February 09, 2011
© Courtesy Park Avenue and Creative Time/photo: Diane Bondareff
The seasonally changing Manhattan restaurant Park Avenue—currently in its Winter phase—has teamed up with the public art organization Creative Time on a year-long project, where a different artist will collaborate with chef Kevin Lasko on a dish for each of his quarterly menus. A few days ago I got an early taste of the first offering, Marina Abramovic’s dessert as performance art Volcano Flambé.
Diners who order the $20 treat are given a white lab coat to wear and presented with wooden box containing headphones and a tiny mp3 player. Put on the headphones, press play and the fun begins. The soundtrack features Abramovic, known for performances testing her own physical and mental limits (including sitting silently across from strangers for the entire run of her two-and-a-half-month retrospective at MoMA last year), intoning instructions in a hypnotic and sultry voice: “Close your eyes…Breathe slowly, deeply…” Timed correctly, you’re told to open your eyes just before the server pours a flaming liquid over the dessert that’s been placed in front of you. As you taste, Abramovic urges you to focus on flavors and textures: “Hot…cold…creamy…crunchy…”
Described as a riff on Baked Alaska, the Volcano Flambé features almond cake, chocolate ice cream, banana mousse, meringue and chocolate cookie crumbs—all topped by a swirl of golden spun sugar. I could have sworn I also tasted ginger, unless that was just my palate falling prey to the suggestiveness of Abramovic’s voice, purring “spicy.” As Cecile Panzieri, executive director at the Sean Kelly Gallery, which represents Abramovic, joked to me: “It’s like phone sex.” Indeed, Abramovic noted at the tasting that many of the dessert’s ingredients are aphrodisiacs.
Volcano Flambé is available through March 15 at Park Avenue Winter (100 E. 63rd St.; 212-644-1900; parkavenyc.com).
November 16, 2011
Photo courtesy of Expand the Room
With the same smartly curated approach you find in our pages, we’ve created the Ultimate City Guides app, featuring top 10 lists of hotels, shops, lounges, museums and galleries, restaurants and VIP events worth attending. We started with New York and now present Hong Kong. Go to departures.com/apps to download it for free. Once you’ve downloaded and launched the app, enter the code DPNOV11 for full access.
Download It Now: New York, Hong Kong and Miami
Available in 2012: Buenos Aires, Chicago, Las Vegas, London, Los Angeles, Paris and San Francisco
November 01, 2011
John DeLucie. Photo by Mark Abrahams
Chef John DeLucie moves to all things old New York with Crown (24 E. 81st St.; 646-539-4880), his new clubby restaurant opening in September, the follow-up to The Lion and The Waverly Inn.
When The Penisula opens in Paris in 2013 (peninsula.com), the hotel, in the 16th Arrondissement, will boast the city’s first haute-Chinese restaurant, helmed by the Hong Kong–based company’s own chef.
Over in Marrakech, the long-awaited Mandarin Oriental will be transmogrified into a Taj Palace Marrakech (tajhotels.com) in October.
And if you’re going to San Francisco, book a bespoke tour with Carried Away (carriedawaysf.com), whose itineraries offer everything from dim sum spots to a circuit of the hottest galleries.
August 23, 2012
No country has embraced the pop-up restaurant revolution more than England, which is seeing a boomlet of pop-up restaurants spring to life, from London to Manchester to Harrogate and beyond. The Chateau Marmot is held at a secret location every weekend where rotating chefs, such as young Aussie Miles Dupree from London’s renowned Ottolenghi, serve up small-plate five-course meals including dishes like butternut-squash consommé and poached snapper, turnips and dashi butter. The final installment is in Harrogate (September 21–22).
Pop-up goes vegan with Hanover’s Gourmet Girls, whose Friday pop-ups include themed dinners featuring Mexican fare (August 24), Greek food (August 31) and gourmet burgers (September 28). Manchester’s cocktail-centric Summer House takes inspiration from Europe’s colorful pop-art gardens and will run through September in the city’s Exchange Square, serving light fare like mezes, salads and bar snacks.
Though the entire country has pop-up fever, London wins the gold medal for having the most, which have been showing up at department stores like Selfridges and its Big Rooftop Tea & Golf Party (open through September 2) and hotels, including the sold-out A Taste of Noma at Claridge’s. Last year’s London Restaurant Festival at the London Eye set the bar for creativity high, and since then the city has watched pop-up mobile steakhouses like Flat Iron, rooftop picnics with the London Picnic Club and even secret Korean hot-dog feasts like Superette (August 25 and September 1) become part of the landscape.
