Food + Drink / Insights

Brasserie Beaumarchais Welcomes Fall

The infamous hotspot embraces the season with a new menu and executive chef.

October 10, 2011

Simply peering into the window of Brasserie Beaumarchais during its infamous Le Grand Brunch is an experience unto itself, let alone sitting (nay, dancing on a chair) inside the dining room as musicians riff in the aisles, the DJ booth booms and jeroboams of Champagne are “flown” to tables by waitresses (clad in Superman capes) perched on the shoulders of other waiters. But as easy as it is to get caught up in the fabulous hoopla, Beaumarchais’ solid French cuisine is well worth a try.

Newly instated chef David Diaz, who has worked with former Beaumarchais chef Nicholas Cantrel since 2009, is giving diners plenty of reasons to put down their cocktails and pick up their menus. Diaz’s new fall menu includes old favorites, such as Cantrel’s tuna tartare with homemade plantain chips, and innovative newcomers like his signature terrine de foie gras maison—a wheel of foie gras filled with fig and sauternes served with fig marmalade and homemade brioche.

Other hearty autumn dishes making their debut include a pan-seared lamb loin with chickpea panisse and tomato confit; a traditional bouillabaisse of mussels, bass, scallops, shrimp and squid served with crusty bread and a saffron-rich rouille sauce; and Maine lobster in lustrous lobster cream with trumpet royal mushrooms, beet greens, lemons and fingerling potatoes. Even if you opt for regular dinner service rather than the boozy Sunday brunch, order a cocktail. (They are some of the best in the Meatpacking District.) Try the spicy Maple Hill made with Woodford Reserve bourbon, maple syrup, peach bitters, lemon juice and a hint of cinnamon. 409 W. 13th St., 212-675-2400



What’s New Is Old At Gastroarte

Revisiting the restaurant formerly known as Graffit.

August 24, 2011

"Fake Truffles" at Gastroarte

What’s a diner to do when your food plays with you? That scenario is altogether possible at Gastroarte—aka the space formerly known as Graffit. The renaming came as a result of some copyright infringement noise made by the East Village restaurant Graffiti. Apart from the new name, Upper West Side diners starved for the culinary avant-garde will be pleased to know that nothing else has changed at chef Jesús Núñez’s 69th Street kitchen. 

The restaurant continues to serve both tapas and larger plates and combines a conventional upscale ambiance with inventive preparations. Núñez’s flavors are surprisingly clean and well defined considering the intense manipulation ingredients often undergo before finding their way onto the plate. There is deception, here, and whimsy—things are seldom as simple as they appear and Núñez’s plating is truly artful, hence the appropriate portmanteau of the restaurant’s new name.

Fun and function are often combined to create truly delicious dishes, such as a poached egg dish (dubbed “not your average egg”) containing no egg white whatsoever. Instead, a veil of puréed cauliflower understudies for the egg white and encapsulates a real poached yolk. Beneath the delicate “egg” is a crunchy nest of summer vegetables bursting with bold flavors. Less deceptive, but equally delicious is the excellently cooked monkfish wrapped in Serrano ham with spring onions and confited shiitake mushrooms, which sits atop brushstrokes of a tangy Romesco sauce quite literally painted onto the plate. Not everything is what it seems at Gastroarte, but all is as it was. 141 W. 69th St., 646-692-8762

—John Vilanova


True Sicilian Slices at Pizza Roma

Pizza Roma slam dunks the Sicilian slice with truffle-laden pies sold by the inch.

August 23, 2011

Margherita pizza with mozzarella di bufala

Aside from the obvious fundamental ingredients, pizza is a matter of personal preference. Though Italian by heritage, pizza has become a dish of the world, with endless variations upon variations moving far afield of the standard pie. At Pizza Roma in the West Village, however, authenticity and true-to-form style are the foundations of preparation: Pies are overseen by a pizzaiolo from the Italian Association of Professional Pizza Makers—and certified by the Roman Associazione Pizzerie Italiane. (Yes, really.) The dough base—made with flour shipped in from Rome—is tended to for four days before being formed into a Sicilian-style rectangular shape and baked in a state-of-the-art electric oven that delivers a pleasantly chewy underbelly and crunchy crust. As Sicilian pies go, Pizza Roma’s rendition is lighter and less doughy than what can be found elsewhere in the city. Pies are cooked and served al taglio(literally, by the cut) and guests can dine trattoria-style, al fresco on the secluded back porch or take-out. Top marks go to the excellent tartuffina pizza, topped with fontina cheese and earthy truffle sauce. Also try the arancini(fried rice balls), mozzarella di bufala on house-baked crostini and other appetizers, calzones, salads, entrees and desserts—all drawn straight from Italia and internationally-approved. 259 Bleecker St., 212-924-1970

—John Vilanova


West Village Stalwart: Pó

We revisit an Italian classic and find a linguine vongole worth coming back for.

