CITYSCENE

New York

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Pearl & Ash

By the end of Pearl & Ash's opening week, it was clear that the restaurant had established itself with industry insiders. The long space was packed with sommeliers and GMs from restaurants around the city, drawn by the chance to enjoy dishes from chef Richard Kuo (formerly of Frej and Corton) in a more casual setting, not to mention wines at fire-sale prices. The menu reads as simple— a bulleted list of raw items, small plates, fish and meat—but there's art in Kuo's savory combinations. Pork meatballs, glazed golden brown and cushioned by toothsome shiitakes, deliver an unexpected umami punch of bonito that makes the meat taste, well, meatier; a tender cod fillet on silky white bean puree comes alive with its sweet-salty topping of oven-dried tomatoes and black olives. To drink: Patrick Cappiello, moonlighting from his primary role as wine director for the New York Palace Hotel, has been quietly and coolly packing the wine list full of fresh and esoteric selections as well as the vinous, mature and impress-your-boss-or-client kind. Sure, there's Sherry, Baudry Chinon by the glass and a full page of German riesling. But there's also '96 Clos de la Roche from Lignier-Michelot for under $200, three Gevrey-Chambertin cuvées from Alain Burguet and smart steals from Bordeaux's Left and Right banks back to '64. By now a well-known secret, it would be wise to make it down to the Bowery before the best of those Bordeaux fly.
—Carson Demmond

Pearl & Ash, 220 Bowery; 212-837-2370, pearlandash.com (reviewed W&S, 06/13)



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The Flatiron Room

On September 20, The Flatiron Room began providing rent-paying New Yorkers something they've only dreamed of: ownership. Order from a list of over 500 whiskeys; if you can't muster the resolve to finish your bottle, one of the bar's whiskey stewards will brand it with your name and set it aside in your locker to await your next visit.
If a whole bottle isn't your speed, you can choose a cocktail from the list constructed by Miguel Aranda, formerly of Daniel and Apotheke. The 1920s cocktail embodies the atmosphere of the room: simple, perfectly balanced, slightly cerebral and Rye-centric, with the trendy pre-Prohibition vibe of absinthe. That said, this place is less about the creativity of the cocktails than it is about spotlighting the raw spirit. Think of it as the distilled cereal grain equivalent of the Brandy Library, trading stuffy leather chairs for livemusic–a singer backed by a four–piece rhythm section playing everything from swing to multilingual jazz-pop fusion.
And if you're legitimately into drinking whiskey for the learning experience, you can choose flights such as the Bourbon Belt or a tour of Scotch, or look into their schedule of tastings with distillers, such as Dr. Bill Lumsden of Glenmorangie on matching Scotch with food. When's the last time you paired diver scallops in a mint-citrus vinaigrette with a briny Speyside malt?
—Chris Hallowell

The Flatiron Room, 37West 26th St.,NYC; 212-725-3860, theflatironroom.com (reviewed W&S, 12/12)



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Swine

Swine has the salvaged feel of an upscale BBQ joint, and though it sometimes errs on the side of rockabilly dive, the food is far more refined. With the kitchen open until 3 am most of the week, the restaurant serves as a late night feasting haven for the neighborhood, a bustling strip of Hudson Street in the West Village. Chef Phil Conlon (Café Cluny, Extra Virgin) finds his strong suit in small plates and charcuterie boards: Take, for instance, the pork belly, a dish expertly crafted with a thin crackling top and spicy pickled cabbage underneath. Or the wild and earthy rabbit and mushroom terrine. Order it with the tart, airy housemade ricotta, which provides contrast between carnivorous bites. John McNulty, the former GM and beverage director for West Village favorites Joseph Leonard, Jeffrey's Grocery and Fedora, has curated a value-driven, pork-savvy list for diners at all levels of thirst; wines come on tap and in glass, half and full bottle formats, and there's no lack of high-acid options. Hermann Moser's Gebling Riesling from the Kremstal cuts right through that rabbit terrine. Salumi calls for a Movia Ribolla from Slovenia's Goriska Brda. It's a concise, easy-to-read, globe-spanning selection that may well anticipate your every need.
If you're in the mood for something sweet, there's only one option, and I'd recommend sharing. Delicious though it may be, there is such a thing as too much bacon ice cream.
—Carson Demmond

Swine, 531 Hudson St., NYC; 212-255-7675, swinenyc.com (reviewed W&S, 10/12)



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Boulud Sud

Photo by B. Milne

Daniel Boulud may have a southern soul. Raised on his family's farm near Lyon, he tends to be a bit earthier than many of his fellow French celebrity chefs, though Upper East diners at Daniel could be forgiven for thinking him posh. And those same folks could be forgiven if they allow Boulud Sud, the chef's new dining room around the corner from Bar Boulud on West 64th, to jet them to their fantasy of Monaco for the evening. On the surface, this is the moneyed French Riviera. Underneath, it is the Mediterranean sea, with its Greek fishermen, Algerian farmers and traders from the Middle East. Dishes like Chickpea and Eggplant—a plate of hummus, baba ganoush and falafel—capture the Mediterranean, especially with a glass of Argyros 2010 Santorini Atlantis, a Greek white with the kind of wind-driven acidity that carries all the spices in the dish. Or try Sperina's Piedmontese rosé, Rosa del Rosa, another one of the obscure and delicious wines wine director Michael Madrigale has corralled for his list, which he's organized accordingly to the winery's proximity to the sea. And don't miss the roast goat, braised with wild garlic and served over orecchiette, a deep and soulful Mediterranean staple to match the rich southern spices of a Fallenc Sainte Marie Corbières.
—Joshua Greene

