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.”
Ask a Waiter
Carrie Jennings of Spotlight Live Doesn’t Mind If You’re Horrible at Karaoke
When we karaoke, we don’t really like to see ourselves on a screen — it usually means the Japanese guy at the front desk is replaying closed-circuit footage and telling us why he needs to keep our security deposit. But Spotlight Live, the restaurant that projects your performances onto Times Square, is a decidedly more civilized place, as we learned when we tried, rather unsuccessfully, to get Carrie Jennings to reveal the horrors of working amid amateur renditions of Vanilla Ice. According to Jennings, who moved here from Florida six months ago with a degree in musical theater, her job is about as sweet as a big ball of cotton candy.
Varietal’s Kitchen Closes in ChelseaBronx: Italian pastry shop Egidio has a history steeped in family feuds, politics, and adultery; now a cannoli-wielding former owner has opened up shop nearby. [Lost City]
Chelsea: Varietal has closed its dining room, though wine’s still being served at the bar. [Restaurant Girl] Great Small Works performing-arts group will host a Spaghetti Dinner this Sunday evening on the roof of the 14th Street Y. Besides bowls of garlicky pasta, ticket holders can look forward to “puppet theater [and] New Orleans brass band music.” [Blog Chelsea]
Greenpoint: The Original Soup Man (a.k.a. the Soup Nazi) joins other chains on Manhattan Avenue and shocks customers by charging $9 for some selections. [Gothamist]
Hell’s Kitchen: Alex Garcia’s new restaurant, Gaucho Steak Co., at 752 Tenth Avenue, is now open for lunch and offering delivery. [Grub Street]
Soho: Savoy’s Clambake Dinners start July 6 and run through the end of the month. [Restaurant Girl]
Tribeca Gets Its Own Nouvelle Wiener StandHaving opened this week to less fanfare than Underground Gourmet picks Willie’s Dawgs and faux-under-the-radar wiener den PDT, the New York City Hot Dog Company in Tribeca has made its own foray into this haute dog-eat-dog world. Selection is the gimmick here: You can pick from Kobe, turkey, or tofu franks in addition to classic Sabrett and Hebrew National beef ones, and toppings range from sauerkraut to crumbled blue cheese. Convection-oven fries and whole-wheat buns attempt to add a healthy (or at least a less evil) angle to this fast food, and with a popular Mike’s Papaya down the block, this glassed-in corner spot is competing with real fruit in its shakes. What’s next? Carrots marauding as tubers? (Well, yes.) —Alexandra VallisThe New York City Hot Dog Company, 105 Chambers St.; no phone
Related: Nouvelle Wieners [NYM]
Midwood Facing a Second DiFara Crisis As Health Department RevisitsEast Village: Plans for the Bowery Hotel’s subterranean Japanese restaurant get scrapped for a spa. [Down by the Hipster] Drown your sorrows (or pickup takeout sushi) and head to Astor Wines for over 50 varieties of shochu, the Japanese alcohol that “goes down easy.” [Gridskipper]
Fort Greene: The first South African restaurant in the United States, Madiba, has just been closed by the Department of Health. [VV]
Long Island City: Junior’s Cheesecake and Harry’s Water Taxi Beach are among the participants in tomorrow night’s Taste of LIC to support the Chocolate Factory’s arts programs. [The Chocolate Factory]
Midtown West: Starwood’s new (opening in 2010) green hotel overlooking Bryant Park will feature restaurants by Stephen Hanson. [Gothamist]
Midwood: DiFara closed by the Department of Health for the second time since March. Dom, please just wear the hat. [Eater]
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]
Jay-Z Now Has 100 Problems; Beef Prices Through the RoofJay-Z now has 100 problems: He’s being sued by the staff of the 40/40 Club for withholding tips and paying less than the minimum wage. [NYP]
Beef prices are getting higher, and the supply of the best stuff getting shorter. Guess what that means for your next steakhouse bill. [NYT]
There is a slew of new restaurants opening in the Hamptons, although none are what you would call world-shaking. [Newsday]
Water Taxi Beach Opening With Beer in Long Island CityDumbo: For a divier May 5 celebration than found in our classy Cinco de Mayo roundup, there’s always Pedro’s. [Dumbo NYC]
Clinton Hill: Pillow Cafe’s old space at 372 Myrtle Avenue will be a new restaurant. [Clinton Hill Blog]
Cobble Hill: K & Y Fruit & Vegetables coming to Court Street; neighbors more enthusiastic about the prospect of fresh produce than pondering the store’s unfortunate name. [Brooklyn Record]
East Village: Do not attempt to have sex in bathroom at Cheap Shots. It sounds like a handful of Viagra can’t overcome this smell. [Gawker]
Long Island City: Water Taxi Beach opens this weekend and will dish out beef dogs and beer, weather permitting, until Memorial Day kicks off the full arsenal of daiquiris. [Joey in Astoria]
Prospect-Lefferts-Gardens: Community Supported Agriculture wants you! Sign up for a share of Woodbridge Farm and pick up the produce at the Maple Street School. [Across the Park]
Soho: The Kitchen Club’s incessant reminders that a party could not keep its table after a certain hour symbolizes a despicable trend, which must be stopped. [Eater]
Have a Cigar: Trattoria L’Incontro Gives Birth to a Wine BarThe wait for a table at Astoria’s Trattoria L’Incontro has long been an ordeal for Queens diners. Thank the outer-borough gods, then, that the restaurant’s opening a new wine bar, Vino di Vino, later this month. Right around the corner on Ditmars Boulevard, the wait-and-drink spot will have its own casual, small-plate menu centering on hot antipasti, cured meats, and cheese boards. But the big draw should be the wine list: 50 different varieties by the glass, with an emphasis on big reds like Amarones and Barolos. And, oh, the place will be enormous: 2,500 square feet. Finally, L’Incontro loosens its belt.
