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Archive for Restaurants

RESTAURANT: Death Ave

Now that spring is really here, New Yorkers and visitors to the city are heading to the High Line, the elevated train tracks that have been turned into a unique urban park.

Built in 1934 to transport goods through Manhattan, the High Line ran from 34th Street to Spring Street in SoHo. The elevated tracks were built through the center of blocks, rather than over the avenue.

By 1980, interstate trucking was the preferred mode of commercial transportation, and the trains ceased to run. Over time, the tracks covered with wild vegetation. Property owners wanted the tracks torn down.

In 1999, two neighborhood residents began to advocate for the High Line’s preservation and reuse as public open space. The first part of the renovation opened to the public in 2009 and it is now complete—and magnificent.

The High Line is part of the renaissance of the far west side of Chelsea, long a bleak industrial area. A decade ago, art galleries priced out of other neighborhoods led the gentrification, followed by boutique hotels.

   

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One of Death Ave’s deconstructed dishes, a stacked Greek salad. Photo courtesy Death Ave | NYC.

 

Then the high rise residential buildings began to pop up, many along the High Line. If you’re going to live far west in Chelsea, having a neighborhood park—especially such a hip, trendy one—is an amenity unmatched by other ‘hoods.

Along with the burgeoning numbers of visitors and residents came the restaurants. We recently visited a particularly charming one, Death Ave.

A RESTAURANT NAMED “DEATH?”

First, you’ll say: What kind of name is Death Ave for a restaurant, much less a modern Greek one?

Its location, Eleventh Avenue, was nicknamed “Death Avenue” in the late 19th century.

In the mid-1800s, the Hudson River Railroad built freight train tracks, to transport meat and other goods to the city’s bustling Meat Packing District (today, there’s no more meat packing but a loft and condo neighborhood).

Although inconceivable today, the train tracks ran at street level, right through the same avenue that was used by pedestrians and carriage traffic. Inevitably, hundreds of people were hit and killed by the trains. By the 1890s, the street was nicknamed “Death Avenue.”

The stretch of avenue where the restaurant is located is drab, but gentrification will come. And until then, restaurateur Michael Tzezailidis has built a beautiful new restaurant. A 120-year-old tenement building has been transformed into an urban oasis.

 

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The dining room at Death Ave, looking out onto the patio. Photo courtesy Death Ave | NYC.

 

The restaurant has been built with old world craftsmanship. We envied the bronze floor tiles and the handsome stone walls. The room tables are reclaimed wood.

There’s a bar for drinking and nibbling; private, curtain-enclosed booths; a main dining room with and a splendid patio with a retractable roof for rainy days. It has a large bar and lounge area along with table seating.

The menu is a creative modernization of Greek fare: a deconstructed Greek salad and souvlaki “tacos” for dinner and deconstructed ham and eggs for breakfast and brunch.

There is also more conventional fare, from a mezze plate to braised octopus and lamb shank, all stylishly served.

The cocktails are impressive (be sure to have the current specialties); and although we have to return to try the beer, there’s an in-house brewery. Death Ave is an “estiatorio and zythopoiia”; in Greek, estiatorio is a restaurant, zythopoiia is a brewery.

It’s a lovely place to relax after your stroll on the High Line.

 

Death Ave is located at 315 10th Avenue between 28th and 29th Streets (not on 11th Avenue, “Death Avenue”); 212.695.8080. You can also reserve via Open Table on the Death Ave website.

  

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TRENDS: Restaurant Focus For 2015

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No more waste: In restaurant kitchens, everything can have a second life. Citrus peel
is turned into marmalade. Photo courtesy Lola Loves Green.

 

What are the top culinary concerns for restaurateurs this year?

According to a survey by Nation’s Restaurant News, the top five focus on gluten-free and sustainability.

1. ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY

Safeguarding natural resources is a growing concern across the globe, and the number one culinary issue cited in a survey of American chefs. It’s not just with fine dining: Fast casual concepts like Chipotle Mexican Grill and Sweetgreen have been on the bandwagon since their inception. Chipotle recently stopped serving pork when it couldn’t find enough sustainable meat!

 
2. NATURAL INGREDIENTS/MINIMALLY PROCESSED FOODS

“Clean” labels and minimally processed food appeal to more and more customers. Chefs polled by the National Restaurant Association named natural ingredients and minimally processed food as a major theme. Last year, fast food chains Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s took the concept mainstream, adding an all-natural burger to the menu. Subway and Dunkin’ Donuts have responded to consumer complaints by doing away with additives.
 
3. HYPERLOCAL SOURCING

Locally sourced and house-grown food are becoming more and more important to customers. “Hyperlocal” fruits, vegetables and herbs are grown in restaurant gardens. Some restaurants have beehives as well. We’ve even seen chickens strutting around rooftops (fresh eggs!).

 
4. FOOD/WASTE REDUCTION MANAGEMENT

Food costs are rising and consumers are growing more concerned about how what they eat affects the planet. Both have become major concerns among the dining public.

Chefs are practicing more “root-to-stem” cooking, the logical next step to “nose-to-tail” cooking, in which restaurants utilize the entire animal (or vegetable). It’s an effective way to avoid waste and manage costs.