August 21, 2011

Stepping into the cozy whitewashed interior of West Village cornerstone is like walking into a well-preserved space as Old World as can be found in a city whose culinary scene warps and twists around it. “We still use our original clipboard for holding reservations,” boasts amiable chef Steven Crane, who opened the restaurant with now-celebrity chef and longtime friend Mario Batali in 1993. The space itself once held New York’s first off-off-Broadway theater in the late-fifties. The warming amber glow from overhead lamps maintains the ambiance where the careers of Al Pacino, Harvey Keitel and others began. 

Although many of its neighbors have come and gone over the years, Pó’s identity remains its calling card and ultimate draw. Propelled by traditional Italian flavor profiles and styles time-tested across the world Crane’s cuisine is self-assured and timeless. The linguine vongole, served with fresh clams and bites of pancetta, is just the right degree of al dente because, well, that’s how it's supposed to be. Big, pillowy gnocchi are made fresh daily and the veal Milanese’s light crust hides a perfectly tender piece of meat. More than anything, Pó’s sustained success comes from almost two decades of being itself. Crane and his staff own the food they present, and it shines as brightly as the stars that once frequented its now long-gone stage. 31 Cornelia Street, NYC, 212-645-2189

—John Vilanova


Pop-Up: Le Cirque at Hotel Rivington

The iconic restaurant brings ingredient-themed menus and cocktails to the Lower East Side.

August 20, 2011

Grilled octopus with watermelon, feta cheese, red onion and fava beans

Lending a little four-star flair to the rising pop-up trend is Le Cirque executive chef Craig Hopson’s four-day pop-up at Hotel Rivington. In partnership with flash culinary project group Guerrilla Culinary Brigade, Hopson will present a new four-course, ingredient-themed menu each night the pop-up is open—tonight through August 26. This evening, the menu revolves around lobster and counts a lobster tortelli with foie gras sabayon and lobster mushrooms among its offerings. Future nights will reveal menus inspired by watermelon, sweet corn and heirloom tomatoes, which will include dishes such as grilled octopus with watermelon, feta cheese, red onion and fava beans (ABOVE); steamed black bass with green tomato chutney and raw tomato vinaigrette; and sweet corn soup with rock shrimp fritters and  basil essence. For each menu, mixologist Nick Mautone will whip up Grey Goose cocktail parings, such as a supremely refreshing watermelon and basil cooler with a hint of ginger. 107 Rivington St.;

—April Walloga


New Food Truck: Pico de Gap

Gap rolls out a new denim collection and a roving taco truck.

August 16, 2011

The Gap is cooking up more than just jeans this summer. In celebration of its 1969 denim collection, Gap has launched its first-ever gourmet taco truck in select cities around the country. Dubbed Pico de Gap, the inspiration for the truck came from the L.A. Gap creative team’s late night dinners at a local food truck. The vintage truck holds true to the 1969 collection’s throwback aesthete with a hand-paint job featuring a replica of a vintage Gap ad and neon sign from the 1970s. The custom-designed steak, chicken, tofu or fish tacos are courtesy of New York Times best selling author Katie Lee and, from what we hear, they’re pretty solid. Keep your eyes peeled for this mobile fiesta that will be stopping by music events, nightlife hotspots, festivals, select Gap stores and more (through September 30)—or stop by one of their scheduled pit stops listed below.

Pico de Gap Truck Stops:

August 17
Movies under the Stars at Riverside Park: Mars Attacks! (8:30 PM). Pier 1 at Riverside Park, 70th St., 212-870-3070;

August 2021
VIP area of the Afro Punk Festival (all day). Commodore Barry Park, Park Ave., Brooklyn;

August 25
The Art of Brooklyn Festival (6–11 PM). St. Francis College, 180 Remsen St., Brooklyn;

September 10
Westside County Fair (1–6 PM). Riverside Park, 70th St. and the Hudson River;

Watch for more dates and times at or

—Jenn Gimbel


Greenmarket Fare at Gotham Bar and Grill

Chef Alfred Portale uses local produce to craft superb vegetarian dishes.

