The fall's grandest opening
Café Carmellini, martinis, Bar Six, Michelin, WeWork, Flamingo Estate rugs, Pay Dirt, Thanksgiving, MORE
RESTAURANTS • First Person
Carmellini’s big swing
The main entrance to Café Carmellini, the grand new restaurant inside the new Fifth Avenue Hotel, is an oversize portal opening onto the avenue. To the west, on 28th St., lies the hotel’s entrance. In between, a set of street-level windows look straight into the restaurant’s kitchen.
As I walked past those windows last Wednesday evening, I spied chef Andrew Carmellini, dressed in his whites, addressing his staff as dinner service was about to start.
Since running the kitchen at Café Boulud more than two decades ago, Carmellini’s been a major force on the New York City restaurant scene. With partners Luke Ostrom and Josh Pickard, he’s opened a remarkable string of popular, enduring, very good restaurants — Locanda Verde, Bar Primi, Lafayette, The Dutch, Carne Mare, to name just five. But what Carmellini arguably hasn’t done is swing for the fences.
Café Carmellini is the most thrilling big-ticket NYC restaurant opening of the year — a straight-up blockbuster. Sitting in a semicircular plush royal blue booth in the middle of the dining room, my dining companion and I marveled at its scope.
It’s a grand room that feels like it’s long been part of the city’s firmament; the design shares something of its Italian maximalism with Torrisi, last year’s big debut. Here, two giant trees climb from planters in the middle of the room, gesturing upwards to the balconies on the mezzanine framing semi-private tables for groups of four and up. That upper level, not yet open for dining as the restaurant comes up to full steam, will hold some of the most sought-after tables in the city.
At our table in the main dining room, we tasted cooking that married the best of France and Italy, perhaps none better than the duck-duck-duck tortelloni, with its duck-filled pillows, duck glaze, and airy foie gras sauce. It’s a dish I’ve already dreamed about.
But the best reason to get here as soon as possible is the elegant plate of scallops in a coconut-curry sauce, served with a side of basmati rice. The dish is called Scallops Cardoz — a tribute to the late, great chef Floyd Cardoz — and it transported me back to an evening long ago at his pioneering restaurant, Tabla. (Carmellini has indicated that he’ll be rotating out the dish to make way for tributes to other chefs.)
Café Carmellini is fancy enough to suit any celebratory night out, but didn’t feel forced early on a weeknight. Our bill for two was just over $400 — quite reasonable for this level of cooking, in this setting.
At this stage of his career, Carmellini can do whatever he wants. What a win for New York City that he’s doing this. –Lockhart Steele
RESTAURANTS • Intel
→ SEEING STARS: The announcement last week of NYC’s Michelin stars left some disappointed, but I’d wager none more so than the teams at Manhatta, Claud, Naro, and Principe, each of which failed to secure a star. Manhatta’s likely problem is the fluctuation of its menu formats; it’s still finding its identity. Naro was ostensibly supposed to match Atomix’s two stars with at least one of its own, but came up empty. Ditto Claud and Principe, both hugely successful restaurants.
The winners, broadly, were Japanese and Korean restaurants, with Noz and Odo being upgraded to two stars, and Ichimura and Joji inaugurated with one star each. Bōm and Meju joined the single-star category as well. Another notable addition: the return of Major Food Group to the guide, with Torrisi receiving a star. –Lee Pitofsky
→ SUNDAYS AT LE ROCK: Le Rock is now open for dinner on Sundays, starting November 19. Get ‘em while they’re hot. Reserve.
NYC RESTAURANT LINKS: Team behind C is for Charlie plots new Korean concept on LES • Barcade claims former Century 21 space in Tribeca • City Winery set to expand presence at Pier 57 • Can kimchi and bibimbap save one of the Village’s worst stretches? • The best after-dinner drinks.
GOODS & SERVICES • FOUND Object
Birds of a feather
This post appeared in last week’s edition of FOUND LA. Looking for a little more West Coast in your life? Subscribe to FOUND LA, with new issues dropping each Thursday.
Anyone who’s ever drooled over images of Richard Christiansen’s fabulously groovy Flamingo Estate in the hills above Eagle Rock and Highland Park will be pleased to learn that you can co-opt a touch of its cool factor with the Flamingo Estate x Beni Rugs collection. Each of the 13 thoughtfully edited Moroccan rugs (in shaggy and flatweave) takes a cue from the estate’s lush gardens and Spanish-style architecture. You won’t need a fireplace to feel cozy this holiday season. –Zoe Schaeffer
→ Shop: Flamingo Estate (Beni Rugs) • From $662.
GOODS & SERVICES LINKS: Beloved cafe/shop Poppy’s opens in Brooklyn Heights • Jersey City is getting its first Whole Foods • Nordstrom Rack in Downtown Brooklyn to shutter in February • Wonder completes acquisition of Blue Apron • How Hermes turned a dog collar into a bag • Ruth Reichl: What makes a great gift • The bed that’s also a gym.
