Chef Counters on the Rise; Chefs Put in Their Time on the LineAs chefs and cooks take on more roles of service, they cut out more costs and create a more intimate dining experience, especially at restaurants with counters overlooking the food preparation. [NYT]
Related: Ringside Seats at the Chef’s Counter
Apparently, restaurants’ hanging of red velvet curtains in colder months signals metaphors of birth and womblike spaces for diners. Ew. [NYO]
Chefs like Akhtar Nawab of Elettaria and Josh Eden of Shorty’s.32 both spent years cooking on the line before being able to fly solo. [TONY]
Elettaria Asks: Have You Ever Been Experienced?Elettaria’s space was formerly occupied by the 8th Wonder, where a young Jimi Hendrix performed. So is his ghost still setting guitars (or at least flambés) on fire? Since proprietors Akhtar Nawab and Noel Cruz are big into classic rock (Akhtar is a bass player who loves him some Rush), we figured it was a strong possibility that after the early-evening jazz and blues, it would be, “Move over Rover, let Jimi take over…”
Akhtar Nawab to *NOT* Leave E.U., Will Open New RestaurantAkhtar Nawab, the talented chef who turned around E.U.’s fortunes, is expecting to leave, Grub Street has learned. “We’re planning something, and we are looking at a space,” Nawab told us. The new restaurant, which Nawab will open with Dani operating partner Noel Cruz, will be on West 8th Street. The menu will reflect casual but sophisticated Mediterranean food “something like the original Craftbar,” Nawab explained. (This style is in contrast to earlier rumors, which aligned the new venture with Nawab’s more upscale Allen and Delancey model before he parted from that project.) Nawab was reluctant to present any sort of timeline; he will leave E.U.“soon,” but the new restaurant likely won’t open until late winter or spring.
UPDATE: We spoke to Nawab yesterday and misunderstood. Though he will open a new restaurant, he plans to stay on at E.U. Grub Street regrets the error, our bad, etc.
Related: Allen and Delancey Tripped at the Finish Line, Won’t Open
What to Eat Tonight
A Not-So-European Union of Soft-Shell Crabs and Pickled RampsWe’re coming into prime-time soft-shell-crab season, and we’re about to leave ramps behind us. So tonight’s special at European Union, sautéed soft-shell crabs with pickled ramps ($16), is something not to miss. The crabs coming up from Maryland are bigger and fatter than the ones seen earlier in the season, one reason chef Akhtar Nawab put the dish on the menu. Says Nawab, “The soft-shells are so nice right now, meaty, sweet, and really soft. They’re alive when we get them. The pickled ramps really cut the richness and tenderness of the crab with a nice garlicky and crunchy bite.” Nawab freely offers that he didn’t invent the idea of pairing ramps with crabs, but EU makes the dish their own by also adding pickled red onions, baby leeks, and (for a trace of sweetness) cipollini onions braised in red wine and honey. Be warned, though — even the meatiest soft-shell crab isn’t going to sate you. Be prepared to order a couple, and think twice about sharing them. In another couple of weeks the dish will be a memory.
The Other Critics
Anthos Gets a Rave; More Knocks for MorandiRandall Lane gives Anthos its first full-out rave, granting the restaurant five of six stars and writing about it in adoring terms. It’s a rare move for Lane, and a good omen for the more powerful critics still to come. [TONY]
At times, Alan Richman likes the food at Morandi a lot, but when it’s late and the place gets busy, he considers it to be a kind of restaurant hell. He won’t be going back after 9 p.m. “any time in my life.” [Bloomberg]
Paul Adams felt much the same about Morandi, calling out its fine fried foods but dissing its heavy pastas, “theme park” atmosphere, and lousy entrées. It’s unanimous: The critics all dislike Morandi. Meanwhile, Keith McNally is crying all the way to the bank. [NYS]
Related: Not So Bene [NYM]
The Other Critics
Morandi Takes Another Hit; a Haute Barnyard SpreeThe Four Seasons gets perhaps the most negative two-star review in the history of the Times; Bruni seems to think the stars were grandfathered in. A telling example of how reputation floats reviews. [NYT]
Meehan, meanwhile, visits a chowhound’s paradise, a Hindu temple in Flushing. [NYT]
Morandi takes another blow, this time from Time Out’s Randall Lane, who like our own Adam Platt, finds it overdesigned and unimpressive, albeit with a few decent dishes. [TONY]
Related: Not So Bene [NYM]
Gansevoort Owner Apologizes for Sign He’s Not About to Take Down; FDAThe owner of the Hotel Gansevoort abjectly apologizes for its monstrous sign but says that the lease has been signed and that there’s no way out of it. Whether this satisfies Keith McNally and other opponents remains to be seen. [NYP]
Rachael Ray conquers yet another swath of America, becoming the official “spokes-chef” for Dunkin’ Donuts. She will develop a line of dishes for the chain. [Nation’s Restaurant News (registration required)]
The FDA allowing factory farm veterinarians to use cattle antibiotics which may lead to resistant microbes and eventually endanger humans. The Times is not down. [NYT]
Back of the House
Eating Out With Tim Zagat; the Littlest FeinschmeckersWhat’s it like to eat dinner with Tim Zagat? Something akin to eating with royalty. [Slate]
As Texas and New Haven fight it out for the title of who invented the hamburger, Grub Street’s editor weighs in. [LAT]
How did eating and diet get so complicated? Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and one of the guys who helped make it so complicated, sorts it all out. [NYT]
Allen and Delancey Tripped at the Finish Line, Won’t OpenAllen and Delancey, the much-awaited restaurant from former Craftbar chef Akhtar Nawab, had been set to open in less than two weeks. But things change quickly in the restaurant world, and now we hear, from the man himself, that the opening has been delayed — possibly permanently. An investor pulled out at the eleventh hour, leaving Nawab $200,000 short of his opening costs. The downcast chef told us: “Out of the blue, the investor said, ‘I’m not spending this kind of money!’ He called everybody and fired them yesterday. The chairs just arrived two days ago!” Our guess is that Allen and Delancey will find an investor between here and the finish line, but in the meantime, the restaurant is in serious peril. “This situation is very sensitive, and something needs to happen very quickly,” Nawab told us.