Thursday, September 18, 2014

Bits & Morsels - Fall Openings

Montaditos Trio at The Confessional.
by Erin Frankel

It's that time of year. Some of the biggest names in New York City's culinary space are debuting their fall openings. From seasonal reboots to beverage-driven concepts, the new crop of restaurant openings promises to make this fall a delectable season for dining out. For the next few weeks, I'll be dishing out the most anticipated openings of the season. Here are the first 10, in no particular order:

The Confessional.
This intimate Latin-inspired restaurant's cozy space houses a giant interactive mural, which serves to collect customers's private secrets and thoughts in the form of chalkboard tweets, photos, diagrams, etc., ultimately serving as (you guessed it) a "confessional." The wall is the work of Dominican artist and interior designer Jorge Brown, whose phrases such as "Don't Tell" and "Have You Confessed?" act as an inspiration for guests to clear their conscience as if they are a part of a therapy session. And who couldn't use a little therapy?
The writing on the wall.
The space, outfitted with chandeliers over the sleek bar and shelves lined with books and kitschy flea market collections, has been designed to make people feel at ease so they can release their suppressions after a long day. Inhibitions are further unleashed with the help of mixologist Nelson Lemus's unique cocktails, prepared with South American spirits like pisco, cachaca, and mezcal. Lemus's cocktails certainly maintain the theme, with names like Devil's Advocate (cachaca, cashew nectar, lime juice), Last Supper (vodka, elderflower liqueur, homemade strawberry puree), and Bad Conscience (rye, sweet vermouth, spiced pomegranate tea).
The Devil's Advocate cocktail. Berkshire Pork Chop - Chuleta baked apple mash, bourbon ginger glaze, brussels sprouts.
Chef Ricardo Cardona's pan-Latin cuisine — inspired from classic dishes from the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and New York City's very own Lower East Side — focuses on mixing sour and sweet tastes. Mofongitos (plantains stuffed with shrimp) are topped with an enchilado sauce, while shrimp chicharrón is accompanied by a sweet and sour sauce. The menu is categorized by the overall arching theme of "the confessional," which is defined by the owners as "salvation through speech" with titles like Mortal Sins, Commandments, and Holy Sacraments. If it all seems like a bit much, it is, but is that not reason enough for a trip to The Confessional?

The Confessional,
308 Sixth St., 212-477-2400.
Upland. Major culinary talents, former Il Buco Alimentari chef Justin Smilie and restaurateur Stephen Starr have partnered to open an expansive Seasonal American restaurant, slated to officially open in October. Born in Upland, California, chef Smilie's early childhood environment inspires his rustic, seasonal menu, which reflects his inherent passion for the fresh local farms in rural California along with the dynamic flavors and a simple execution of ingredients that won him praise from Il Buco Alimentari (not to mention three stars from The New York Times).

Upland, 345 Park Avenue South (enter on 26th Street), 212-686-1006
A preview of one of the chef Smilie's seasonal market-driven dishes.
The perfect pairing.
Boilermaker. The fusion of lowbrow and highbrow edibles and drinks remains strong. This week, celebrated bartenders Erick Castro and Don Lee, along with "cocktail historian" Greg Boehm, General Manager James Tune, and chef Miguel Trinidad have teamed up to create the ultimate neighborhood bar where craft beers and craft cocktails are presented in equal measure.

Boilermaker quite literally takes its name from the Industrial Revolution's interpretation of the factory worker's "cocktail" — a shot and a beer chaser. And today, a shot and a beer has become the preferred refreshment of craft cocktail bartenders after long hours of mixing. There are six namesake shot-and-beer combinations, including a Victory Storm King Stout & Ramazotti Amaro combo in the Dark & Bitter, along with 12 taps for beer, four draft cocktails, and chef Trinidad's assortment of hand-pressed four-ounce Boilermaker burgers, featuring a diverse selection of toppings such as house sauce, pickled vegetables and bacon.

