Last week, Chang Han, the bearded, ponytailed bon vivant behind Emo's uptown, brought his longtime chef Won Choi's Korean home cooking to his new spot, Gama, on St. Marks Place. He's given the former home of San Marcos a Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance makeover with decorations that include a suspended '75 Kawasaki, his mother's ceremonial Korean dresses, lotus etchings donated by a monk, his wife's pottery, and his kids' drawings. (Chang lives across the street and also owns the St. Marks Market.) The standouts on the bargain-priced 76-item menu are Choi's signature simmered cod in soy-and-garlic sauce and a light, spicy casserole that overflows with seastuffs (the meat version offers ham, pork belly, and hot dogs). In the front room, bargoers can enjoy Japanese sakes and Korean sojus as well as an herbal wine that promises 100 years of life to whoever imbibes it.
Gama, 12 St. Marks Pl., nr. Third Ave.; 212-475-7101. Daniel Maurer
We recently happened on Milk 'N Honey NYC, a brand-new — not to mention clean, shiny, and completely kosher — midtown lunchery. Panini, sushi, pizza, and calzone: Is there any food you can't find in a kosher restaurant these days? We just wrote about New York's "Bar-B-Jew" phenomenon; now we're wondering why none of those guys are keeping it kashruth. As far as we know, there's no technical prohibition against smoking meat in Judaic law, and the Jewish people's fondness for beef brisket is well established. (Last year Erica Marcus wrote a piece in Newsday on that very subject; unfortunately, it's not available online.) Meanwhile, a reader wrote in to remind us of a Bar-B-Jew we neglected to mention — Ben Grossman, of the Smoke Joint in Brooklyn. There are so many of these fellas we can't even keep up! The question is, which one of them is ready to take the kosher challenge?
Milk 'N Honey NYC, 22 W. 45th St., nr. Fifth Ave.; 212-764-4400.Earlier:Barbecue: The New Kosher Food? [Grub Street]
Liquor licenses are at such a premium in the Lower Eastpacking District that one beer-bar owner told us that a batty community-board member vowed she wouldn't recommend him for one until the Iraq war came to an end. So when we heard that Darin (cousin of Steve) Rubell of Mercadito and Joshua Boyd of Plan B were opening GalleryBar with all the liquid fixings, we were a little doubtful. Rubell concedes that the upstairs art space, which opens December 15 featuring the work of painter Kevin Berlin, comes with a backstory that might spark envy among his embattled neighbors (the Orchard, say). To hear Rubell tell it, after evicting 13 Little Devils, their "very smart" landlord transferred the liquor license to a corporation and then sold it, license included, to Rubell and Boyd. Et voila: A rustic basement lounge where you'll be able to quaff booze and order paninis provided by Bruschetteria.
— Daniel Maurer
Gordon Ramsay, the famously testy British gastro-deity and Hell's Kitchen TV star, is trying to play nice as the opening of his new restaurant in Manhattan, London NYC, approaches. (The first meals will be served November 17.) The only problem is that Ramsay's wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command still cut through. A piece in the Independent quotes Ramsay as having told an American interviewer, "I've already been warned. The moment I touch down at the airport I get put in my straitjacket and I go straight to the management skills manual to learn how to ask a kitchen porter to wash out a copper pan for me."
Ramsay turns nice guy in bid to win over New Yorkers [Independent]
Kevin Read, former barkeep at Lucky Strike, has given a post-Victorian makeover to a Park Slope hardware store, trucking in a 100-year-old bar, and will soon open Alchemy, a bar-restaurant inspired by his time in the townhouse gastropubs of Hempstead, London. Chef Jared King — formerly of Windows on the World, Oceana, and most recently, Peacock Alley — will cook $12 to $25 entrées of roasted chicken, ravioli, seasonal stews, and a hangar steak in red-wine reduction, plus more adventurous specials made with game and organ meat. Ingredients will be largely local, organic, and free-range, and come spring the patrons will be free-range too: There's a garden in the back.
Alchemy, 56 Fifth Ave., nr. Bergen St.; Park Slope, Brooklyn— Daniel Maurer
Our first, tentative outing to the newly reborn Russian Tea Room (those gilded Phoenix bas-reliefs on the walls now take on a whole new meaning) revealed the following:
• Less than a quarter-capacity crowd at 9 p.m. on Saturday night.
• Straight-off-the-boat willowy model types manning the front of the house.
• A surprising preponderance of actual Russians, probably on their way to or from buying up every piece of art there is at Sotheby's.
• And, last but not least, this nugget of intel: Only the restaurant's relatively plain, low-ceilinged ground floor is actually open for business. The infinitely more spectacular halls on upper floors are still in need of some touching-up; as the hostess put it, "One or two eggs are still unlit on the Faberge tree … But the crystal bear is already loaded with fish. We'll just give them a couple more weeks to acclimate." Free of context, this sounds like a phrase from an absinthe nightmare. In the Tea Room's case, however, it's business as usual.
— Michael IdovFirst Look Inside the Russian Tea Room
When we spoke to Paul Sevigny about his soon-to-open hipsteraunt (the second coming of onetime West Village speakeasy the Beatrice Inn), he at first told us "it's kind of top secret." (Doorman Angelo certainly wasn't letting us in on the secret when we tried to crash Courtney Love's party there on Halloween night.) But after throwing down with the beautiful people at actor-jeweler Waris Ahluwalia's birthday bash last weekend, we can now let you in on the details of what looks to be the downtown set's answer to the revival of Waverly Inn.
