‘Food & Wine’ Big-Ups New York on Best-Restaurants ListNew York may have gotten short shrift on San Pallegrino’s list of the world’s best restaurants, but on the just-released ‘Food & Wine’ “Go List” of the World’s Best Places to Eat, we rank number three, behind Tokyo and Paris.
Encounter David Chang in This Week’s ‘New Yorker’Late in Larissa MacFarquhar’s profile of David Chang, the Momofuku man makes a confession: “I’m slowly realizing that I’m a highly complex individual,” he says. It’s not an insight likely to surprise readers of the piece, which will appear in The New Yorker this week. Chang comes across as brilliant, inspired, and high-strung to the point of actually giving himself shingles, a diagnosis made by a doctor after the chef literally incapacitated himself with worry and anxiety. But if you want to get a sense of how intense Chang really is, just read the passage where he reads the riot act to a group of hapless Noodle Bar cooks, who had committed offenses ranging from using tongs on the family-meal chicken (a Chang bête noire) to cutting up the fish cakes for the ramen carelessly.
Todd Barry Not the Only One Who Worships at the Altar of ChipotleAs you now know, Todd Barry is a big fan of Chipotle, and he’s not the only one that considers it one of New York’s “great restaurants.” The Tex-Mex chain is just one of five joints (along with Tia Pol, wd-50, Hearth, and the Spotted Pig) that Momofuku lists as “friends” on its Website, and in this magazine’s profile of David Chang, he makes clear that it influenced Ssäm Bar:
“I tried to get a job at Chipotle when I got back from Japan, but they wouldn’t hire me,” he says. “They knew what I was up to.” It’s easy to see the parallels between Ssäm Bar and the Tex-Mex monolith that’s invaded Manhattan. “A lot of this is premised on what Chipotle’s done: Make affordable, good food, and do it with integrity.”
We’ve noted that Bobby Flay is also possibly a fan of Chipotle (indeed Bret Thorn overheard him calling it “good food”). And we’re sure Chang and Flay aren’t the only ones. So when will Chipotle’s founder, Steve Ells, finally be nominated for a Beard Award?
Related: Comedian Todd Barry Eschews Tomatoes, Eggs, and Mayo, But Not 33-Cent Cookies
Back of the House
Bourdain Gives NYC Restaurant Picks (Again)Fodor’s goes to the Tony Bourdain well today for the latest in their “Top Chef Travels” feature, and though it’s all probably stuff you’ve heard him enthuse about before (Barney Greengrass, Ssäm Bar, Del Posto), we did enjoy his curmudgeonly take on the city’s live-music scene: “I don’t know which is worse: to be packed in a room with a lot of people half your age, in which case you feel like an idiot, or even worse, go see someone you’ve really loved for a long time, like Elvis Costello, and you look around and see all the other original fans and they’re all old and hideous just like you.”
Top Chef Travels — Anthony Bourdain [Fodor’s]
A Recession-Proof Restaurant Scene?; Death & Co. Owner Disgusted by HasslesWith all the exciting new restaurants opening in town, you’d never know there’s talk of a recession. But Frank Bruni figures anything opening now was planned a few years ago in better economic times, which makes us worry about restaurant openings in 2010. [NYT]
Death & Co. can continue to operate until mid-April, but don’t expect owner David Kaplan to produce any more nightlife destinations after that: “I’ll never open another bar, another restaurant, a deli, a fucking bodega — I’ll never open up anything ever again in New York.” [NYO]
The current cocktail craze has led to a lot of handmade – and therefore illegal – ingredients being mixed into drinks. Marijuana-infused gin, anyone? [NYP]
In the Magazine
Platt Disses Daniel, and Other Holiday TalesPresidents’ Day is a holiday for Grub Street, but, thankfully, there’s enough in this week’s magazine to read till we return tomorrow. Daniel Boulud, whom Adam Platt respects as the Last Great French Chef, falls down in his new restaurant and gets only one star. In this week’s “Openings,” Rob and Robin introduce us to Olana (American with Italian influences) and marvel at Akhtar Nawab and Noel Cruz for putting a restaurant where Jimi Hendrix used to (reportedly) play. At Momofuku Ssäm Bar, Rob and Robin find the mind-bending “Frankensteak”: hanger steak that is literally glued to world-class rib-eye deckle. The Insatiable Critic falls for Fiore, a funky, rustic Italian place in Williamsburg; for those at risk of scurvy, pickled lemon is in “In Season” this week. But if you want a drink, you’ll find a guide to the city’s top boutique wineshops by the Gastropoda herself, Regina Schrambling.
