Jason Hall Doesn’t Want to Ever Leave Michael PsilakisName: Jason Hall
Restaurants: Anthos and Mia Dona
Background: Hall Worked at San Francisco’s Aqua and One Market, followed by a long period as a line cook under George Morrone, at the four-star restaurant the Fifth Floor. Hall then spent five formative years at Craft, first under Marco Canora and then Damon Wise, before joining with Michael Psilakis and eventually becoming executive chef at his restaurants.
The Other Critics
Bar Boulud, Loved at Last; Cuozzo Not on the Dovetail Bandwagon“It’s a new era, and Bar Boulud belongs to it.” That’s why, even though the hot items are mostly “snoozers,” the restaurant deserves two stars. Another Zeitgeist review from Frank Bruni. [NYT]
Steve Cuozzo doesn’t give out stars, but if he did, he wouldn’t be giving three to Dovetail, whose stellar critical reception he recapitulates in a forceful, acerbic review. “The Times’ Frank Bruni, who found ‘drab’ décor at Anthos a reason to deny that truly original, forward-Greek place three stars, overlooked Dovetail’s butt-ugly brown palette to exult over the likes of — holy cow! — monkfish and lobster on the same plate.” [NYP]
Writing on his GQ blog, Alan Richman obliterates Brasserie Les Halles, but why? Who was thinking about it, anyway? And who thought it was good? The review seems conceived as a blow against Tony Bourdain, but it does him no harm. [GQ]
Socialista Back in Business; 2nd Avenue Deli Still DeliversSocialista, now rid of that pesky hepatitis-A problem, is once again hosting celebs like Sting and Josh Hartnett. [NYP]
Conflict-of-interest alert! The soon-to-be-new president of the Obesity Society had to step down after drawing criticism for his paid consultant work for the restaurant industry, for whom he produced a puzzling affidavit asserting that posting calorie info on menus could have a negative effect on obesity. [NYT]
Good news: The 2nd Avenue Deli still delivers anywhere in town. [Bottomless Dish/Citysearch]
Back of the House
Persephone’s Seafood Yiouvetsi Seems Awfully Familiar…
We knew something looked vaguely familiar when we saw, in this week’s magazine’s Openings, the image of Persephone’s dish of seafood yiouvetsi. Oh, that’s right — seafood yiouvetsi is a signature dish at Anthos! The only difference is that this one doesn’t come in the actual yiouvetsi pot. But everything else seems to be there, down to the orzo in a saffron broth at the bottom. They say there’s nothing new under the sun, but Anthos’s yiouvetsi was pretty novel when it came out, as the dish is traditionally reserved for lamb shanks and the like. Deepening our suspicions of Persephone’s, um, inspiration is the fact that the other dishes mentioned at Persephone — the pikilia-spread sampler, the Greek meatballs in tomato sauce — are right off the menu of Anthos’s sister Kefi. Of course, given how crowded Anthos and Kefi are, the chance to eat simulacra in another good restaurant is much welcome. But otherwise, this might be one of the most brazen Greek heists since Lord Elgin looted the Parthenon marbles.
Openings: Persephone, Greene Grape Provisions, Dean’s, ’Beca Restaurant, Dram Shop, and City Girl Café [NYM]
Where to Go for Restaurant WeekNew York Restaurant Week is coming round again next month (January 24–25 and January 28–February 1), and today the reservation lines open up. We’ve always loved the whole concept, even though at some restaurants you get a simplified menu that may not do the place justice. But what’s great about the deal ($24.07 for lunch, $35 for dinner) is the chance it gives you to try places you might not otherwise get to if you had to pay full fare. Who rolls the dice when they know they’re looking at dropping two bills at the end of the meal? But at these prices, you can afford to see where you stand on places you may only have read about. Think of it as an introductory trial offer. We would recommend the following:
Psilakis Promises the New and the Gnudi at Dona 2.0
When Dona shuttered unexpectedly last year, the impact was cushioned by the knowledge that Michael Psilakis has two other restaurants: the informal Kefi and the ambitious Anthos. Well, both places are big successes, but some of us still miss Dona — its Italian inflections, its suppleness, the width of its menu, and of course that world-class gnudi. We checked in with Psilakis the other night, and he tells us that he and his boyish chef de cuisine, Jason Hall, are testing recipes like crazy: “We’re constantly cooking, doing different things than we’ve been doing at Anthos. I really love filled pastas, so there’s going to be some of those. And the gnudi will definitely be back.”
