weekly specials at RUB. Mondays it's full-beef short rib; Tuesdays there's spicy Asian pork belly, marinated for a week in a brew of chiles, garlic, ginger, fish sauce, and the sweet soy sauce called kecap manis. then smoked for hours before being flash-finished in a hot oven.

‘Speakeasy’ Exposes Itself

About a year ago, everyone was atwitter about the opening of modern-day "speakeasy" the Blue Owl: "You'll spot it by an image of a blue owl hanging unobtrusively over a staircase," UrbanDaddy teased. Scratch that: On Saturday, the owners erected the ginormous sign you see above. If business doesn't perk up, they could always turn the place into a Hooters. — Daniel Maurer

We Spot-Check Gordon Ramsay's Stink

We recently noted that the notoriously truculent Gordon Ramsay has finally pissed someone off with his new Gordon Ramsay at the London. His neighbors in the apartment building behind the restaurant have been complaining bitterly about the noise and smell produced by the restaurant's air exhausts, among other things. We decided to see for ourselves just how bad they really have it. Our correspondent, who shot the photograph above, was led into an apartment right across from an apparently unfiltered exhaust vent. "A steady, noticeable hum is apparent," he reports. "This becomes much louder when the windows are opened. I can definitely see how it would impact people living on that side of the building within a few floors of the vent." Then there's the smell. Shirley Lemmon, the residence manager, told our reporter that, "We know what they're having for dinner. Sometimes it's bacon, which I don't mind. I like bacon. But sometimes it's duck, and the smell is terrible." (Lemmon also claims that Ramsay's air-conditioning unit has been measured at 75 decibels. History's loudest rock concert — the Who at Leeds — peaked at 120 decibels.) Ramsay's people told us that "the hotel has addressed the problem and is working to resolve all issues." Something tells us they're not taking duck off the menu. Earlier: Gordon Ramsay Finally Pissing Someone Off

Alexander Litvinenko Food News

Daily Intel points out something that never would've occurred to us in a million years: Since former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko dined on possibly polonium-tainted sushi at what has officially been the most publicized restaurant meal of 2006, the eatery, Itsu Sushi, has been on a roll. Riding a wave of publicity, the owners plan on opening a branch in New York. "It sounds macabre and opportunistic to say that this is Itsu's moment, but they just have to make sure they manage it properly," brand consultant Graham Hales told Bloomberg. "There is a point of notoriety that Itsu has achieved that it can now build upon." Now for the "fusion" cooking jokes. New Restaurant to Test Whether There Actually Is Such a Thing as Bad Publicity [Daily Intel]

Bummer Indeed: Gray's Papaya Finally Raises Prices

When Gray's Papaya announced in September that the price of its Al Franken–endorsed frank was to go up from 95 cents, founder Nicholas A. B. Gray was keeping mum about the math. We visited the Sixth Avenue location this weekend and can now report that as of the beginning of the month, the price is $1.25. This exceeds even the 25-cent jump (from 50 cents to 75 cents) of 1999. Still more devastating, the Recession Special — two dogs and a small drink — has gone from $2.75 to $3.50. Not that we would forsake Gray's for an inferior imitator, but when we called every other listed Papaya stand in the city, we made an all-too-sobering discovery: These days you'll have to go out to Queens to get a 95-cent frank. Here's how much fourteen different dogs will set you back.

Restaurant Guru Predicts the Future, Assumes We'll Eventually Get Hungry

Michael Whiteman — the restaurateur who, with his late partner, the legendary Joe Baum, created the Rainbow Room, Windows on the World, the Hudson River Club, and a number of other historically important places — has issued his annual predictions for next year's restaurant trends, including "tropical superfruits," "ethical eating," and "wildly flavored chocolates." The list is pretty wide-ranging, but if we were handicapping all ten wrinkles, we'd say the odds are on "chef-driven steakhouses" (as Whiteman has persuasively argued), "Japanese small plates" (i.e., izakayas), and "burgers with pedigrees," like those promised by Joe Bastianich's Heritage Burger (which we announced the other day). The long shots for '07? Peruvian cooking, those spice-flavored chocolates, and the popularization of molecular gastronomy ("equivalent to a gastronomic IQ test in which typical diners are all below average"). Then again, no one ever said we were the oracle. 'Party-Colored Beets': 2007 Buzzword Preview [Eater] Remembering Joe Baum [NYM]

Zagat Fails to Number-Close Milk and Honey

Though we agree that table-scoring strategy is important (we winced when we recently overheard a woman pleading with a French gatekeeper, "I speak French, does that matter?"), Zagat's recent tips of the trade aren't exactly that useful: As the authors admit, all you really have to do to score a table these days at La Esquina is call, and their advice on clinching the perennial prize of every Moscow Mule worshipper (Milk and Honey's secret number) doesn't quite ring true. Per Google, the new number is nowhere on the Internet (owner Sasha scolds sites that post it, and he disconnected the old one 212-625-3897 not long ago), so don't waste time on the recommended Web search. Next time the digits change, simply ask sister bar Little Branch for them. In the meantime, call two, one, two, eight, one, zero, seven, six, five, four. —Daniel Maurer

Actor-Director Ajay Naidu Will Eat Sugar But Only for Uma Thurman

Ajay Naidu — known for his role as Sameer in Office Space and for parts in The West Wing and other shows — reported to the set of Griffin Dunne's new romantic comedy, The Accidental Husband, while also doing post-production work on his directorial debut, Ashes. We wondered how a man who was at the mercy of Craft services and who had recently quit sugar (making it "doubly hard to get around and be satisfied in New York") could survive for a week. Luckily, his co-star Uma Thurman convinced him to eat a cookie.