Boulud Sud, 20 W. 64th St.; 212-595-1313, danielnyc.com (reviewed W&S, 10/11)


> Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria

On a cobblestoned block in NoHo, Il Buco has long drawn a devoted following for its Italian-inspired warmth. Now, one street over, they’ve opened a new neighborhood gem: Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria. At the front market, stop in for an espresso or pick up some fresh pastas and housemade salumi to take home—or linger over a few sweet slices of lonza with the Baladin Nora, an ale made from Kamut and spiced with ginger, myhrr and orange peel. For the full-service experience, take a seat in the vineria, in view of the open kitchen, where Justin Smillie (formerly of The Standard and Barbuto) pickles black trumpet mushrooms to adorn mackerel with citrus aioli and watches over loaves of slow-rising country breads. He’s also a pasta master: the bucatini cacio e pepe has the perfect, buttery balance of doughiness to bite. Paul Lang, who joins the vineria from its sister restaurant, has curated a wine list that matches the menu in simplicity and concision, with an obvious Italian focus and a nod to understated regions and producers. You won’t find an abundant selection of so-called “important” wines, but you will find four different options from Garlider’s four hectares of vineyards in the Alto Adige and Odoardi’s single-vineyard gaglioppo-based wines from Calabria—a fantastic pairing with the grilled pork sausage or the generous shortrib topped with shaved, fresh horseradish, barely cured green olives and toasted walnuts.
—C.D.

Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria, 53 Great Jones St.; 212-837-2622, ilbucovineria.com (reviewed W&S, 04/12)



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The Dutch

Photo by Evan Sung

Unless you like cacophony, don’t head to The Dutch at 8 pm. The expansive, high-ceilinged space on the corner of Sullivan and Prince in SoHo might be one of the prettiest rooms in town, lights glittering off glass and mirrors, but it’s also one of the noisiest. Choose a Tuesday at 12, or 10 am on Saturday. Slip out of the office on a slow afternoon for drinks at the bar at five; have dinner after a show on a Sunday. Do whatever you can, in fact, to score a table, because it’s a lovely experience. Imagine a Parisian brasserie, boisterous and classy, but replace the Belons with bay scallops on the half shell and the páté with liverwurst slathered on ale-infused bread; think chicken consommé spiked with lemongrass, lime and chile. This is American food through and through, from lobster cocktail to fried chicken and collard greens cooked with a ham hock. Josh Nadel’s wine list is a geek’s dream, piled high with classics smattered with categories like “Zweigelt, Blaufränkisch & Trousseau,” “Greece” and “Gamay.” He highlights a handful of his current favorites up front, with short descriptions for each—Doisy Daene Sec for $60; Lalama Ribeira Sacra for $75—allowing you time to concentrate on getting every last bit of succulent meat off those fried chicken bones.
—T.Q.T.

The Dutch, 131 Sullivan St.; 212-677-6200, thedutchnyc.com (reviewed W&S, 04/12)



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Mas (la grillade)

Photo by Thomas Schauer

Chef Galen Zamarra made his name with the artful, country-sophisticate cuisine he put forth from seasonal, sustainably farmed local food at Mas (farmhouse) in the West Village. At the new Mas (la grillade), Zamarra takes us back in time, working in a kitchen comprised solely of spits, pits and wood-fired grills, which fills the neighborhood with aromas of a fairytale feast. The cuisine is hearty, savory and toothsome: think dishes like artichoke hearts topped with hedgehog mushrooms and hazelnut mayonnaise; a tartine soaked in grilled bone marrow and blanketed with diced pork jowl and parsnip chips. Every plate feels brought to life by its brush with an open fire. Christopher Bender echoes the menu’s focus in his collection of sustainably farmed wines with a clear sense of place: Burgundy abounds, augmented with steals such as a Luneau-Papin L d’Or Muscadet with more than 15 years of bottle age, or Catherine et Pierre Breton’s Nuits d’Ivresse Bourgeuil—a terrific match for Zamarra’s duck cassoulet with house-made bacon. And to further your bacchanalian affair, a grilled pumpkin chocolate tart with cocoa nib ice cream should do the trick.
—C.D.

