Thursday, October 17, 2013

Bits & Morsels

Manon's lobster roll with Santa Barbara sea urchin and American caviar.
by Erin Frankel

Fall is undoubtedly the best time to dine out in New York City. While varied in nature, region, and cuisine, we're definitely seeing some consistent trends across the board this season: Almost everything is fermented; artisanal, fresh, and organic ingredients (even in the heaviest dishes); glorified "snacks"; "flexitarian"-heavy menus; Nordic and authentic Asian cuisine; upscale donuts; craft beers and bourbon; spicy flavors; and while wholesale prices are still low, lobster remains in high demand.

Below are some of my favorite fall restaurant picks:

Khe-Yo. You can trail the globe culinarily in New York City, but until now you wouldn't know what you were missing amidst southeast Asian cuisine. Now with the arrival of New York City's very first Laotian restaurant, Khe-Yo, that inconspicuous void has been filled. Established American chef, Marc Forgione, has teamed up with his longtime right-hand man and Laos native Soulayphet Schwader, to deliver a contemporary, urbane interpretation of traditional Laos cuisine.
157 Duane St
New York, NY 10013
(212) 587-1089
Just be prepared to get your hands dirty at the beginning of the meal as diners pinch off balls of sticky white rice dipped in an exceptionally fiery bang bang sauce, composed of Thai chili, garlic, lime juice and fish sauce. I advise you to stick to the Laotian shareable staples here like the crunchy fried coconut rice balls, the pork belly, and the crispy shrimp spring rolls, which will leave your mouth and mind on fire for the remainder of the evening.
Khe-Yo's crunchy coconut rice (Nam-Khao) with spicy kaffir lime sausage and baby iceberg.
Khe-Yo's pork belly, sticky rice, and bang bang sauce. Khe- Yo's Creekstone Farms sesame beef jerky (Sien-Haeng), smoked chili sauce & plum purple radish.
An assortment of dishes for sharing at Khe-Yo.
Luksus. Both Nordic cuisine and the small plates "snacking" craze are trending big time, so when Danish brewer Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø teamed up with Momofuku and Noma-trained chef Daniel Burns, a Nordic-centric tasting menu was born. Luksus is a cozy 26-seat cubbyhole restaurant hidden in the back of Mr. Bjergsø's bar, Tørst, in Greenpoint. The simple, rustic, and snug décor, ceramic teacups, and sunny chalkboard mural mirror a little Nordic cottage. And, the warm hospitality highlights the complaisant vibe.

Daniel Burns and Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø.
Burns appears to have leaned into a more relaxed stance as a friendly host behind the counter explaining the process to his diners while Bjergsø opposes any sort of beer pretension with his amazing (though arcane) beer collection.

The tasting menu — comprising three snacks followed by four main dishes — begins with the first "snack" of fried cipollini in a sweet buttermilk dressing paired with a well-advised Nomader Wit brew, with notes of citrus and spice. There are foodie favorites on the menu as well, like a precious salad made from Little Gem baby romaine lettuce roasted with the roots intact, served with egg yolk, roasted mushrooms, and pea broth. A tender lamb breast — marinated in a marinated in buttermilk, burnt hay, and yogurt, seared in crunchy-skinned slices — is a great follow-up dish.

615 Manhattan Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11222
(718) 389-6034
Luksus' roasted baby Little Gem lettuce, mushroom, pea broth, and yolk.
Luksus' lamb breast.
Norman's Cay. Ryan Chadwick and brothers Callum and Gavin McLaughlin have established a real knack for bringing to Manhattan the distinct cuisine, cocktails, and ambience of their favorite warm weather escapes.

First, it was Grey Lady, a tribute to their summertime recollections on Nantucket's coastline. Now, it's Norman's Cay, their Bahamian-themed seafood and cocktail haunt only two blocks away from its sibling restaurant.
Norman's Cay
74 Orchard St
New York, 10002
(646) 481-1229
Although the bi-level space is smaller in size, the vibe has just the right amount of "breezy island paradise" to transport you to the Caribbean. The beachy interior filled with wall-mounted sailfish and a palm-tree clad upstairs bar will encourage you to imbibe Bahamian-inspired favorites like the uber-strong Rum Pig with Mount Gay Black Barrel and a "secret" punch recipe; or the lighter more refreshing Sky Juice, a mixture of gin and coconut water, topped with nutmeg.