Vino di Vino, 29-21 Ditmars Blvd., Astoria; no phone yet.
Back of the House
Reservation: Impossible?If the advent of reservation scalpers like PrimeTime Tables and Weekend Epicure didn’t prove that good reservations are more in demand than ever, an article in this weekend’s Wall Street Journal pretty much makes an open-and-shut case. They used OpenTable, a free online reservation service, to try to get spots at the top 40 restaurants in the world, and often struck out; after 3,000 tries — calling every half-hour for six weeks straight — they still couldn’t score a 7 p.m. table at Del Posto. They do report some small triumphs: A San Francisco software engineer figured out how to get a reservation at the French Laundry by reloading an OpenTable page at exactly 11:59:55 a month in advance. And in fact, the free service is probably your best bet, despite the many strikeouts. Still, we prefer to simply call the same afternoon.
How to Get the Ungettable Table [WSJ]
Related: The Death of Paid Reservations?
Buy Steaks Out of a Van Near Flatbush AvenueBrooklyn Heights: Jack the Horse Tavern now serves brunch. [Brooklyn Heights Blog]
Chelsea: Checking in on Balducci’s: “If Marilyn Monroe were to come back as a cupcake, this is probably what she would look like.” [Blog Chelsea] Also, Cain bails on clubland for downtown, near GoldBar. [NYP]
East Village: Seder storytelling happening at Mo Pitkin’s tonight and tomorrow at 7 p.m.; a ticket also gets you gefilte fish and hard-boiled eggs. [Mo Pitkin’s]
Fort Greene: Sordid tale of greed may have forced Christian Dennery to sell Liquor’s restaurant, but whatever: Where will we get our Bloody Marys? [Clinton Hill Blog]
Harlem: Café Largo has reopened after an exhausting four-year renovation; the space is sexier, and new brick oven? Could serve three restaurants. [Uptown Flavor] Meanwhile, could a former Associated supermarket become a W Hotel? [Harlem Fur]
Lower East Side: Chef Shane Coffey will leave his head post at Alias Restaurant by the end of April and move to … Aspen. [Eat for Victory/VV]
Prospect-Lefferts-Gardens: “You like meat?”: Omaha steaks now available from unmarked vans near the Associated! [My Life in Brooklyn via Gowanus Lounge]
The Underground Gourmet
Sandwiches of the Week: In Celebration of National Peanut MonthNational Peanut Month — like National Baked Bean Month (July) and National Accordion Awareness Month (June) — comes but once a year, and that means celebrating, Peter Pan salmonella outbreak notwithstanding. Our top five nut-butter sandwiches, below.
1. The Elvis at Peanut Butter & Co.
Excellent peanut butter, honey, sliced banana, and optional (but recommended) bacon on white toast. Historical culinary note: In what might be the most famous case of the munchies, Elvis flew from Memphis to Denver on his private jet just to sample the progenitor of this fine sandwich, which was a loaf of Italian bread sliced lengthwise, a jar of Jif, a jar of jelly, and a pound of bacon. It was meant for sharing, but Elvis wolfed one down all by himself. 240 Sullivan St., nr. W. 3rd St.; 212-677-3995.