Back of the House
Memo to World: Michael Symon and Michael Psilakis Are Not the Same Person
We ran into Michael Symon last week, a.k.a. the Next Iron Chef; as food celebs we meet are wont to do, he said that he hoped what he told us wouldn’t end up on Grub Street the next day. Jokingly, we suggested that we’d just write about how we ran into Anthos chef Michael Psilakis. “That happens to me all the time,” Symon, said, laughing. You can’t blame people for getting confused: Both men are high-profile, thirtysomething Greek (or part-Greek) chefs named Michael who are bald and happened to open up ambitious Greek restaurants at around the same time. There is, however, one clear difference between the two: Psilakis has a chinbeard, and Symon a soul patch. But this seemed cold comfort to Symon last night. Having frequently been accused of being Terrance Brennan’s doppelgänger, we could sympathize. Now if only we could switch bank accounts.
Restaurant Insiders Launch Secret-ish Industry NightLet’s say you’re a hard-partying cook, a leggy hostess, a put-upon waiter — whatever. You want to rock out after work in a chill environment surrounded by your friends in the business. You want what is typically known as an Industry Night, right? But where do you go? This was the question Anthos chef de cuisine Jason Hall asked himself. “We need a place where we can all go and relax without dealing with a bunch of 20-year-olds from Jersey throwing up,” he explained. Don’t we all want that? Anyway, cue the birth of a regular industry party that’s invite-only, and, in these nascent stages, relatively on the DL, as they say. NB to fellow food bloggers: This might be the one you want to crash.
IN, as it’s called, will be held on Wednesdays; the gathering will feature no cover and food cooked by the guests themselves (think freestyle, improv offerings). If you’re in the business and want more intel, drop us a line and we might be able to help you out (no promises).
In Other Magazines
‘Esquire’ to New York: Drop DeadAre you kidding us? Only a trio of New York spots made Esquire’s “best new restaurants” list. And while the places described all sound good, if the likes of Rialto in Cambridge have all but three New York restaurants beat, then Pace is the new Harvard. The fact is this list represents a kind of trans-Hudson affirmative action for the restaurant world. Food columnist John Mariani picks good restaurants located outside New York in place of the more deserving restaurants inside the city limits, such as Insieme, Sfoglia, Ssäm Bar, Suba, Hill Country, and many others. It’s not their fault that New York has more good places than the rest of the country put together!
Psilakis Isn’t the Only Chef Who Knows GreekMichael Psilakis’s Michelin star (and other honors) is raising the profile of Greek cooking in New York, but other restaurants are looking to catch up. Ethos, a big, popular place in both its Manhattan and Astoria locations, is getting a classically trained new chef who vows to take the places to the next level. (A third Ethos, meanwhile, is slated to open in Great Neck at the end of the month.)
Michelin Stars: Colicchio Doesn’t Care, But Psilakis Sure Does
Michelin stars, like their celestial models, have enormous power to create and destroy; and even if, unlike their European counterparts, the New York versions lack the power to drive chefs mad or even to suicide, they can still mean a lot to a chef. We spoke to two chefs yesterday. One had lost and the other had gained a star, and neither man seemed unshaken by the event.
