Archive for April, 2009

La Fonds Del Sol

April 19, 2009

La Fonds Del Sol

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LOCATION 200 Park Avenue (at 44th Street and Vanderbilt Avenue) MetLife Building, New York, NY 10166

OPENED January 19, 2009

RESERVATIONS (212) 867-6767, additional: (212) 867-6867

WEBSITE http://www.patinagroup.com/east/lafondadelsol/

OWNER/OPERATOR Patina Restaurant Group
Nick Valenti, Restaurateur and CEO

EXECUTIVE CHEF Josh DeChellis

GENERAL MANAGER Santiago Pesantez

WINE DIRECTOR Nicholas Nahigian

MENU Modern Spanish Cuisine, with Latin influences and a focus on tapas.
Separate menus for the bar room and the dining room.

LAYOUT The split-level area consists of a bar room on the ground floor and a dining room on the upper level, separated by an illuminated glass wall behind the bar with an etched pattern.

INTERIOR DESIGNER Adam D. Tihany

DESIGN A sophisticated color palette mixes vibrant and neutral shades to revitalize the restaurant for the 21st century while still honoring its abstract, iconic design roots by Alexander Girard. Banquettes are upholstered in a vivid striped Paul Smith fabric; café floor is made up of black and white checkerboard terrazzo complemented by the geometric square ceiling pattern; bright red chairs and bar stools provide a pop of color. The dining room has an intimate atmosphere with dark brown limed oak panels and up-lighting, as well as a wine room. A three-dimensional oculus in the ceiling creates depth.

GRAPHIC DESIGNER: Mirko Ilic

SQUARE FEET 8,000

CAPACITY 80 seats in lounge, 24 stools at tapas bar
106 in main dining room
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Review By Nancy Walman

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LA FONDA DEL SOL

A Classic: Even Better The Second Time Around

Patina Restaurant Group opened La Fonda del Sol on January 19, 2009, with Josh DeChellis as Executive Chef – 47 years after its inception. The restaurant provides an unprecedented stage for modern Spanish cuisine in New York. The menu includes an expansive selection of dishes from across Spain, with a focus on tapas.

“I was inspired not to duplicate our iconic property from the 1960’s, but rather to reinterpret its culinary ambition, high style and design,” said Patina Restaurant Group’s renowned restaurateur Nick Valenti. “La Fonda del Sol was ahead of its time and had a fresh, exotic appeal that I wanted to bring back.”

Chef Josh DeChellis’ extended stays in Spain, working at Martín Berasategui in Lasarte, Adolfo in Toledo and Arzak in San Sebastián, have allowed him to not only research but also to experience the unparalleled variety and nuances of the country’s cuisine and culture. Born in Bogota, Colombia, his background lends a Latin overlay to the menu at La Fonda del Sol, as does his creativity and clean, authentic style honed during his years as chef at some of New York’s most interesting restaurants including Sumile and Bar Fry.

La Fonda is bound to establish DeChellis as one of America’s most talented young chefs. Of a multi-course dinner, there wasn’t one clinker. Exquisite baby scallops were served raw in their shell with a squeeze of Meyer’s lemon as a teaser. This was followed by sushi grade Tuna Tacos with avocado and jalapeño pickled onion and the traditional Salt Cod Croquetas (like a Brandade) with romesco sauce. The next appetizer course consisted of Potted Duckling and Pork
with Oloroso Sherry wine on toasted bread, dramatically mixed tableside, the subtle flavor, a devastating and clever play on “Rillettes.” Equally wonderful, were melt in your mouth Braised Pork Cheeks with
judiones beans, sausage and parsnips and fresh asparagus with hand carved acorn fed Iberian ham and breaded Quail Egg on Micro Greens proved that less is definitely more and simple is always better.

For entrees we chose the not to be missed Cochinillo/Suckling Pig, with smoked dates and almonds. The parchment crisp skin and moist meat arrived in an aesthetic and contemporary presentation. Wild Halibut with shaved Hearts of Palm was lovely and Potatoes Brava, a side, should win the award as the best potato dish of the year.

You must precede desserts with Artisan Cheeses: Idiazabal, Valdeon Blue, Caña de Cabra, and Manchego or slices of “Pata Negra,” a remarkable ham, previously unavailable in America, with a glass of the unique dark dessert wine from Uruguay. But save room for a truly “Wicked” Chocolate Cake with Manjari Chocolate, Guajillo Chile, Cinnamon and Milk Ice Cream and the best Bunyols/Cinnamon Fritters we’ve ever tasted, here, served with Salty Caramel, Maracuya, Peppercorn Rose, and Orange Chocolate sauces.

The wine list is beautifully chosen and very reasonably priced (check out the two Cavas), as is the food. There is a fine selection by the glass. Signature cocktails are generous, wonderful and creative with the Margarita and Pisco Sour stealing the show. Service is rewarding, benevolent and professional.

