Tony Bourdain was at the Union Square Barnes & Noble last night to do a joint reading and signing with Michael Ruhlman, author of The Elements of Cooking. Interviewing Bourdain is effortless: The man is a nonstop font of opinions and bons mots, so we just took out our notebook and started writing. What, for instance, did he think of the reopening of his favorite bar, Siberia? (“When Siberia closed my life as an alcoholic ended,” he said wistfully. “Tracey [Westmoreland] is a man of many mysteries. I’m skeptical. Siberia reopening? [Sarcastically] Yeah, I’d like to see that.” Bourdain also told us that, sometime in the next two weeks, he was going to go back for one night to his old job at Les Halles, personally working the sauté station on a crowded night for his TV show, No Reservations. And he would not be alone back in the trenches: A few feet away, Eric Ripert would be working the grill station, cooking meat all night.
Given all of his travels, what does Bourdain think New York needs? A giant food court, of course.
• “New York can hold its own with anyplace in terms of high-end restaurants, but it really suffers in comparison with places like Hong Kong and Singapore. Those food courts where you have 30 chefs all cooking one dish? That’s what we’re missing. Imagine if the Red Hook ball fields had running water and were somewhere like Wall Street where people actually worked? Are you telling me that wouldn’t be huge?”
• “I still like to go to the Subway Inn sometimes. It’s still kind’ve grimy. You have to Purell down aftewards.”
• “I know the Corner Bistro isn’t the best burger, but I love it. You go in the afternoon, and it’s the same regulars from the neighborhood that were there when I was cooking in that area in the seventies. The guys from the Lion’s Head, Montana — they’re all there. You have to go at around 4 p.m. That’s really when a bar is most itself — at night yuppie dickheads invade the place.”
• “What I really crave when I’m away from New York is a piece of New York–style utility pizza, which you can hold by the crust and will tip just a little and run a little grease down at the tip. My wife is Italian, but come on! Those people eat pizza with a knife and fork! She considers the Lombardi’s white-clam pie an abomination, but I really love it.”