Chefs Love What Mom Used to MakeWe asked a handful of chefs which childhood dishes they remember most fondly and which ones, if any, they’ve reinvented as their own.
Analyzing the Counter at Pichet Ong’s BakeryNext door to his sleek dessert bar P*ONG, pastry chef Pichet Ong has opened a small, sunlit bakery called Batch. The treats here — little cupcakes, chewy cookies, and cupped puddings — are far more familiar. But the tastes may not be.
What Can’t Pichet Ong Do With Foie Gras?We checked in with dessertologist Pichet Ong recently and found him inordinately pleased with one of his newest creations: a foie gras Chantilly “taco,” created for the Valentine’s Day tasting menu and now served every day at P*ONG. The shell is made of chocolate and hazelnut, the filling foie gras Chantilly, with a little bit of red-chile jam for heat. “It has that creamy, melt-in-your-mouth feel that people want from foie gras, with the crunch from the taco. Everyone loves it.” So says Ong. And there’s more foie in the future!
The Hidden History of Starbucks; Café Carlyle Still Bumpin’Astor Place: The building that houses Starbucks has such interesting history (saw a bloody theater riot in 1849 at what was once the Astor Place Opera House; held a barber shop where mobster Albert Anastasia got slaughtered while sitting in his chair) that Lost City has decided to target “kudzu-like chains” around town and attempt to uncover their past incarnations. [Lost City]
Chinatown: Dumpling House has reopened and the renovations include tables and chairs! [Eater]
East Village: Bar Veloce is returning to the space it once occupied before transforming into now deceased Room 4 Dessert. [Eater]
Tribeca: Harrison Tavern has already closed after a July opening. Clearly, offering ranch-chicken pizza did not bring in herds. [Grub Street]
Upper East Side: Café Carlyle has added a D.J.-hosted soirée Thursday through Saturday from midnight to 3 a.m. to its cabaret-night repertoire, and a new cocktail menu comes from the mixologist at Bemelmans Bar. [Zagat]
West Village: Pichet Ong is renaming his dessert bar P*ong & Batch at the end of the month when he’ll be expanding the space to include a retail bakery. [Zagat]
Williamsburg: Breakfast mecca egg (it’s too cool to have a capital letter) deigns to open for dinner. [TONY]
Engines of Gastronomy
If It’s a Frozen Dessert at P*ong, Blame the PacojetIt takes more than skilled hands, sharp knives, and a creative mind to power New York’s restaurants. There’s also some heavy equipment that deserves periodic recognition.
Today’s dessert alchemists draw from a considerable arsenal in their battle against conventional cake and ice cream. But the real secret weapon for many of these artisans is the Pacojet, a kind of high-tech blender. Pichet Ong was one of the earliest adopters of the Pacojet and uses a customized one at P*ong for all of his ice creams, sorbets, and ices.
The Other Critics
Bruni Maintains Luger’s Middling Reputation; Bar Fry’s Tempura More Varied ThanFrank Bruni complains about the steak, the service, the sides, and the salad at Peter Luger but caves and hands it two stars. [NYT]
Restaurant Girl gives Elio’s two and a half stars, citing its “charming lure of old-world” Italian, code for a menu that has barely changed in 26 years. [NYDN]
Alan Richman visits Il Mulino and in crushing it strikes a blow against “this style of oversized, oversauced, overcooked cuisine” with all the force he can muster. [Bloomberg]
In the Magazine
A ‘Top Chef’ Surprise and Other Summer Treats
The lull of midsummer is already over, and new growths sprout everywhere. A young chef gives his first restaurant a go, a veteran gets his own place for the first time, and an established star gets a fresh start. We have restaurant openings, new and better lemonades, and even a baked squash blossom. Summer is starting to tire, but the food stays sharp.
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.”
