Fiamma got a fair amount of heat last week, from Grub Street and other food sites, about a reduced menu. But B.R. Guest which did not respond to Grub Street’s requests for comments on the menu until yesterday vehemently disagrees. “No one had updated the Website,” says owner Steve Hanson. “They just got lazy.” We’d hate to be in their shoes now! Fiamma chef Fabio Trabocchi, meanwhile, explains that the confusion also lay in the fact that the Website wasn’t showing his daily specials or updating the tasting menu. “If you came in and ordered here, it’s the same amount of selections; you can choose from any part of the menu. It’s the same amount of dishes, just listed in a different way,” Trabocchi says. And those luxe ingredients we thought were missing from the menu? Not so, says Trabocchi. “We are using foie gras, truffles, Wagyu beef, ossabaw pig, and Grimaud Farm duck.” (The langoustines, which we also mentioned as having gone missing, are out of season, Trabocchi explains.) Unfortunately for Fiamma, even a full menu can't sate complaining diners like Nick Paumgarten of The New Yorker.
Earlier: Fiamma’s Menu a Fraction of Its Former Self
Sometimes you read an interview and immediately you wish you were friends with the subject. Such is the case with Metromix’s sit-down with Ron Ciavolino, the head of wine studies at the Institute of Culinary Education, and a man who speaks his mind. Our favorite quotes:
• On modern bartenders: “Most bartenders feel like they’re giving away something for nothing if they’re charming. I want schmaltz. There’s no schmaltz.”
• On the downtown wine scene: “You go to those wine bars in Soho, they’re more bowling alleys — there’s no romance. Everybody’s 12 years old.”
• What happens when a bartender allows ice to melt in a shaker: “You hemorrhage through all of your apertures.”
Days of Wine and Poses [Metromix NY]
Astoria: Sweet shop Oleput is now offering a lot more savories in the form of small plates and panini. [Joey in Astoria]
Clinton Hill: Rustik Tavern has a warm interior, but the menu doesn’t sound too rustic: chili, wings, nachos, though for the last one the blogger liked "that it’s cheese sauce rather than real cheese." [Clinton Hill Blog]
Dumbo: Food writers including Kara Zuaro (I Like Food, Food Tastes Good), Phoebe Damrosch (Service Included) and David Wondrich (Imbibe) and Edible Brooklyn’s Gabrielle Langholtz will talk about — what else? — eating, at Powerhouse Arena next Tuesday. [A Brooklyn Life]
East Village: Belgian Room has been closed for letting minors booze on Lambic. [Down by the Hipster]
Soho: Vosges bacon chocolate now comes in the shape of flying pigs. But they can’t escape. [Snack]
Upper East Side: Park Avenue Winter will turn into spring on March 26, just in time for Easter. [Zagat]
We’re told that Fiamma has sprung into action, using all the powers of the B.R. Guest machine, to try to ferret out what went so catastrophically wrong with Nick Paumgarten’s meal. “We are all disappointed in the service. We take this very seriously and have everyone looking into the problems,” B.R. Guest chieftain Steve Hanson tells us. But all the negative attention Fiamma has gotten over the last day or so obscures a larger, thornier question about the restaurant: What has happened to the sprawling, lavish, ambitious menu that Fabio Trabocchi launched his administration with?
The New Yorker’s “Tables for Two” reviews have generally been mordant little affairs, short on criticism and long on wry descriptions of restaurant culture. Not this week. Nick Paumgarten comes down hard on Fiamma, describing “FEMA-like” service, cold food, a martini made without vermouth, and, in general, the very picture of a major ripoff operation, subsisting on “a strong euro and the proximity of the Soho Grand hotel.” It’s a wild departure from the usual “Tables for Two” mold, and though it may or may not be reflective of Fiamma (practically all of the reviews have been very positive, including Adam Platt’s two-star job), it’s certainly a lot more fun to read. Something tells us Paumgarten had a lot of fun writing it.