Pair these drinks with the exotic flavors of the Cay with dishes like the red snapper ceviche infused with tiger milk; tuna tartare; conch fritters with a spicy calypso sauce; a white corn-crusted dinosaur kale empanada; or chef Gavin McLaughlin's favorite black angus beef tenderloin pincho with roti flatbread and a trio of dipping sauces.
Norman's Cay sky juice cocktail.
Norman's Cay tuna tartare. Inset: Norman's Cay white corn-crusted kale empanadas.
Norman's Cay black angus beef tenderloin pincho with a trio of dipping sauces: a pico de gallo, a mirabol chili aioli, and ajili mojili.
The Chester. Even the most discerning diner has to admit that The Paige Hospitality Group's American brasserie-style restaurant, The Chester, is a success. Housed inside the luxurious Gansevoort Meatpacking hotel, The Chester is a really nice mashup of contemporary and traditional American design and cuisine.

The main dining room's features, although busy with expansive ceilings, exposed white brick walls, and black and white checkered floors, do not distract. The dining room is also lined with floor-to-ceiling windows, opening the airy space to large chandeliers that light up the room and the greenery that wraps around its walls.
The Chester's main dining room.
The Chester's outdoor tent room.
As for the menu, expect traditional brasserie classics with a modern touch, such as Maryland lump crab cakes, Chilean sea bass skewers, and lobster cobb salad.

The Chester
18 9th Avenue
New York, 10014
(646) 253-2284
The Chester's prosciutto flatbread. The Chester's burrata flatbread.
The Chester's Chilean sea bass skewers.
The Cecil. New Yorkers love to travel out of their narrow confines in search of exceptional food and wine. Harlem chef Alexander Smalls has teamed up with former Time Warner CEO Richard Parsons to open a 140-seat Afro-Asian brasserie in Smalls's neighborhood. The décor is casual and spacious, with red leather banquettes and globe pendant lamps. But the real reason to trek uptown are for Smalls's imaginative fusion dishes like the black benne seed-crusted ahi tuna and the shrimp-and-chowchow burger. Oh, and the wine comes from Parson's very own Tuscan vineyard. Beat that Red Rooster!

The Cecil
210 W 118th St (between Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd and St. Nicholas Ave)
The light and airy space at Cecil.
Heirloom beets, brussels sprouts, hearts of palm salad.
Broiled giant spicy prawns with yam flapjack, piri piri sauce.
Skuna Bay house-cured salmon summer roll.
Manon. You no longer have to trek to Brighton Beach to indulge in Russian delicacies and charm your date, clients, or Russian friends with grandiose cuisine and opulent surroundings. Just go to Manon, a modern American restaurant with Russian sensibilities.

Manon's decor is striking, spanning three floors with a main dining room at the top, a bar and a lounge on the street level, and a mezzanine where voyeurs can watch the action unfold above and below. Manon's executive chef is Tae Strain, who trained under Michelin-starred chef Brad Farmerie at PUBLIC.

Manon's Cucumber Heaven cocktail.
Start with the raw bar. Both the lusciously fresh oysters served on the half shell with a Cabernet Mignonette and the raw hamachi sprlnkled with breakfast radish, citrus puree, and a red chili beautifully clear the palette for the remainder of the meal. First course favorites include the butter lettuce salad, albeit not visually stimulating at first site, which manages to elevate the senses with the unlikely addition of a six-minute egg and the Nashi pear under a sweet bacon vinaigrette.

Also opt for the grilled Japanese eggplant with a creamy sheep's milk feta, red quinoa, piquillo pepper, and pinenuts. For a sweeter starter, try the sweet corn mascarpone tortellini.

Manon definitely has one of the most sophisticated versions of any lobster roll. Albeit small in size, it's worth the splurge. Every bite is mouthwatering thanks to the strong accents of Santa Barbara sea urchin and American Caviar in this $38 lobster roll.

As for the entrees, choose one fish and one meat dish to share. The red snapper with melted leeks and PEI Mussels in lobster broth is light on the tongue while the heartier juicy lamb loin with a medley of seasonal veggies, including Maitake mushrooms, English pews, pappadew, and asparagus, is a delightfully savory ending to the meal.
407 W 14th St
New York, NY 10014
(212) 596-7255
Pastry chef Beth Bosmeny, previously of Eleven Madison Park, prepares some unbelievably artful desserts. To name two: the chocolate cake and cremeux with brown ale malted ale and ice cream, and the quark cheesecake with mixed berries, lime sherbert, and cherry hibiscus madeleines.

