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Au Za'atar (Photo: Michael Tulipan)

Top 10 New and Noteworthy Restaurants: March 2014

Spring has sprung a host of new eateries

In like a lionfish, out like a leg of lamb. The month of March was mad with restaurant openings, welcoming destinations for stir-crazy New Yorkers dying to get out of wintry shut-in mode. Unsurprisingly, some debuts this month hearken to sunny lands, with Mediterranean cuisine on the minds of Bobby Flay and Einat Admony, for example, along with a long-awaited opening from one of the city’s brightest young chefs. Here’s what the new season wrought in March.

 

Alfredo 100

Fettuccine alfredo classic at Alfredo 100 (Photo: Melissa Hom/Alfredo 100)

Alfredo 100
The house that fettuccine built celebrates its 100th birthday by packing up its Rockefeller Center location and moving it a few blocks north. Slipping into the former Bice digs, Alfredo 100 may have a familiar ring because of the famous, cheesy, buttery pasta created at the original branch in Rome in 1914. Expect the dish at the new space, along with some variations that include additions such as vegetables, chicken and even vodka sauce. Other traditions on the menu: veal Milanese with arugula and cherry tomatoes. And it wasn’t only these classics that made the move from Alfredo’s former location — so did the famous Al Hirschfeld caricatures that decorate the interior. 7 E. 54th St., 212-688-1999, alfredo100.com

 

Grill Platter at Au Za'atar

Grill Platter at Au Za’atar (Photo: Michael Tulipan)

Au Za’atar
The East Village welcomes a green-themed Middle Easterner, named after the region’s beloved spice blend. Platters of mezze, with snacks such as falafel, hummus, beef and bulgur meatballs, and mains such as Tunisian cous cous, reflect a menu inspired by the countries that touch on the Mediterranean Sea. The kitchen’s emphasis on freshness, and the decor’s focus on recycling and re-use of reclaimed materials, put forth an eco-friendliness, echoed on a wine list including 16 organic varieties from around the world. 188 Avenue A, 212-254-5660, auzaatar.com

 

Bar Bolonat

Bar Bolonat (Photo: Quentin Bacon)

Bar Bolonat
She started with Taim, a modest yet fabulous falafel spot in the West Village before expanding to NoLita. Now chef Einat Admony comes full-circle, back to the neighborhood that started it all with a modern Israeli restaurant that blends the essences of Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jewish cooking with modern, global accents. That means turkey shawarma confit with pickled jalapenos, beef cheek tagine with homemade couscous and everything, including the bread and cheese, made on the premises. 611 Hudson St., 212-390-1545, barbolonatny.com

Butterfish
Affordable omakase is not an oxymoron; at least not according to chef Hitoshi Fujita, who named this spot for the sensation of high-quality sushi on the palate. Formerly of Sushi Den, chef Hitoshi’s self-described “new age” sushi courses span the $18 vegetarian Akita (edamame, seven pieces, and a hand roll) to the $38 Tokyo (edamame, sashimi, 10 pieces and a hand roll) on the high-end, with various options in between. What’s the most shocking: finding this kind of value within Midtown’s Sony building. 550 Madison Ave., 212-729-1819, butterfishny.com

 

Cheri

Cheri (Photo: Courtesy of Cheri)

Cheri
There’s a true Harlem food Renaissance happening uptown, with recent openings such as The Cecil, and now Cheri. This spot brings a slice of Paris to the neighborhood, with a table d’hote menu that changes daily. Three courses could include seared scallops, an impeccably roasted chicken and a tarte tatin, for example. Add a piano, a fireplace and a lovely garden, and it’s easy to see why patrons easily feel at home. 231 Lenox Ave., 212-662-4374, cheriharlem.com

Gato
A few tears were shed when Bobby Flay’s classic Mesa Grill closed last year, but fans of the prolific chef are now consoled with the equally bold opening of this spacious NoHo Mediterranean. The menu feels just as vast as the brick-and-tiled interior, with everything from Greek yogurt and charred green chile spread to a porterhouse pork chop in tomato pan juices with romesco polenta. All of it proves that Flay may not only play a chef on TV, but he can surely cook well, too. 324 Lafayette St., 212-334-6400, gatonyc.com

 

General Assembly

General Assembly (Photo: Daniel Krieger Photography)

General Assembly
It’s intentional that the name of this restaurant off Madison Square Park evokes the United Nations: Craig Koketsu and Michael Stillman’s menu showcases a world of influences, from Italian crudo to Swiss raclette to a good old American sirloin. Inventive items, such as salmon with spiced cashews and the rabbit wellington are the ones that are likely to emerge as signatures, however, but it’s always great to have the crowd-pleasing classics, whether from the old country or new world, to fall back on. 360 Park Ave. S., 212-951-7111, generalassemblyrestaurant.com

 

Pizza Vinoteca

Pizza Vinoteca (Photo: Courtesy Pizza Vinoteca)

Pizza Vinoteca
Meet the pie for the modern age: a whole wheat crust with farm-to-table toppings (such as La Quercia prosciutto and Lioni Latticini mozzarella), cooked on a souped-up grill that hits 900 degrees. But what really makes this Union Square pizzeria feel current is the high-tech ordering systems: iPads in the sky-lit, second-floor dining room, and interactive kiosks for to-go. Wines are dispensed via the Enomatic system, which preserves freshness and flavor. 15 Union Square W., 212-743-0605, pizzavinoteca.com

 

Sweetwater Social

Sweetwater Social (Photo: Courtesy of Sweetwater Social)

Sweetwater Social
Remember the cool kid on the block, who had the basement where you’d dwindle away hours playing games? The same kid who also had the mom who could cook? That kid just opened up a subterranean bar/resto in the Village, just underneath Bleecker Kitchen. And he’s serving up shuffleboard and foosball along with trendy cocktails and a menu with an equal sense of fun: tater tots, mini corn dogs, sweet potato fries and burgers. 643 Broadway, 212-253-7467, drinksweetwater.com

The Gander
Talented young chef Jesse Schenker made a name for himself at the West Village’s Recette, where he serves a menu hinged on high-minded small plates that feel familiar and ground-breaking at once. He now expands with a somewhat humbler menu in a much larger Chelsea venue that has such mass appeal Schenker is now certainly poised to become a household name in NYC. Set to make a lasting impression: a Caesar/wedge hybrid of iceberg lettuce, bacon, red onion, Parmesan and white anchovy dressing; spaghetti with a variety of clams, guanciale and bisque; a dry-aged sirloin topped with a decadent round of composed butter. 15 W. 18th St., 212-229-9500, thegandernyc.com

For more new and notable restaurants:
Top 10 New and Noteworthy Restaurants March 2014
Top 10 New and Noteworthy Restaurants February 2014

Top 10 New and Noteworthy Restaurants January 2014
The Keepers: The Most Promising Restaurant Openings of 2013
Top 10 New and Noteworthy Restaurants November 2013
Top 10 New and Noteworthy Restaurants October 2013
Top 10 New and Noteworthy Restaurants September 2013
Top 10 New and Noteworthy Restaurants August 2013
Top 10 New and Noteworthy Restaurants July 2013
Top 10 New and Noteworthy Restaurants June 2013
Top 10 New and Noteworthy Restaurants May 2013
Top 10 New and Noteworthy Restaurants April 2013

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