Boilermaker, 13 First Ave at 1st St, 212-995-5400
The industrial bar at Boilermaker.
Almanac's Galen Zamarra in the field.
Almanac. James Beard Award-winning chef Galen Zamarra is gearing up to open his new flagship restaurant in the space that formerly housed Mas (la grillade). Chef Zamarra's new concept will emulate the hyper-seasonal prix-fixe menu trend where inspiration for each dish embodies the seasonal ingredients available from the surrounding local community of farmers, growers, and fishermen.

The restaurant remains true to its namesake, inspired by chef Zamarra's personal "Almanac" — a culinary journal that he started during his tenure as Chef de Cuisine at Bouley Bakery in 1998 and continues to keep today. The journal illustrates recipes and innovative concepts about specific ingredients for each season and will continue to serve as a template for the chef's vision for the daily-changing tasting menu once the restaurant opens in early November.

Almanac 28, Seventh Avenue South, 212-255-1795
The Palm Court at The Plaza Hotel. Iron Chef and Michelin Star-winner Geoffrey Zakarian has rightly earned his place in the pantheon of New York's top chefs, as virtually everything he touches turns into savory gold. As the new culinary director at The Plaza, we expect no less from his slated revamp of The Palm Court. The entire restaurant is undergoing a reboot, and in mid-September will launch Zakarian's new menus for breakfast, tea and evening snacks along with his elaborate cocktail program, which will take stage at the large shiny new bar in the middle of the restyled dining room.

The Plaza Hotel
, 768 Fifth Ave., 212-546-5300
Culinary director at The Plaza, Geoffrey Zakarian.
Gansevoort Market. The late grand multi-vendor food market movement that introduced Eataly, Gotham West Market and Hudson Eats is still going strong. This month, the 7,500 square-foot open-air Gansevoort Market will officially open, featuring more than 25 top food brands. The tenants include a diverse assortment of savory and sweet flavors including Champion Coffee, Sushi Dojo, Donostia, The Bruffin, Sweets by Jana, and Ed's Lobster Bar. Add that to the growing list of food markets in NYC!

Gansevoort Market

52 Gansevoort St.
Gansevoort Market rendering.
Belgian Beer Cafe. Cerevisaphiles (otherwise known as beer aficionados) have a new home in the ever-trending neighborhood in NoMad at the recently opened Belgian Beer Cafe. The cafe is modeled after the the celebrated brasserie cafes commonly seen in Brussels and offers a similar breadth of Belgian specialty beers where they guide you on how to pour and pair your pint.
And they even make their superb Belgian dishes with beer here as well, including five different varieties of mussels such as kettle-filled with Hoegaarden-steamed Prince Edward Island mussels and the diver sea scallops dressed with a Stella-infused sauce. There's also a bounty of cheese dishes to pair with your beer. Cheese, which coats and cleanses the palate (if you are not aware), is the preferred bar snack of Belgium.

Belgian Beer Cafe
220 5th Avenue
The fare at Belgian Beer Cafe (clockwise from top left): Belgian Frites; Hoegaarden-steamed Prince Edward Island mussels; Chimay & Belgian cheese; scallops in Stella-infused sauce.
Empellón al Pastor's al pastor tacos.
Empellón al Pastor. Some of the city's hottest chefs are spreading their wings; and their savory fare. Mexican culinary king Alex Stupak has recently opened his third joint to his ever-expanding Empellón empire, Empellón al Pastor. Simplicity is inherent in everything from the minimalist space to the limited taco menu.

Stupak has positioned this minimalist mini tortilla factory, which he calls a bar and tortilleria, in the corner space that formerly accommodated the punk-rock dive Alcatraz. And, the restaurant is true to its name, dedicated to Stupak's favorite "charred pork taco," — the "al pastor." Although, somewhat more casual than its predecessors, Empellón al Pastor still offers the same type of forward-thinking Mexican cuisine Stupak is renowned for.