Calories to Show Up on Menus Starting March 31; Mercury Levels Horrifically HighThe Board of Health decided yesterday in a unanimous vote to make all chain restaurants with fifteen or more outlets – approximately 10 percent of the city’s restaurants – post calorie info on their menus starting March 31. RIP, 1,230-calorie triple Whopper with cheese. [CNN]
Laboratory tests run on sushi samples from twenty Manhattan stores and restaurants revealed shockingly high levels of mercury in bluefin tuna, so high that the FDA could technically take the fish off the market. And if you’ve got to have your tuna sushi, you’d best head to Fairway and avoid Blue Ribbon Sushi at all costs. [NYT]
Gourmet editor-in-chief Ruth Reichl is “obsessed with” Momofuku Ssäm Bar, “like everyone else in New York,” according to her. [TONY]
At Momofuku Ssäm It’s AC/DC 24/7A while back David Chang told Eater that his new fourteen-seater won’t be a fine-dining restaurant, though a recent Craigslist ad recruiting cooks says “prior fine-dining experience is preferred.” Whatever Momofuku Ko turns out to be, we can’t imagine Vivaldi will be playing in the dining room — it’s not like critics have been turned off by the steady diet of AC/DC that we heard during a recent stop-in at Momofuku Ssäm.
A Nearly Full House at Momofuku, But Tumbleweeds at CantinaYou’re a brave soul if you plan on checking out that new East Village or Lower East Side restaurant this weekend — if it’s full-up, you’ll be turned onto the streets with the entire teenage population of Strong Island. That’s why last Saturday we hit eight spots between the hours of 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. to take inventory — our head counts may or may not hold true this weekend when there will be far less drunken Santas running amok, but we’re pleased to see that the wait has lessened at Momofuku (in fact, there wasn’t one!) and are a bit shocked to discover that Jason Neroni is sometimes pretty much the only person in the dining room at Cantina. Bet he’s counting the seconds till 10 Downing.
‘GQ’ Names David Chang Chef of the YearGQ’s Men of the Year issue is hot off the presses, and you can probably guess who their Chef of the Year is: none other than soup sachem David Chang. It’s got to feel good to the Momofuku Man, but we wonder if he might be experiencing a little anxiety as well. The most recent deluge of media love has been largely in response to the top-notch work Chang and co-chefs Joaquin Baca and Tien Ho pulled off in opening the justly popular Ssäm Bar, and Chang could be staking his good name on the success of his forthcoming Ko. Ko will have to be phenomenal (and, let’s be honest, it very well could be) to shield him from what could be some backlash against the flood of praise bestowed upon the young chef in the past year. At any rate, you’ve got to admire Chang’s willingness to rise above the Momofuku/Ssäm love parade and take his game to the next level. Between now and the time Ko opens, we hope he lets himself bask in the glow for a few minutes.
Year of the Pig [GQ]
Related: Yet More Kudos for David Chang!
The New York Diet
Comedian Aziz Ansari Won’t Stand for Gourmet Chicken and Waffles
Since being named Rolling Stone’s “hot stand-up,” Aziz Ansari has risen to still more prominence as — quite memorably — the racist fruit vendor on Flight of the Conchords and a star of MTV’s Human Giant (now filming its second season). One of the latter show’s memorable skits has Aziz taking a blood oath with his co-stars Paul Scheer and Rob Huebel to visit the fictional BBQ joint KC Rib Tickler’s (having grown up in South Carolina, Aziz is indeed a barbecue fan). Though they have yet to actually shed blood over it in reality, Aziz and his co-stars are passionate about checking out newly opened spots (using Adam Platt’s reviews as a pointer, we’re happy to hear!). We asked him where he’s been this week.
Room 4 Dessert Is Dead, Long Live Room 4 Dessert
In what might be the least surprising news of the summer, Will Goldfarb has told Grub Street that Room 4 Dessert, at least in its current location, is kaput. (The place has been closed for months, but Goldfarb has been promising it would reopen.) “We’re officially pulling the plug on 17 Cleveland Place,” the cake whiz tells us. “But we’re going to reopen, bigger and better, six months from today.” Goldfarb, theatrical as ever, refuses to disclose the location of the new place, except to say that it’s downtown “in another high-profile restaurant row.”