Health Department Inspector Caught Sleeping on the Job; Kanye West, Foxy BrownA Health Department inspector is caught on video snoozing at a bar when he was supposed to be tracking down rats. [NYP]
Keith McNally and other meatpacking-district residents are trying to work things out with the Hotel Gansevoort and its monstrous sign. [NYP]
Kanye West has curry delivered — from England. His tab? Almost $4,000, without tip. [The Independent]
Back of the House
Veselka 2: Electric BoogalooVeselka, an East Village mainstay since 1954, may soon have a twin: Owner Tom Birchard says he wants to open another full-scale restaurant. (Little Veselka, the Houston Street takeout kiosk, opened last year.) He’s looking at several downtown locations, the Avalon Christie complex on East Houston Street among them — the same building Daniel Boulud is thinking of dropping a new place into. But if Birchard had his druthers, he’d head uptown. “The ideal neighborhood would be the Upper West Side, around Columbia,” he tells us. “But I don’t want to be spending an hour going there and back every day. That would just be the most logical place, in terms of what’s there and who my customers would be.” Wherever he goes, the kasha king is sure of one thing: “I am going to re-create the Veselka we’ve had here for 53 years.” Well, sir, you can certainly try.
Do Morandi’s Restrooms Live Up to the Rest of McNally’s?As far as restrooms go, Keith McNally’s are the gold standard. The man has pissed away a great deal of money importing gigantic urinals and sinks (as Schiller’s barkeep Corey Lima told us, boozed-up patrons often mistake one for the other), and his restroom lounges are bigger (and have nicer furniture) than certain apartments we’ve lived in. When he built the bathrooms at his new venture Morandi, he must’ve known everyone was watching. Did he suffer from performance anxiety?
Earth to Chicago: You Lost ‘Iron Chef’ Fair and SquareMonday’s Iron Chef, in which Chicago chef Graham Elliot Bowles lost to Bobby Flay, has occasioned a gale of protest from the Windy City. For proud Chicagoans, it’s just not possible that Bowles could have lost; as A.J. Liebling put it, the prevailing local belief is, simply stated, that “everybody in the world is trying to put one over on Chicago.”
The New York Diet
Raw Foodist Sarma Melngailis Drinks Grapefruit Sake Mojitos Before Noon
You may remember Sarma Melngailis as half of New York’s Most Beautiful Feuding Foodies (the other half being Matthew Kenney, her cookbook co-author, ex-boyfriend and former partner in raw-food restaurant Pure Food and Wine). Regardless of gossip tales that she stabbed angry notes into vegetables, she’s revered by raw foodists as a champion of organic eating. That’s why we were surprised when, recounting what she ate this week, she confessed to indulging not just in “weirdo shakes” and Master Cleanse martinis, but also venison carpaccio, and at least one lamb meatball.
Restaurants Not Feeling the Love Last Night; Menu Secrets Kept From RiffraffA brutal Valentine’s Day for New York restaurants, battered by cancellations owing to the lousy weather. [WCBS]
Many of the city’s best restaurants have off-the-menu specials: foie gras donuts at Telepan, Daniel Boulud’s lobster ravioli at Le Cirque, and more, all revealed here. [Restaurant Girl]
Chocolate, of all things, turns out to be New York’s No. 1 specialty-food export — if you eat it on the East Coast, chances are it came from here. Food processing is “by far the most stable major manufacturing sector” in the city, and one of the last. [NYT]
Back of the House
White House Chef Confirms Bush Is Crackers“The Loneliest President,” the cover story in this week’s magazine, keeps resonating with us. Earlier, we wondered aloud whether Bush’s near-delusional state had something to do with the departures of his two pastry chefs. Now we discover that a new memoir, White House Chef , from former head cook Walter Scheib, who was fired by the Bushes in early 2005, supports John Heilemann’s suggestion that W. is an emotionally stunted, narcissistic personality incapable of empathy or growth.
Gramercy Park Room Service: “This Next One Is a Nobu Cover”Craving Balthazar at 5 a.m.? Come spring, all that will be required to get your late-night Cobb on is a room at the Gramercy Park Hotel. Once the beleaguered Park Chinois restaurant is up and running (in April or May, we’re told; Alan Yau’s still on board), a new 24-hour room-service menu will feature renditions of signature dishes from celebrated NYC restaurants and chefs.
