‘Esquire’ Sandwich Survey Is Spot-on
Ever since that glorious, immortal, probably imaginary day when the Earl of Sandwich, unwilling to leave his gaming table, directed a manservant to put meat between two slices of bread, the art of sandwich-making has flourished. Esquire’s “Best Sandwiches in America” offers a deluxe overview of America’s best, and we have to say, it’s about the most judicious such survey we’ve seen. The sandwiches chosen for the cities we know well, like the pork-and-provolone number at John’s Roast Pork in Philadelphia, or the Monte Cristo at Canter’s in L.A., are exactly the ones we would have picked, and the ones from cities we’ve never visited, like the Reggie Deluxe in Pine State Biscuits in Portland, Oregon (“fried chicken, bacon, cheddar, gravy, and an over-easy egg on a cream-top buttermilk biscuit still hot from the outdoor oven”), make us want to travel more.
Ring in the New Year With David Chang!We just got a look at the Ssäm Bar New Year’s Eve party, and while we won’t be attending (that $300 is earmarked for a new car), we have to say that it looks pretty impressive. For your three bills, you get open bar (beer, sake and wine only), plus Champagne (but for how long?), and, in the food department, such Ssäm standbys as artisanal-ham plates, aged steak, and a slow-cooked pork butt, d.b.a. Bo Ssäm — usually $180 when you order it on the menu. We still can’t figure out the economics of Ssäm Bar, but given Chang’s resistance to moneymaking (through expansion, cookbooks, etc.), we doubt he’s looking to make much money. And if the “unlimited beer, wine, and sake” really are unlimited, the Soupman could well end up on the red side of the ledger.
David Chang’s New Year’s Party
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!
Fergus Henderson to Cook Tomorrow at Savoy, Wednesday at the Spotted Pig
We stopped by Soho House last night to speak to Fergus Henderson, the celebrated London chef whose gospel of offal, Nose to Tail Eating, conquered the culinary world back in 2004. Henderson and his friend Justin Piers Gellatly, his dessert chef at London’s St. John, have written a sequel to Nose to Tail called Beyond Nose to Tail (“It’s like Buzz Lightyear, isn’t it? Infinity and beyond?” Fergus said of the illogical title). Henderson will be cooking some of his signature dishes from St. John tomorrow night at Savoy and Wednesday at the Spotted Pig; both evenings are open to the public.
Eric Ripert to Feed Reader Who May Lose Sense of TasteDear Grub Street,Next weekend I’m getting surgery done on an impacted wisdom tooth which is growing very close to a central nerve. I’ve been told that if this nerve is damaged, there’s a chance I will lose a large part of feeling in my face – including a loss of my sense of taste. I’ve gone into “doomsday mode”, thinking of all the best flavors this city has to offer in an effort to get them ingrained into my gray memory. As of now I’ve got a reservation at Degustation, will be making at least three visits minimum to Ssäm Bar, and another to Sasabune. Are there maybe two or three dishes or places that should be added to this ever-growing list? Le Bernardin is in my sights of course, but understandably may be difficult to get into.
Signed,Facing My Final Hour
Back of the House
Yet More Kudos for David Chang! (Shoot Us Now.)Is the David Chang superstar era over yet? If not, can you wake us when it is? We just opened the October Gourmet, and there’s a multipage lovefest to the Momofuku Man, complete with the usual musings on pork (“a mystical, magical animal,” he calls it, echoing Homer Simpson) and the usual close-ups of him eating. Coming on the heels of Bon Appétit’s even more ridiculous Chef of the Year award, we think the time may have come to say what everyone we know is already thinking: that Chang, earnest and talented as he is, has turned into the Sanjaya of Soup and needs to be reassessed.
When Chefs Play Dress-up
The September issue of Esquire is the gift that keeps on giving: Last week it introduced us to the foppish Thomas Crowley of Bar Veloce and his hilarious MySpace page; today it brings us “Angry Young Men,” a “new generation of mavericks” selected to wear $1,500 suits and glower for the camera. Two of our favorite mavericks made the cut: nightlife impresario Simon Hammerstein, looking tough with a burned-down cig and a stripy fall suit, and culinary “It” boy David Chang, mad as hell in classic houndstooth. We can see how running the Box would wear a guy out, but what got in D.C.’s craw? He looks like somebody just told him he had to use Boar’s Head bacon at Ssäm Bar. That said, he does look sharp.
Related: Bar Veloce GM Moonlights as Raffish Fop
What’s in the Box? [NYM]
Is Govind Armstrong Worried Enough About New York?When top out-of-town chefs move to New York, it’s always a crapshoot. Some, like Fort Worth’s Tim Love, come in conspicuously and wash out; others, like Atlanta’s Sotohiro Kosugi, now at Soto, come in under the radar but quickly grab our attention. L.A.’s Govind Armstrong doesn’t expect much of a problem: The ultra-laid-back chef made South Beach his own and expects New York to treat him equally well. “A lot of New Yorkers come down here to Miami, and I’ve been coming up there forever, so I have a lot of friends to support me,” he tells us. “I’m not trying to reinvent the way New Yorkers eat. But I can’t not grow, you know?”