The Other Critics
P*ONG Found to Be Small and Uneven; Monkey Bar Gets HammeredFrank Bruni appreciates Pichet Ong’s skill and creativity but finds his restaurant, P*ONG, in what will probably be a defining review, unequal to his talent: “Mr. Ong is an enterprising cook, but he doesn’t seem to be a seasoned restaurateur, and P*ong points out the difference.” [NYT]
Similarly, Paul Adams grants that FR.OG chef Didier Virot has “has a virtuosic ability with flavors,” but was less than thrilled with the restaurant. That’s about in keeping with most other reviews the place has had, which call out a few dishes but give it an “eh” otherwise. [NYS]
Randall Lane disliked the Monkey Bar so much that it’s amazing that he gave it two stars (out of six). “More often, though, the dishes were so unsuccessful that I had difficulty finishing them.” Eek. Not what you want to hear after a huge, expensive relaunch.[TONY]
Provence Chef Pink-Slipped; Pichet Ong to Open Cupcake ShopChef Lynn McNeely has been handed a pink slip after mixed reviews at the new Provence; no word on who the next chef might be. [Eater]
Related: Provence Redux [NYM]
Pichet Ong is opening a cupcake store next to P*ONG. “Vanilla, chocolate, yuzu and cinnamon will be my staples,” he says. “I want to add a little salt & spice to my take on them.” [Restaurant Girl]
A tale of two bakeries under Health Department scrutiny: one, Magnolia, plays nice; the other, Delices de Paris in Park Slope, kicks back. Guess which one ends up closing. [NYO]
Le Cirque Scrambles for Relevance; P*ONG ExpandingA myriad of consultants and experts are surrounding Sirio Maccioni, giving advice on how Le Cirque can recapture its now-departed magic. [Insatiable Critic]
Dessert bars are a hot enough trend right now that some restaurants and bakeries are transforming themselves at certain hours, while others, like P*ONG, are built expressly for the genre. [NYP]
Related: Because Our Desserts Are as Good as Everyone Else’s Entire Meals
Speaking of which, Asian dessert guru Pichet Ong will open a shop devoted to ice cream, pudding, and cookies next door to P*ONG on August 17. [Strong Buzz]
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]
The Other Critics
Fette Sau and 15 East Get Strong Endorsements From the ExpertsPeter Meehan gives a highly thought-out, admiring review (probably the most knowledgeable one so far) of Fette Sau, taking pain to mention the place’s few but significant shortcomings. [NYT]
Related: Fette Sau’s Weird Williamsburg Barbecue Palace [Grub Street]
Alan Richman, a person with highly developed opinions about sushi, thinks 15 East a great find: “If you have pricey seafood cravings without the wherewithal to finance them, I don’t believe you can do better than 15 East,” he says. [Bloomberg]
Frank Bruni inexplicably reviews Max Brenner: Chocolates by the Bald Man, a place that no one would ever expect to be good. Unsurprisingly, he hands them a bagel. [NYT]
Related: Milking It [NYM]
In the Magazine
Pichet Ong Is Ready for His Close-up
P*Ong’s Roquefort soufflé, walnuts, and arugula ice cream Photo courtesy P*OngPichet Ong’s reputation as a dessert and small-plates master has made P*Ong one of the season’s most awaited openings, as Rob and Robin relate in this week’s issue. For his solo debut, the former Vongerichten lieutenant, who rose to stardom at 66 and Spice Market, has whipped up a menu filled with the kind of complex savory-sweet, Asian-inflected dishes that he helped make so au courant. And, as the Robs point out, there’s a ten-course tasting menu if you want more than just a bite and an exotic cocktail. P*Ong opens Friday and is taking reservations now.
Openings: Insieme, Tiffin Wallah, P*Ong
Earlier: Look for P*Ong in April, Okay? These Things Take Time
In the Magazine
Chefs Try to Take It to the Next Level in This Week’s Issue
Five established chefs take center stage in this week’s issue – or six, if you count Kurt Gutenbrunner, who, per In Season, has a way with white asparagus. The others? Michael Anthony, the Blue Hill Haute Barnyard prodigy who stepped into Tom Colicchio’s shoes at Gramercy Tavern; Christopher Lee, a major rising talent who filled big shoes at Gilt; Kerry Simon, a Las Vegas–based Vongerichten lieutenant who is now doing the food for a giant karaoke bar; and finally Marco Canora and Asian dessert master Pichet Ong, whose long-awaited debuts, Insieme and P*Ong, respectively, open this week. All this star power, along with two short lists that couldn’t be more different, awaits in this week’s magazine.
Back of the House
Look for P*Ong in April, Okay? These Things Take TimeP*Ong, the long-awaited all-dessert restaurant from former Spice Market pastry chef Pichet Ong, has been delayed yet again. Previously we had heard that the date was set for this week. Now, Ong tells us, he’s looking at mid-April. There’s final painting to be done, juicers and dehydrators still to come in, a sanitation inspection yet to be passed, and other typically troublesome details. “I’m doing all this by myself,” says the chef, who studied design at Berkeley and is laying out the restaurant. “But I kind of wanted to so that next time I’ll really know how to open a restaurant. The Department of Buildings has been my worry. So many restaurants have opened illegally, either applying for permits afterward or being grandfathered in; we want everything to be just right from the first day.”
Back of the House
Inside the Troubled Russian Tea Room; Meyer and Others on Media ScrutinyThe fullest account yet of the debacle that is the new Russian Tea Room. Gary Robins comes out looking far more sinned against than sinning, and the owner comes out looking like a jerk. [NYP]
A blue-ribbon panel including Mario Batali, Bill Telepan, and Danny Meyer study the question of whether it’s possible to open a restaurant under the radar. The near unanimous answer is no. Will Goldfarb suggests one way: “Do it in Queens.” [Snack]
Pichet Ong formerly of Spice Market is the first of the hot pastry chefs to open his own restaurant, the eponymous P*ong. Rivals Sam Mason and Jehangir Mehta (formerly of Aix) are close behind. [NYS]
Related: The Launch [Grub Street]