Tables for Two: Fiamma [NYer]
The ever-expanding BLT empire is going to have a new addition and one that is a departure from previous generations. The Trump Soho, on which construction has recently resumed, is to have a big, new BLT restaurant, but chef-owner Laurent Tourondel says it won’t be a BLT Steak, Burger, Prime, Fish, or Market. “It’s going to be a new concept, something I’ve never done before,” he says. Tourondel also shot down a rumor we’d heard that a hot, young downtown chef was being recruited to do another big restaurant in the building. “I’m in charge of all the food and beverage there, so I would know,” he asserts. Unless he just isn’t telling.
Ah, the humanity! Zeppelin may have exploded at its West 9th Street moorings, but the spinoff bar and restaurant from the Employees Only guys has been patched up and is floating west and south, down to an area below Houston Street on the West Side. Owner Jason Kosmas wouldn't give the exact location for fear of jinxing the lease. “The Zeppelin project has lots of new life and new enthusiasm,” he says. “We gave back the keys on 9th Street, and the feeling was somewhat bad at the end, but now we’re looking at two spaces in that Village-border area, and we feel really good about them.” Any speculation about the possible new home of Zeppelin can and should be filed in the comments department. Broad hints are especially welcome.
Related: Employees Only Team Looks for a New Place to Park Zeppelin
Chelsea: The former Daniele’s Piadina space on 22nd Street east of Sixth Avenue sat empty for two years, but it will reopen as a sandwich shop called Ashby’s on Monday. [Eat for Victory/VV]
Clinton Hill: Gnarly Vines is hosting a rosé-sparkler tasting tonight, tomorrow, and Wednesday evening from 6 to 9 p.m., and bottles of those sample selections are 10 percent off. [Clinton Hill Blog]
Dumbo: The ‘D’ Space Restaurant at Jay and Front streets serves Indian buffet, but will it raise the bar on local delivery options? [Dumbo NYC]
Flatiron: Shaffer City Oyster Bar & Grill will close February 23 and reopen in March as Flatiron Joe’s with cheaper American fare and a jukebox. [Zagat]
Fort Greene: In her list of last-minute Valentine’s Day options, Danyelle Freeman recommends Cake Man Raven if you want to "just forget dinner and grab a few whopping slices of the decadent red velvet cake that made this bakery famous." [Restaurant Girl]
Soho: In honor of this romantic week, it’s only right that bananas (and resulting desserts around town) are celebrated for being "not only insanely phallic but also brimming with potassium and B vitamins, which are necessary for keeping your sex drive going." But you don’t have to tell your date that after deciding to share Blue Ribbon Brasserie’s top-rated banana split. [Gridskipper]
West Village: Pig's-feet and collagen temple Hakata TonTon has been closed by the Department of Health. [Eater]
Ditmas Park: Patois and Sweetwater owner Jim Mamary is opening a French bistro at the corner of Newkirk Avenue and Argyle Road, and his progress hasn’t been hampered by a recent shooting nearby: "You can’t open up a flower shop on a strip nobody would walk on. It’s us guys who take the risks. Restaurants take the risks.” [NYT via Eater]
East Village: Despite having encouraged wing reservations for yesterday’s big game, Atomic Wings lost track of orders and left customers waiting one to two hours for what turned out to be cold Buffalo not-so-goodness. [Grub Street]
Financial District: A new Mexican cantina called Mad Dog and Beans has brought fish tacos and chiles rellenos to Pearl Street. [Zagat]
Soho: Palacinka has lost its lease. [Eater]
West Village: L’Impero alum chef Michael Genardini will be in the kitchen of a rustic Italian eatery called I Sodi, which should be ready this March in the former Puff & Pao space. [TONY]
“Cassoulet,” wrote Julia Child, “is everyday fare for a peasant but ambrosia for a gastronome, though its ideal consumer is a 300-pound blocking back who has been splitting firewood nonstop for the last twelve hours on a subzero day in Manitoba.” The serving of the classic French bean-and-meat casserole, a pillar of French cookery, is a yearly event at Savoy, Peter Hoffman’s Haute Barnyard restaurant in Soho. The cassoulet is served in individual cast-iron Dutch ovens that cook in the restaurant’s two fireplaces. They’re in demand, though, and if you want one, you would do well to mention it when you make your reservation. Mouse over the different elements of the dish to hear chef de cuisine Ryan Tate describe this mixture of beans, bacon, sausage, lamb, and bread crumbs.