The Other Critics
It’s Final: Ramsay’s Dull; March Gets RomanticBruni goes to Gordon Ramsay and finds common ground with everyone else, saying it’s well executed, flawless even — and totally uninspiring. Even the paint is dull! (Two stars.) [NYT]
In keeping with his recent interest in the international, Meehan visits a Romanian restaurant with garlicky spreads in Sunnyside. Still, despite the Sphinx, the place still doesn’t sound all that interesting. [NYT]
March reborn as Nish: It’s more romantic, thanks to more intimate seating, exotic ingredients, and dishes that “broadly evoked the cuisine of chef Gray Kunz: international spices used with local ingredients and French technique.” Who isn’t doing that these days? [Bloomberg]
Back of the House
Ilan May Not Be Top Chef Tonight; Coca Leaf CuisineYesterday’s Ilan Hall winner profile? Just one of two we had ready, says Food & Wine. Read Marcel’s. [Food & Wine]
Related: ‘Top Chef’ Winner Revealed — For Real! [Grub Street]
Bruni weighs in on Top Chef, giving the cooking elements of the show a surprising amount of respect. [NYT]
Sara Dickerman looks at the new wave of cooking shows and finds them all totally ridiculous — but entertaining. [Slate]
Everything Topsy-Turvy at Gramercy TavernThere are currently 3,458 menus in our vast database. If you only have the time to enjoy reading one today, may we recommend the new menu that’s just been instituted at Gramercy Tavern. Executive chef Michael Anthony has been running the kitchen since the fall, but only now is his vision for the restaurant taking hold. Anthony, whose back-to-the-earth style was last glimpsed at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, leans on Vongerichten-like combinations of juices and herbs; butter and animal fat are used sparingly. “I want people to walk out of the restaurant not feeling heavy and full, but vibrant and restored,” the chef tells us. Which is not to say he’s completely shunning rich, meaty concoctions: There’s a boned-out suckling-pig porchetta, stuffed with house-made sausage and Swiss chard, that he’s cooking in the Tavern’s wood-burning oven. So what should you order when you come to Gramercy now? “It’s my dream to have a four-top sit down and order two seasonal tasting menus and two vegetable tasting menus,” Anthony says. Any volunteers?
A to Z List: Online Menus
Reader: The City’s Dim Sum Sucks. But Here Are the Places I Like!
We recently heard from our friend Francis Lam, a connoisseur of Chinese food who had some intriguing things to say in response to our post on the wooing of Chinatown Brasserie’s Joe Ng by Bensonhurst restaurateurs.
“Frankly speaking, the dim sum I know of in the city just doesn’t match up to the best stuff in Hong Kong and Vancouver. What you can get in those and other places is much more in line with Joe Ng’s work at Chinatown Brasserie, which I would definitely call head and shoulders above anything else here. (Secretly, I’m glad he’s being headhunted back to a Chinese community in Brooklyn, where it will be more affordable and the product turnover will be higher.)”
Okay, Francis. So where do you get decent dim sum in the city?
Mario Batali Is a Kobe Human, and Other Great Lines From His RoastMario Batali looked bigger than life last night, as he sat in a carved wooden throne taking punches from speaker after speaker at his celebrity roast at Capitale. The event, which benefited the Food Bank of New York, was simultaneously tame and vulgar: Every imaginable anatomical insult was made, but there was barely a mention of Super Mario’s actual partying practices, which are legendary in restaurant circles. Rachael Ray and Rocco DiSpirito, neither of whom were present, took far worse abuse.
Still, the roasters, who ranged from Sarah Silverman and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog to Anthony Bourdain, got the merry pasta mogul pretty good.
Back of the House
Soup Nazi Ladles Out Ego; DiSpirito Waits Tables; ‘Top Chef’• Public hearing reveals support for trans-fat ban and printing of calories on fast-food menus. [NYT]
• And KFC makes it official: minimal trans fats by April — coincidence? [NYS]
• Soup Nazi ponders a self-glorifying museum at the site of his original store. [NYO]
• Alerting us to video restaurant reviews, Andrea Strong somehow fails to nod to America’s Amusingest Food Videos. [NYP]
• Public opens a wine bar; another izakaya, this one with buttons at the table to summon waiters; gourmet pizza on Bedford Avenue. [Strong Buzz]
• Rocco DiSpirito waits tables with Gilbert Gottfried. (A benefit, not our dream reality show.) [NYP]
• Batali goes bi-coastal: Pizzeria Mozza finally open. [Chowhound]
• Absolut, Bacardi, and other reformed booze bizzies fork over $2.3 mil to end Spitzer probe. [NYS]
• “Top Chef” Marisa busts out the bikini. [Chow]
Back of the House
New York Burger Co.’s Dirty SecretNew York Burger Co. has two profitable locations in the city that have won some praise, so naturally, the company’s founders are poised to make the leap into megafranchising. We’ve often wondered at burger joints that are obviously created as franchise pilots; Long Island’s American Burger Company didn’t even bother giving itself a local name before initiating its nation-conquering mission.
Click and Save
Reindeer Sausage, Hungry-Man Happy Hours, and a Word From DJ BubblesWhether you’re hungry at six in the p.m. or five in the a.m., this week’s serving of service journalism has you covered.
• Cheapo champ Meehan’s late-night dining findings. [NYT]
• Time Out does brunch. [TONY]
• Hungry-man happy hours. [Thrillist]
• Sietsema’s best-of picks: Fried backbone, reindeer sausage, and “weird wobbly yellow stuff.” [VV]
• Greek grub in Astoria. [NYT]
• “Definitive pizzameister” DJ Bubbles’ top-ten list. [Slice]