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The 10 Best Greenmarket Restaurants in NYC

Nothing makes us happier than traipsing through a Greenmarket in full swing (we’ve been known to skip as well) checking out the rhubarb, fresh lettuces, asparagus, and, of course, ramps peppering vendors’ tented tables. And while our frolicking inevitably leads to some great purchases, we’d much prefer to leave it to the professionals when it comes to fully expressing the flavors of a fiddlehead fern. Here are the 10 best Greenmarket restaurants in NYC, our favorite restaurants for celebrating the bounty of a fruitful harvest.

10. Back Forty West, 70 Prince Street, 212-219-8570
In 2011, Greenmarket godfather Peter Hoffman closed Savoy, his downtown fine-dining destination for seasonal American cuisine, after an impressive 20-year run. Citing a dining culture that had moved toward championing a more casual experience, he chose to open a second branch of sibling restaurant Back Forty in its place (this one with a decked-out smoker). And while Hoffman underling Shanna Pacifico — who had been the chef since Back Forty West opened — departed recently, the restaurant continues the market-driven aesthetic with luscious smoked pumpkin hummus, lamb schnitzel, and Norwegian skrei cod served in a lemon broth.

9. Martha, 184 Dekalb Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-596-4147
Andres Valbuena and Melissa Gorman have created an Asian-inflected Fort Greene restaurant whose roots as a supper club lend the space a cozy, infinitely charming atmosphere. The kitchen’s use of herbs to brighten dishes is especially beguiling, as in a salad of shaved celery accented with sesame oil, pungent yuzu, and the rarely seen rice paddy herb, which tastes of spiced citrus.

8. Brucie, 234 Court Street, Brooklyn, 347-987-4961
Italian cuisine gets the greenmarket treatment at this Cobble Hill trattoria with a daily-changing menu from chef Zahra Tangorra. Brussels sprouts are thrown for a loop with chickpeas, bacon, tuna conserve, and marcona almonds, and a porchetta is anointed with luxardo cherries and duck sausage. Every Wednesday is “breakfast for dinner,” with weekly specials like cheddar waffles with chicken liver butter.

7. Northern Spy Food Co., 511 East 12th Street, 212-228-5100
Local, sustainable ingredients provide the foundation for chef Hadley Schmitt’s menu at this East Village nook, where whimsical twists abound in dishes like chewy beet jerky with grapes and yogurt or sticky rolls speckled with pulled pork and covered in sweet parsnip glaze. Show up for lunch and you’ll be treated to one of the best lamb burgers the city has to offer, covered in tangy and dense Landaff cheese and served with french fries cooked in duck fat.

6. Union Square Cafe, 21 East 16th Street, 212-243-4020
For 29 years, Danny Meyer’s flagship has championed the Union Square Greenmarket, helping to make it the gastronomic utopia that it is today. From the beginning, the restaurant’s California and Mediterranean-inspired cuisine has translated perfectly with the Greenmarket’s seasonal schedule. Now, a trip to the stalwart yields inspired plates like chef Carmen Quagliata’s sugar snap peas with guanciale, mint, and Pecorino Romano, and spring onion cornbread served alongside a hefty roasted veal chop.

5. Riverpark, 450 East 29th Street, 212-729-9790
Sisha Ortuzar runs the show at Tom Colicchio’s farm-to-table restaurant overlooking the East River. Hidden behind a deeply-recessed courtyard, the restaurant’s outdoor patios look onto a sizable garden that provides much of the produce used in the kitchen. The chef doesn’t shy away from spices and fruits — loosely rolled spaccatelli pasta is imbued with cocoa to offset a rich pork ragu with apples and sage, and lamb receives a flowery punch from hibiscus.

4. Tocqueville, 1 East 15th Street, 212-647-1515
Steps from the Union Square Greenmarket, this elegant, stoic French-inflected American restaurant — Marco Moreira and Jo-Ann Makovitzky’s flagship — has long held a close relationship to the incredible products available to them, having featured a prix fixe Greenmarket menu for years. If barnyards were used to host debutante balls, the chickens might produce the farm eggs topping Tocqueville’s luscious Parmesan grits covered in shaved truffles. A mainstay on the menu, the Cato Farm cheddar salad pairs the cheese with roasted bosc pears from market superstar Migliorelli Farms.