East Village: BondSt has made its West Coast debut in the new Thompson Hotel in Beverly Hills. [Snack]
Hell’s Kitchen: Sietsema doesn’t think Metro Marché feels enough like a real bistro; maybe stepping out into Port Authority to view a homeless man peeing into a Dunkin’ Donuts cup just takes away the mystique. [Eat for Victory/VV]
Lower East Side: 'inoteca is back, with new and improved wine storage. [Eater]
Soho: Bruni uncovers the history of Blue Ribbon (which began in 1992 with a fancy French restaurant on Sullivan Street between Prince and Spring) and finds it interesting. [Diner’s Journal/NYT]
Williamsburg: Diner has "begun doing Porterhouses for two, four, sometimes six, along with bone-in rib-eyes and T-Bones, cooked to order and slathered with marrow butter," right across from Peter Luger. Has anyone been to both to compare? [Brooklyn Based]
Shorty’s.32, the new Soho spot named after chef-partner Josh “Shorty” Eden, who worked with Jean Georges for twelve years, may bill its cuisine as New American (word to the wise: They have an off-the-menu brunch sandwich called the McShorty, though it remains to be seen whether it will be available during lunch when that starts next week), but the small dining room’s playlist is classic American and Brit. In fact, one might even call it stoner music. Here are ten songs we heard during a recent visit.
Eben Freeman of Tailor isn’t just a bartender. He isn’t even a mere mixologist. We’ll go ahead and say it: Eben Freeman is a cocktail guru. Who else could have imported the secret maneuver of the "hard shake" to our shores from its hiding places in Japan and Slovakia? No one. And that’s why we present this video, of how to perform the hard shake, for your viewing pleasure. Click on the photo to watch.
Greenwich Village: Send off truffle fever with a wine-sodden bang at Babbo’s December 3 Vintage series, which includes a white-truffle tasting menu with wine pairings discussed by Peter Jamros. [Grub Street]
Hell’s Kitchen: Kyotofu is hosting a seven-course dinner-and-dessert sake pairing tonight at 7 p.m. [Grub Street]
Midtown West: The Frederick’s space on West 58th Street will be transformed into Jour et Nuit, a French-American bistro offering, you guessed it, brasserie classics like croque monsieurs and moules frites. [Restaurant Girl]
Soho: Fiamma is a little too liberal with its "Napkins of Shame," which according to Bruni are a "bit of patchwork that makes the table look clean again" to the embarrassment of the messy diner. The critic was subjected to one himself while on a date. [Diner’s Journal/NYT] The Vosges bacon-chocolate bar is accused of not reaching its potential and tasting "more like the barnyard than the pig and more like the rubber tree than the cocoa pod." [Chop Talk/Epicurious]
West Village: Jody Williams is previewing her new enoteca and salumeria Gottino at Greenwich Avenue near Perry Street. [Eater] The chef’s main stage, Morandi, is also serving a Thanksgiving dinner of rosemary roasted turkey with fennel and bruschetta stuffing. Those looking for turkey alternatives can arrive early for regular breakfast. [Grub Street]
On guard: On Wednesday a 50 percent larger Yolato (the first one under a partnership with Lenny’s Sandwiches) opens at 145 Park Avenue between 41st and 42nd with free fro-yo gelato for all. You might want to make note of that. And the invasion will continue! By the end of the year, freestanding stores will also come to the Empire State Building (which will serve as the flagship, opening in mid-December) and 180 Lafayette in Soho, plus there are plans for a large store in the Lenny’s at 9th Street and Sixth Avenue and nine other “express” stores in other Lenny’s locations. That's THIRTEEN Yolatos for you; hope it's enough.
Meanwhile, on the Bleecker Street front, Red Mango still has not opened, giving the new Pinkberry a solid two-month head start. Ritual suicide may be in order.