Mas (la grillade), 28 Seventh Ave. S.; 212-255-1795, maslagrillade.com (reviewed W&S, 04/12)



> Jungsik

You’ll find everything in halves, from the cool to the coveted—three pages of wines priced to incentivize your freedom to choose—at this elegant, Korean-inspired restaurant in the old Chanterelle space in Tribeca. Nervous about how chenin will play with a bite of kimchi and smoked squash? Instead of a full bottle, test the waters with a $36 split of Huet’s Vouvray Sec Le Haut Lieu. It cools the kimchi and magnifies the flavor of a squiggle of fried chicken in spicy aioli. Chenin will also take you diving into a spherical bowl of sea urchin over Korean seaweed rice, kimchi and crispy quinoa. The bowl is as white as the plates, the tablecloths, the sweeping banquettes and walls. The chef, Jungsik Yim, put in time at Bouley and Aquavit and had a brush with molecular gastronomy in Spain before opening Jungsik in Seoul; the sommelier, Kyongmoon Kim, worked there before helping to open this New York branch. He’s assembled one of the most balanced lists we’ve seen for Asian-inspired food, focused on elegant wines to match. The Bibim, a salad of tiny cubes of mozzarella, grape tomatoes, julienned romaine and tomato basil sorbet, may be the clearest nod to deconstructionism—sort of an Italian bibim without the bap (rice). But the food places health and comfort above intellectual nitrogen and gastronomic jokes, delivering its share of surprise along with gustatory bliss. Try the silky black cod over a red pepper-soy reduction with Boillot’s 2009 Gevrey Chambertin; or the Five Senses Pork Belly, soft and sweet against a side of spicy, crunchy, sour cabbage, with La Rioja Alta’s 2001 Viña Ardanza. Since either is available in half bottles, a couple can explore both.
—Joshua Greene

Jungsik, 2 Harrison St.; 212-219-0900, jungsik.kr (reviewed W&S, 04/12)



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Acme

Photo by Joe Schildhorn

The garish blue-red sign (a remnant of the previous incarnation of this site) suggests a plumbing supply outlet and the name, Acme, remains the same. But ghosts of restaurants past scatter once you walk in the door. High ceilings preclude noise and a long narrow bar leads into a comfortable dining room with mirrors and banquettes reminiscent of an Old World brasserie. Here, where hot “Cajun cookin’” once ran rampant, Nordic cool reigns. Chef Mads Refslund, who was a founder of Noma in Copenhagen, applies Danish inspiration to local ingredients, pulling off elegant dishes that manage to be unique without trying too hard to be different. I could live off the duck confit, foie gras and pickled vegetables served in a glass jar. Dishes like “Farmer’s Eggs“ or hay-roasted sunchokes with New England gruyère-style cheese evoke the countryside while house-cured salmon with cabbage and buttermilk-horseradish dressing or black sea bass with dandelion greens are pristine (and delicious) Arctic studies. The wine list—still a work in progress a couple weeks after opening— packed with intriguing finds, like Walter Massa’s timorasso and Domaine Réaltière’s satin-textured old-vine carignan blanc. While Swiss-born owner Jean-Marc Houmard (also of Indochine, a few blocks away) and his partners have strong ties to the art and fashion set, this place has zero attitude. If Acme is the beginning of a Nordic invasion, bring it on.
—A.T.

Acme, 9 Great Jones St, 212-203-2121, acmenyc.com (reviewed W&S, 04/12)


> Tertulia

Photo by Evan Sung

Tertulia is Spanish for an informal party, the name chef Seamus Mullen gave to his new restaurant in the West Village. It's his take on the cider houses of northern Spain, with Andalucian cider poured from a keg and a steady stream of small dishes coming from the wood-fired grill. Bigger dishes, however—like huevo y cordero, a lamb ragu and poached egg melting into polenta, or paella de mariscos, a wide pan of rice colored to a rich sepia by cuttlefish ink and topped with sweet shrimp—provide plenty of excuses to delve into the wine list. Organized by style (e.g. "bright and elegant," "dark and robust"), it's heavy on high acid choices, like the rustic Monje Tradicional 2008 Tacorante-Acenejo from the island of Tenerife, or Galician reds such as the D. Ventura 2009 Vino de Burato from Ribeira Sacra. All a good reason to brave the crowds.
—Annie Sullivan




Tertulia, 359 Sixth Ave., New York; 646-559-9909, tertulianyc.com (reviewed W&S, 12/11)



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Gwynnett St.

Of all the new restaurants in Williamsburg, Gwynnett St. makes the strongest case for the L-train ride over from Manhattan. It’s a warm, inviting space, the dark wood tables bathed in soft light, and a basket of warm whiskey bread landing with the menus. Start with a cocktail, for Carl McCoy, former wine director at Esca, is a master of balance: The Wadsworth, for instance, has just enough gin to handle winter’s cold temperatures as well as a bit of coriander to hint at warm ones. Leave room for a bottle off his wine list, a selection so diverse it borders on schizophrenic, but filled with definitive examples of their kind: a Santorini from venerable producer Argyros, Austrian blaufränkisch from Pöckl and Chanti Classico Riserva from Antinori. Justin Hilbert, formerly of wd-50, shares McCoy’s sense of balance, highlighting the local bounty in unusual combinations like bok choy and cauliflower with grapefruit and whipped feta, or Hudson Valley duck breast with Brussels sprouts, kumquats and pistachios.
—L.D.

