It's cold for spring right now but our colors today -- new grass green and forsythia yellow should be everywhere soon.
When the oxtail dumplings flying a taro chip banner and the poussin with curry coconut sticky rice and bourbon dried fruit are this luscious, the adventure seems doubly rewarding. Two broiled giant prawns on a yam flapjack in a kicky piri piri s
auce as a starter are probably not meant to be shared by four, though we try. I make up for that with the sensational chili scallion house-cut fries. I only mean to eat six but in the middle of it all, I forget. You'll want to go soon too, so click here
for more on what to eat.
210 West 118th Street on the NW corner of St. Nicholas. 212 866 1262.
Beating Bobby Flay
There must be a reason the Food Network thinks it has a winner in its new show, "Beat Bobby Flay." Food hounds, chef star wannabes, pumped-up cooking rivals, and self-nominated amateur critics might get a kick out of seeing the food world's matinee idol flattened a little.
Those same marginalized narcissists and gripesters may hope to report that the golden boy's
ambition, his dream of affirming his mastery in the restaurant orbit at brand new Gato
, is tarnished. That only fans blindsided by love will fall for his predictable game. Sorry, bad news bears. Almost everything I've tasted in three early visits has been bold, original, smartly creative and delicious, if not just plain masterly.
I couldn't wait to try his new food. I've been a fan since Jerome Kretchmer first signed him to open Mesa Grill.
( Click here
to read that first review, "The Corn Is Blue.") Indeed, it's only a few weeks into Gato's quiet
opening. Too soon to engrave a triumph in stars, but not too soon to be excited by what I've tasted. Partner Laurence Kretchmer keeps the booking sparse. Yelpsters and assorted first-nighters have figured that out and crowd the big rectangular bar early, vying to be seated at tables.
And there is Flay in navy blue -- the baby-faced redhead, now as lean and grownup gorgeous on the line in the glassed-wrapped kitchen as his glamorous wife, Stephanie March, at the next table (every night I was there with friends at a different table). Yes, it's not easy to get a booking but you will. So click here
to read what I loved and hope to be tasting again soon.
324 Lafayette between Bleecker and Houston Streets. 212 334 6400
What's in the Larder?
I know Gerry Dawes as a passionate champion of Spain, an importer of its wines and a photographer with a big lens. We did a wild tapas crawl once -- click here
to read about it -- but I never got to know him well till several evenings ago when we shared bar snacks and pizza at Gato.
It seems Dawes is also an improvisational cook. I
liked the look of his ad-lib scallops. You don't need measurements or even the same ingredients on hand to throw a similar stir-fry together. He used leeks, celery, corn, Israeli couscous, orzo and grain with lots of crackled pepper. I see a little red pepper too. or is that tomato? Couldn't hurt. Send me a photograph of your cooking or baking triumph and maybe I'll post it. A little food porn goes a long way and it isn't fattening.
Cruising on The River Café
On its second evening, I found Buzzy O'Keefe's massively fortified and reborn River Café
romantic. I've never lost the shiver of thrill I get from the diamond-filigree of bridge and skyline across the East River. It was quiet, the room sparsely occupied. The exuberance of rose bouquets was wonderfully extravagant. The amuse of tomato soup and Lilliputian grilled cheese sandwich was indeed amusing. And between sips of a friendly red and dinner table confessions, I was taken by large portions, mostly not too fussed with.
Chef Brad Steelman is back -- Buzzy paid certain core staff to remain available in the time it took to rebuild. My companion's soft polenta agnolotti line up on a mound of Barolo-braised oxtail -- breathtaking in its sensual richness and caramelized edging -- an abundant starter. Scattered tendrils of baby mizuna give it a fresh-from-the-farm verve.
I suspect certain spoiled New Yorkers will always consider The River Café best left to the tourists. But don't count me among them. I find it to be a
world-class restaurant in a unique and magical setting. If O'Keefe can resist overcrowding and beat the staff into four-star grace, it could ultimately be recognized as among the city's best of the best. Click here
to read my Bite: "The River Café for the Next 100 Years."
1 Water Street, Brooklyn. 718 522 5200
***My Foodie Collection
As a consultant and editor for Foodie.com -- Glam.com's lively site for recipes and dining recommendations -- I just did my first Restaurant Collection. It's not unlike the occasional roundup of favorites I post on InsatiableCritic.com
I've actually written about Where I Really Eat several times since I launched my site and the destinations keep changing. Readers sometimes think I save my favorite little places for myself so they won't get overbooked, but amazingly -- as competitive as I am -- it has never occurred to me to keep a secret.
You'll recognize some of my favorites from recent blogs and others because I go as often as I can and post favorite dishes on Twitter. If I had my way, I'd like voluptuous food photographs on my Foodie Restaurant Collection, but I'm not in charge. Foodie at Glam.com runs the show and Glam just happens to be the world's most popular lifestyle destination in the ether.