End of the Line for Ureña; Rocco Admits Douche-baggeryAlex Ureña is closing Ureña and turning it into “a bistro-style eater called Pamplona.” The modern Spanish curse continues! Now Suba alone carries the banner. [Eater]
Rocco DiSpirito doesn’t seem to mind being called a douche bag: “I was thinking he must have worked for me to know I’m a douche bag,” the chef tells Nina Lalli. [VV]
Related: Joey, Latest ‘Top Chef’ Non-Winner, on Why Rocco Is a Douche Bag
On his Top Chef blog Tony Bourdain has some wise words to console Joey: “Joey’s the chef of a damn famous restaurant in New York freakin’ City. The place every ambitious cook and chef hopes to work — in the big leagues. So he’s already a “Top Chef” — and already a winner in my book.” [Bravo]
Related: Adam Platt Finds the Moral in Last Night’s ‘Top Chef’
Chefs Descend on Madison Square Park in Flatiron Food FestEast Village: All falafel at Chickpea is now baked, not fried. Is this the first move toward franchise status? [Eater]
Financial District: Celebrate Bastille Day this Saturday at the Les Halles Waiter’s Race on John Street at 2 p.m. [Les Halles]
Flatiron: Madison Square Park Conservancy hosts its other annual food extravaganza next Tuesday with bites from the nabe’s chefs including Seamus Mullen, Patricia Yeo, Daniel Humm, and Floyd Cardoz, plus Brooklyn Brewery suds, wine and Champagne. [Madison Square Park]
Flushing: The celebrated Chinese “food court” at J&L Mall, has been closed, and Con Ed, not the Department of Health, is the culprit. [Eat for Victory/VV]
Park Slope: Newly opened American restaurant Sidecar is BYO for now. [NYS]
Prospect Heights: Seasoning does not a good cheesesteak make; High Stakes on Flatbush would do better to call its signature item a sandwich. [Daily Heights]
Upper East Side: Stefani Jackenthal hosts a tasting of Pinot varieties at the 92nd Street Y tonight from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. [92nd Street Y]
Upper West Side: Lincoln Center’s Summer Benefit starts at 6:30 p.m. tonight, but by 9 p.m. you can start sampling from restaurants including Anthos, Chanterelle, and Yolato at Damrosch Park. [NYS]
Bill Corbett to Take His Innovative Magic WestBill Corbett, the pastry chef at Anthos (we recently featured his Sesame in Sesame dessert in the Annotated Dish), is riding his wave of acclaim all the way out of town: The fast-rising young chef has been hired to head up the pastry kitchen at Michael Mina in San Francisco. Corbett was attracted, he says, by the chance to work with his old mentor, Lincoln Carson, currently Mina’s corporate pastry chef. Of his short, successful run at Anthos, Corbett says, “I am really proud of what we did at Anthos. It was a really good experience for me to be there.” Corbett designed all the desserts in keeping with Anthos’ haute-Greek mission; the restaurant will be keeping a number of them on the menu, including Sesame in Sesame.
Related: Anthos’ ‘Most Innovative’ Sesame Dessert
The Annotated Dish
Anthos’ ‘Most Innovative’ Sesame Dessert
One of the bigger upsets in recent food-award history came a couple of weeks ago: Bill Corbett of Anthos came out of nowhere to defeat Room 4 Dessert’s Will Goldfarb and wd-50’s Alex Stupak to win the Golden Scoop Award for Most Innovative Dessert. About his secret weapon, Sesame in Sesame, Corbett says, “I wanted to take a very simple ingredient and take it in as many directions as I could. It took me a long time to get it down, but I definitely feel like it’s one of the ones that illustrates what I want to do on a plate.” As always, mouse over the different elements of the dish to see them described in the chef’s own words.
Related: Daniel and Anthos Hit Big at Dessert Awards
Daniel and Anthos Hit Big at Dessert AwardsThe Golden Scoop Pastry awards held last night had everything you would want from a dessert awards: a victory parade of New York chefs, a dozen world-class desserts, and a seven-foot pastry chef–slash–drag queen named Chocolatina. The ceremony was held at the French Culinary Institute and awarded prizes in five categories, the most important of which, Best Dessert Menu, was won by Dominque Ansel of Daniel. The most intense competition, though, may well have been Most Innovative Dessert, a coveted trophy in today’s go-go world of rock-star experimental dessert chefs.
The Other Critics
Insieme Just Misses; One Big Up and One ‘Eh’ for P*ONGInsieme’s bid for a third star went about the same way as Anthos’: two stars from Platt, then two stars from Bruni. [NYT]
Related: Italian, Old and New [NYM]
Randall Lane gives five of Time Out New York’s six stars to P*ONG. It’s the first major review the place has gotten, and more than enough to make up for getting dissed by the Sun. [TONY]
Paul Adams, in the Sun, finds Pichet Ong’s creations irritatingly twee and precious, except for the desserts upon which the chef’s reputation is built. Adams puts his finger on the problem: “The same creativity that in the earlier courses gives rise to confusing, unsatisfying combinations is more successful when the unifying power of sugar is involved.” [NYS]
Psilakis Seeks Site for a Late-Night Downtown Restaurant — and a New DonaYou might think that Michael Psilakis would have had enough of opening restaurants: In the past year, he created Kefi on the Upper West Side, a low-end sensation, and midtown’s Anthos, a major undertaking. Now the chef tells us that he’s looking to open not one but two more restaurants. “I’ve been thinking about opening something downtown,” he says. “I don’t know if it would be another restaurant just like Kefi, or maybe something a little more in between Kefi and Anthos. I want a presence down there, but a lot depends on the space, the lease, and the location.” Psilakis likes the idea of a late-night dining scene, presumably along the lines of Ssäm Bar. There’s no question about the food, though: “It would be Greek, for sure, whatever it was.”