Good news for Bao 111 fans: Chef Michael Bao Huynh is opening Mai House, a much bigger, more ambitious restaurant, backed by the Myriad Restaurants Group (Nobu, Tribeca Grill, et al). He'll be cooking straight-up Vietnamese food, but whatever it lacks in fusion flash, we're betting will be made up for by the guy's way with flavor. And the 4,500-square-foot, 120-seat space sounds like it'll be lovely, with "hand-carved wood fixtures from Vietnam, crushed sunflower-seed walls, Zebrawood banquettes, a mother-of-pearl and bamboo butcher-block bar and Vietnamese lotus flower light fixtures," according to the Myriad Group. It should open at the end of the month.
186 Franklin St., nr. Greenwich St.; 212-431-0606.
We've been hearing for a couple of weeks now that the Russian Tea Room is about to reopen in its old location. (Read Gael Greene's account of the institution here.) Outside of a few rumors and a U2-like spy photo on Eater, there hasn't been much info on what to expect from the new iteration. But in a glasnostlike gesture, the restaurant has thrown open its doors to Grub Street and our cameras.
When Laurent Tourondel opened BLT Steak — the flagship of his burgeoning BLT empire — food snobs took one look at the glorified meat-and-potatoes menu and winced. What's a fine French chef doing serving stacks of onion rings and hunks of unadulterated USDA Prime? Giving the people what they want, bien sur. And Tourondel, who made his name at the French seafood specialist Cello, has built a booming industry doing just that, with variations on a crowd-pleasing theme at BLT Fish, BLT Prime, and as of yesterday's surreptitious opening, BLT Burger.
Slavering outer-borough Chowhounders have recently been storming the unmarked gates of Carroll Gardens's newest brick-oven pizzeria, a rustic establishment being compared on that contentious, cultlike Website to such sacred pizza cows as Di Fara's. It's not only the posters who've evoked that mythic name — chef-owner Mark Iacono has as well. "My favorite pizza is Di Fara," says Iacono, who looks a little like a Pope of Greenwich Village–era Eric Roberts. "The recipe is pretty much the same. Difference is, mine is made in a brick oven." His pie is also imbued with a feisty smokiness, courtesy of a wood fire, and has a flavorful crust that's comparatively soft and puffy, closer to classic coal-oven practitioners like Totonno's and Grimaldi's than Di Fara's. "I call it old-school-Brooklyn style," he says. "That's what I'm going for."
The recent closing of Bivio, the laid-back West Village Italian spot, seemed that much more unjust with all the gaudy new clubs opening in the area. But now comes word that Bivio and Bottino impresario Danny Emerman and Glass owner Anthony Briatico are opening a new wine bar — confusingly, or perhaps conveniently, named Bovino. Construction starts in two weeks at 306 West 13th Street, a block and a half from the old Bivio space. This will be a simple wine bar, with Bottino chef Alessandro Prosperi overseeing a menu of cold antipasti and salumi as well as a selection of Italian, Spanish, and Argentine wines. They expect to open at the end of this year or the beginning of next.
It's no great hardship living in Tribeca and points south, but the quality of life just inched up even further thanks to a new high-end Japanese delivery service, Rosanjin, which debuted this month (call 212-346-7999). In a novel marketing twist, the service presages a restaurant set to open at 141 Duane Street in a few weeks, and the food is in fact excellent. The Kyoto-style dishes are very good — notably a sushi roll wrapped in a diaphanous egg crêpe, and a standout piece of braised freshwater eel. And the vessels, made from folded oribe paper and Japanese cedar, are a cut above. The sales patter on the Website, though, is a little over the top:
"Rosanjin is a Japanese food service that encompasses all that is beautiful and pristine about Japanese cuisine … Our Authentic menu caters to those who desire a traditional Japanese dining experience that is served in ceremonial splendor … Rosanjin delivers each meal wrapped like a gift to reflect the beauty of the food. It is a wonder to taste and see."
Okay, Rosanjin, we get it! We're peeling off 100 dollar bills now. But even Tribeca millionaires don't want to be leaned on that hard.
Rosanjin, 151 Duane St., nr. W. Broadway, 212-346-7999.
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.
With the closings of Caffe Bondi and Bussola (and with the exception of Don Pintabona's Dani and some venerable outer-borough focaccerias), Sicilian food continues to be woefully underrepresented even in this Italian-food-crazed city. That's one reason we were happy to hear about Cacio e Vino, a new "wine bar, pizza, and Sicilian spuntino" opening this week in the former East Village location of A Salt & Battery. The other, of course, is the installation of a wood-burning pizza oven, to be manned by ex-Mezzogiorno pizza chef Alessandro Ancona, who's named one of the menu's 27 pies after his Sicilian hometown. The Castellammare del Golfo features anchovies, shrimp, ricotta, capers, oregano, and the Sicilian herb mixture called ammogghiu — not a topping you're likely to find at your neighborhood slice joint. That oven will also be put to use for flatbreads called schiacciate, and stuffed calzones called farciti. Beyond the wide world of baked dough, Cacio e Vino honors its Sicilian roots with regional specialties like caponatina, stuffed sardines, and cassata, the love-or-hate-it fruitcake of Italy.
Cacio e Vino, 80 Second Ave., nr. 4th St.; 212-228-3269.
— Rob Patronite and Robin Raisfeld
It's always a sad day for Francophiles and nostalgists when yet another beloved old-school French restaurant shutters its doors, but in the case of Provence — which served its last bowl of bouillabaisse on Saturday — it could be a lot worse.
Vicki Freeman and Marc Meyer, the owners of Cookshop and Five Points, have taken over the space with plans to completely gut the kitchen, redo the dining room, put in a raw bar, and reopen by January as — guess what? — a nice French restaurant called Provence.
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!