Gwynnett St., 312 Graham Ave., Brooklyn; 347-889-7002, gwynnettst.com (reviewed W&S, 04/12)



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Empellon

In a dark room on a busy corner of the West Village, Alex Stupak has managed to convince a wide swath of New Yorkers that Mexican food can be elegant and inspired through his unusual dishes. The bar scene, however, makes it clear that people are more stubborn when it comes to drinks. Their loss: Natalie Tapken has put together an excellent wine list. Although the guacamole—a refreshingly un-fussed with bowl of mashed avocado with small bowls of arbol and smoked cashew salsa alongside—does provide an excellent counterpoint to the bite of El Burro, a Tequila drink spiked with ginger beer and chipotle, it’s also a fantastic foil for Ariania Occhipinti’s SP68, an earthy, smooth albanello-zibibbo blend from Sicily. When it comes to tacos, combinations like hedgehog mushrooms with tomatillo-chipotle salsa, sweetbreads with roasted maitakes or braised tongue with potatoes surely deserve more than beer; a split of Lallier Champagne is more like it, or maybe Pibaron’s Bandol Rosé. For the “queso fundido” or plump sopes with smoked plantains, choose between chardonnay made in Red Hook, Brooklyn or Puligny-Montrachet; lamb barbacoa needs Foradori’s teroldego, or Paul Achs Langer Acker Zweigelt from Austria’s Burgenland. And there’s always R. López de Heredía’s Gran Reserva 1991. Drink it now, while everyone’s still distracted by the cocktails.
—T.Q.T

Empellón, 230 W. 4th St.; 212-367-0999, empellon.com (reviewed W&S, 04/12)



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North End Grill

Photo by Ken Goodman

Battery Park City, the high-rise community built on landfill produced by the construction of the World Trade Center nearby, has long been something of a culinary wasteland. Thatrs&quo;s changing now that Danny Meyer, one of the most influential players on the American dining scene, has arrived. In addition to a downtown branch of Blue Smoke barbecue, he’s introduced North End Grill, with celebrated chef Floyd Cardoz (formerly of Tabla) in the kitchen. With two dining options—a low counter that fronts the remarkably quiet open kitchen, or the dining room, a spare study in black and white with large plate glass windows looking out to Hudson River Park—the place manages to feel corporate, cozy and convivial at the same time. The menu helps, deep in what could be called “urban comfort food”—marrow bones and coddled eggs, diver scallops and dry-aged strip loins—much of which, in keeping with the name, is prepared on special coal— and wood-burning grills. The service is vintage Meyer, as friendly as it is professional, and the wine list, compiled by Jason Hopple and John Ragan, is small but savvy, with interesting choices in both the upper and lower price ranges (Domaine Mardon’s Quincy Très Vieilles Vignes at $45; Cameron’s Clos Electrique 2009 Pinot Noir at $115). Hopple has also gathered nearly 100 single-malt Scotches, which he hopes you’ll try with dinner. “Many of these Scotches have tremendous complexity which complements the refinement and delicacy of [chef Cardoz’s] cooking, while the peatiness ties in with the wood and charcoal of the grill,” he says. It’s worth making the trip to test out his theory.
—A.T.

North End Grill, 104 North End Ave.; 646-747-1600, northendgrillnyc.com (reviewed W&S, 04/12)



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Battersby

Photo by Somer Ogrodnek

Blink and you might miss Battersby, the newest addition to the Smith Street scene in Brooklyn’s Carroll Gardens. There, in a tiny open kitchen at the back of the long, narrow space, Joe Ogrodnek (Gramercy Tavern; Anella), Walker Stern (The Vanderbilt; 81) and Mike Sowa (Spotted Pig, 81) are putting out some of the best food in New York. Take, for instance, the kale salad, an electric mix of shredded kale, crunchy kohlrabi and deep-fried Brussels sprout leaves in a Thai-accented dressing—a dish that’s already legendary among fans. Or the sweetbreads a la meunière, the meaty rounds of gland-y goodness so expertly balanced by the caper-studded meunière sauce that it should be the reference point for every cook in the city. The pastas alone are worth a trip, tenderly resilient and lustily sauced—duck ragù spiked with Taggiasca olives and pork-filled tortellini in brown butter with chestnuts were two winter favorites. When it comes to wine, Erika DaSilva (Otto, Momofuku Ssäm, Ma Pêche) has perfect pitch, echoing the menu with a list balancing classics with unexpected hits. Order the kerner by the carafe, or a bottle of Terre Nere nerello mascalese. And for the sea urchin pasta, there’s Sigalas Santorini, the sort of match that makes your socks roll up and down.
—T.Q.T.

Battersby, 255 Smith St.; 718-852-8321, battersbybrooklyn.com (reviewed W&S, 04/12)



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The Beagle

Among all the hip new establishments to spring up in what was once the forbidden territory of “Alphabet City” (avenues A, B, C and D between 14th and Houston streets), The Beagle stands out. The young staff is friendly and welcoming; two small rooms with rabbit-print wallpaper and funky retro accessories give a cozy country-cottage-in-the-city feel, while loud (but not too) music reminds you where you are. Angle for one of the handful of wooden stools at the tiny bar for a drink before dinner: Here, owner Matt Piacentini (formerly of ’Inoteca Liquori) and bar manager Dan Greenbaum take an ‘academic, historical and pre-prohibition’ bent to present drinks like the barrel-aged Vesper, a combination of gin, vodka and Cocchi Americano, inspired by James Bond’s order in Casino Royale. If a table frees up, take your drink with you; the menu is tailor-made to match cocktails as well as wine. “Pairing Boards” highlight a particular alcohol with a small bite, such as aquavit with pickled mackerel or gin with burrata; the “Tidbits”—like dates with prosciutto or a mini frito pie (a takeoff on the traditional Texan casserole)—are just as flexible. When it comes to pork belly with oysters or flat iron steak with boquerones, dive into the wine list: with 12 Sherries, five Champagnes (four of them by independent growers), a Basque sidra and Old World gems like Olga Raffault Chinon and Pollerhof grüner veltliner, there’s lots of flexibility.
—A.T.