In the Magazine
The Food War Between Old and New ContinuesThe attentions of New York’s food staff are divided between modernity and tradition. Gael Greene is vexed with Provence, a reopened French restaurant which was faithfully conventional even in its former incarnation. Rob and Robin, apart from their usual announcements of new places in Openings, extract from Anthos chef Michael Psilakis a comparatively novel recipe for mature dandelion greens. And Adam Platt finds himself caught in the middle of Marco Canora’s half-modern, half-classical menu at Insieme.
The Other Critics
Richman Lambastes Landmarc; Has Sietsema Lost His Mind?Robert Sietsema reviews what might be the most un-Sietsema-like place imaginable, a twee Williamsburg bistro called Juliette. “The snails in anise butter are fab, and so is the whole steamed artichoke flaunting a festive champagne vinaigrette.” Okay, call the FBI. The real Robert Sietsema has obviously been kidnapped. [VV]
“Think too much and you’ll find the place hard to like”: Alan Richman sees the new Landmarc for what it is – a stark, expensive, underachieving restaurant with few niceties of service or cooking – but still manages to find something nice to say about the steaks. [Bloomberg]
Related: Will Landmarc’s Downtown Cool Play Alongside Its Ritzy New Neighbors? [Grub Street]
Frank Bruni had a high old time at Resto, so much so that he gave the place a shocking two stars. Expect all future reviews to react to this hyperbole by taking pains to note the place’s shortcomings.[NYT]
Related: Brussels Sprout [NYM]
The Other Critics
Anthos Misses Its Mark; Provence’s First RaveUnlike Adam Platt, who thought Anthos inferior to Dona, Frank Bruni likes it better; he seems almost pained to have to deny the place a third star. But the drab room and overwhelmed fish keep Michael Psilakis’s dream of a three-star Greek restaurant from coming true — yet. [NYT]
Related: Greek Revival [NYM]
Time Out’s Randall Lane hits Williamsburg BBQ Fette Sau and is struck by how good some of the meats are, and how unbelievably bad the sauce is. That’s pretty much in keeping with what everybody else has said, but Lane is the first to make much-needed points about the effect of keeping pulled pork exposed in a chafing tray, and how ill-fit pork belly is for the smoke treatment. [TONY]
Related: Fette Sau’s Weird Williamsburg Barbecue Palace [Grub Street]
Moira Hodgson’s rave makes the relaunched Provence sound really, really good — a great omen for their future critical reception. The old Provence was good, but neither the service nor the food was on a level you would want to face a battery of critics with. [NYO]
Am I Too Old to Throw It All Aside and Become a Cook?
Dear Grub Street,I’m a religious reader of Grub Street and a major foodie who watches the industry like a hawk … I’m 44 and stuck in a job I hate. What I really want is to be in a kitchen creating amazing food and enjoying the camaraderie that I see there. I have enough savings to live on for a while, so the money isn’t that important to me, but do I need to go to a cooking school? Or am I just too old? Keith
In the Magazine
Nature Bursts From the Pages of This Week’s Issue
In this week’s issue, as befits spring, nature is bursting out of our food coverage. Snails and sea urchins take supporting roles in Adam Platt’s review of the highly rarefied Anthos; Gael Greene flutters into a restaurant called Tree; Rob and Robin talk tomatoes, spring almonds, and even more snails; and, in the spirit of growth, our food editors lay out two Short Lists of places where you can introduce young, growing gourmands to their future lifetime pursuit. Plus, four new restaurant bloom in the April sunshine, all in New York this week.
What to Eat Tonight
Appearing Tonight: Soft-shell Crabs at Anthos and Lamb Trio at Café Boulud
Every Thursday we’ll tell you what specials some of the city’s best restaurants have planned for that night. This week: Spring vegetables, the first fish of the warm seasons, and a few delicious holdovers from the cold winter months.
