Thursday, May 30, 2013

Bits & Morsels

Chef Paul Denamiel of Little Prince (Photo: Evan Sung).
by Erin Frankel

With the warmer weather now upon us (it's nearly 90 degrees today!), city dwellers have shed their coats while city chefs have shed their heavier dishes in exchange for crisp, bright produce. Ramp season has just begun and quite a few restaurants are sprucing up their plates with rich notes of spring. We've spotted a briny spectrum of oysters, refreshing layered cubes of tuna tartare, sweet soft textured spreads of Burrata, shaved brussels sprouts, spicy hummus, and raw summer snow peas to name a few.

Here are some of the best warm weather dishes — from old-time favorites and the new kids on the block — that we have discovered for the weeks ahead ...
The main dining room at ABC Kitchen.
ABC Kitchen: What is it about the ramp that gets us locavores all worked up? Maybe it's the strong notes of garlic and wild onion or the sweet sensation that stimulates our senses. Whatever it is, ramps are one of the very first plants to appear every spring and remain in style throughout the season. And, one of the best places to taste the rich, natural flavors of the season is at NYC's best eco-eatery, Jean Georges' ABC Kitchen.

Long-time a crowd-pleaser, the ramp toast is the seasonal favorite on the menu. Chef Dan Kluger personally secures about fifty pounds of the wild leek from the neighboring Union Square Greenmarket (originally from Buried Treasures Farm in Cooksville, NY), pickles the stems, concocts a creamy butter with the leaves, and sprinkles goat milk cheese on top with a pistachio-pesto spread and a dollop of thyme, sunflower seeds, and jalapeno.
The sweet ramps and silky butter spread atop a crunchy piece of toast is a perfect union of flavors and textures for spring.
Another dish to order before it elusively drifts out of reach is the Fiddlehead fern. These tender, curly, green tips are a special shortlived treat for us in the Northeast as they are only harvested in certain regions during the month of May. Typically sauteed, chef Dan Kluger has discovered an alternative means of unfurling and intensifying the fern's complicated asparagus-green bean-esque flavors by roasting the green scrolls.

ABC Kitchen
35 E 18th St New York, NY 10003
(212) 475-5829
Fiddlehead Ferns at ABC Kitchen.
Ichobad's: Typically the words "crispy", "pork" and "belly" do not conjure up delicate notes of spring. However, when you slow-cook the succulent meat, rub it with jerk seasoning, and complement it with subtle notes of pineapple, cilantro, and soy, the combination delivers an exciting and tasty balance of flavors and fun.

15 Irving Pl New York, NY 10003
(212) 777-5102
Ichobad's crispy pork belly at Ichobad's.
The Nomad: One of the first vegetables to come to market during springtime is the snowpea. And, this is the time of year when they are at their peak of sweetness and most supple. Typically found in Asian stir-fry, it is unlikely you would find the snowpea at a trendy modern American restaurant like the Nomad. But, chef Daniel Humm takes his dish to another level with his crunchy chiffonade of snow peas, which is beautifully balanced with hints of mint, pancetta, and pecorino.

The Nomad
1170 Broadway New York, NY 10001
(212) 796-1500
The Nomad's snow pea salad.
The Americano: If you want to get high, Hotel Americano's recently opened rooftop restaurant is where you'll want to be. Perched on a 10th floor rooftop in between the High Line and the Hudson River for quite the view, plan on savoring the best of what's fresh, local, and contemporary on a French menu with a Latin panache.
Hotel Americano on West 27th Street.
The Americano's dining room.
Patio dining at The Americano.
Try The Americano's delicate and exquisite atun crudo, a condensed tower of tuna topped with a splash of jalapeno sauce and thin slices of hearts of palm. The tuna crudo is rich and full of texture while maintaining a mandatory lightness to accompany the coming of summer.

The Americano at Hotel Americano
518 W 27th St New York, NY 10001
(212) 525-0000
Hotel Americano's tuna crudo.
Little Prince: One of the newest and hottest restaurants on the block welcomes the season with a more civilized, refined approach to contemporary French cuisine. However, the petite French cafe concocts mouth-watering dishes that are not so small.

The Whole Roasted Dover Sole for two (priced reasonably at $34 a person), is one of the better fish dishes I've had in a while. This buttery, perfectly tender and crisp white fish is served in a light and delicate broth, letting the fish do all of the heavy lifting. Deboned at the table, the presentation is simple yet magnificent.
A view of the bar at Little Prince.
Back wall banquette.
And what's more? This petite cafe also just happens to have an amazing burger with a side of pomme frites, tying in perfectly with National Hamburger month (which just happens to be in May). Their special "onion soup" burger is an indulgent mosaic of Pat LaFrieda beef topped with caramelized onions, gruyere, and bechamel on a toasted English muffin. The beef was tender and juicy, and pure silkiness in texture. Little Prince is for those who want to elevate their senses.

Little Prince
199 Prince St. New York, NY 10012
(212) 335-0566
French Onion Soup Burger at Little Prince.
Provencal-style dorade at Little Prince.