The Beagle, 162 Avenue A; 212-228-6900, thebeaglenyc.com (reviewed W&S, 04/12)



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Amali

Last year, Rouge Tomate gave wine lovers a reason to head above 59th Street with Pascaline Lepeltier’s exceptional, biodynamically bent wine list. Now, a block away, Amáli offers another. A whitewashed table and chairs at the front of the room bathe in sunlight, a little piece of the Mediterranean transferred to the Upper East Side; the more formal dining room behind feels like an upscale bistro in Kolonaki, Athen’s most fashionable quarter. James Malios, formerly of Resto, joined forces with Steve Tzolis and Nicola Kotsoni, the pros behind legendary places like Il Cantinori and Periyali, New York’s first formal Greek restaurant, for this space. Here, they take a Mediterranean approach to American ingredients, creating something that’s at once more Greek than any Greek restaurant and less ethnic than any of them. Case in point: Every animal comes into the kitchen whole, as it would on a small Greek island, and Devon Gilroy and his staff break it down, roasting lamb legs for succulent sandwiches, braising the shoulder for a deep, gamey pasta ragù and using the necks for an insanely rich hash. Vegetables also take star billing, yellow chanterelles piled high on planks of toasted bread and a quarter head of roast cauliflower one of this winter’s delight’s. To drink, Malios and Paul Coles have culled Greece’s best (Gerovassiliou Malagousia, Skouras Nemea Grand Cuvée) rounded out with a savvy selection of sustainably produced wines from Austria (Lagler) to Sicily (Cos) to Paso Robles (Tablas Creek).
—A.T.

Amáli, 115 E. 60th St.; 212-339-8363, amalinyc.com (reviewed W&S, 04/12)



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Mary Queen of Scots

Photo by Adrian Barry

Scotland may not be the first destination that comes to mind for a gastronomic excursion, but Mary Queen of Scots may change that. At this latest entry from the gastropub power team that brought NYC Highlands and, most recently, Whitehall, Melbourne-born chef Chris Rendell serves up refined, modern versions of British Isles fare—plates like seared scallops dressed with crispy black pudding over mushy peas; meltingly tender pork belly with pickled red onions, or a fluffy fillet of pollack with potato mash. The wine list, though brief, stands out for its balanced selection of food-ready wines—try the Pepière Clos des Briords Muscadet with the oysters with thyme mignonette, or a Jaboulet Crozes with the venison Wellington. There’s also plenty to choose from for under $50. Leave room for whisky: There are ten pages of Scotch selections to choose from. Order them up at the bar under the watchful eye of an intensely chiaroscuroed portrait that evokes Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner, and enjoy a dram neat or in any of the joint’s top-notch cocktails.
—C.D.

Mary Queen of Scots, 115 Allen St.; 212-460-0915, maryqueenofscotsnyc.com (reviewed W&S, 04/12)



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Edi & The Wolf

Photo by Daniel Krieger

New Yorkers looking for a short escape to the country can find it on Avenue C in the East Village, where Seäsonal partners Edi Frauneder and Wolfgang Ban keep the heuriger doors open every night 'til 2 a.m. While their midtown dining room is stark Vienna high-tech, everything about their village tavern is warm and inviting. The barn wood that panels the walls and ceiling seems to mute the lights, hung from a long tangle of rope above a wide copper bar. The buzz in the room is relaxed and friendly—it's not unusual to see Edi sitting down on one of the benches to help choose a wine for the crisp plate of pork belly or Ban's simple and perfect schnitzel. He guided us toward Hirsch's Gaisberg Riesling from the Kamptal and toward buttery pillows of spätzle with wild mushrooms and brussel sprouts. The wine list imports a few bottles from Germany, France and Spain into an affordable Austrian mix of classic veltliners, rieslings and more esoteric bottles. The most expensive wine on the list is $91, for a magnum of Hajszan's 2008 Weissleiten Gemischter Satz, a field blend of white varieties from Vienna. There are, in fact, eight gemischter satz on the list, something you won't see very often, even in a heuriger in Wien.
—Joshua Greene

Edi & The Wolf, 102 Ave. C; 212-598-1040, ediandthewolf.com (reviewed W&S, 04/11)



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ABC Kitchen

ABC Kitchen may not have set out to be a neighborhood haunt, but it may be the restaurant we've returned to more often than any other in the last year. Unlike other diners, who may have wandered in after shopping next door at ABC Home, the furnishings store, we go expressly for the food—a roasted carrot salad with avocado and spice that won't let go, its intense carotene-and-spice jolt like turmeric gone wild; mackerel as pristine as the sashimi at the finest sushi bars in town. Bernard Sun, last year's recipient of the James Beard Award for Outstanding Service in wine, has carefully selected enough organic and/or biodynamic wines to fill two pages, all at peak performance with the food, regardless of their philosophical upbringing. "Organic wines don't pull any punches," he says. "When the wine is stinky, it's really stinky," he says. But you won't find a lot of stinkiness at ABC. So go ahead and order that Sancerre you never heard of, or anything, for that matter. Sun has made sure that it will be as refreshing and clean as the food.
—Joshua Greene

