The New York Diet

Table 8’s Govind Armstrong Visits Veselka and Angel’s Share

Photo: Melissa Hom

Buzzy newcomer chef Govind Armstrong plans to open his seasonal, regional American restaurant Table 8 (with locations in L.A. and South Beach) in the Cooper Square Hotel on May 5. We’ve been waiting for this restaurant for months, but Armstrong says the project has actually taken four years. Table 8 will have a “salt bar, similar to a charcuterie bar, where we use a lot of quick cures on fish, similar to crudo. Those items run from $3 to $5,” he says, and no listed entrée will cost more than $30. (If you want Table 8’s signature hot-roasted porterhouse for two, order it off the menu.) Since there’s still no gas in the kitchen and he’s living out of a hotel room before relocating here full-time, Armstrong eats out more than usual these days. See him discover downtown eats in this week’s New York Diet.

Saturday, March 28
Breakfast is one of those meals that I appreciate but don’t always get around to eating. I normally wake up around 8, 8:30. We have a little continental breakfast buffet. I had a cup of coffee and a couple bites of a croissant.

About 12:30 or so I went down to Think Coffee down the street. I had a cup of dark, rich roast and a grilled cheese with Virginia ham and Cheddar. At the restaurant, we’re going to be using La Colombe coffee, so I’m really excited about that.

For dinner, I went to Five Points. I like that place quite a bit. It’s just a couple of blocks away. I generally sit at the bar, and I always get the wood oven-roasted bouchot mussels, phenomenal, in like a paprika butter broth. Spicy, smoky, and really simple with a piece of grilled bread. I had that and a glass of Gruner. The bartender, really good guy, knows what I want.

That evening we had a private party in the penthouse at the hotel. I had a bunch of things: about ten mini grilled cheese sandwiches with pulled short rib and red-onion marmalade that are on my lounge menu; some cucumber-wrapped tuna tartare; a bunch of mini crab cakes; and at least a dozen skewers of glazed pork belly. I was just really snacking.

That party ended pretty late. I was hungry again and went to a place called Veselka at 1 a.m., which I’ve never been to before and was pretty cool. I had beef stroganoff there, which was surprisingly interesting; it was good. It was very straightforward: noodles and braised beef. I also had the pierogis with spinach and something else and sour cream and apple sauce for dipping. It’s a great hangout and apparently they’re open 24 hours, which is great for a chef’s life.

Sunday, March 29
Sunday morning, 8, 8:30, a couple cups of coffee at the continental breakfast at Cooper Square.

That got me till around noon or 11:30. I went down the street to what has become one of my favorite noodle houses, Ippudo. That place is great. I had the spicy Berkshire pork ramen. I ask for extra spicy and sort of break a sweat. That bowl fills me up in a good way, makes me happy.

Later that night, I went to the bar at Il Buco, which was great. I had been there before with Willis Loughhead, my chef de cuisine. Every time I can, I try to make it back there. I had a glass of Vermentino. I had the fluke crudo they were serving that night. I always get the octopus: Grilled octopus with fennel, red onion, currants, possibly capers, and also chickpeas/ ceci beans/garbanzos, whatever you want to call them. I love octopus. The chef sent out a really nice grapefruit salad with prosciutto and scallions. That was it. I was just there for a quick snack.

Then, I came back to the hotel, met with some people. Later that night, I went to this place called Angel’s Share. A really cool little place. For some reason I was really in the mood for a gin and tonic. I had the Berkshire sausages with just a grain mustard and something else, the seared beef with ponzu, and also the grilled vegetable skewers. I definitely want to go back; their cocktail list looked pretty great.

Monday, March 30
I had two cups of coffee at the buffet and then for lunch, around 1:30 p.m., I went to Gotham Bar and Grill with Willis. They just had their 25th anniversary so we did this little prix fixe lunch. I had the asparagus salad with quail egg, potato, and mustard. I forget what year that was from. I think that was from ’87. The kitchen sent out a miso-glazed black cod with sticky rice and vegetables. I’m always really surprised when people send me stuff. I like to think I’m very low-key. I sort of walk in and order at the bar.The fish was cooked perfectly. The manager, Rick, sent us out a couple of glasses of sparkling rosé, which I love. My entrée was a duck breast with root vegetables. I had a few bites of Willis’s fettuccine. Sorbet to finish — lemon, rhubarb-strawberry, and one other, some sort of berry — and a double espresso. I just wanted to check out one of the institutions that’s been so successful for so many years. It wasn’t the first time I’ve eaten there by any means, but Willis and I like to check out places in the neighborhood when we can. And they’re having their 25th anniversary; I’ll go and support that in a heartbeat.