And that's not all. Manon's head mixologist has curated an innovative cocktail list, which combines seasonal tastes and flavors with advanced techniques. Our hands-down favorite is the delightfully refreshing Cucumber Heaven, a mixture of Crop organic vodka, cucumber juice, and simple syrup.
Manon's butter lettuce salad crispy six-minute egg, nashi pear, Danish blue cheese, bacon vinaigrette.
Manon's raw hamachi.
Manon's brussels sprouts.
Manon's grilled Japanese eggplant with quinoa.
Manon's Amish chicken breast.
Manon's sweet corn mascarpone tortellini.
Manon's red snapper.
Manon's lamb loin.
Manon's Quark cheesecake.
Han Dynasty. Because you may not want to travel all the way out to Flushing for superlatively authentic Sichuan fare, you can now savor equally delicious food in the East Village. Han Dynasty, the first New York City version of the popular Philly staple, offers arguably the most authentic (and spiciest) Sichuan specialties in Manhattan.

Han Dynasty
90 3rd Ave
New York, NY 10003
(212) 390-8685
The new East Village locale hasn't been open long enough for me to review, but judging from the looong line outside on a recent Sunday evening, Han Dynasty looks promising. The menu is succinct and the prices easy on your wallet.

The menu is broken down into hot and cold appetizers, noodles, soups and mains with a spice level rating from 1 to 10 (10 is too fiery for even the spiciest food lovers in New York). The portion sizes are huge as everything is prepared to be shared.

There are traditional classic Sichuan staples that are dressed in the spiciest of sauces, like the seeded and skinned cucumbers in a fiery chili sauce ($6.99, spice level 7). Or, you can opt for more signature Sichuan dishes like the fiery dandan noodles, beef tendons in chili oil, and cumin-crusted lamb.
Han Dynasty's seeded & skinned cucumbers.
Han Dynasty's dandan noodles.
Corvo Bianco. Star chef Elizabeth Falkner has come all the way to uptown to draw Upper West Siders to her large (225 seats) and chic contemporary space. Expect ambitious interpretations of traditional Italian dishes like creamy burrata with seasonal ingredients such as shaved squash or a kale salad with lemon anchovy, egg, pangrattato, and pecorino.

New additions to the menu include grilled octopus with fava beans as an appetizer, and a fresh, hearty Italian fish stew (ciopinno) filled with spicy seafood perfect for those colder fall months ahead.

The landmarked space, with soaring ceilings and wrought-iron columns, now has more sophisticated Frank Lloyd Wright-esque elements with modern wood beams and globe lights overhead against real green foliage and vegetation.

Corvo Bianco
446 Columbus Ave
New York, NY 10024
(212) 595-2624
Corvo Bianco's burrata and shaved summer squash.
Corvo Bianco's kale salad.
Corvo Bianco's fish stew.
Corvo Bianco's grilled octopus.
Here's some insight from Corvo Bianco chef Elizabeth Falkner:
Pomme Palais. The Palace Hotel has been revitalized with a number of Michel Richard's large-scale projects, one of which is Pomme Palais, the hotel's first casual French bakery. Open from 6:30 a.m. until 8 p.m., Pomme Palais offers coffee and pastries in the morning; then soups, salads, and sandwiches for the rest of the day. There's a couple of traditional French accoutrements like the long cart filled with eclairs, cakes, and tarts. And a hot dog machine, so you can do as the French do, and dip your hot dog in mustard and stuff it into a baguette. We can't wait to go back for some eclairs and espresso!

Pomme Palais - The New York Palace
455 Madison Ave
New York, NY 10022
Pomme Palais offers sweet treats like chocolates and fruit-flavored tartelettes to savory snacks like sandwiches, soups and salads.
A selection of Pomme Palais goodies.
Michel Richard on Pomme Palais:
October now offers the very best of food events!! Last week, I was delighted to attend A TASTE OF ITALY, an annual three-day celebration of Italian Gastonomy at Eataly where the international chefs congress, Identita Golose, held one-hour cooking demonstrations featuring a duo of chefs demoing two dishes with wine pairings for the audience to sample.

