Recently Opened Restaurants
by Julie Besonen, 03/15/2016
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Spring (or at least late winter) restaurant openings have breezed in, sweetly scenting the air with wood-fired pizza, roasted pork shank and smoked pheasant. A constellation of Michelin-starred chefs, including Mario Batali, have expanded their reach at new spots around town. Four of the 10 places we're spotlighting are Italian, but can one who loves life ever get tired of Italian food? Ah, don't answer that. For those whose tastes range further afield, we've got great news on new Austrian, Korean, Chinese, Thai and vegetarian marvels. Read on for more.
Café Altro Paradiso. Photo: Marcus Nilsson
Café Altro Paradiso
234 Spring St., 646-952-0828, SoHo, Manhattan
When a bold chef like Ignacio Mattos is in the kitchen, there's no reason to question a dish as offbeat as spicy anchovies, butter and parsley crostini. He knows how to bring hits of heat, salt, richness and fragrant herbs together in one crunchy bite. Especially for fans of Estela, its sister restaurant, Café Altro Paradiso's Italian-leaning menu will strike a chord. There are straightforward plates of prosciutto and olives, as well as quirks like braised cardoons (in the artichoke family) served with ribeye. The chic, gently lit bistro in western SoHo fills up early, so reservations are necessary. For now, the restaurant is closed on Sundays but should begin service in a few months.
Freud. Photo: Noah Fecks
506 LaGuardia Pl., 212-777-0327, Greenwich Village, Manhattan
Michelin-starred chef Eduard Frauneder helped redefine modern Austrian cuisine at Sëasonal (now closed) and Edi & the Wolf, demonstrating a light touch with Central European dishes. Freud, in the heart of Greenwich Village, is a wainscoted Viennese-style tavern pouring natural wines, potent cocktails and mugs of hoppy beer. Wiener schnitzel might sound heavy, but the thinly pounded veal cutlet is coated in a lightweight golden batter. Monkfish is steamed and brightened with dill. An onion tarte with onion gravy and gruyère cheese bursts with flavor, as does the ultra-tender pork neck with bacon. Also part of the new Austrian lexicon is an incredible burger with cheddar, sweet onion jam and a potato bun providing ample coverage.
Insa. Photo: Craig LaCourt
328 Douglass St., 718-855-2620, Gowanus, Brooklyn
Insa, a wood-clad Korean canteen in Gowanus, is like a family-friendly picnic held indoors. Grills are built into the communal tables and food is meant to be shared, with the restaurant offering up pork, beef and chive dumplings; seafood and scallion pancakes; and sticky, glazed fried chicken. The waitstaff assists in grilling thinly sliced brisket and marinated short ribs, but the must-have dish is the stir-fried spicy squid with silky udon noodles. Chef Sohui Kim was born in Seoul; she and her designer-woodworker husband, Ben Schneider, are also behind The Good Fork in Red Hook. Their new operation includes a red-trimmed, tiki-themed bar and five karaoke rooms, four of which can be reserved for up to 10 people; a party room fits 22. The karaoke continues late into the night after the restaurant stops service. A 20 percent administrative fee is tacked on in lieu of tipping.
Joy Luck Palace
98 Mott St., 212-431-8383, Chinatown, Manhattan
Chinatown's ballroom-size Joy Luck Palace is open from morning till 10:30pm, with dim sum served until 2:30pm on weekdays and 3:30pm on weekends. Brunch is a merry circus captained by a hostess who distributes tickets and shouts out numbers on a wireless mic when diners' tables are ready. Solo diners and couples may find themselves sharing a round, white-linen draped table with a multigenerational Chinese family. Servers circle the room trundling carts laden with Cantonese-style dumplings, noodles, eggplant dishes, chicken feet, pork shumai and sticky rice parcels. English is spoken only minimally, but pointing suffices. Everything is delicious and shockingly cheap. Five dim sum portions, enough for two to share, can total as little as $13.
La Sirena. Photo: Kate Previte
88 Ninth Ave., 212-977-6096, Chelsea, Manhattan
The dramatic black-and-white design of La Sirena, a contemporary Italian restaurant in Chelsea’s Maritime Hotel, calls to mind the Felliniesque musical Nine. It's easy to imagine a camera panning the mosaic-tiled courtyard and gorgeous, glass-walled dining rooms filled with a cast of beautiful people laughing and chatting. The real-life entertainment quotient involves partners Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich, who haven't opened something this grand in the City since Del Posto /venues/del-posto-ristorante in 2005. For dinner, pastas are across-the-board amazing, from garganelli with capon ragu to duck mezzelune (half moons) in marinara sauce. The place is also open for breakfast (duck egg and polenta with herb and almond pesto, for instance), and lunch offers a scaled-down version of the dinner menu, albeit with additions such as a "big salad" and a double cheeseburger.