Chefs have long used bits and scraps—in soups, chicken salad and so forth. But now, they’re making marmalade from citrus skins and bitters from plum and peach pits. This parallels the new law in Seattle, which as of January 1st ordered no more food waste in the garbage. Instead, residents are expected to recycle and compost.

5. GLUTEN-FREE CUISINE

Fewer than 7% of Americans are sensitive to gluten; about 1% of people worldwide suffer from celiac disease, an autoimmune condition in which gluten consumption can cause life-threatening intestinal damage.

Yet, 63% of Americans surveyed by Consumer Reports said they believed following a gluten-free diet would improve their physical or mental health*. About a third of those said they buy gluten-free products or try to avoid gluten.

Gluten-free cuisine was the culinary theme chefs pointed to fifth most often in the NRA survey. Restaurants are responding with a growing array of gluten-free options, including gluten-free burger buns.

 
*Note that no scientific studies to date confirm or deny a positive impact of gluten-free diets among condition-free consumers.

  

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RESTAURANT: Vermillion

Last night, while others were enjoying corned beef and cabbage with green beer, we broke with tradition in a big way.

We dined at Vermillion in midtown Manhattan. The soaring, bi-level space is the New York branch of the Chicago Vermillion established by Rohini Dey, a former international banker and McKinsey consultant.

Serving a unique Indian-Latin fusion menu, the flavors and presentation are as stylish as Ms. Dey herself. First, the cuisine:

In a complete relaunch of the menu, Ms. Dey’s concept to fuse the two colorful cuisines has been interpreted by co-executive chefs Anup Patwal and Aseema Mamaji from India, and sous chef Javier Alvarez from Latin America. The gifted young team brings verve, energy and an elegant touch to the food.

Beyond the flavorful, there’s a “wow” experience in the presentation. Thought has been given to turning each dish into culinary art; whether it’s a specially crafted chrome rack from which four different types of kabobs hang in alluring fashion, or a slice of tree trunk used as a charger.

 

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Caldeirada de peixe, a traditional Brazalian seafood stew accented with Indian spices and a side of coconut rice. Photo courtesy Vermillion Restaurant.

 

Absolutely everything demands to be consumed. Even garnishes of pickled red onion or green chile are exciting. We didn’t leave a scrap on the plate!

The seasonings are spectacular. There’s just enough of the custom-blended spices and heat to blend perfectly, appropriately understated without providing a punch not wanted in fine dining. It’s not often that we encounter such finesse with spices. Kudos to the chefs!

In addition to fusion dishes, there’s a menu of classic Indian entrées. There is nothing we don’t want to try, and we can’t wait to go back.

While dinner can cost what you’d expect for such fine cuisine, lunch is quite affordable: two courses for $20 or three courses for $24.

Wine tip: The Chateau Ste Michelle Riesling, made with grapes from Washington’s Columbia Valley, is perfect with the cuisine. Off-dry, with notes of sweet lime, peach and subtle minerality, it is a charming complement to the spice and heat.

There’s a comfortable cocktail lounge downstairs and a private dining room upstairs, on the main dining floor. The restaurant is at 480 Lexington Avenue at 46th Street. Visit the company website or call for reservations: 212-871-6600.

  

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TIP OF THE DAY: Have A Temaki Party

What’s a temakeria?

It’s a fast-casual style eatery featuring temaki, the made-to-order, cone-shaped “hand roll” sushi. Rice, raw fish and vegetables are wrapped in a sheet of nori, seaweed that pressed into thin sheets.

In the case of Uma Temakeria, newly opened in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan (64 Seventh Avenue at 14th Street), the soy sauce and wasabi traditionally served at sushi bars is replaced with a choice of the chef’s special sauces.

Beer, wine and saké, plus tea and soft drinks, are served.

Uma implies “delicious” in Japanese, and this idea is totally uma—a healthful, lower calorie alternative to fast food. We love it, and hope there’s an Uma Temakeria in our neighborhood soon!

Uma Temakeria (pronounced OOH-mah teh-ma-ka-REE-ah) is the first “fast-fine” sushi eatery to open in the U.S., inspired by the temakeria trend in Brazil, which began in the early 2000s in beachfront neighborhoods such as Leblon and Ipanema.

Bringing the concept to the U.S. is Cynthia Kueppers, who left Wall Street to create her vision. All ingredients, including the seafood, are responsibly-sourced, fusing a trend that is growing among American consumers.

You enter the bright space, roomy by Manhattan standards, and go to the counter, where the temaki of your choice are quickly made to order. You can take a seat to dine, or take your temaki to go.

   

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Tofu temaki, one of the vegetarian choices. Just roll and eat! Photo courtesy Uma Temakeria | NYC.