3. Joo Mak Gol, 3526 Farrington Street, Queens, 718-460-0042
This Korean tavern is beloved by locals for its above-average banchan, bubbling tofu soups and massive platters of sliced pork belly meant for wrapping with lettuce, kimchi, and oysters. But its most impressive feature may be the market-fresh produce it provides alongside to many of its dishes. The vegetables vary, but chances are you’ll find plenty of herbs, radishes, lettuce, and cabbage. Roasted fish seasoned with sesame makes a particularly good accompaniment to the verdant array.

2. Blue Hill, 75 Washington Place, 212-539-1776
Dan Barber’s subterranean soap box for sustainability doesn’t get muddled in its own message, instead excelling on an innately satisfying level. The lion’s share of the ingredients come from Barber’s Westchester farm that he runs with his brother, an idyllic culinary wonderland where Thanksgiving turkeys roam free on hilly pastures. Berkshire hogs donate their livers to a silky terrine that’s paired with pickled vegetables, cocoa nibs, and greens from the farm’s greenhouse. Whatever you do, don’t leave without sampling one of the restaurant’s “farm snacks,” including the now-signature vegetables on a fence, which is exactly what it sounds like.

1. Telepan Local, 329 Greenwich Street, 212-966-9255
Bill Telepan’s casual downtown follow-up to his eponymous Upper West Side classic puts a keen focus on vegetables. The food here is unabashedly fun, from a bundle of fried watercress tossed with cashews and chili oil to cheeky plates like Buffalo quail with celery root and the chef’s beloved ‘foie gras jammers’ — miniature apricot jam-glazed biscuit sandwiches holding rounds of duck liver torchon. In his off-time, the chef puts his considerable skills and vegetable knowledge to use for his charity Wellness in the Schools, which aims to educate children on the benefits of eating healthy.

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The Good, the Bad, and the Tartare at Manzanilla; Pay to Pray at Cathedral

Spring is (finally) in the air and the warm weather seems to be lightening our moods as well as our wardrobes. Did the rising temperatures have the same effect on our critics?

Tejal Rao has mixed feelings about Manzanilla in Gramercy, while Robert Sietsema writes a rave for Cathedral in Flatbush. Read on to find out how they really felt.

“What’s a modern Spanish brasserie?” Rao wonders as she peruses the menu–once she can get her hands on one–at Manzanilla, Dani García’s new spot on Park Avenue South. The restaurant lacks some of the refinement that is typically associated with a chef of García’s caliber, but the cooking is playful, inventive, and often very tasty.

Rao writes:

There is tomato tartare ($8), which references rustic pan con tomate and steak tartare–the cured tomato’s sweetness and umami drawn out, garnished with mango puree disguised as tiny egg yolks. And there are crisp, extraordinarily lacy sheets of shrimpy tortillita gaditana ($8) with a bit of mayonnaise to dip them in.

One of the best things on the menu is the pork “presa” ($36), which involves slices of meat reclining on potatoes and peppers. The Iberico pork is fine and fatty, served a freshly spanked pink.

Still, the kitchen seems conflicted:

there’s often a disconnect to the high-low presentations at Manzanilla. A tuna tartare ($14) is served inside a sea urchin shell, on a bed of crushed ice, under a froth of urchin. It tastes nice and it’s very pretty, recalling the loveliness and excess of classical French cuisine, but it’s far too overdressed alongside the restaurant’s more casual presentations, looking just plain silly next to a pair of fat oxtail sliders ($10).

Meanwhile, Robert Sietsema found a Haitian “house of worship” in Cathedral, the Kreole restaurant on Church Avenue. Our critic regards the food as “electrifyingly good,” so much so that it silenced his table’s conversation.

He writes:

That pork grillot arrives scattered with pickled purple onions alongside a mountain of white rice and a teacup of pureed black beans. We dipped the pork tidbits in piklis (“pick-lees”), a combination of shredded cabbage, white vinegar, and Scotch bonnet peppers that serves the double purpose of hot sauce and slaw.