August 08, 2011

With visions of Meatopia still dancing in our heads, Alfred Portale’s two-course, vegetarian Greenmarket to Gotham menu ($25) is a welcome (and cholesterol-friendly) distraction. The special menu, which runs at Gotham Bar and Grill through September 2, changes weekly and spotlights produce and farmers from the neighboring Union Square Greenmarket. Along with chef de cuisine Adam Longworth, Portale visits the market each week in search of fruits and vegetables at the peak of freshness and flavor. These market visits and chats with regional farmers manifest each week in stunning, dare we say hearty, vegetarian dishes like olive oil-poached rutabaga with roasted spring vegetables and fennel custard. Even more endearing than the restaurant’s cuisine is its heart: One dollar from every Greenmarket to Gotham meal served benefits Grow NYC’s Grow to Learn program, which helps public schools build and sustain school garden programs.     

How did the idea for the Greenmarket to Gotham menu come along?
ALFRED PORTALE: We’ve been buying [at the Union Square Greenmarket] for I can’t even remember how long. So we’ve always had a close relationship with the farmers and kept the philosophy of using not only local food, but also highly seasonal food. It’s been so rewarding and so much fun to do that we will probably do it every year going forward.

Given our city’s fascination with all things meat, why go vegetarian?
AP: Well, I was sitting around with Brett Csencsitz, our general manager, and my chefs and we basically just kicked the idea around. This is a very new exercise for Adam and I. We, of course, have always accommodated vegetarian requests and we have sort of a loose program for vegan tasting menus, but we’ve never really set out to create a series of dishes like this. So it’s been a little bit of a learning curve.

In terms of cookery do you look for ways to treat vegetables like you might treat a protein?
AP: The way I’m approaching it is I’m thinking about proteins, different flavor combinations and techniques and then sort of backing the vegetable into it to see if it works. Olive oil-poached salmon is an obvious use of that. It’s a very, very slow cooking that tends to create a very soft texture. Doing it with vegetables produces a very interesting component on the plate.

As a veteran chef who knows when and where to find produce at its peak, has anything in the market pleasantly surprised you?
AP: Adam and I were in the market and one funny surprise was that all they had mainly was rutabaga. One doesn’t really think of rutabega as being a spring vegetable yet the farmer explained, because of the weather and the coldness and the rain and so on and so forth, he had a very sweet rutabaga. So that was kind of a fun surprise, thinking we were going to get sugar snap peas and ending up with rutabaga. And it was one of the most beautiful dishes.

What should greenmarket shoppers be buying right now?
AP:  Squash, certainly sugar snaps, which are plentiful, and then radishes are great this time of year.  

How did you become acquainted with Grow NYC?
AP: Brett and Adam are very active in the program. Brett has been slowly developing a relationship with Grow NYC and we’ve been looking for ways to get involved and to do events in support of the program and he’s gotten me excited about it. They’ve been into the restaurant to speak to our staff, and we just think it’s close to what we do and it’s a very good cause.

—April Walloga


The London Goes French

Gordon Ramsay's menu at The London now features French cuisine.

July 25, 2011

While it may seem odd to find French-inspired cuisine at The London, there couldn’t be a better pairing. Gordon Ramsay’s alluring menu plus The London’s intimate ambience makes for the ultimate dining experience. 151 W. 54th St., 212-468-8889


A Tropical Rum Cocktail

10 Cane rum takes you from the island of Manhattan to the isle of Trinidad with just one sip.

July 11, 2011


Hemingway Daiquiri
2 oz. 10 Cane rum
Juice of 2 limes
Juice of ½ grapefruit
¼ oz. maraschino liqueur
¼ oz. cane syrup

Place all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice, and shake for 10 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime wedge or grapefruit slice. I Tre Merli Bistro, 183 W. 10 St., 212-929-2221;



Alma 33: Where Argentina and Italy Meet

Cheese-laden fried polenta and haute empanadas add to the rustic charm of this Greenwich Village newcomer.

July 06, 2011

Eclecticism infuses the Argentinean-Italian menu at Alma 33, Richard Lusardi’s recently-opened spot nestled in bustling Greenwich Village. Florentine chef Enrico Primarti marries the flavors of his homeland with Lusardi’s own Argentinean background, and what results is a strangely elegant barrage of transnational takes on elevated traditional dishes. For starters, try the empanadas de carne, which are delicately-fried and stuffed with braised short ribs, or the playful pintxos de polenta—fried and skewered balls of polenta served with Fontina cheese dip. Recalling chef Primarti’s Italian roots is the sweet pear and ricotta ravioli served under fried trumpet royale mushrooms—a dish packed with earthy sweetness. The wine list is short but well-considered, with varietals from the restaurant’s various origins. And be sure to try the saffron panna cotta topped with house-made chutney and a dulce de leche drizzle for dessert. It’s not distinctively from anywhere, but it’s so rich that after a few bites, you won’t mind. 33 West 8th St.

—John Vilanova
photograph by Zandy Marigold

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