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Restaurants Not Feeling the Love Last Night; Menu Secrets Kept From Riffraff

A brutal Valentine’s Day for New York restaurants, battered by cancellations owing to the lousy weather. [WCBS] Many of the city’s best restaurants have off-the-menu specials: foie gras donuts at Telepan, Daniel Boulud’s lobster ravioli at Le Cirque, and more, all revealed here. [Restaurant Girl] Chocolate, of all things, turns out to be New York’s No. 1 specialty-food export — if you eat it on the East Coast, chances are it came from here. Food processing is “by far the most stable major manufacturing sector” in the city, and one of the last. [NYT]

New Restaurant Not Just for Lonely Mountain People

The microneighborhood just north of South Street Seaport is acquiring a distinct Italian accent, with new businesses like Barbarini Alimentari sprouting up alongside more-established ones like Acqua (the Peck Slip pioneer formerly known as Quartino). The newest arrival is Il Brigante, a rustic, brick-walled pizzeria and trattoria whose Calabrian owner, Venanzio Pasubio, last operated a restaurant in London. The room’s focal point is its wood-burning oven, which turns out thin-crusted individual pizzas that complement a menu of regional classics like gnocchi alla Sorrentina and saltimbocca alla Romana. According to Pasubio, the restaurant’s name refers to a “lonely mountain person” — perhaps what he was before meeting and marrying his American wife. — Rob Patronite and Robin Raisfeld Il Brigante, 214 Front St., nr. Beekman St.; 212-285-0222.

Another French Restaurant on Orchard Street? Sacrebleu!

Tonight Regaté opens up a few doors down from Zucco (the place with the lavatory library). It’s the third French restaurant on the block, and in fact, chef-owner Marc Jehan did the lunch menu at the neighboring Café Charbon (before that, he operated seafood distributor Early Morning). Now he’s serving bistro fare like sesame salmon, lamb shank, a few varieties of mussels, and steaks in pepper, Roquefort, or béarnaise sauces; plus dishes (e.g. mouclade) from the isle of Re, where Jehan’s wife was born (she’s a hostess; his brother Jocelyn is a partner). Jehan is still waiting for some paintings to clear customs, but for once no there’s no SLA snafus: That’s a full bar you see. —Daniel Maurer Regaté, 198 Orchard St., nr. Houston; 212-228-8555

Q: Where My Dawgs At? A: Park Slope

Costume designer Ellen Lutter met Tom Anderson, the movie electrician who would become her husband, on the set of Friday the 13th Part II. Since then, they’ve been putting in sixteen- to-eighteen-hour days and spending weeks apart on location, looking for a way out of the motion-picture industry.

Kebab Master Takes the UWS

We were tipped off to the month-old Seven’s Mediterranean Grill by Orhan Yegen, the city’s ambassador for Turkish food. As at Yegen’s East Side restaurant, Sip Sak, an array of house-ground, delicately spiced kebabs are complemented by fresh yogurt sauce and freshly baked bread. There’s also a big selection of the Turkish-Armenian spiced pizzas called lahmajoun. Chef and co-owner Aziz Seven has a history in New York kebab circles: His work at Ali Baba on East 34th Street was much admired, and his most recent New York venue, Sunnyside’s Turkish Grill, was a favorite of connoisseurs. Neither place, though, featured Seven’s oven-baked halvah, a must-have dessert of hot sesame pudding topped with toasted walnuts. Seven’s Turkish Grill, 158 W. 72nd St., nr. Columbus Ave.; 212-724-4700.

No More Nawlins at the Former Sazerac House

Last month the construction paper came off Bayard’s Ale House (no relation to Bayard’s — the new place is named after the builder of its 1826 edifice, formerly home of Sazerac House). The new owners operated establishments in Ireland before managing Noho Star and Smith & Wollensky; we don’t know what they did with the portrait of Quentin Crisp that used to hang over wine bottles, but they’ve at least retained some Sazerac chefs to keep turning out crab cakes (but not jambalaya, for better or worse). The main thing here is the twenty beers on tap, but as the menu shows, touches like a burger with horseradish sour cream and, for brunch, a bagel with salmon and citrus cream cheese indicate this may be slightly smarter than your average pub. —Daniel Maurer

Silent H Not Deaf to New York’s Pleas for Vietnamese

“I don’t miss anything about California except Mexican food and Vietnamese food,” says Vinh Nguyen, a onetime UCLA premed who fell into the hospitality business as a bar back at Santa Monica’s legendary Father’s Office. Since moving east three years ago, Nguyen has found New York’s Vietnamese options sorely lacking, especially when compared to the home cooking of his mother, an immigrant who left school at 9 to sell street food in Hue. The problem, as he sees it, is laundry-list menus that are too hit-or-miss, combined with “atmospheres” defined by single-white-napkin dispensers and dirty bathrooms.

GoldBar Finally Emerges from the Vault

You might have heard a little bit about GoldBar lately. It's the hottest thing since Death & Co. two weeks ago and until Star Lounge goes into soft launch … this weekend. We were pretty confident the décor of this Cain offshoot would be gold, and the involvement of skulls seemed likely. But until last night’s opening to "friends and family,” all details were little more than informed speculation. Now, finally, the truth can be told.

Park Slope Gastropub Serves Guinness on Tap — and as a Foam!

A few months ago, we alerted you that the “gastropub” phenomenon, deftly explored by Rob and Robin, was infiltrating Park Slope. Well, on February 21 the eagle lands in the form of Alchemy, the love child of former Lucky Strike barkeep Kevin Read and Jared King, previously a chef at Peacock Alley, Windows on the World, and Oceana. Their collection of antique jars isn’t the most impressive in town (guys, how could you let Simon Hammerstein beat you? Those things come so cheap at the Seventh Avenue flea market), but the menu, available for you here exclusively, is nothing to scoff at. Hanger steak served with bone marrow? Scallops with acorn-squash purée and Guinness froth? Cuttlefish with chorizo-oil mayonnaise? O’Connor’s across the street better step up its game — bar nuts ain’t going to cut it anymore. —Daniel Maurer Earlier: The Slope Gets Gastropub — With Garden, Perfect for Six Months From Now

You Bring the Booze, ‘Izakaya’ Brings the Grilled Ox Tongue

We like our yakitoris with Sapporo-splattered floors and burnt tinfoil walls, but the owner of this Ludlow Street newcomer ain’t having it. A designer who has also worked with Banana Republic outfitted the narrow space with dark wood paneling, mirror inlays of sakura flowers, and comfortable brown-leather bar stools. The opening menu is limited to grilled skewers like a heavily peppered black Angus beef in teriyaki sauce, capelin fish stuffed with roe, and kurobuta sausage, a baby bratwurst made from corn-fed pig and topped with mayonnaise dotted with fish roe. A dessert special consists of Jell-O stars made from osmanthus petals. Expect the chef to get still more fanciful when a full izakaya menu kicks in later this month. The restaurant has been awaiting a liquor license for eight months, and it may be a while longer before 30 types of sake are on offer; in the meantime, September Wine & Spirits is just across the street. — Daniel Maurer Yozakura Kushiyaki Bar, 168 Ludlow St., nr. Stanton St.; 212-226-2066

Carroll Gardens Imports the Scottish Lowlands

Brooklyn’s beer and bourbon connoisseurs have their headquarters: Bierkraft and LaNell’s, respectively. But where does the single-malt scotch enthusiast go to peruse lowland whiskies and talk piney finishes and peaty aromas? Starting today, Smith and Vine, the Carroll Gardens wine store owned by Patrick Watson and Michele Pravda. They’ve moved down the block, more than doubling their space and establishing one of the city’s biggest single-malt-scotch collection, with between 50 and 80 labels. Stinky, the cheese shop Watson and Pravda opened in the fall, is staying put. We’re just disappointed Smith and Vine hasn’t been renamed Drunky. Smith and Vine, 268 Smith St., nr. Degraw St., Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn; 718-243-2864. Correction, Jan. 30, 2007: Smith and Vine was originally misidentified as being in Park Slope.

