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the sweet scoop
Power duo Hugh Crickmore, former partner of Mas (farmhouse), and chef Alex Leonard, of two Michelin-starred Blanca, teamed up to open Lowlife on the Lower East Side.
Officially open to the public on Monday, the 70-seat restaurant showcases a thoughtful approach to seasonal ingredients. The à la carte menu, which draws inspiration from Japanese culinary techniques, features refined dishes—including lamb tartare with mint and shrimp salt, borscht with raw cream and trout roe, and yakitori-style chicken grilled on a robata—all elegantly plated, though the setting is casual and comfortable.
Leonard is embracing more complex techniques and flavor combinations, while allowing the ingredients to shine. Much of the kitchen’s produce hails from an organic Catskills farm owned by Crickmore’s brother, breads are sourced from Roberta’s in Brooklyn, and the chef makes his own vinegars, pickles, kimchee, freshly-churned butter, and cheese in-house.
With beautifully presented modern fare, a wine list focused on natural and sustainable winemaking, and a mid-century-modern-inspired interior, one thing is certain about this Stanton Street newcomer: there’s nothing lowlife about it.
Lowlife, 178 Stanton Street, 212.257.0509, lowlifenyc.com | Image: Melissa Hom for Grub Street
In Provincial France, a Mas is known as a country farmhouse that grows all the products to nourish the estate onsite. Though located in the heart of the West Village, Mas (la grillade) seeks out seasonal ingredients from small, organic and sustainable farms in communities surrounding New York City—thus forming its “estate.”
Since 2004, chef Galen Zamarra has been a leader in farm-to-table dining at Mas (farmhouse), his first WV establishment. Utilizing his years of experience, farmer connections and sustainable approach to fine dining, Galen opened Mas (la grillade) in late 2011. He showcases a seasonal menu of locally grown, sustainably raised foods cooked solely over fires of oak, apple and other hardwoods. When you open the Seventh Avenue South doors, you’ll be greeted by the sweet fragrance of smoky, burning wood. A small bar and glass-walled wine room open into an elegant split-level dining room filled with wood tables, white tablecloths and a bright skylight ceiling.
The prix fixe and à la carte menu debuts fresh starters, like a salad of sliced roasted beets, pickled onions, marinated cucumbers and velvety smoked ricotta. Precise fire-grilled preparations let the flavors and beautiful qualities of the ingredients shine in each dish. An entrée of grilled duck presented succulent smoky medallions, rimmed with a thin layer of fat beneath the skin, plated over tender Swiss chard. Perfectly seared scallops laid atop a bed of grilled fennel and spring greens, drizzled with vibrant saffron-dill aioli. A subtle smokiness permeated every element on the plate; it was lovely.
Grilled vegetables, like wild ramps and hen of the wood mushrooms, along with fruit-based desserts, artisanal cheeses and house-made ice creams complete the menu. Creamy ricotta and local honey ice creams were already melting when placed on our table; nonetheless, they provided a tangy, refreshing finish to an overall wonderful meal.
My review as published in the Clean Plates Manhattan 2013 Restaurant Guide Book (purchase it here) and on CleanPlates.com. Photo courtesy of Mas (la grillade).
For one of the most autentico Italian experiences around, get your appetite ready and head to Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria. NoHo’s rustic market, salumeria, bakery, wine bar and restaurant is an extension of former chef Ignacio Mattos’s original Il Buco, located on adjacent Bond Street.
In the front Alimentari grocery section, you can purchase artisanal dry goods, cured meats, and freshly baked bread to enjoy at home. Or settle into the warm, cozy Vineria and restaurant to sample seasonal specialties featuring organic, local produce and proteins from eco-friendly farms—which chef Justin Smillie precisely crafts using traditional Italian methods. Varied individual and high communal tables invites sharing the love with friends—or making new ones. Belly up to a spot by the open kitchen for a front row view of the staff busily churning out delicacies.
While the atmosphere charms, the simple, straightforward cuisine is most likely to entice a repeat visit. Served with crusty, chewy Italian bread, the house-made ricotta is a must have starter. A pillow of soft curds garnished with sugar snap peas, toasted pine nuts, mint, granola and a swirl of honey offered an inviting sweet-savory sensation. Another knockout appetizer of Manila clams arrived resting in zesty roasted pepper and garlic broth, thick cubes of pancetta sprinkled throughout.
Vegetable contorni, charcuterie and fresh pastas, seafood and meats complete the menu. Try the delicate twirls of “busiate” pasta coated with almonds, anchovies, sun-ripened duana tomatoes and capers. For a heartier entrée, the signature spit-roasted short ribs presented large chunks of tender, peppery meat edged by darkened, chewy bark. They were both exceptional mains.
Offering breakfast, lunch and dinner, Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria is a solid choice for a romantic date night or breaking bread with a group. Make a reservation to guarantee a prompt seating—then prepare to mangia.
My review as published in the Clean Plates Manhattan 2013 Restaurant Guide Book (purchase it here) and on CleanPlates.com. Photo courtesy of LocalEats.com.