Tuesday, August 24, 2010

New Restaurant Row on Kenmare Street

Over the last year, Kenmare street has transformed itself from psychics, bodegas, auto mechanics (aka no-man's land) to a hip, cool and trendy area offering a host of new high-end restaurants, nightclubs and after-hour lounges. For New York foodies, this will be another stomping ground rivaling other neighborhood restaurant strips like that of Bond Street and pockets in Lower East side and West Village. However, I will say, it already seems like a high-end/fine dining area comparable to Bond Street and will likely deter any budget foodies from participating in this new revival... but one never knows! With that said, Kenmare's new row of restaurants begins at the base of Kenmare and Lafayette Street with La Esquina and stretches east to Elizabeth Street with the opening of J&S Hall expected to open later this year.

Already a few restaurants have opened, including Clubby Kenmare restaurant, Tavertine and Village Tart. Some notable chefs including Michael White (known for Marea and Convivio have developed a large Italian foodie base) and Jimmy Bradley (The Red Cat) is anticipating opening their new hot spots later this year.

Below are abbreviated restaurant reviews from the New York Post:

1. Tavertine - Mediterranean-inspired Italian food
9 Kenmare St.travertinenyc.com; 212-966-1810

* Food: Mediterranean-inspired Italian, like a burrata and zucchini appetizer ($13) and pistachio-encrusted lamb ($29).
* Décor: White marble, dark wood, creamy silk drapery, green tile columns.
* Scene: Women-who-shop, neighborhood regulars and the beautiful people.
* Downstairs: XIX, a bar operated by Jesse Keyes of Hotel Griffou, opens next month.

2. Kenmare
98 Kenmare St.212-274-9898

Nur Khan of Rose Bar and Paul Sevigny of the former Beatrice Inn opened Kenmare in April as “a space where [friends] can come and we can hang out and talk and have a drink at 8 at night,” Sevigny told The Post.

* Food: Chef Joey Campanaro serves lovely comfort food like meatball sliders ($5 each), fried zucchini blossoms ($12), and roasted chicken with butter beans and escarole ($19).
* Décor: Boho Mediterranean — pink walls, low light and a screen of bronze palm fronds.
* Scene: Beautiful women, power-playing men, Europeans in suits, women with statement jewelry and long, straight blond hair.
* Downstairs: The underground lounge is a perpetual “private party” — i.e., unless you know somebody, chances are you can’t get in. We spotted a hall of mirrored bathrooms, a bronze deejay booth and a beam from the Williamsburg bridge embedded in the stucco.

3. Osteria Morini opening next month 218 Lafa-yette St.

Midtown phenom Michael White and partner Chris Cannon will finally open a downtown outpost in fall, bringing star wattage to the street. The menu will consist of cuisine from Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region — a more rustic approach than White is known for at Marea, Alto and Convivio.

The casual 100-seat restaurant will be crafted from materials sourced from vintage Italian restaurants, flea markets and farmhouses.

4 . Village Tart
86 Kenmare St.; villagetart.com; 212-226-4980

Lesly Bernard of Tillman's opened The Village Tart in February with pastry chef Pichet Ong. The adorable corner café serves pastry-inspired dishes like pizzettes with crusts that are a cross between pastry and pizza dough, and salads with crumbly pastry croutons.

The space was a dry cleaners until Bernard renovated it to create a small, antiquated café that blends with the Old World feel of the area. “The neighborhood spoke to me enough that I didn’t want to create something cacophonous," Bernard says. "Once you say, ‘I’m going to fit in instead of making a whole new look,’ the design came easily.”

* Food: Pizzette with bacon onion jam ($11) and the pear brie tart ($5.50).
* Décor: British tea shop filled with mirrors and bric-a-brac.
* Scene: Couples, foodies who follow Ong, neighborhood folk.

5. La Esquina
114 Kenmare St.; esquinanyc.com; 646-613-7100

Despite serving up consistent food over the years, co-owners Derek Sanders and James Gersten recently brought in chef Akhtar Nawab to spice up their menu.

* Food: Nawab's goal is to “not lose the Mexican street food sensibility and impart a little more finesse, a little more care. The tacos are so basic in so many ways, so it screams for great ingredients.” Try the new Michoacan-style carnitas taquito ($10)with pork marinated for a day and a half, and the pork chop with plantains (above, $28).
* Décor:
Three different spaces: the street-front taqueria, the small café in back and the basement brasserie/bar.
* Scene:
Hipsters, creative types, beautiful people, fashion folk.

6. J&S Food Hall
opening in fall 153 Elizabeth St.

Chef Jimmy Bradley and partner Steven Eckler plan to open the 65-seat contemporary American eatery in the lobby of the yet-to-open Nolitan Hotel.

“The food is Jimmy Bradley food,” says the chef. “It’s American contemporary cuisine, or whatever the hell I feel like making.”

“Kenmare Street is a similar neighborhood to what Chelsea was when I built there,” says Bradley. “We’re excited about a new neighborhood that’s in a growth period. It sure beats the hell out of working in a neighborhood that's in decline."

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