ABC Kitchen, 35 E. 18th St. (btw. Broadway & Park Ave); 212-475-5829, abchome.com (reviewed W&S, 04/11)



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Carmine Club Café

Every restaurant in town seems to have wine on tap these days, but Carmine Club Café was the first we noticed with Prosecco flowing. It fits in well with the vibe, an immensely friendly place with a neighborhood bar-like feel, and more than a few surprises. The first is the food, which transcends the surroundings. The burger is of tender heritage pork laced with spice and topped with smoked pepper mayo; squid come grilled rather than deep-fried with a zingy mint salsa. The Italian leanings of Joe Vigorito, late of dell'Anima and Lupa, show up in dishes like grilled branzino with fennel and polenta. The fried chicken wings, with their dusting of coriander, fennel and umami-rich garum, simply demonstrate an understanding of food made for drinks. Because drinking is imperative in a place where Prosecco is on tap, the wines by the glass might include Musar Jeune, Thierry Germain's Roches Neuves Saumur-Champigny and Alain Graillot's Moroccan syrah, Syrocco. If you need help navigating the list, owner Noel Cruz is glad to help out. Just don't bring in a bottle of Yellow Tail: Corkage for that is $100.
—Tara Q. Thomas

Carmine Club Cafe, 41-43 Carmine St. (btw. Bleecker & Bedford Sts.); 212-933-0705, carmineclubcafe.com (reviewed W&S, 04/11)



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Buvette

Located in the heart of the West Village, where cute is chic, everything at Buvette is diminutive. That goes for the short oval water glasses and the little crocks of lentils. Gastrognomes, as Jody Williams calls them, line the bar in their pressed French aprons, shaking Martinis and circumspecting their pours of the wines by the glass. They'll give you a taste to make sure you're okay with each one before pouring a generous two-thirds' full. The Bourgueil on the list, a Canonières from Barc Vallée, is obscure enough that it doesn't appear in Google. But it came alive with a tiny taste of two pieces of toast, smeared with a commanding combination of potatoes, Cantal cheese and smoked ham. Then there was a stew with cotechino, trotters, beans and cabbage and Alain Allier's Mouressipe Pitchounet, a 100 percent cinsault that does come up in Google: Alice Feiring describes it as "initially charming, ends with puppy breath." I definitely got the puppy breath, but it didn't bother me with the stew. Like Buvette, the wine is old-fashioned by choice, the drink and the marble bar feeling like pre-war France in some small country town, a local bar that took care with every plate and glass. There's nothing diminutive about Buvette when it comes to satisfaction.
—Joshua Greene

Buvette, 42 Grove St. (btw. Bleecker & Bedford Sts.); 212-255-3590, ilovebuvette.com (reviewed W&S, 04/11)



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Lincoln

Lincoln may be the most astonishing new restaurant in the city, a dramatic plate-glass space perched on the edge of the Lincoln Center plaza. Chef Jonathan Benno, formerly of Per Se, has put together a challenging all-Italian menu: testa di maiale translates as Berkshire pork terrine, the menu description leaving aside the heady parts; there is also gigli neri con seppia e polpo (cuttlefish and red wine-braised octopus) and cacciucco with Spanish mackerel and fennel. Those red-wine seafood dishes are particularly delicious with a glass of the Terre Nere Etna Rosso, or a bottle of the Occhipinti Frappato, the sort of wines that Aaron Von Rock (late of Telepan) and general manager Paolo Novello (another Per Se alum), packed onto the 400-bottle all-Italian list. Sure, there are verticals from legendary estates and plenty of star power at the requisite price. What surprises are the steals, especially when viewing the list from an oversized red banquette. Von Rock knows geek chic, and you can drink extraordinarily well here in the $45 to $70 range. Go late, once the Lincoln Center crowd is safely seated for the ballet or opera. Lincoln is a destination in its own right and a performance not to be missed.
—Joshua Greene

Lincoln, Lincoln Center, 142 W. 65th St.; 212-359-6500, lincolnristorante.com (reviewed W&S, 04/11)



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Ai Fiori

Michael White's foray down the Riviera, from Liguria to Nice, may be his most exciting restaurant to date, a procession of dishes far sunnier than the hotel surroundings would intimate. Check out chewy Ligurian trofie bathed in a sea-scented crustacean ragout; wake the taste buds with rouget given a sunny Provençal jolt from basil and capers. Hristo Zisovski, former chief sommelier at Jean-Georges, proffers a list as deliciously challenging, piling the wines-by-the-glass thick with obscurities (Champagnes Doyard and Doquet; Poggio dei Gorleri's pigato), devoting two pages to half-bottles and another to grower Champagnes, as well as whole sections to vibrant finds from Italy's and France's Riviera. This is the sort of hotel dining that sails far above the requirements of the usual business trip or meeting; this is food for everyone, tourists and jaded New Yorkers alike.
—Tara Q. Thomas

Ai Fiori, 400 Fifth Ave. (btw. 36th & 37th Sts.); 212-695-4005, setaififthavenue.com (reviewed W&S, 04/11)