David Chang Gives My Boyfriend a HeadacheGrub Street, I live less than two blocks from Momofuku , and I used to eat there all the time and I thought it was good but not some kind of shrine. When did David Chang become such a food god? The soup there gives my boyfriend headaches, and I never saw what was so great about Ssäm Bar. To me there are any number of places in Flushing that beat the pants off Chang. Lillian
David Chang Going Upscale — Again
In the wake of David Chang’s coronation as James Beard’s Rising Star Chef this week, we’ve redoubled our efforts to find out the location of the long-rumored third Momofuku. And these efforts have paid off. We still don’t have a time frame, but a source close to Chang tells us that in the near future a Momofuku Noodle Bar much like the current one will open up “down the street” on Second Avenue and that the overcrowded original will be remade into a small, sit-down fine-dining restaurant. Given how Ssäm Bar has rocked the food world, this news is pretty exciting. We just hope we live to see it — the Momofuku Man may not appreciate our letting the cat out of the bag.
And the Tablecloths Burn
Is Momofuku Finally Pregnant With Another Location?
Related: The I Chang [NYM]
Beard After-parties: Hawaiian Tropic Zone, Momofuku Party Bus, MoreThe James Beard Awards after-parties presented special challenges which could only be solved by the liberal use of an open bar. The place to go was the Hawaiian Tropic Zone, whose bikini-clad waitresses and go-go dancers, serving at the behest of chef David Burke, provided a welcome dose of vulgarity after the high-class Beard gala. But the truly hot ticket was the Momofuku party bus, which, if David Chang & Co. were to be believed, was a chartered party vehicle where the most intense celebrating would be done. Regretfully, though, it was closed to press. “Sorry, dude,” David Chang told us, dazed and blissful and still unbelieving in the wake of his victory.
You Know You’re a Meathead When …The Gobbler recently introduced the world to what he called the “Refined Meathead” school of cooking. Meatheads are mostly male, pork- and offal-obsessed cooks who disdain classical (read “French”) haute cuisine in favor of an earthier brand of cuisine. Mario Batali is king of the Meatheads. David Chang is a Meathead. Daniel Boulud, who grew up eating robust Lyonnaise food and cooks the best pork belly in town when he feels like it, is a closet Meathead. Who are the rest of the Meatheads? How would you know one if you met one in the street? Here are the Gobbler’s Six Meathead Commandments.
Is Momofuku Finally Pregnant With Another Location?Fans, friends, and media have been besieging culinary “It” boy David Chang since he first opened Momofuku Noodle Bar about when he plans to expand. From what we’re hearing, the day isn’t far off. A source within Chang’s orbit tipped us off that plans might be in the works to open a long-awaited Noodle Bar uptown. When we asked the pork-happy prodigy about it last week, he sighed exasperatedly and told us, “When we do it, we’re not telling anybody! We’re just going to do it.” Knowing Chang, that’s probably about as close to a confirmation as anybody is likely to get in the near future, so we present it to you for what it is. For our part, we would lay money enough to buy a Bo Ssäm on the likelihood of some kind of Momofuku expansion being announced in the next couple of months. Given that the crowds at the Noodle Bar currently remind us of the fall of Saigon, it can’t happen soon enough.
Related: The I Chang [NYM]
The Underground Gourmet
Momofuku Ssäm Bar Serving More Food More of the TimeOfficial Hours-of-Operation Keeper at Dave Chang’s Momofuku Ssäm Bar must be the hardest job in the restaurant business. The sleek spot, which began its life as a cafeteria-style restaurant serving Asian burritos every day from 12 noon to 10 p.m. and then, several weeks later, entered its phase-two transformation into a full-service “latenight” restaurant on Wednesdays through Sundays, continues to tweak its hours and menu. Not unintelligent East Villagers are perplexed, if not downright baffled.
The Other Critics
Critics Hone In on the Bone-InSteak and ssäms continue to rule the reviews — with a white truffle thrown in for good measure.