Instead of the plantains you can order accra–African-style fritters of grated malanga, a corm (thickened stem) that is a cousin to taro. Flecked with garlic and green onions, the fritters are golden brown and fluffy.

The menu also contains a few worthwhile surprises:

Of the entrées available that first Saturday afternoon, last to arrive was poulet en sauce ($10), a half-chicken braised in a rich gravy propelled by Worcestershire and allspice. This must be what the sign in the front window means by “Haitian and Caribbean Cuisine.” It tasted as if the Jamaican national dish of jerk chicken, found on nearly every block in the neighborhood, had been thrown into a stew. This is Flatbush fusion at its finest.

Other critics were also busy dining around town. At NY Mag, Adam Platt pays a visit to the once druggie, now lovely Beatrice Inn in the West Village. While it took a few months for the revamped restaurant to work out its kinks, Platt now describes the place as “that ephemeral, rarely achieved sweet spot for a scene restaurant, where the quality of your dinner matches (or transcends) the quality of the scene.” He awards it two stars.

At the NY Post, Steve Cuozzo files a Yelp-inspired review for Pearl & Ash, Richard Kuo’s new restaurant. But everything is not OMG AMAZING! on the Bowery. “Pearl & Ash is up to its eyeballs in attention begging shticks and nuisances,” says the critic.

Michael Kaminer says the “wrinkles are showing” at Union Square Cafe. The NY Daily News critic is no longer impressed with the “generous” and “unfussy” food at Danny Meyer’s flagship restaurant. Perhaps he should grab a Shack Burger instead?

Time Out’s Jay Cheshes enjoys Gabriel Stulman’s other restaurants (Perla and Fedora, among them) more than the latest hotspot, Montmartre. About chef Tien Ho’s cooking Cheshes writes “instead of pumping up classics, he’s watered them down, his flavors often floundering at polar extremes–either a salt lick or a bland washout, without much in between.”

Ryan Sutton endures an almost four-hour meal at Aska–and loves every minute of it. His favorite bite? The restaurant’s over-the-top bone-marrow-laced rendition of oatmeal. “The creamy grains are fortified with the meaty gelatins of beef marrow which is further amped up with egg yolk and salty shad roe,” Sutton writes. “It is the best and richest cereal known to humankind.”

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Snitching Schnitzels

Harold Dieterle has a schnitzel at The Marrow…

Among Manhattan restaurants, at least, schnitzels are on the upswing. While you may think that the pounded-thin, breaded-and-fried cutlets belong mainly in the city’s antique German restaurants like the Heidelberg, Zum Stammtisch, and Killmeyer’s Old Bavaria Inn, and also as milanesa res in Mexican taquerias, this dish is undergoing a resurgence on the menus of more stylish restaurants.

…and Robert Berry has one, too, at Monument Lane.

At The Marrow, Harold Dieterle is beating duck breast into submission, and frying up one of the best tasting – and painstakingly executed – schnitzels that the city has ever seen. The dish comes with a riot of accessory flavors, including stewed wolfberries, hazelnuts, and Quark spaetzle.

Meanwhile, Robert Berry of Monument Lane, a restaurant at least partly intended to recall the salt marshes and farmland of 18th century Greenwich Village, riffs on lamb’s schnitzel possibilities. The pounded-thin cutlets have a pleasant pronounced sheepish taste, mediated by an herby and vinegary cabbage salad topside. Underneath is what you might call a hummus sauce.

Sizewise, you can’t beat the breaded chicken cutlet at Union Square Café, a staple of the lunch menu. Talk about plate-flopping! This is schnitzel’s forte, not only multiplying the crisp surface area of the chosen flesh, but also turning a small wad of meat into what looks like a magnificent quantity, a real paen to culinary opulence.

A few other places that serve schnitzels: Balaboosta (chicken), Bar Boulud (pork), Blaue Gans (pork, veal, beef), Café Glechik (pork), Commerce (pork), Edi & the Wolf (pork), Hospoda (veal), Northeast Kingdom (pork), Prime Meats (pork).