Empellón al Pastor
132 St. Marks Place
no phone yet
The Little Beet Table's Franklin Beck?er?.
The Little Beet Table. Franklin Beck?er? is expanding his popular seasonal, ingredient-driven Midtown fast-casual lunch spot to Flatiron in a full-service, sit-down restaurant setting. Becker will continue his mission to make whole foods and healthy eating more accessible to diners on the go, helping to make it a staple of daily life.

The new iteration will bring Little Beet crowd-pleasers like his Baby Kale Salad with pine nuts, currants and pecorino and Becker's Feelin' Green cold pressed juice. It will also feature several new appetizers, entrées and sides including tuna tataki with puffed millet, pico de gallo, avocado; roasted beets with Greek yogurt, pumpkin seed and almond granola; mackerel with mint, chilies, fennel and lemon agrumato; a quinoa "Risottto of the Day"; and a roasted chicken for two with Ischian spices. Everything will be 100% gluten-free including the beverages, which incorporates wheat-free beer and sake to pair with Becker's wholesome dishes.

The Little Beet Table

333 Park Avenue South
no phone yet

Roasted Beets with Greek Yogurt at The Little Beet Table.
Tuna Tataki with puffed millet at The Little Beet Table.
Birds & Bubbles. Even the most highbrow New Yorker will confess to having a weakness for fried chicken. City Grit's Sarah Simmons puts an upscale spin to her signature buttermilk-brined fried chicken by pairing it with a very unlikely companion ... champagne (hence, Birds & Bubbles). Simmons' southern menu also includes everything from black-eyed-pea falafel to crawfish étouffée.

Birds & Bubbles

100B Forsyth St.
Foodie Event alerts for this evening:

Harvest in the Square. The city's treasured local food and wine tasting event is back. The 19th annual foodie extravaganza will take place today, September 18 in Union Square Park. Chefs from 40 of the district's best restaurants will serve up unlimited tastings of signature dishes using fresh produce from the Union Square Greenmarket, with wines and microbrews served with each mouthwatering offering. New restaurants joining the festivities include: The Pavilion, All'onda, The Gander, Cevich, Amedei Store NY, Pizza Vinoteca, 201 Bar and Restaurant, and Botequim.

The event is a delicious way to celebrate fall with scrumptious fare, while supporting the Union Square Partnership's work to beautify and maintain the park. Tickets on sale at:
City Harvest's Bowties & Burgers. Indulge in no-frills food while donning your best attire. This evening brings together two strikingly different concepts into one exciting evening. Set in a loft and rooftop space in Chelsea, this one-of-a-kind evening invites guests to mix and mingle in their finest bow ties and ball gowns while dining on gourmet burgers, shakes, specialty drinks, and sweet treats from purveyors across New York City. Bow Ties & Burgers brings City Harvest supporters together to dine and dance the night away with live entertainment. Participating restaurants include Brindle Room, Doughnuttery, Emily, McClure's Pickles, NY Cake Pops, and Serendipity 3.

Proceeds from this event will help support City Harvest's efforts to deliver good, nutritious food to New Yorkers in need and build local communities where residents have regular access to affordable, fresh and healthy food. For more information, visit
Tonight at The Leonora, 525 W. 29th Street.
The H.O.P.E. Foundation For A Better Tomorrow's Inaugural Benefit. This evening, join Host Committee members Nicole DiCocco, Natalie Glaser, Patrick McMullan, Bettina Bennett, Consuelo Vanderbilt Costin, Christine Rizk, Michele Gerber Klein, Natalie Glaser, Jane & Joe Pontarelli, Nicole Noonan, Kristy Rao and Leesa Rowland to toast The H.O.P.E. Foundation for a Better Tomorrow.

There will be Altaneve Prosecco, Cavoda Vodka Cocktails & Dessert. There will be Music by DJ Alex Cecil and a Special Musical Performance by Consuelo Vanderbilt Costin.

Proceeds will benefit NYC Inner City After School Programs with support from Fashion Project. The Hope Foundation for a better tomorrow helps at-risk inner city youth by sponsoring after school programs, offering scholarships, and providing character development curriculums to inner city schools.

To learn more and purchase tickets: