New Orleans, New York: They both start with the word "new." But recently, there seems to an even greater affinity between the cities. Earlier this week, we mentioned the (now booked) Southern Foodways Alliance party happening Thursday night at 5 Ninth, where N.O. chefs will team up with our own Zak Pelaccio for a free-that's-right-free culinary blowout. Last night, meanwhile, Brooklyn welcomed a new Louisiana-themed restaurant, NoNO Kitchen, to Park Slope. Greg Tatis, a veteran of Paul Prudhomme's kitchen, opened the place just blocks down from the N.O.-themed Two Boots on Seventh Avenue — close enough for the untethered tots that crowd the latter to wander on down and check out former before their parents even look up from their bloody Marys. But we digress. NoNo will serve a limited menu until Monday, when they roll out the gumbo, jambalaya, étouffée, and other bayou standards.
NoNO Kitchen, 293 Seventh Ave., nr. 7th St.; 718-369-8348
When we heard that Periyali, the much-admired Flatiron Greek restaurant, was closing for a six-week renovation, we wondered if the food would be changing too. After all, the restaurant may have been the final word in high Greek cooking back in the Clinton era, but a wave of superb Greek restaurants including Thalassa, Estiatorio Milos, Molyvos, Onera, and Dona have opened in the intervening years. Would Periyali risk tarnishing their superb menu to adjust? The place reopened this week with new mirrors, a marble bar, and a big mural of Greece, all apparently in hopes of acquiring a younger, hipper crowd. But happily, Periyali is still serving the same very fine, if familiar, moussaka, grilled salmon, grilled lamb chops, and other classics foods which, as Rob and Robin point out, "can still surprise and beguile with their cultivated polish," even if the restaurant lacks the up-to-the-minute sex appeal of some of the newer places. We honor Jim Botsacos's head-on prawns with hot pepper at Molyvos and Michael Psilakis's sheep's-milk dumplings with spicy lamb sausage and dandelion greens at Onera. But for a simple rabbit stew, we'll first visit Periyali — no matter what the bar is made of.
It's been rough for Queens barbecue enthusiasts. Since "English Bob" Pearson's last outpost went under last year, there haven't been any smoked meats worth eating there. But that changed this week, thanks to "Big Lou" Elrose, a six-foot-four former police officer who made his bones assisting Daisy May's chef Adam Perry Lang in barbecue competition. Elrose has just launched Big Lou's Breakfast and BBQ, a lunch wagon in Ozone Park open weekdays from 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. On the circuit, Big Lou is known for prepping egg-and-bacon breakfasts for everyone. But his barbecue is the real draw here: pulled pork, chopped brisket, and pulled chicken, all slow-smoked over mild fruitwoods like apple and cherry, and served, with his original sauce, on soft but substantial Portuguese rolls from nearby Rosa Bakery. Add in a dollop of his homemade coleslaw and you have a sandwich worth driving to Ozone Park for.
Big Lou's Breakfast and BBQ, Rockaway Blvd. at 105th St.
Not that we remember ever eating there who does? but New York has never seemed the same without the Russian Tea Room, which closed in 2002. (A lone dividend: Former RTR chef Muhammed Rahman went on to launch his famous midtown lunch cart, Kwik Meal.) Now, however, Restaurant Girl reports that the Tea Room will reopen in late October or early November. They're taking on former Biltmore Room chef Gary Robins but losing the chandeliers. The new Russian Tea Room will be a lot like the old one, in spirit anyway, with 40 vodkas (some making their New York debut) and four sommeliers. Now if only they could get Rahman back!
Hell's Kitchen's Film Center Cafe, heretofore a coffee-and-wraps joint plastered with movie posters, has just gotten one of the fall's most dramatic, least expected renovations, at a cost of $2 million. (Tonight is the grand reopening.) The cheesy film memorabilia is all gone; expensive-looking Art Deco touches now define the room. The café's owners, a deep-pocketed group led by Robert and Enrico Malta, have also upgraded the cuisine. New chef Joseph Cacace, formerly of JUdson Grill and Gramercy Tavern, has created a menu of elevated comfort food (pork chops marinated in mustard and sage, wild-mushroom risotto with white-truffle oil), and there will be twenty wines available by the glass. Not that the Film Center has completely abandoned its roots: They've also hired a D.J., a restaurant feature somewhere on par with old movie posters.
Brooklyn's Ditmas Park, known primarily for its immense Victorian houses, may never be as hip as Red Hook. But, in a sea change reminiscent of Red Hook's Van Brunt Street, a cluster of new food ventures are springing up there along Courtelyou Road. The strip began its upswing last year with Picket Fence, whose kitchen we've praised as "disarmingly daring." This past summer, the Farm on Adderley, an equally ambitious restaurant with a first-class bar, opened. (They just began serving inventive brunch items on Sundays.)
Now comes word that on November 1, TB Ackerson Fine Wine Merchant will open a store specializing in organic and biodynamic wines at 1205 Cortelyou Road and that Park Slope candy shop–ice-cream parlor Rapper's Delight will move to Ditmas Park. There's no equivalent of Sunny's or Fairway in the neighborhood, but who's to say what the next year might bring?
Six or so months ago, we heard about a Queens restaurant calling itself the "Cheesesteak Factory" that naturally had been sued by the Cheesecake Factory. We didn't give it another thought until one day recently, when we were walking dejectedly to Katz's for a stukel pick-me-up and noticed another place called the Cheesesteak Factory, open and doing business on the same block for all the honest world to see. Soon enough, our day brightened.
Given the almost cultlike following of Woodside Thai shrine Zabb, the opening of its Manhattan branch hasn't inspired the kind of celebration one might expect. The Roosevelt Avenue location became a beacon thanks to the food's intense flavors and incendiary spicing. The food is almost as good, if not quite so radioactive, at the East Village outpost. So why aren't more people eating there?
Fact: Chinatown Brasserie, an out-and-out Chinese restaurant without, happily, even a hint of French fusion, opened in August and has done a fairly brisk business ever since.
Fact: Mainland, one of Chinatown Brasserie's primary rivals in the high-end-Chinese sweepstakes, announced last week that they're morphing into ...Ollie's Brasserie.
In theory, a chophouse is a pretty simple place. You go there to eat chops, pork, and otherwise. But such isn't the case at 7 Square, the "American chophouse" from Venezuelan-born, Tokyo-based restaurateur Alvaro Perez. The chef, Lespinasse alum Shane McBride, is known for his ornate, rarefied cookery and standards that are "a little more modern."
This week in the magazine, Rob and Robin track two openings: the wildly successful Hollywood frozen-yogurt chain Pinkberry, and Goblin Market, a new Soho eatery named after lascivious young men in a poem by Christina Rossetti. Pinkberry, they report, is "the talk of the L.A. food blogs." We tracked down a few of those blogs.