Have no doubt that more schnitzels will soon be looming like brown clouds on the horizon.

Union Square Cafe’s chicken schnitzel sticks its nose out from under a haystack of greenery.

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Union Square Café Revisited

At Union Square Café, your meal begins with a bread basket, butter with herbed sea salt, and picholine olives.

As Danny Meyer increasingly focuses his attention on an expanding Shake Shack empire, seeding locations up and down the Eastern Seaboard, you’ve got to wonder, is he still paying attention to his white tablecloth joints? To answer this question, a friend and I returned to his first restaurant, Union Square Café, which celebrated its 27th birthday this month.

See More:
Telepan Retains Its Luster — and Then Some

Urbanspace Meatpacking: A First Food Foray

The beef sirloin carpaccio (click on image to enlarge).

It was one of the city’s first farm-to-restaurant establishments, showcasing the produce of the farmers’ market at Union Square, then in its infancy. The emphasis was on New American cooking with prominent Italian influences, a mix of styles still popular among new restaurants today. Yet rumors of the restaurant’s decline have been common, as newer places were added to the Meyer portfolio, which includes Gramercy Tavern, Blue Smoke in several permutations, Maialino, North End Grill, and Untitled.

As we stepped inside the semi-subterranean space at lunchtime, we recognized much of the old decor in a labyrinthine space that includes three dining rooms — one upstairs on a mezzanine — plus a long commodious barroom. The rooms are decorated with vases of flowers, still-life paintings featuring food and flowers, and, in a rear room, a large mural that looks like a Matisse that the artist walked away from and never finished.

At lunch on a Friday the place was mobbed, but we were shown to a nice table near the front window. In lieu of an amuse, a bread basket was brought with a big pat of butter sprinkled with herbed sea salt. What a relief to see the bread basket appear, when most establishments these days stingily withhold it.

Sign of the season: squash soup

An adolescent octopod rides atop the brodetto, flanked by two demi-squares of fried polenta.

We chose three apps, including a beef carpaccio, squash soup, and grilled mackerel. The carpaccio was nearly perfect, thinly sliced sirloin topped with plenty of shaved parmigiano, arugula, and little curls of a woody something we first identified as plantain, but turned out to be artichoke leaf. The soup was pretty much the regular article, but supremely smooth and livened with toasted chestnuts and matchsticks of firm apple. Best of all was the mackerel, which arrived in a crock with a rich tomato-olive-oil sauce, the perfect thing to sop with bread.

The mains set a similarly high standard. Offered in a broad bowl, a brodetto (there’s that Italian influence) bobbed with in-shell Manila clams as a tween octopus lounged on top. Underneath was a small filet of a hake-like fish that pulled away in big planks. The bowl was as busy with flavors as we might have hoped, the broth rich, and the flavor amplified with thinly sliced fennel bulb, making the potage a remote cousin of bouillabaisse. (Thankfully, the chef resisted the impulse to toss in a shot of Pernod, and the dish remained resolutely Italian.)

The best of our two entrées was a magnificently crumbed chicken Milanesa topped with a perfectly dressed heap of salad so large it could have been a main course in itself. Dotted with goaty tasting pecorino, it came in a lively dressing. For dessert, we split a ginger cake with cardamom ice cream. Cutting into it, poached pears tumbled out.

In the usual Danny Meyer fashion, the service was superb: friendly, attentive, and nearly self-effacing without being omnipresent in the least, setting the perfect tone for a sometimes-rainy Friday afternoon. (Meyer is famous for hiring Midwesterners in the front of the house for their plainness and agreeability.) For my pal and me, this meal was the culinary high point of our week. The original luster of the restaurant remains.

For dessert, gingerbread with poached pears

The front room empties out after the lunch rush.

Union Square Café
21 East 16th Street
212-243-4020

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Where Was I Eating? Union Square Cafe

[See Where Else I Ate: Ai Fiori | Caracas Arepa Bar | Momofuku Noodle Bar]

Congrats to lr3 who guessed Union Square Cafe. This is the yellowfin tuna burger with oozing ginger glaze on a toasted poppyseed bun.

Stay tuned next week for another round.