567 Union Ave., 718-576-3095, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Missy Robbins, one of the City's favorite chefs, maintained a Michelin-star rating during her tenure at both A Voce locations, and is now running the open, wood-fired kitchen at Lilia in Williamsburg. A former auto-body garage, the pale, loftlike space has a beamed ceiling and skylights, the walls outfitted with wine bottles and stacked wood. Robbins' soulful Italian imprint is felt in sheep's-milk-cheese-filled agnolotti with saffron, dried tomato and honey; grilled clams with Calabrian chili and bread crumbs; and black bass with salsa verde and coal-roasted potatoes. Cacio e pepe frittelle are a particularly wondrous way to start, three cheese-crusted, browned orbs with creamy, peppery centers. The restaurant's 70 seats are oftentimes filled by 6:45pm, so plan accordingly. A small café in back serves coffee and pastries during daytime hours and morphs into a bar at night.
The Lucky Bee. Photo: Filip Wolak
The Lucky Bee
252 Broome St., 917-262-0329, Lower East Side, Manhattan
Trending big time on social media is a clubby Thai fusion restaurant, the Lucky Bee, on the Lower East Side. Done in pinks and greens, sporting floral displays and hanging vines, it has a beach-shack feel and a lively bar scene. During happy hour (Tues.–Thurs., 5:30pm–7pm) oysters are $1, Szechuan salt-and-pepper chicken wings are half-price and Stella is $4. Chef Matty Bennett (formerly at the nearby Fat Radish) is partnered here with fellow Australian expat Rupert Noffs. While awaiting Con Edison to turn on the gas, the crew is coping with hot plates and electric fryers, turning out fragrant pork and sesame dumplings with fried garlic and bowls of curry with vegetables, prawns, beef short ribs or lamb shoulder. To help save the bees, a dollar of each cocktail made with a bit of honey will go to the New York City Beekeepers Association.
203 Mott St., 646-850-9480, NoLIta, Manhattan
Mr. Donahue's is as intimate as a dinner party, squeezing in five guests on barstools and perhaps five around its one table. Don't let its size dissuade you from stopping in. Your hosts are former Per Se cooks Ann Redding and Matt Danzer, the couple who also founded the Michelin-starred Uncle Boons nearby. Mr. Donahue was Danzer's grandfather, a detective and cab driver; his NYPD cap rests on a shelf. Other vintage touches include mismatched china set on lacy placemats. The brief, oft-changing American menu typically features juicy rotisserie chicken, broiled porgy and peppery Swedish-American meatballs with grape-thyme purée. Main dishes come with a sauce (say, mushroom marsala or lobster jus) and one side. Little marble potatoes with sour cream and chives and pasta with cauliflower crème and shaved bottarga are sound choices. Note: Mr. Donahue's is credit card only—no cash—and is just open for dinner.
Nix. Photo: Stephen Johnson
72 University Pl., 212-498-9393, Greenwich Village, Manhattan
A vegetarian restaurant that doesn't feel vegetarian comes courtesy of chef John Fraser (Narcissa, Dovetail) and restaurateur James Truman, the former editorial director of Condé Nast who also had a hand in Chiltern Firehouse, London's toughest reservation. Nix is poised to be the most glamorous hangout in its neck of the woods—where the Village meets Union Square—but so far it's not hard to crack. The cozy, soothing design includes a curved marble bar, intimate booths and flattering lighting. Yukon potato fry bread topped with cheese, scallions and sliced radishes; cauliflower tempura with steamed buns; and wok-fried farro with brussels sprouts, tofu and a poached egg are the can't-miss dishes.
Pasquale Jones. Photo: Robyn Lehr
187 Mulberry St., 917-472-7230, Little Italy, Manhattan
Invigorating a corner of Little Italy is Pasquale Jones, a sleek Italian spot from Charlie Bird partners Robert Bohr and Ryan Hardy. Also on board is chef Tim Caspare (ex-Quince in San Francisco) and Grant Reynolds, a partner and lauded sommelier who assembled the deeply knowledgeable Italian and French wine program. Two Naples-made, wood-burning brick ovens fire up pizzas, smoked pheasant, whole skate wing and pork shank for two. Pastas are spectacular; enjoy sunchoke tortelloni with melted cheese and brussels sprouts, or rigatoni with sausage, nettles and smoked ricotta. Hospitality is included—no tipping allowed.