After lunch, I went back to the hotel. I think we just had a couple glasses of wine in the library bar. Later that night, I met some friends of mine who I hadn’t seen in a long time, Angelo Peruzzi and Maryse Thomas. That was really fun. He picked dell’anima, which was great. We just sat at that kitchen counter and had a blast. One of the sous-chefs whose name was Andrew was super accommodating. They were all great. I had a glass of Vermentino — I’m a huge Italian wine fan. After that we had a Barbera d’Alba. We ate a lot: a bunch of different bruschetta, the Brussels sprouts, the quail appetizer, octopus, of course, sweetbreads, which I never skip on a menu. We were sharing everything: the gnocchi, trofie, casunzei, the risotto, and an endive salad to wrap it up. Then we had a panna cotta. I think that was it; we were so stuffed at that point.

Tuesday, March 31
Tuesday, another couple cups of coffee. It’s really tough not having anywhere to cook. In Miami, I live in the hotel as well, but I can come down and cook myself eggs.

Lunch, we went to Crif Dogs. That was really fun. I had been there before. I had the Garden State, wrapped with ham and deep-fried, and I also had the Spicy Redneck, really good, with spicy coleslaw and jalapeños wrapped in bacon, tater tots, of course, and an R.C. cola.

After lunch, dinner at Peasant, which was really unbelievable. They just started sending stuff out. I hadn’t eaten that much in a long time. We started with prosciutto. I had amazing sepia done in the wood oven with a spicy tomato sauce, incredible gnocchi with shaved truffles and Parmesan. I had the sardines as well, oven-roasted — they were unbelievable — a veal shank that was to die for, simple, braised in a very neutral sauce. After that I had a panna cotta, one of my favorite Italian desserts. They sent us a little prosecco and we just had a couple of glasses of whatever they recommended after that. I hadn’t seen Frankie [De Carlo] in a long time. I met him years ago at a mutual friend’s wedding, Tyler Florence, and we just hit it off. That was the first time I had been there. I’m looking forward to going back. I do know quite a few chefs in town. Knowing I’m from out of town, they’ve been helpful, from introducing me to people and purveyors to welcoming me into their restaurants. It’s been really nice.

Just sleep after that, deep, deep food-coma sleep.

Wednesday, April 1
Same thing. A couple cups of coffee, a couple bites of croissant. I didn’t really eat a whole lot that day. I snacked a bunch. We had another event upstairs in the evening. We were prepping all day.

We had an early meal at Irving Mill. I’m a huge fan of burgers. I thought [theirs] was really good. The quality of the meat was really good. I loved the fact that the meat wasn’t compacted. Bun to meat ratio, good. I created the 8 Ounce burger bar in L.A. and I just opened one in Miami. I’m just focusing on Table 8 here. It would be fun to open 8 Ounce here, and I’ve definitely been thrown a few locations, but I’m not even trying to have that headache. It’s so much work. I’m neurotic. We grind meat and make all the condiments, hand-cut the fries, make the pickles. I opened the first one in July. I had no idea how ridiculously well it would do. We’re open from 11 a.m. to midnight and it’s a powerhouse. The $20 check average is what a lot of people are looking for right now. At Irving Mill, I also tried the rabbit and ratatouille sausage — that was really nice. I had the pork toast. I had it at Resto before and it definitely left an impression. I think that was about it. They were really nice too. They sent out a bunch of desserts. I had a gin and tonic, good ol’ Hendricks.

After dinner, I went back to the hotel, did that event, then went to ‘inoteca pretty late, 1a.m., had some panini — a sopressata panino, a prosciutto one, and fontina with portabello and arugula — and a glass of prosecco. Walked that off back to the hotel and crashed out.

Thursday, April 2
Struggled, but got up at 8, and had the same thing.

Then I went to the little owl; that was fantastic; brilliant menu, food is perfect, straightforward. I’ve been meaning to try it. I had a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. We had the fried clams, meatball sliders, of course, so good, a sunflower sprout salad with roasted beets, and we split the seared halibut on a chive mash. That was all we needed. We got the panna cotta, my go-to dessert. I generally stuff myself when I go out and if I have to get dessert, panna cotta goes down quite nicely with an espresso. I had a really good one at Supper, a Nutella one with chocolate sauce on top. It was a little much, but I definitely powered through it.

Table 8’s Govind Armstrong Visits Veselka and Angel’s Share