Related:The New Cold War: Frozen Yogurt Invades New York
Nobody can put together food and matters of the heart like Gael Greene, and the Insatiable One really brings it in her blog today with a tale of love and dumplings. Michael Huynh just opened Bun with his new wife, and Greene was on hand to witness the marital strife between the two: “The bride, Thao Nguyen,” writes Greene, “stands at the counter in another world, seemingly wrapped in serenity, her hair tightly bound, eyes black with mascara, as she fashions classic spring rolls in fragile paper, two by two, for waiters — both freshly hatched and speedy veterans — to carry away. ‘He doesn’t like my food,’ she whispers. ‘He criticizes my food.’” A bad omen! Greene, at least, likes the food there. A lot. But it's the threatening clouds looming over the Huynh union that you'll remember after reading this. Anyway, they say the first six months are the hardest.
Is it Soup or Soap Opera at Bun? [Insatiable Critic]
Cooking as chemistry has never had more meaning with the use of “hydrocolloid gums — obscure starches and proteins usually relegated to the lower reaches of ingredient labels on products like Twinkies … helping Mr. Dufresne make eye-opening (and critically acclaimed) creations like fried mayonnaise and a foie gras that can be tied into a knot.” [NYT]
Marco Pierre White claims he never reads reviews, and Thomas Keller knows blogs are out there but doesn't read them. [Epicurious]
These tips for dining in high-end restaurants insist that while some may consider it crude to ask the price of a special, even the owner of Aquavit believes "it’s tacky if the waiter does not volunteer the information without having to ask." [Bottomless Dish/Citysearch]
This weekend we were combing Broadway for an outfit that would get us into Upstairs, Danny A’s club on the second floor of Café Bari (and the location of Diddy’s most recent fisticuffs), when we passed the café/club itself and saw its once intimidating velvet rope doing its day job: guarding a display table of rather foul-looking dishes. Mind you, this wasn’t kitschy plastic display food like in Japan, but an actual burger, pizza, and pasta exposed to the elements all day. It took away whatever remaining luster this place had.
Astoria: Il Bambino at 34-08 31st Avenue has a new, yummy-looking menu. [Joey in Astoria]
Bedford-Stuyvesant: The area's gentrification isn’t happening fast enough, as illustrated by such dining options as standard-issue Indian and spit-out sushi. [Eat for Victory/VV]
East Village: A new spot called Senor Pollo will open on First Avenue at 13th Street. [Eater]
Midtown: L'Impero has started Sunday suppers, homey four-course meals featuring more rustic cooking than you would usually find on the menu, from 4:30 to 9:30, for $42 a person. [Grub Street]
Murray Hill/Kips Bay: Pamplona is now open for lunch and serving plates of truffle-oil-poached egg on white-asparagus salad, not to mention confit of suckling pig with caramelized apples. [Grub Street]
Soho: Bun opens October 29, and 4-Foodies is hosting an event on the 30th with a chance to sample a variety of the dishes including short ribs wrapped on lemongrass skewers and Berkshire belly with nem sausage. [Grub Street]
Boerum Hill: Sunday’s Atlantic Antic Street Festival = live music + copious gut busters ranging from baklava and funnel cake to pulled pork and roasted corn. [Hell’s Half Acre]
East Village: The Bourgeois Pig plans to move to a new location next week, which means the original space is that much closer to becoming a New World wine-and-beer bar serving homemade versions of Hostess snacks! [Imbible]
Harlem: One of uptown’s favorite food carts, Super Tacos on 96th and Broadway, is a finalist at the Vendy Awards this Saturday. [Uptown Flavor]
Midtown East: Nikki Beach restaurant and nightclub wants to lure you back in the morning with a weekend buffet brunch. [Grub Street]
Soho: Joe on Greene Street near Prince introduces a Fall program of coffee-related classes including "Coffee & The Environment"; "How to Cup: Single Origin Coffee"; and "How to Cup: Exploring Roasteries" that will begin in October. [Grub Street]
Upper West Side: Just the right bargain to make us think about how much mark-up we’ve been getting charged for wine: Order the $35 prix fixe on Sundays at Compass restaurant and any bottle you order is 50 percent off. [Grub Street]