food 12.19.05

Hot List

The relish of backlash is one of the city's most persistent, if not especially endearing, qualities. Some of this upping the anti is going on now against Mario Batali and Lidia Bastianich's Del Posto, 85 10th [15th/16th] no phone yet, the highest profile Italian restaurant to open in many a luna. No restaurateurs are infallible of course, and any glitches at Del Posto are likely to be reported in certain quarters with the same goosey breathlessness that CNN reports big storms. But the odds are with the house on this one. (They're in a soft opening phase; you can try walking in.)

The Spotted Pig, 314 W. 11th [Greenwich St.] 212.620.0393. You might have given long odds to chef/owner April Bloomfield and owner/designer Ken Friedman, but nearly two years on, their gastropub remains both hip and crowd-pleasing. The opening of the second floor, much delayed, is on the horizon: a soft opening of sorts is underway now, but most of the great unwashed won't be seeing it until after the first of the year.

Fatty Crab, 643 Hudson [Gansevoort/Horatio] 212.352.3590. Zak Pelaccio, lowering expectations a bit after 5 Ninth, chose a modest Malaysian menu for this casual eatery that opened in the fall and has been a hit ever since.

Sascha Restaurant and Bakery, 55 Gansevoort [Washington/Greenwich] 212.989.1920. Just the opposite tack for Sascha Lyon (ex-Pastis), whose ambitious new Meatpacking district restaurant finally opens, officially, January 21 (they're accepting reservations now). Between now and then? "We haven't released that information." With that kind of attitude, let the backlash begin!

Cookshop, 156 10th [17th] 212.924.4440. Karma maybe. Five Points, chef Marc Meyer's other restaurant, has always been a quiet overachiever and, to its devotees (MUG included), a tad underappreciated. Cookshop, on the other hand, has gotten generous ladlings of media attention. The best news is that Meyer's contemporary American cooking is terrific here, too.

Geoffrey Zakarian's followup to his Town restaurant is Country, 88 Mad [29th] 212.889.7100, at the Carlton Hotel. The Carlton once seemed a hopeless wallflower, but a recent restoration (David Rockwell) has changed all that. And anywhere Zakarian hangs his hat is a crowd magnet. On the plate: American food with country French accents.

Gilt, 455 Mad [50th] 212.891.8100. There is a lot of first-rate cooking right now in New York, but there aren't many chefs with the kind of edgy creativity of Paul Liebrandt (pictured). Hiring him to cook in the shadow of the late Le Cirque is untraditional casting, to say the least, which makes this easily the most intriguing opening of the fall.

Tarallucci e Vino, 15 E. 18th [5th/Bway] 212.228.5400. A larger offshoot of the East Village coffee house and bakery. Here, a greatly expanded selection of baked goods, savories, and wines, as well as coffee, all prepared with that fine Italian hand.

A Gutenbrunner world — chef Kurt Gutenbrunner continues to expand his NY empire. There's Thor, 107 Rivington [Ludlow/Essex] 212.796.8040. As Thor was the god of thunder, it's fitting that the noise level within is commensurate with the buzz level without. He's got Café Sabarsky at the Neue Galerie and the just-opened Blaue Gans, 139 Duane [W. Bway/Church] 212.571.8880, in the old Le Zinc space, now serving, sacre Blaue!, Austrian and German food. And his signature restaurant Wallsé remains one of the city's jewels.

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