 

What’s on the menu? First, there are Chef’s Temaki from Michelin-starred Executive Chef Chris Jaeckle (formerly of Ai Fiori, Morimoto and other great eateries such as Eleven Madison Park, Tabla and An American Place), with your choice of white or brown rice:

  • Tsumi Tuna Temaki: tuna and green apple in wasabi ginger sauce
  • Isara Salmon Temaki: salmon and seaweed salad with creamy miso sauce
  • Citera Tofu Temaki: red pepper and seasonal pickle in zesty citrus sauce
  • Terramaki: seaweed salad, daikon, carrot, avocado and sesame seeds with spicy mayonnaise
  • Fish ‘N Chips: the seasonal special, currently fried fluke, celery and potato chip crunch with tartar sauce
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    Tuna and salmon rolls. Photo courtesy Uma
    Temakeria | NYC.

     

    Prefer a custom temaki? The attractive, enthusiastic counter staff are eager to roll whatever you’d like. Combine your rice with:

  • Protein: Atlantic salmon, blue swimmer crab, marinated tofu, yellowfin tuna or seasonal fish
  • Vegetables: carrot, celery, cucumber, daikon, red bell pepper, seaweed salad, seasonal pickle
  • Fruit: green apple
  • Sauce: avocado lime, creamy miso, tobanjan mayo, wasabi ginger or zesty citrus
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    Most rolls are $5.50 (vegetarian), $6.00 (with fish) or $6.50 (seasonal special); any two rolls with a delicious side salad is $14.00.

    The sides are low in calories, each equally deserving to be included with your meal:

  • Asian Vinegar Slaw
  • Kale Salad with Balsamic Miso
  • Spicy Cucumber Salad
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    Chef Jaeckle, please send us the recipes for all three!

     

    HAVE A TEMAKI PARTY AT HOME

    Why are temaki (hand rolls) different from other sushi? Because they don’t require a well-honed skill to prepare. Simply grab a sheet of seaweed, add your rice and fixings and roll into a cone.

    As the host, you don’t have to do much more than set out the ingredients, buffet-style. The guests roll their own (here’s how to roll temaki).

    It’s a great idea for a party. So take inspiration from Uma Temakeria and add some pizzazz to your entertaining. And invite us!

      

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    RESTAURANT: Fast Casual Indian Food At Baluchi’s Fresh

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    All of this awaits at Baluchi’s Fresh, and it’s
    all absolutely delicious. Photo courtesy
    Baluchi’s Fresh.

     

    Baluchi’s Fresh promises to change the way New Yorkers think about Indian food. Established by the son of a New York-based Indian restaurant family (including Devi, the first Michelin star Indian restaurant in the U.S.), it brings fresh, high quality Indian food (including hormone-free meats) to a fast food venue.

    There are rice bowls, wraps, salads and sides, using only farm-fresh vegetables; vegetarian and vegan options.

    Everything is so delicious, we can easily skip the china, silverware and ambiance and dash in whenever we need a fix of flavorful Indian fare.

    The vegetarian and non-vegetarian choices are in top form, representing both traditional dishes and street food (chaat). They include favorites such as:

  • Chicken Tikka Masala, Lamb Rogan Josh, Goan Shrimp, Goat Currry.
  • Vegetarian choices such as Aloo Papri, Bhel Puri, Cauliflower Manchurian, Chana Masala, Daal, Kale & Onion Pakoras, Masala Fries, Paneer Tikka Masala, Saag Paneer and Tandoori Stuffed Aloo.
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    There are meat and vegetarian samosas, daily specials, and absolutely celestial onion naan, hot from the tandoor oven.

     

    Baluchi’s Fresh is located in Manhattan at 37 West 43rd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. The hours are:

  • Monday-Thursday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
  • Friday-Saturday 11 a.m. to 12 midnight.
  • Sunday 12 noon to 10 p.m.
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    For more information and daily specials call 1.212.921.7979. The website is coming soon.

    You can take out or eat in; delivery is in the works. Baluchi’s Fresh is a great addition to the neighborhood. We hope the concept spreads far and wide.

     

    WHAT’S IN THE RECIPE?

    Here’s a quick demystification of the dishes served at Baluchi’s Fresh:

  • Aloo Papri: potato crisps.
  • Bhel Puri: puffed rice and vegetables in a tangy tamarind sauce.
  • Chana Masala: spicy chickpeas.
  • Dal: spicy lentils.
  • Chicken Tikka Masala: roasted chunks of chicken in a spicy, creamy sauce colored orange with tomato paste.
  • Goan Shrimp: tangy, spicy sauteed shrimp with coriander, cumin and coconut.
  • Lamb Rogan Josh: braised lamb chunks in a brown gravy of garlic, ginger, onions, yogurt and aromatic spices.
  • Naan: a leavened and puffy oven-baked flatbread.
  • Pakora: fritter.
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    Cauliflower so good, people who never eat it will beg for more. Photo courtesy Baluchi’s Fresh.font>

  • Paneer Tikka Masala: cubed paneer (a fresh Indian cheese) in spiced sauce.
  • Saag Paneer: paneer cheese in a spinach sauce (or other dark green, such as broccoli or mustard greens.
  • Samosa: a savory stuffed, fried pastry.
  • Tandoori Stuffed Aloo: potatoes stuffed with paneer and spices.
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    Now, head to Baluchi’s Fresh and try them all for yourself!

      

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