On Friday, Mario Batali and Cesare Battisti's pasta focused demo kicked off Identita New York with Batali's autumn-inspired shrimp and basil ravioli with butter and squash and Battisti's decadent penne with sweet pepper cream, breadcrumbs and anchovies.

Chef Cesare Battisti is famous in Italy as one of the first chefs to introduce the tapas/small plates concept to his charming restaurant, Ratana, located in a beautiful park within Milan.
Mario Batali.
Batali's shrimp and basil ravioli.
Cesare Battisti.
Battisti's penne with sweet pepper cream, breadcrumbs and anchovies.
On Saturday, Daniel Boulud and Massimo Bottura came together for a special demo focused around eggs. Daniel Boulud, chef and restaurateur behind some of New York's most lauded restaurants, prepared "Oeuf en Glee," an ambitious dish with fois gras and black truffle.

Massimo Bottura, chef/owner of Osteria Francescana in Modena, the three-Michelin starred restaurant that was named the 3rd best restaurant in the world by San Pellegrino in 2013, prepared two dishes which were titled "Potato Waiting to Become an Egg," a complex, multi-faceted baked potato with creme anglais; and a delicious potato pasta carbonara.

This demo, in particular, was quite entertaining as the two chefs playfully badgered each other about the differences between and oddities of French and Italian cuisine.
Bottura and Boulud.
Bottura's "Potato Waiting to Become an Egg."
Boulud's "Oeuf en Glee."
And, on Sunday, the Italian fete was complete with Jeremy Bearman, the chef behind New York City's health driven Michelin-starred restaurant Rouge Tomate, and Identita's only female Italian chef participant, Viviana Varese, of Michelin-starred restaurant Alice Ristorante.

Chef Bearman made gnudi with celeriac, Grana Padano and black truffle. Bearman's intricate gnudi was composed of creamy pillows of cheese formed into a dumpling-like texture and served in a savory broth of mushroom and truffle. Chef Varese prepared a re-organized eggplant Parmesan, skillfully forged with Grana Padano cheese, granita, grilled eggplant and tomato.
Chef Jeremy Bearman and his gnudi.
Chef Viviana Varese making her re-organized eggplant Parmesan.
Planning for the weekend ahead? If you're stuck in town, you're in luck since this weekend is, by far, the most exciting time in New York City for foodies, chefs, and restaurateurs! The sixth annual New York City Wine & Food Festival, presented by Food & Wine, starts today, Thursday, October 17th (through Sunday, October 20th), celebrating the world's best chefs and wine experts.

This year will feature a compelling lineup of periodic trademarked events along with a surplus of brand new appearances, dinners, and panels, gathering world-renowned chefs, mixologists, winemakers, and culinary celebs to EAT, DRINK, and END HUNGER. 100% of the Festival's net proceeds will benefit the Food Bank and Share our Strength.

We're excited to attend popular events like Meatball Madness, Tacos & Tequila, Burger Bash. And, we're eager to try some new ones added to the fray like Rockin' Dumplings & Rolling Sushi, Oyster Bash, and Oktoberfest presented by Pat LaFrieda. Who doesn't love eating and drinking for a cause?

Click here to buy tickets. What else are you doing tonight and over the weekend?

If you're not full by Sunday night and you're still feeling charitable, then keep the party going and head over to my other favorite foodie event of the year: City Harvest's Bid Against Hunger on October 22nd. Bid Against Hunger is New York City's most anticipated tasting event, featuring exceptional food and wine with some of the city's best chefs. Guest can bid on auction packages that include exclusive dinners with top chefs, special travel and entertainment experiences, and much more!
And this year, experience an exceptionally authentic New York City affair in the VIP Room, where they'll be offering some of the best from the New York City dining scene featuring a tasting of specialty wines, such as Dom Pérignon, curated by Aldo Sohm, Chef Sommelier of Le Bernardin. Stacey Hock, co-chair of bid against hunger for the past five years, told me that this year they are excited to have a "New York theme" for their VIP room.

She spoke passionately about how she has carefully curated the VIP room with New York-centric food and chefs, taking a modern approach on traditional New York staples. What does that mean, you ask? How about gourmet hot dogs, gourmet pizza, decadent salmon with bagels, sophisticated falafels and street food.

However, she wouldn't tell me about some of the surprises they have in store ... so stay tuned!

Click here to purchase tickets for City Harvest's Annual Big Against Hunger.