WORK • Tuesday Routine
Winner, winner, chicken dinner
ELIZABETH SPIERS • columnist, podcaster, adjunct, media consultant • The New York Times, Slate, NYU, various other places
Neighborhood you work in: Flatbush when I’m home, East Village when I’m not
It’s Tuesday morning, where are you working?
I start the day at home at our place in Flatbush, Brooklyn, and teach at NYU on Tuesdays in the graduate school of journalism in Cooper Square. I try to get into Manhattan around noon, so I have time to grab lunch before my class starts.
What’s the Tuesday morning scene at your workplace?
Once our eight year old son is dressed and out the door to school, I’m in my home office (above) working. I’d say it’s quiet, but the windows face the street. So not exactly a sea of aural tranquility, but far better than being in a cubicle somewhere.
What’s on the agenda for today?
In the morning, I’m returning emails, writing the Pay Dirt column for Slate, pitching my editor at the Times a column idea, and scheduling meetings with a Democratic organization I work with called Forward Majority. They help Democrats in state legislature races. Then it’s off to NYU where I teach media innovation — today’s class is about UX/UI design.
What’s for lunch?
If I’m in a hurry, I just grab a salad at Chop’t — something with a spicy dressing. I’m convinced all of the other salad places are deathly afraid of chili peppers. But if I have some time to actually sit down and enjoy lunch, I go to Fish Cheeks, the fantastic Thai place on Bond Street. (The salt crusted sea bream is amazing.) I’m still mourning the death of Brooklyn’s Pok Pok, so Fish Cheeks is some consolation.
Any plans tonight?
I’m done at NYU around 7:30 p.m. I’m almost always ravenously hungry by then and want some time to decompress for the day before I head home. If I’m not meeting a friend for dinner, I like to sit at the bar. My go-to dinner spots are Lure (hellfire roll, gin martini) and Jack’s Wife Freda on Lafayette (peri-peri chicken, gin martini).
WORK • Bankruptcy Report
Bankruptcy sounds messy and desperate, but mostly, it brings order to chaos. Well paid lawyers and other specialists are currently at work negotiating the fate of WeWork’s liabilities. When the company emerges from the process, it might even be viable — again!
In the meantime, the volume of takes is high, particularly as they relate to the futures of the New York City commercial real estate market (and co-working writ large).
The fallout will be real. And substantial. The company has mountains of debt to restructure, is reportedly rejecting leases at 40 buildings in the city alone, and is dumping more than a million square feet of space back onto a market already facing its share of adversity.
But as absurd as the WeWork phenomenon was, it was a solution to a real problem, one that has continued to build even through its rise and fall. Its competitors are already figuring out how they’ll run the former WeWork spaces they snap up. Probably with a little less bluster.
WORK LINKS: Fight over New York non-competes ramps up • Law firm Millbank bumps 1st year associate base salary to $225k • Eric Adams hires WilmerHale for fundraising probe response • After two-year renovation, landmark Lever House is back in operation • Renovation of 511 Fifth Ave. in Midtown is complete • Why fewer senior execs are taking the corporate jet.
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Some FOUND subscriber feedback on last Friday’s Thanksgiving Provisioning Nines:
On Thanksgiving week, Union Square Greenmarket moves its Friday market to Tuesday, bringing all the Friday vendors along for the ride. That means Campo Rosso Farm will be there next Tuesday with its incredible haul of chicories for salads and sides. Essential for a proper modern Thanksgiving.
DISASTER that Little Pie Co. in Times Square wasn’t included in FOUND Thanksgiving roundup. They’ve stopped taking advance orders for this year, but drop by to see what they’ve got on offer, and next year, pre-order the sour cream apple walnut pie, the BEST.
One more great pie option you missed! Figure Eight (new sister to Silver Apricot; restaurant still coming soon) has unique takes on apple, pecan, and pumpkin pies for pickup in the Village, like the “Nan Gua Bing” pie, which is a take on the Chinese pumpkin cake with a chewy, mochi-like texture. $58 per, as you would say.
A few FOUND subscriber PROMPTS that require your immediate attention:
What are the best women’s clothing boutiques in the city right now?
I want to do some holiday shopping IRL. What are the best specialty stores for unusual products?
What’s the best spot for a martini in Brooklyn?
BARS & RESTAURANTS • Martinis
Cocktail intel with a twist
When we reached out to a handful of FOUND experts for their top martini spots in Manhattan, the responses arrived like any good martini should: fast, strong, bracing.
“A good martini is large and you only need one,” says one connoisseur. “Those small glasses don’t do it for me.”
Another, who lives in Brooklyn, works downtown, and ordinarily drinks in between, makes a pointed exception when gin and vermouth are involved: “I’m convinced — entirely irrationally — that martinis broadly taste better above 30th St.”
And then there is the site-specific intel that only comes from the inside. Regarding Bar Six, which landed on our inaugural Manhattan Martinis Nines (below), a noted observer of the Village cocktail scene says: “It isn't even especially good, but it's where the true Café Loup crowd has moved. No one who was committed to Loup actually likes Cecchi's (which moved into the Loup space), as confirmed by ur-regular [redacted], who shifted their allegiances around the corner.”
Cold. Ice cold.
BARS & RESTAURANTS • The Nines