August 30, 2012
Courtesy W Hotels Worldwide
France is renowned for its food, but for all the delicacies that grace its capital city—macarons, pâté, white truffles—tapas has been surprisingly lacking. That is until W Hotels opened its 91-room W Paris-Opéra, next door to the famed Palais Garnier opera house, and chose chef Sergi Arola to head its restaurant, which bears his name. Arola is a fitting choice for bringing Spanish haute cuisine to Paris. He got his start as a protégé of Ferran Adrià (the godfather of Spanish gastronomy and creator of the now-closed El Bulli restaurant) and went on to earn two Michelin stars and win Spain’s National Gastronomy Award for his Madrid restaurant, La Broche.
The flavors and spirit of Catalonia, Arola’s native province, strongly influence the restaurant’s cuisine. The menu philosophy is known as pica pica, or tapas-style—small, intensely flavorful dishes meant to be shared. Each falls into one of three categories: garden, sea or land. There is an elevated take on the tapas staple patatas bravas, in which hollowed-out potatoes (normally diced and dolloped with sauce) are lightly fried and piped full of spicy salsa brava and whipped aioli. There are succulent white sardines dotted with sun-dried tomato oil, and thinly sliced Iberian pork with hot Basque peppers. The experience is full Spanish gastronomical immersion served in an airy room with a view of one of Paris’s most iconic plazas—a cultural collision of the highest (and tastiest) order. 4 Rue Meyerbeer; 33-1/77-48-94-94; restaurant-arola.com.
September 11, 2012
Photo courtesy Morgans Hotel Group
Isola Trattoria and Crudo Bar—the attractive new restaurant offering at the Mondrian SoHo—is a casual spot with a boisterous atmosphere and a stylish bent. Chandeliers, candles and a massive bar set the scene in the 5,000-square-foot greenhouse space, and regional Italian specialties, as well as inventive crudo options, populate the menu.
Meant to evoke the Amalfi Coast and the Italian Riviera, the restaurant’s kitchen runs under the eye of Sicilian-born executive chef Victor LaPlaca. On our visit, agnolotti with sweet yellow corn and seared golden chanterelle mushrooms was bright and tasty, as was a baby beet salad with pistachio pesto and goat cheese. Tuna crudo with white balsamic, jalapeño, watermelon and pine nuts stood out among other choices like fluke with Meyer lemon, radish and Sicilian olive oil, and salmon with charred ramp gribiche and crispy skin. Other pastas include chitarra with roasted tomato, basil and Parmesan, and tagliolini with saffron, blue crab, spring peas and Calabrese peppers—but don’t overdo it before dessert: The creamy take on tartufo (brownies, hazelnut gelato, salted caramel cream and hot fudge) elicited envious glances from surrounding tables.
Wine and spirits expert Steve Olson constructed the beverage strategy. More than 100 wines by the bottle and 18 by the glass are available, and drinks like the Americano Negroni (Campari, Cinzano Rosso, Perrier) and the La Franconi (Tanqueray Ten, Aperol, St-Germain, prosecco) are as festive as the room. At 9 Crosby St.; 212-389-0000; isolasoho.com.
December 31, 2012
Photo by Valero Doval
I had been to Beirut once before but left with unfinished business: I hadn’t eaten at Tawlet, the unusual home-style restaurant that I kept hearing about. So when I was recently nearby, at a World Economic Forum meeting in Jordan, I made a quick dash to the city, landing, luckily, right in time for lunch.
This isn’t any old restaurant. The food is unbelievably delicious, earthy, hearty—and everything tastes so fresh, you can picture it being plucked from the garden minutes before. But it’s the chefs who truly make this place so special.
Started by social entrepreneurs Kamal Mouzawak and Christine Codsi in late 2009 with an aim toward female empowerment, Tawlet brings women into its kitchen to cook—and there’s a different chef every day. They are ordinary folk, farmers and grandmas from various villages who turn out meals as they would in their homes. It’s a masterstroke—suddenly Lebanon’s divisions along religious-ethnic-regional lines are transformed into a diverse range of unique dishes. On my visit, it was Ossan Tikidjian’s turn, an Armenian woman from Aanjar (in eastern Lebanon) who served a feast of specialties like kibbeh mehche batata (potato-stuffed meat croquettes). I fell for her zouton trakhik (vegetable stew), with its small bulgur dough balls that had the texture of an exotic bean, in a savory sauce of tomatoes and hot pepper. I was happily stuffed but couldn’t resist the divine dessert buffet—do try the persimmons, with juicy flesh bursting from their peels.