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.”
Victorian Flatbush Gets Full Coverage From FreshDirectChinatown: Hole-in-the-wall Viet-Nam Banh Mi So 1 at 369 Broome Street has reopened after being closed for renovations and transformed from dingy and cluttered to spick-and-span. [Grub Street]
East Village: A cloudy sake soda served up recently at Ssäm Bar gets props for ingenuity. [Down by the Hipster] David Chang tells all about the new Momofuku. [Eater]
Harlem: There’s a dress code for a Mother’s Day tea party hosted by a knitting circle, but you just need a dish to share for entry. [Uptown Flavor]
Park Slope: Union Street’s Food Coop wins partial reimbursement from Con Edison after a blackout last year resulted in $27,000 worth of spoiled products. The rebate? Seven Gs. [The Gowanus Lounge]
Victorian Flatbush: FreshDirect deems the nabe worthy of coverage. [Brooklyn Record]
And the Tablecloths BurnRevolutions don’t happen overnight, so we weren’t shocked that only one of the three Beard Award categories reversed tradition. Still, last night’s ceremony officially ushered in a new era in fine dining.
Tonight’s Beard Awards: a Referendum on Haute Cuisine
Times are changing in the restaurant world – but just how fast? Tonight’s James Beard Awards will help answer the question of whether the traditional tablecloth restaurants, which seem to be on the way out, still wield their old clout in the gastronomic Establishment.
My Edgy, Broke Cousin Wants to Hit the Hot Spots!
Dear Grub Street,My cousin is coming in next week from Indiana and wants to see the “hottest” NYC restaurants that he has read about on your Weblog and in New York Magazine. Where do you think I should take him? He likes “edgy” places and doesn’t have a lot of money to spend (nor do I). Should we go to the Spotted Pig or Casa Mono? Momofuku Ssäm Bar? Where? Any advice would be great.Gloria
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?
Hark! James Beard Award NominationsAfter much speculation, the 2007 nominees for the James Beard Awards, the Oscars of the restaurant world, are in. Adam Platt, Rob Patronite, Robin Raisfeld, and Grub Street all filled out Beard brackets (or at least revealed whom we’d like to see win) on Friday. Here’s how the academy’s coming down.
Back of the House
Time to Fill Out Our James Beard BracketsThe nominations for the James Beard Foundation Awards, the Oscars of the restaurant industry, will be announced Monday morning. We’ll report on that as it happens, but for now, here are picks for the main categories from Adam Platt, Rob Patronite and Robin Raisfeld, and Josh Ozersky. Our choices are admittedly New York–centric (the awards go to restaurants across the country), but the ceremony is held here, and the city always looms large in the proceedings.
Jean-Georges Vongerichten on His Gift for DelegationNo chef in New York restaurant history has been more successful, or more influential, than Jean-Georges Vongerichten. As he begins his third decade of cooking and running restaurants in New York, we sat down to ask him some questions about the scene: how it’s changed and where it’s going.
The Other Critics
Ssäm Bar Vindicated; Haute Cuisine Gets No LoveMomofuku Ssäm Bar wins two stars (!) from Bruni and completes a success story that seemed pretty unlikely a few months ago, when the place was selling Asian burritos to a handful of customers. The review is also a watershed in the changing culture of restaurants: Formal is now officially out, casual now officially legit. [NYT]
Related: The I Chang [NYM]
Meanwhile, Randall Lane is a lone dissenter, calling out Ssäm Bar for its unevenness, lack of focus, and the steep prices of some of its main dishes. On the whole, though, he seems to have missed the point — David Chang’s loose, unfettered approach to good cooking. [TONY]
Steve Cuozzo joins in the chorus of approval greeting Wayne Nish’s transformation of the stuffy March into the swinging, fusion-y Nish. The message: Remain formal at your own peril. (See reviews of Dennis Foy and Gordon Ramsay.) [NYP]
Related: Bedeviled [NYM]
Ssäm’s Ssecret Chef’s TableVisitors to Ssäm Bar, David Chang’s sleek new “Asian burrito” emporium, may have noticed a big, unused kitchen that runs the length of the room. Chang fires it up tonight for the first time, rolling out a late-night menu of multiple-element small plates prepared by the chef and a rotating team of ambitious cooks — including his co-chef at Momofuku, Joaquin Baca; Cafe Gray and Cafe Boulud veteran Tien Ho; and several other classically trained Momofuku alumni.