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Osteria Morini

Morini starts as a memory of Bologna. The top of the menu is a selection of prosciutto, mortadella, coppa and other salumi in a room where most everyone is drinking fizzy red wine. The ceiling is open to the beams, the kind of massive wooden structure that might have graced Soho before 19th century cast iron. In fact, the beams come direct from Italy, reclaimed from an old farmhouse. The food comes from Michael White, whose pastas have captured the imagination of New Yorkers at Marea, Alto and Convivio, here presented on bare wooden tables with paper napkins. The wine list centers on Emilia-Romagna, with pink Lambrusco di Sorbara (Villa di Corlo's tart cherry-scented '09) and the deeper red Lambrusco dell' Emilia (Camillo Donati's organic fizz) available by the glass. Rarities like the 2005 Fontana dei Boschi from Modena are the liquid companions for a deep-toned duck liver mousse and manage to bridge the crespe, a horned pasta with lightly spiced tomato-and-shellfish sauce, and cappelletti with truffles and speck. There's plenty more beyond the pasta and the Lambrusco (from porchetta to aged beef), but if you go to Morini, let the fizzy reds reign.
—Joshua Greene

Osteria Morini, 218 Lafayette St. (btw. Broome & Spring Sts.); 212-965-8777, osteriamorini.com (reviewed W&S, 04/11)



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Eataly

Photo by Evan Sung

New Yorkers don't like to stand in line. Nor are we much for mega-stores. Yet there we were, countless times, waiting on Broadway and 24th to get into Eataly, the New York branch of Oscar Farinetti's Turin food hall. Opened in collaboration with the Batali-Bastianich Hospitality Group, the place is immense: 50,000 square feet and packed with options. Power lunchers can head to the steakhouse-within-the-store, Manzo, which serves up meat from celebrity purveyor Pat LaFrieda and Northern Italian reds to go with it; the simply hungry but discerning can grab a glass of Prosecco and some mozzarella made that minute, or crudo courtesy of Dave Pasternack, the fish guru who runs Esca. The panini are fast, hot and filled with top-notch salumi and Italian cheese; the pizza is Neapolitan-style, thin and well charred. And the pistachio gelato is, perhaps, the best reason to ever wait on line.
—Tara Q. Thomas

Eataly, 200 5th Ave. (btw. 23rd & 24th Sts.); 646-398-5100, eatalyny.com (reviewed W&S, 04/11)



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Porsena

We'd walk over the Brooklyn Bridge (and do) for Sara Jenkins's porchetta, sliced thickly and piled onto bread at her East Village Porchetta—but the lack of seating and wine list make it mainly an on-the-fly affair. Now there's Porsena—still porky, but with a long bar perfect for solo dining and tables, including a big wooden one a few steps from the kitchen. Get a group together and book it, as it's the best table in the house: A reservation puts you entirely in Jenkins's hands, as it's family-style only, her choice. She might start you off with tiny red peppers filled with anchovies, as bracing as a cold Martini without the unfortunate after effects; or send out bowls piled high with fat mussels, plenty of liberally garlicked bread on the side to sop up the juices. Her pastas are justly famous, toothy and perfectly sauced—this may be the one restaurant where it makes sense for someone over six to order pasta al pomodoro—but leave room for the secondi, as you may score the Niman pork chop, cracklings and all. Jenkins's wine list is like her food: direct, mouthwatering and affordable, an array of bottles from small producers and unsung appellations—Jenkins's idea of picnic wines, if she were cooking.
—Tara Q. Thomas

Porsena, 21 E. 7th St. *btw. 1st & 2nd Aves.); 212-228-4923, porsena.com (reviewed W&S, 04/11)



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Spasso

Chef Craig Wallen has joined forces with Choptank's Bobby Werhane in a cozy corner spot in the West Village. Italian for amusement, Spasso may read as a playful neighborhood trattoria, but the care Wallen takes and the quality of his ingredients make simple preparations taste surprisingly sophisticated. The ricotta strascinari, chewy dumpling-like lengths of pasta, are elevated from their rustic Sicilian origins by a smoky sauce of braised duck leg; a trout wrapped tightly with prosciutto and sage is cooked to perfection. The Italo-centric wine list provides a comfortable range of tradizionali wines, to which Gordon Adams has added an exciting array under "sorprendenti," lesser-known wines such as Radoar's Loach, a zwiegelt from Alto Adige, or Scilio di Valle Galfina's Phiale, a red from Etna that tastes as though it was built for those strascinari.
—Carson Demmond

Spasso, 551 Hudson St.; 212-858-3838, spassonyc.com (reviewed W&S, 04/11)



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Ciano

When John Slover opened Bar Henry last year, he did something crazy: He put a chalkboard in the bar area, and then told people they could order any bottle off the list by the half. There was no extra charge; the other half of the bottle went up for sale by the glass on the chalkboard. As you might expect, this attracted a lot of wine geeks short on cash and long on desire to taste stuff they couldn't afford by the bottle. And the chalkboard saw some wild and arcane wines going by the glass. Slover has now taken the concept upmarket to Ciano, where his former Cru colleague, Shea Gallante, is in the kitchen. Here, Gallante looks to Italy for inspiration and to the farmers' market for food, putting Nantucket scallops together with a hubbard squash mostarda or pairing beets with whipped robiola and wild watercress. To match, Slover has dug deep in Italy—this may be the only list in the city with a category titled "Italian Orange" between white and red, as well as a 22-year-old schioppetino (Ronchi di Cialla; $120 a half). There are bright, sharp Ligurian vermentinos as well as Barolos from the 1960s, plenty of Tuscan reds and southern producers such as Occhipinti—plus a wide range of French wines and select array of German and Austrian bottles. It's a wine geek's dream.
—Tara Q. Thomas