• Saving Lonesome Dove for the blog, Bruni checks into another meatery, Harry’s Steak. The bone-in steak “spoke to the timeless glories of aged prime beef,” but the menu’s saddled with “clever tweaks.” [NYT]
• Andrea Strong checks in on Lonesome Dove (again) and is way more impressed with the kangaroo nachos than her boy at the Post was. [Strong Buzz]
• At STK, Alan Richman eyes the hotties “who look like they’re barely past puberty” and shares in our fascination with the restrooms. “If only the food — admittedly great-looking — were as flavorsome as the customers.” [Bloomberg]
• Dana Bowen visits Momofuku Ssäm Bar, and after raving about the late-night menu we first reported, hints that it may see the light of day. [NYT]
• As if Danny Meyer was starving for publicity, Moira Hodgson reassures us that Tabla is “one of the city’s great restaurants.” Something to do with chef Floyd Cardoz’s new cookbook? [NYO]
• Paul Adams schools upwardly mobile I-Chin: “Going upscale involves more than buying buff-colored cloth napkins and hiring servers to assiduously refold them at every opportunity.” [NYS]
• Augie splurges on a white truffle at Gotham — presumably not as pricey as Morimoto’s $10,500 highbrow-despicable truffle. [Augieland]
The Other Critics
No Love for Love; Another Arty Eatery; Tapas That RockIn this week’s reviews, Cuozzo draws his six-shooter on Tim Love and Ted Turner, Ryan Sutton drinks the $12 bottled water at Gilt, Andrea Strong’s blood boils over the pricey wines at Devin Tavern, and more.
Cuozzo to Tim Love and Ted Turner: “Welcome to New York: Now leave!” [NYP]
Ryan Sutton takes the temperature at Gilt now that the foam has cleared and finds that “if Liebrandt’s cuisine was hyperactive, [new chef Christopher] Lee’s is hyper-restrained.” Though the grub’s a bit cheaper, there’s still a $12 “you just got fleeced” fee on bottled water. [Bloomberg]
Julia Moskin visits the Morgan’s dining room, the latest in arty eateries, and finds the nicest restaurant salad she’s had in years. Of the beef Wellington: “Some dishes, like musicals, should never be revived.” [NYT]
Paul Adams contemplates the sublime porkiness of Momofuku Ssäm Bar [NYS]
At Palo Santo, a Pan-Latin joint on a Slope side street, $25-and-Under (not the super-stingy Meehan we’ve been loving) unearths off-the-menu items like beef-cheek asopado. [NYT]
Reeling from “Spain’s 10,” Augie taps the tapas at Boqueria and finds they rock almost as hard as Jane’s Addiction doing “Ripple.” [Augieland]
Taking up the good fight alongside Meehan, Andrea Strong visits Devin Tavern and her blood boils over the $40-plus wine list: “This is not very tavern like. Come on.” [Strong Buzz]
Ignoring the Gobbler’s advice on how not to get made, the Amateur Gourmet is exposed at Country. [Amateur Gourmet]
Katie Julian weighs in on the Tasting Room and agrees with everyone else: Some dishes work (porcini topped with a fried egg and crispy pork skin), and others don’t (raw matsutake-mushroom slices drizzled with “cheese-pumpkin juice”). [NYer]
BlackBook delves into Haute Barnyard at Flatbush Farm. [BlackBook]
The Underground Gourmet
Sandwich Purists, Prepare to Swallow Your IndignationIntroducing the Underground Gourmet’s Sandwich of the Week, a special contribution to Grub Street.
Nothing rankles peevish sandwich purists more than the compulsion among today’s freewheeling chefs to improve upon a classic by substituting brazenly nontraditional upmarket ingredients for the tried and true (witness the Wagyu cheesesteak). Said purists, though, should swallow their indignation along with the spectacular “Three-Terrine Sandwich” that recently debuted on the late-night menu at Momofuku Ssäm Bar. The toothsome concoction is crafted from shards of succulent ham, chicken pâté, and a particularly heady veal-head cheese, all made in house and topped with pickled cucumbers, carrot, daikon, Kewpie mayo, and hot sauce. A gourmet bánh mì, for sure, but a bánh mì just the same, even if co-chef Tien Ho, its humble creator, abstained from using the name since he serves it on a Sullivan Street Bakery ciabatta instead of the traditional rice-flour-enhanced baguette. If only all sandwich maestros were such sticklers.
— Rob Patronite & Robin Raisfeld