The owners’ vision is lofty: uniting a battle-weary country by making opposing factions appreciate one another’s cuisine. As I sat back, contemplating the outstanding meal, I thought, Hey, they might just pull it off.
Tawlet is at sector 79, Naher St. 12; 961-1/448-129; tawlet.com.
December 31, 2012
© Thaddeus Harden.
Peter Shaindlin, COO of Halekulani Hotels and Resorts, shares his ten frustrations with restaurant service.
Constant verbal intrusions by servers who care little about food and not at all about your conversation.
Servers who silence the table when they arrive with the next course, pointing with their three middle fingers at every item on the plate and reciting its name, even though you already know because you read the menu and selected it—and because you have eyes.
Chefs too often feel that they can validate their skill by refusing to put salt on the table. Why should the server at SALT, in Honolulu, be so upset that you want salt when he’s just offered you fresh pepper?
“That’s one of my favorite dishes!” Fascinating.
The Three-Word Bottle
American wines with maudlin names like My Sister’s Tears, or The Lost Boy.
Ubiquitous Asian ingredients that suddenly appear everywhere in ignorance of seasonality: yuzu ice cream, yuzu flan, yuzu foam, yuzu club sandwich….
American chefs just don’t get truffles. They’re everywhere, in everything, and applied with the touch of a mechanic changing your steering-column fluid. Better they don’t use them if they can’t understand their subtlety and power.
After a day of incessant electronics at both work and home, the last thing I want to find at the dinner table is an iPad as a menu—to be shared, no less. There is no advantage to the diner.
Servers who start by asking, “Hi! Have you dined with us before?” Or, “Hey, guys…“
Servers who, particularly when pouring a fine wine, top off your glass after each sip you take. Related variation: serving a bottled beer into a glass in front of you, filling the glass to the drop, then walking away with the empty bottle.
November 15, 2012
If ushering in this New Year calls for something memorable, Twist restaurant at Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas is the place to be. The five-star eatery will host renowned chef Pierre Gagnaire, who will create a special New Year’s Eve offering for December 31. With a stable of successful restaurants around the world, like Reflets in Dubai, Gaya in Paris and Sketch in London, Gagnaire knows his way around delicious food—and there is no more perfect time to experience his handiwork.
The New Year’s Eve celebration features two seatings of a four-course ($395) or six-course ($595) menu highlighting items like poached fillet of Dover sole with Fanny Bay oysters; spiny lobster fricassee with lemongrass, rhubarb and mango étouffe; grilled Tajima beef tenderloin; chocolate parfait and clementine granité. Additional wine pairings run $175 (for four-course) and $225 (for six-courses).
If New Year’s Eve is already planned, try the three-course ($110) or six-course ($195) preview menus December 28 to 30 and January 1 to 3. And those who really want to live it up have the Ultimate Presidential New Year’s Eve package ($60,000), including a three-night stay at the hotel, the gala New Year’s Eve dinner with wine pairings, a meet and greet with chef Gagnaire and a brunch on New Year’s Day at fusion restaurant Mozen. New Year’s Eve dinner, first seating, 5:30 P.M., 6 P.M. or 6:30 P.M.; second seating, 9 P.M., 9:30 P.M. or 10 P.M.; 3752 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 702-590-8882; mandarinoriental.com/lasvegas.
December 06, 2012
© Courtesy of The Little Nell
“It was all pink wood and antlers,” says Sabato Sagaria, food and beverage director at The Little Nell in Aspen, of the hotel’s former eatery, Montagna. “The restaurant was dated.” Breathing new life into the iconic space, five-star Element 47, which opened December 1 after a $2.5 million remodel, is anything but stale.
Instead of the previous prix fixe menu, four new sections—garden (vegetable), sea (fish), sky (poultry) and field (game)—introduce guests to the restaurant’s fare. Appetizers, sharable items and entrées from each segment highlight an emphasis on Colorado agriculture and locally sourced ingredients. The new name, which recalls Aspen’s past as a mining camp during Colorado’s silver boom in the 1880s, is a nod to the 47th element (silver) on the periodic table. And the interior was approached just as thoughtfully. Award-winning design firm Bentel & Bentel redid the space with contemporary elements like leather, stone, wood and blackened steel. “I can see my friends and I being comfortable in this dining room,” says Sagaria. “It’s the last piece of the puzzle.” Rooms, from $420; 675 E. Durant Ave.; 970-920-6330; thelittlenell.com.