Recently Opened Restaurants
by Julie Besonen , 06/26/2009
194 Bleecker St., 212-228-1909, West Village, Manhattan
Music clubs and mediocre eateries abound on this stretch of Bleecker, so the polished Indian street food at Aamchi Pao is a welcome addition. Fresh, cheap and boldly spiced takeout is available until 5am on Fridays and Saturdays. Co-owner Surbhi Sahni is a native of New Delhi and also the pastry chef at NYC’s venerated Dévi, so the fare is a cut above your standard tikka and tandoori. Sliders (mini sandwiches on griddled buns) start at $3, with lip-tingling fillings of vegetables, chicken with mint chutney or minced lamb with lentils. First-rate kathi rolls (same fillings rolled into flatbread) start at $5. Spicy Manchurian cauliflower is a revelation—and only $3. To fully enjoy it all, squeeze into one of the wooden tables and eat sitting down, instead of on the street.
98 Kenmare St., 212-274-9898, NoLIta, Manhattan
Sfoglia has a clamorous following on the Upper East Side, which can mean a three-week wait for a table, even in this economy. Husband-and-wife chefs Ron and Colleen Suhanosky heard the calling to expand; hence, Civetta. It officially opened, on the border of Little Italy, on June 30th, and early word says booking a table might be equally challenging. Candlelight burnishes the beautiful dark-wood detail, and the open kitchen sends out wafts of garlic, pasta bolognese and chicken sizzling under a brick. Two dozen antipasti choices include artichokes with cured tuna and toasted almonds, and grilled leeks with gorgonzola dolce. Sfoglia’s heavenly bread will also be duplicated here. Those looking for late-night revelry, take heart: there’s an impressive party space and bar downstairs.
21 W. 9th St., 646-448-4632, Greenwich Village, Manhattan
When you hear that a mod squad from Pastis, Waverly Inn, Freemans and La Esquina have teamed up to open a restaurant, you sit up and take notice. Hotel Griffou is not a hotel but named for a boardinghouse that opened at this address in 1874. To further confuse you, the building’s black awning reads “Twenty One,” and the dark, speakeasy-like entrance is reached by a slightly treacherous set of steps. Bend an elbow at the vintage bar for a carefully crafted cocktail, then move on to dinner in the Pop Art–plastered studio, the more sedate salon or the library—unless you’re a vegetarian. The old English– style book-filled room décor includes four fox pelts dangling near a baritone horn. Chef Jason Michael Giordano has updated bygone recipes like sole meunière, duck a l’orange and steak Diane, making them relevant again.
372 Graham Ave., 718-782-8171, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Amid an old-fashioned Williamsburg block of mom-and-pop businesses clad in vinyl siding is the futuristic, so-called fish-tank building, a glass structure the color of an aquarium. Mesa Coyoacan, a Mexican restaurant, has set up shop on the ground floor. Its clubby lighting, black surfaces, salvaged vintage wallpaper and pumping music lend a modern panache. The menu, however, is traditional and precisely executed by chef/owner Ivan Garcia, formerly of Mercadito. Coyoacan is the Mexico City neighborhood from where he hails. There’s stellar guacamole, of course, as well as ceviche, grilled- fish tacos, enchiladas and tamales.
The Southwest Porch
40th St. at Sixth Ave., Bryant Park, southwest corner, no phone, Midtown
Southwest Airlines is known for thinking outside the box to draw publicity. Their latest campaign is pretty clever—a leafy outdoor café to make New Yorkers think they’ve landed at LaGuardia. This temporary, attractive porch (it will close mid-September) features Adirondack chairs, porch swings, arbors hung with plants, a full bar and free wireless. No airplane-type food emerges from the sage- green kiosk, though, rather sandwiches from Tom Colicchio’s ’wichcraft. The meatball parm is a tribute to New York; other destination-themed items include the Chicago bratwurst and Baltimore’s soft- shell- crab sandwich. They’ve already seemed to reach their target audience, with businessmen hanging out after work, loosening their ties and smoking cigars.