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Our 10 Best New York City Restaurant Cookbooks

Going out to dinner in New York City can be an expensive endeavor, with entrée prices clocking in at $30. But you can eat four-star food at a fraction of the price: Cook it yourself using the restaurant’s cookbook. Now, cookbook love is like any other type of love — wildly subjective. Yet some of the aspects that make a cookbook great include a good story with a narrative all the way through, beautiful photographs, and delicious-tasting recipes. Behold Our 10 Best New York City Restaurant Cookbooks — tomes that not only reflect outstanding chefs and dining establishments, but also represent excellent literature. For our purposes, we have only included books of restaurants you can still visit, and we’ve excluded books that focus more on a chef’s overall career (Anita Lo’s Cooking Without Borders or Adam Perry Lang’s BBQ 25, for example) or on home-cooking techniques (think Karen DeMasco’s excellent The Craft of Baking). Whether you have eaten at the restaurants or not, these are the books that illustrate why New York remains the greatest city for eating in the world.

10. Junior’s Cheesecake Cookbook: 50 To-Die-For Recipes for New York-Style Cheesecake (Taunton Press, 2007): Junior’s is synonymous with cheesecake, and is a true New York City icon. The cheesecake at the stalwart is pretty damn delicious, but we’ve gotta say that the versions we’ve made from scratch using the Junior’s cookbook (written by co-owner Alan Rosen, the grandson of Junior’s founder, Harry Rosen) are even better. So when you can’t trek out to Brooklyn, make sure this is on your shelf.

9. Neue Cuisine: The Elegant Tastes of Vienna: Recipes From Wallsé, Café Sabarsky, and Blaue Gans (Rizzoli, 2011): OK, so this isn’t a single restaurant, but three. Yet Café Sabarsky, Wallsé, and Blaue Gans all reflect chef Kurt Gutenbrunner’s signature Austrian cuisine, only at different price points. What makes this book unique, though (besides its being one of the better Austrian cookbooks on the market), is that it’s not just a reflection of Viennese food culture throughout the ages; it’s also a portrait of the Neue Galerie museum and the art inside. Curator Janis Staggs has written a great overview of the art scene in Vienna at the turn of the 20th century, and the book features many reproductions from the museum. A little food for thought, if you will.

8. The Asian Flavors of Jean-Georges (Clarkson Potter, 2007): As with Neue Cuisine, this book curates recipes from more than one New York City restaurant: Spice Market, Vong, and 66. While the last two are out of business and Spice Market arguably isn’t what it used to be, this book illustrates a moment in time when fusion cuisine was just getting off the ground. But what’s more important, the recipes — dishes like charred lamb salad, ribbons of tuna with ginger marinade, and a lovely chocolate and Vietnamese coffee tart — are excellent, if laborious.

7. The Union Square Cafe Cookbook (Ecco, 1994): It’s hard to believe this cookbook was published nearly two decades ago because the recipes are as contemporary as ever. Which clearly says a lot about the beloved Union Square Cafe and its fresh seasonal menus. While many restaurant cookbooks can be utterly complex, this one uses easy-to-find ingredients and has clear instructions. You will be guaranteed to love dishes like the creamless mushroom soup, fried calamari with spicy anchovy mayonnaise, hashed brussels sprouts, and black bean soup.

6. The Babbo Cookbook (Clarkson Potter, 2002): In many respects, the ideal restaurant cookbook reflects the idea of the restaurant in a way that still works for the home cook. The recipes in this book from Mario Batali’s flagship are easy to follow and very flavorful, if not exact replicas of how they taste at Babbo. Still, dishes like pappardelle Bolognese, two-minute calamari Sicilian-lifeguard-style, and tilefish in a Sungold tomato and cool cucumber gazpacho have become staples in our kitchen.

5. Eat Me: The Food and Philosophy of Kenny Shopsin (Knopf, 2008): There’s no real substitution for a visit to Shopsin’s, the eccentric restaurant once located in the West Village and now in the Essex Market. Where else in the world will you encounter a ridiculously long menu with hundreds of disjointed menu options, possibly denied service, get yelled at by the chef or told you’ve ordered wrong? Shopsin is an enigma, and this cookbook gives you a look into the mind of one of New York’s most vibrant culinary icons. Still, truth be told, the recipes we’ve made from this book — mostly the egg dishes and pancakes — have been better than those at the restaurant.