Chodorow Repudiates Celebrity Chefs, Opens Fish Restaurant

It wasn’t hard to see, after Jeffrey Chodorow’s infamous dustup with Rocco DiSpirito three years ago, that he had about had it with celebrity chefs. Except, apparently, he hadn’t: Chodorow hired Todd English a year later, in hopes, futile, that he’d redeem Tuscan, successor to Tuscan Steak. Earlier this week it was revealed that English Is Italian, the third restaurant to fill that space, will also bite the dust. Finally, Chodorow’s group is determined to avoid celebrity chefs. English Is Italian closes March 17. Wild Salmon, a seafood restaurant with a Pacific Northwest vibe, is slated to open in its place the first week of April.

Happy Valley Owners to Launch Pizza Empire

What are a couple of career nightlifers to do when the economic realities of the club business are giving them grief? Joe Vicari and Salvatore Imposimato, last seen running the late Happy Valley, have, for the moment, left models and bottles behind, but they haven’t strayed far: Last Friday they opened a pizza joint on Ludlow Street, the first of five they hope to introduce in the next year and a half. (Clearly, they mean to lure Rosario’s customers with this one.) Their formula is simple: thin-crust, gas-fired brick-oven pies like their aunts and uncles from Italy made (the Grandma is made with fresh cheese, garlic, olive oil, and cherry tomatoes from the San Rosano region). In addition to a margherita, a Sicilian, and a few other varieties, the joint stocks the usual assortment of calzones, zeppolis, and garlic knots — plus (as if the arcade across the street at Max Fish weren’t enough) a Street Fighter machine in the back. Those late-night revelers too smashed to wait for their slice to come out can buy bags of fresh dough for three bucks a pop. — Daniel Maurer Pizzeria De Santo, 173 Ludlow St., nr. Houston St.; 212-533-3337.

Bánh Mì, Oh, My: New Shop Challenges the Greats

It takes chutzpa to open up a báhn mì shop around the corner from the beloved Bánh Mì Saigon (not to mention Viet-Nam Banh Mi, which is a couple of blocks down), but newcomer Paris Sandwich is clearly hoping to one-up those cramped storefront operations — the restaurant has a clean, spacious, bright-yellow interior adorned with Fodor's-worthy photos of the City of Light. Despite the chainlike setup (a “fast food” portion of the menu offers comfort dishes like a pork chop on rice and roti-style chicken accompanied by bread and dipping curry), owner Jimmy Ly’s own mother, Kim Phung, oversees a kitchen that bakes crispy, skinny baguettes for twelve types of Vietnamese sandwiches — everything from the usual pork-roll-and-liver-pâté variety to a faux-chicken version made with gluten. Ly also prides himself on the fact that his desserts — Vietnamese flan, green-tea waffles, and the like — are made on the premises and that the coffee beans were chosen only after he and his dad did some extensive research in the homeland. Sounds bon to us. — Daniel Maurer Paris Sandwich, 113 Mott St., nr. Canal St.; 212-226-7221

Death & Co.: The Players, the Menu, the Magic

There’s been a bit of intrigue about who’s behind the imposing wooden door of Death & Co., the two-week-old cocktail lounge and restaurant recently mentioned in the Times’ piece about not-so-secret secret bars. Though already slammed by a Friday-night crowd that has forced them to keep a waiting list, first-time owner David Kaplan and his partner Ravi DeRossi (who told us he was tripling the size of his other bar, the Bourgeois Pig) were perfectly willing to do roll call. No, the Reaper is not a partner: Head bartender Philip Ward of Pegu Club and Flatiron Lounge is joined by dapper drinksmiths Brian Miller (Pegu), Jim Kerns (Pegu and Freemans), and another chap who currently works at two high-end restaurants known for their cocktails (no truth to rumors that a Milk and Honey alumnus is involved). The startling lineup isn’t the only thing we came back with: We also scored the new drinks and dinner menus (the chef is the motorcycle-riding Frenchman Jacques Godin, former owner of B3). As for the cocktails, we’ll leave aside Kaplan’s claim that “it’s been 100 years since anyone made a cocktail worth a damn” and say merely that, from a newfangled old-fashioned that incorporates smoky mescal, agave nectar, and a flamed orange peel to a hot buttered rum made from butter that’s whipped and spiced in-house, their twists on the classics are worth a hot double damn. —Daniel Maurer Death & Co., 433 E. 6th St., nr. First Ave.; 212-388-0882 Cocktail Menu Dinner Menu

