New York has always been a city of division. Manhattan versus the “outer” boroughs. The boroughs versus one another. The governor versus the mayor. The NIMBYs versus the YIMBYs. The Yankees versus the Mets. New York natives versus transplants.
In the last few years a spate of big-name, New York City-born restaurants have opened locations in other locales: Carbone Miami, Roberta’s Los Angeles, Emmy Squared Nashville. Sometimes with varying success: My colleague Christina Morales reported in February on the rejection of the Manhattan-based Café Habana by Miami residents.
But today I’m focusing on the reverse — restaurants from other cities and countries opening in our own incredibly expensive backyard. CookNSolo, the Philadelphia restaurant group behind Zahav, Dizengoff, Abe Fisher and Federal Donuts, plans to open a branch of the perpetually booked restaurant Laser Wolf at the Hoxton Hotel in Williamsburg. (Reservations open on April 13, and I recommend tackling their feast-centric menu with, at the very least, a party of four. My colleague Florence Fabricant will have more in her “Off the Menu” column once the restaurant opens.) I personally nominated Laser Wolf to The Times’s 2021 list of most outstanding restaurants, so from where I stand, this is a boon for our dining scene.
A Taste of Home, Away From Home
There are two approaches when bringing a restaurant to New York City. One is to serve a taste of home to a homesick crowd. That’s why the 2009 arrival of the popular Filipino fast food chain Jollibee and its fried chicken in Woodside, Queens, was an event worth standing in a snowstorm for. The same ethos goes for Tim Ho Wan (East Village and Hell’s Kitchen), a Cantonese dim sum chain that attracts college students and others looking for familiar tastes of Hong Kong. Try the barbecued pork buns and the smoky pan-fried turnip cakes with dried shrimp.
There’s also the arrival of the beloved Puerto Rico-based chocolate company and restaurant Chocobar Cortés NYC in Mott Haven in the Bronx, where I recently learned that chocolate does, in fact, belong on a grilled cheese sandwich, though I was particularly taken with the chalupitas de mofongo — essentially tacos served in crispy smashed plantain shells. And the Guyanese restaurant German’s Soup in Crown Heights, which specializes in a rich cow heel soup, also serves Caribbean staples like roti, curries and barbecue chicken.
With Love, From L.A., Las Vegas, Chicago, New Jersey, Miami and Ohio
Then there’s the second approach: “Well, we’re beloved in [insert city], so let’s try our hand in New York!” Think: Au Cheval in TriBeCa, which drew hourslong waits for its burgers in Chicago; Kumi, the pricey Japanese restaurant that arrived in Midtown in March by way of the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas; and the Los Angeles transplant Breakfast by Salt’s Cure in the West Village, which specializes in oatmeal griddle cakes (including gluten-free versions) and diner-style breakfast.
Also from Los Angeles: Katsuya, the high-end sushi chain and celebrity hangout from the restaurateur Sam Nazarian, which opened a new 400-seat location in the Manhattan West development in March. On Staten Island, Wasabi Steak and Sushi, a popular hibachi chain from Ohio, is close enough to the ferry landing in St. George for a postwork dinner, and the New Jersey-based Ani Ramen House chain has popped up at Brookfield Place in Battery Park City.
Restaurants from elsewhere — just like people — will always want to break in and establish themselves. And to their eternal credit, New Yorkers will try just about anything once. We’re a curious bunch! Let Nusr-Et Steakhouse of #saltbae fame forever be proof of this.
In Other News …
Tune in this Friday, April 8, to the Where to Eat virtual event featuring a conversation about the state of restaurants with Priya Krishna and an interview with the comedian and late night host Desus Nice about how he eats in New York City.
At Mena, Pete Wells writes, the chef Victoria Blamey has finally been set free from the confines of cooking upscale bar food and is serving a stunningly original tasting menu that puts some other restaurants in the genre to shame.
Openings and closings: The Lambs Club will reopen in the Theater District next week under the chef Michael White (formerly of Marea and Ai Fiori); a townhouse in Clinton Hill has become Place des Fêtes, a more casual restaurant from the team behind the Michelin-starred Oxalis; and Forlini’s, the Italian American restaurant that became an unlikely hot spot late in life, has closed.
Should you find yourself in Paris any time soon, you might want to spend an evening at Bambino, “a buzzy restaurant on Rue Saint-Sébastien in Paris’s 11th arrondissement,” writes Monica Mendal in T Magazine. The kitchen closes at 11 p.m., but you can dance until the wee hours of the morning.