4. Momofuku (Clarkson Potter, 2009): David Chang is a man with a vision, and the story of his success shines throughout this cookbook (ditto with pastry chef Christina Tosi’s Momofuku Milk Bar). Again, this is more of a chef’s cookbook, since most recipes from Momofuku Noodle Bar, Momofuku Ssäm Bar, and Momofuku Ko require several steps and many esoteric ingredients, but it’s a great portrait of a culinary artist coming into his own and developing his distinct, innovative viewpoint.

3. The Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion & Cooking Manual (Artisan 2010): New Yorkers love Frankies Spuntino for the simple yet delicious Italian food. And that’s just what you’ll find in the restaurant’s cookbook. Many of the recipes are beyond simple — a roasted cauliflower dish whose only ingredients are cauliflower, olive oil, and salt and pepper — but the recipes themselves are so detailed as to leave nothing to chance. The illustrations of kitchen tools and the photos of the Franks in action also make this book a quirky keeper.

2. Eleven Madison Park: The Cookbook (Little, Brown and Company, 2011): A visit to Eleven Madison Park is a trip for the senses. The food is visually stunning and utterly delicious. And reading through the recipes in the restaurant’s cookbook, you’ll understand why. A hell of a lot of work goes into preparing each dish. This is not an easy book for the novice cook. We’ve only attempted two full recipes — the caviar with potato ice cream and crème fraîche (yum) and the asparagus and crab canapé — and modified the slow-cooked langoustine with cauliflower, raisins, and green almonds with shrimp, but this book is as much a coffee-table tome as it is a set of recipes. The photographs are beyond beautiful, and the behind-the-scenes insights (an hour-by-hour timeline of a day at EMP, a glossary of every profession there, plus essays from general manager Will Guidara) give a complete portrait of one of New York’s best restaurants.

1. Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook: Strategies, Recipes, and Techniques of Classic Bistro Cooking (Bloomsbury, 2004): Tony Bourdain will always be the original kitchen badass, and this book is basically the CliffsNotes for Kitchen Confidential. He adopts a jocular conversational tone that’s now become commonplace and says, “This is not a cookbook. Not really. It will not teach you how to cook. The recipes, for the most part, are old standards, versions of which you can find in scores of other books. What’s different about this volume is that the recipes are from Les Halles, the New York City restaurant where I have been, since 1998, the executive chef. Which is to say that they are the official recipes from the best goddamn brasserie/bistro in the country.” It’s true. While the recipes like steak au poivre and mussels are fairly standard, the book’s outstanding because it was one of the first to show kitchen life behind the scenes and Bourdain’s voice rings loud and clear in each recipe instruction.

 

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After 25 Years, the Union Square Café Is Getting Into the Brunch Business

Though coverage of Danny Meyer’s hunger for expansion tends to focus on his quest to find Shackness in cities across the globe, he’s also set to branch out much closer to home. On September 3, for the first time in its 25-year history, Meyer’s Union Square Café will start serving brunch.

According to reps for Meyer’s flagship restaurant, Carmen Quagliata’s weekend brunch menu, which will be served from 11 a.m. until 2:30 p.m., will comprise seasonal dishes that will be served alongside such lunchtime stalwarts as the USC burger and ricotta gnocchi. Expect to see the likes of homemade gravlax with market salad, pickled beets, and bagel chips; poached eggs Victor with Dominican beef and rice hash and black pepper cream; and blueberry buttermilk pancakes. You can check out the full menu, which will change weekly.

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Danny Meyer’s in the House at the Union Square Café

Danny Meyer has taken to Twitter to inform New York that he’ll be indulging in nostalgia at the Union Square Café today: He’s taking the maitre d’ shift for lunch. “Will feel like old times especially with PBB behind the bar!” Impressive, but we’d still like to see him slinging burgers during the Shake Shack’s lunchtime rush.

[Via Eater]