Another MUD Truck Sticks It to the Man

The MUD Truck is no longer, as its Website claims, the “anti-establishment coffee machine of NYC’s East Village.” A similar machine will now be fomenting rebellion (in the form of unexceptional coffee) in the West Village, by Seventh Avenue and West 4th Street. Are there plans to roll out more trucks, mandated to shock the bourgeoisie in other parts of town? “We would love to expand into other neighborhoods,” MUD co-owner Nina Beerott tells us. “This our first attempt.” The expansion, she notes, might not happen right away. Hey, revolutions don’t happen overnight.

Gray Kunz Finds a Sweet New Business Model

Gray Kunz’s lavish dining space Grayz — at one time thought aborted — is back on again, this press release trumpets. Set in the former Rockefeller mansion, which was previously occupied by Aquavit, Grayz will be devoted to corporate catering and private dining events, but there will also be a big lounge area where the chef will be serving cocktails and “finger foods.” “The layout of the space on two different levels inspired me,” Kunz tells us. “When I thought about midtown, I realized there were too few private party spaces and even fewer great cocktail lounges.” Restaurant consultant Michael Whiteman sees a more practical advantage. “Private catering is a lot more profitable,” he tells us. “You can charge more per person than you would in a restaurant, and there’s very little waste because you know just how many people are coming.” And those finger foods? “They sell a higher proportion of alcohol, and they are a lot easier to plate and prepare than high-end composed dishes.”

You Bring the Booze; Micro Sushi Joint Brings the Sexy

Note to new sushi joints: Why not skip the cookie-cutter blonde-wood stuff and get hyphy with it, like the two-week-old Genji? Chef Miji, who rolled rice in Tokyo for 30 years, can now be found wiggling to dreamy, upbeat J-pop behind the three-seat bar of his new restaurant, which is situated on the upwardly mobile, far-east stretch of 14th Street. Miji’s offering up heaping servings of sweet, chilled uni from California; Botan, a jumbo Japanese shrimp that’s split into a slithery sashimi tail and a salty tempura head; and a delicate mash of rock shrimp, salmon, and cod paste. For those disinclined to try the seafood, there’s also yakitori skewers and soba and udon soups. Genji’s four-month struggle for a wine and sake license isn’t resolved yet, so BYO. —Daniel Maurer Genji Sushi, 424-A E. 14th St. at First Ave.; 212-388-1127

The LES Slips a New Bar by the SLA

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a Lower Eastpacking District bar opening with full liquor license! Naked Earth coffee-shop owner Shuki Kazaz has teamed up with first-timer Stephen Schuler to open a “classy dive” with a fifties pinup-theme in the diminutive space that once housed Lulu’s Gourmet Coffee. Turns out the owner of Lulu’s had a liquor license up his sleeve, and the new proprietors are using it to prepare variations on classic cocktails, as well as a “bubblegum martini” created by a bartender at Schiller’s (rest assured, the concoction doesn’t contain Juicy Fruit). Delivery from Schiller’s is also available. So why can’t you order from the neighboring Tides? “Pinups and seafood don’t really mix,” Schuler says. —Daniel Maurer Nurse Bettie, 106 Norfolk St., nr. Delancey St.; 917-434-9072. Opens fully January 18.

East Village, Get Ready for ‘Pan-Asian/New American’

Anyone who remembers short-lived Secretes might have doubts as to whether high-minded global fusion can survive in the Tompkins Square Park vicinity. Nevertheless, last week Hong Kong–trained Kevin Chan, most recently of Cafe Lika and Yaffa Cafe, opened what's described as a Pan-Asian/New American joint in the space that was formerly Tenth Street Lounge. The menu is an international mélange of $20-and-under dishes (kalbi beef ribs in plum sauce, penne with Shanghai vegetables, roast duck, paella, eel avocado salad, etc.), hence the name: Kaleidoscope. In time there will also be colorful projections on the walls and — knock on wood — beer, Korean plum wine, and sake. —Daniel Maurer Kaleidoscope, 212 E. 10th St., nr. Second Ave.; 212-420-8822.