Ciano, 45 E. 22nd St. (btw. 5th Ave. & Park Ave. S.); 212-982-8422, cianonyc.com (reviewed W&S, 04/11)



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Kin Shop

Photo by Vicky Wasik

There are no chopsticks on the tables at Kin Shop, the first clue that this place is serious about its Thai food. And while you can pretty much bet that broccoli romanesco has never shown up in a sour curry in Thailand, you'd be hard pressed to find a version in Manhattan as true to its powerful, puckering flavor as Harold Dieterle's riff. That holds true for much of the menu here—it may not be traditional to make laab from ground, cooked duck, or to carefully cube pork belly and serve it with fried oysters, but who cares? It's the spirit that counts, and he's got that down. He's also got real spirits on the list: Cocktails such as The Aln—made from gin and Thai pickle brine—share the clarity and savor of Dieterle's food; the mostly white wine list compiled by Alicia Nosenzo specializes in bottles that can handle a little heat and add their own spice. The sparkling section alone can satisfy most any dish: Champagnes from Aubry, Hébrart and Jean Milan, Fitz-Ritter Riesling, Opera Lambrusco, Black Chook Sparkling Shiraz, Bordelet Poire Authentique...
—Tara Q. Thomas

Kin Shop, 469 6th Ave. (btw. 11th & 12th Sts.); 212-675-4295, kinshopnyc.com (reviewed W&S, 04/11)



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Hung Ry

Asian-food-loving wine geeks have long looked West at The Slanted Door with unabashed jealousy; while we have some decent Asian food in our coastal city, the best tends to be served up in dingy rooms without wine lists. Hung Ry's changed that, setting up shop in an airy space with high ceilings, a birch bark wall and an open kitchen. Noodle soups are the focus, whether it's a restorative, clean-tasting chicken soup with winter greens, a light squash broth tangy with tamarind or a deep, dark bowl of oxtail and brisket, all piled with noodles pulled into particularly toothy compliance by an A+ crew whacking them out in the kitchen. The wine list is packed with deliciousness—like Királyudvar's Tokaji Sec, Alary's roussanne, Muscadet from Bruno Cormerais and the Schoffit Vieilles Vignes Pinot Blanc. Those wines demand attention to the appetizers, whether a salad of chewy squid, smoky guajillo chile and crunchy pumpkin seeds or a veal head terrine. Nearly every bottle runs under $50 save those on the reserve list, an eclectic selection of bottles ranging from the 1996 Dominus to magnums of Sea Smoke Cellars' Southing Pinot Noir or the '82 Pontet-Canet.
—Tara Q. Thomas

Hunt Ry, 55 Bond St. at Bowery; 212-677-4864, hung-ry.com (reviewed W&S, 04/11)



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Rouge et Blanc

Thomas Cregan, who once manned the lists at Chanterelle and The Beacon, has opened his own warm Village restaurant. The exclusively French list runs the gamut from classic to eclectic (Cour-Cheverny, Gueule de Loup or Les Mûres, for example), allowing for plenty of play with chef Matt Rojas's Franco-Vietnamese plates. Fried rouget, presented whole as if plucked straight from the sea, gets dressed with chile, lime, garlic and peanuts; molten bone marrow comes with grilled baby octopus, fennel salad with pickled plum sauce and a hint of citrus. These are terrific excuses to indulge in a Condrieu, although duck confit with an 11-year-old Domaine des Grands Fers Fleurie is hard to beat, too.
—Carson Demmond

Rouge et Blanc, 48 MacDougal St.; 212-260-5757, rougeetblancnyc.com (reviewed W&S, 04/11)



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Junoon

Junoon brings a Taj Hotel-level elegance to Indian dining in New York, from the black limestone façade to chef Vikas Khanna's intricate cooking and the list of 250 wines selected by Scott Carney, Ms. Khanna's dishes present the pure flavor of the main ingredient, layered with the trebles and bass of spice. Lobster tandoor comes in two tails, slightly charred but not dry, with a subtle heat to bring out the brininess of the shellfish; Zilliken's Saarburger Rausch dives right in and brightens it up. The riesling also sweetens and lightens a three-lentil shorba, a rich, wintry soup spiced with fresh turmeric, cumin and cilantro that echo in high notes, red notes, green notes and browns. Red wines find a playing field with the curries and grilled meats; a Tollot-Beaut Bourgogne Rouge makes a light, fruity accompaniment to a goat matke wala (a handi, or curry, with tomato, bay leaf and pomegranate). Junoon may not convince you to give up beer with Indian food for good, but it proves wine can be a welcome alternative.
—Joshua Greene

Junoon, 27 W. 24th St. (btw. 5th & 6th Aves.); 212-490-2100, junoonnyc.com (reviewed W&S, 04/11)


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