Anthos: Pan-fried soft-shell crabs, breaded in water chestnut flour, served over a smoked egg vinaigrette with lovage, white asparagus, spring green almonds, and pickled pearl red onions. 36 W. 52nd St., nr. Fifth Ave.; 212-582-6900.
Café Boulud: Lamb trio: braised lamb neck, roasted and confited lamb loin, and lamb kefta (spiced ground-lamb turnover), garnished with red lentils, carrots, and almond-stuffed prunes. 20 E. 76th St., nr. Madison Ave..; 212-772-2600.
Gramercy Tavern: Suckling-pig porchetta, stuffed with house-made fennel sausage and Swiss chard, and served on a bed of rutabaga purée with grilled Swiss-chard leaves and braised Swiss-chard stems. 42 E. 20th St., nr. Park Ave. S.; 212-477-0777.
JoJo: Grilled organic pork chop, marinated with Chinese cumin and honey, and served with wild ramps and fava beans. 160 E. 64th St., nr. Lexington Ave..; 212-223-5656.
Blue Smoke: Barbecued organic turkey with apple sausage stuffing and bacon-braised collard greens. 116 E. 27th St., nr. Park Ave.; 212-447-7733.
The Other Critics
Love and Hate for the Inn LW12; Esca Pulls Even With BabboThe Sun’s Paul Adams considers the Inn LW12 an out-and-out Canadian restaurant, to a greater extent than anyone else has, and praises the poutine, a Québécois version of disco fries, along with the rest of the menu. [NYS]
Poutine aside, Randall Lane thinks the Inn LW12 is a snobby “poseur sanctuary” still carrying the taint of Lotus, owner Jeffrey Jah’s other place. [TONY]
Esca gets a third star from the Times, moving it even with Babbo, and reminding everybody that David Pasternack is not just Mario’s fish guy, but one of the city’s great chefs. [Esca]
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]
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About the Restaurant BusinessDid you know that Daniel has closed-circuit cameras watching every plate? That’s one of ten dark secrets of the restaurant business [SmartMoney]
How good can a pizza delivered to New York from Oregon be? Pretty damn good, apparently. [Serious Eats]
Balthazar’s not all that — and not just because it’s busy, either. [Diner’s Journal/NYT]
The Other Critics
Dueling Views on Morandi; Varietal Taken to TaskMorandi gets absolutely slaughtered by Steve Cuozzo. Keith McNally has hardly received a bad review yet. [NYP]
Meanwhile, Moira Hodgson loves the place: “You’ll want to taste everything on this menu.” She seems to have liked all of it, with the possible exception of an overpriced veal chop. Did these two even go to the same restaurant? [NYO]
Bruni one-stars Varietal, calling the food creative but uneven and lambasting avant-garde dessert chef Jordan Kahn, who has enjoyed a lot of critical love. The desserts “don’t so much eschew convention as pummel and shatter it — literally, and often pointlessly.” [NYT]
Why Wasn’t I Completely Floored by Craft?Dear Grub Street,
I’m hoping someone can explain Craft to me. I was taken there the other night for my birthday dinner and came away completely confused and disappointed. Really, what’s the big deal? What’s with all the glowing reviews?
The Other Critics
Anthos Broadsided, Gramercy Tavern HammeredBruni sympathetically reviews Nish, handing down two stars, but he seems less impressed than other critics (with the exception of Randall Lane). [NYT]
Peter Meehan enjoys the tapas at Ostia, but suggests that the trend may have played itself out. [NYT]
Alan Richman gives what may be the first totally negative write-up of Gramercy Tavern: Apparently the food is complicated and bland, the service undersupervised, and the room lacking in personality. A major blow to new chef Michael Anthony. [Bloomberg]
Related: Everything Topsy-Turvy at Gramercy Tavern
Psilakis Casting Aside Intellect and Technique
In the wake of Dona’s demise, Michael Psilakis is a man with a major challenge. He has two restaurants that currently only exist on a theoretical plane, and one actual restaurant, the Upper West Side’s Onera, that is underperforming. So as part of a grand retrenching and expansion effort, Psilakis has reconceived Onera as Kefi, a family-style neighborhood eatery. It’s a good idea. The neighborhood’s residents weren’t primed for Psilakis’s challenging food (his most memorable effort there was a multicourse offal tasting menu); nor, to be fair, was the room worthy. Psilakis, though, claims that Kefi’s more casual cooking has other benefits as well.