The original La Fonda Del Sol was one of the first theme restaurants, created by Joe Baum and designed by Alexander Girard in the early sixties. Abstract and iconic, Girard’s design was reverent in its use of cultural references and folk art, and incorporated graphics, signs, menus, and matchboxes, in addition to tableware and uniforms.

This time around, The Patina Group commissioned Tihany Design to conceive the new space. Tihany utilized a sophisticated color palette mixing vibrant and neutral shades and sunburst graphics throughout – even extending to the china – to revitalize the restaurant for the 21st century, while still honoring its historical design roots. Tihany’s innovative design has breathed an inspired second wind into the original concept for a modern and lively result.

The split-level area consists of a café bar on the ground floor, and a dining room on the upper level. The two spaces are separated by an illuminated glass wall behind the bar with an etched sunburst pattern in order to enable guests in the café to see the action in the dining room. The café floor is made up of black and white checkerboard terrazzo reminiscent of the original La Fonda Del Sol, which is complemented by the geometric square ceiling pattern. Classic limed oak panels cover the walls while bright red chairs and bar stools, both with metal bases, provide a pop of color.

From the café bar, a softly lit stairwell leads guests up a short distance to the dining room. A carpet with sunburst patterns in hues of violet, mulberry, and cream atop dark brown covers the floor, harmonizing with a three-dimensional oculus ceiling feature to create depth. Gold leaf coats the highest point of the oculus. Dark brown limed oak panels with up-lighting at the top edge cover walls creating an intimate atmosphere. With a sophisticated color palette throughout, the back banquette is upholstered in brown, burgundy, and mulberry striped fabric, with custom dining room chairs in similar plum shades; all evocative of vibrant Latin American colors. Bursts of breathtaking flowers accentuate the whole. A wine room offering a premium selection of wine is visible in the back of the dining room. A photographic installation of abstract images representing matadors continues the vivid color story.

La Fonda del Sol Tuna Tacos

The Fabulous Tuna Tacos

La Fonda del Sol is located at 200 Park Avenue (enter on 44th Street and Vanderbilt Avenue) in the MetLife Building.Guests can make reservation by calling (212) 867-6767.

New York has finally received the luxury Spanish restaurant it has been waiting for. La Fonda del Sol is a dream come true and the finest Spanish restaurant in Manhattan. It is absolutely on a par with the city’s best French and Italian restaurants and rates A Major on the Walman Report.

Copyright 2009 By Punch In International. All Rights Reserved

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Ali Baba’s Terrace

April 5, 2009

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Ali Baba’s Terrace

862 2nd Avenue at 46th Street.

Open on weekdays from 11:30 AM – 11:00 PM, and on weekends from 11:30 AM to 11:30 PM. Starting in April, a late night bar menu will be introduced on the rooftop terrace.

For more information of reservations and private parties, call 212-888-8622 or visit Ali Baba’s Terrace on the web at http://www.alibabasterrace.com

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Ali Baba’s Terrace Shines

Review By Nancy Walman

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If the fabled story of Ali Baba brings to mind a little-known space filled with endless riches, there is no doubt that the restaurant that shares its name should do the same. Though it’s location in Midtown East is hardly a secret, the wide array of authentic Turkish dishes it offers is a less-known treasure trove—until now, that is.

However, the restaurant’s name does not so much intend a comparison to the golden loot as it does to a much more humble story: that of owner Ali Dogan and his “baba,” or father, who joined forces to move their family from Turkey to America and pursue their own version of the American Dream.

New to the States in 1986, Ali decided to help his father by taking a position as a dishwasher where he would unknowingly begin an education to last a lifetime. Within two years, he’d cycled through all the kitchen’s stations and was ready to open his own place with his baba—a pizza shop on Manhattan’s East Side.

Blessed with equal parts love, talent, and luck, Ali embarked upon his path to success when members of the Turkish Mission stumbled upon his shop. Ali began offering them Turkish Stuffed Pita by special order, and his special talent—a seemingly magical sensibility to cooking that Ali says could only be God-given—was suddenly revealed. Before long, Ali could no longer keep up with the increase in demand. ali-food4

Twelve years after opening his first Turkish restaurant, Ali finally found his own treasure trove when a friend told him a space was available near the UN, complete with an ample rooftop terrace. In August 2008, Ali Baba’s Terrace opened in that space with an expanded menu and Chef Senol Bakir at its helm.

Hailing from Bolu, Turkey, a city midway between Ankara and Istanbul known for its culinary talent, Chef Bakir boasts an internationally renowned culinary education from Bolu’s prestigious Anatolian Culinary School. Together, Ali and Chef Bakir devised a sophisticated menu, renovated the space, and created an additional floor to support the extensive cooking that would no doubt propel the restaurant.

Indeed, this space allows Ali Baba’s Terrace to deliver a variety of delicacies that logistically cannot be delivered otherwise. These include a signature sesame flatbread that’s baked on premises and delivered to the table at the start of each meal, so soft and chewy that patrons may think it’s stuffed with cheese. The bread is best enjoyed dipped into a combination of traditional spreads, like Soslu Patilcan, a chunky eggplant salad with fresh tomatoes, peppers, onions, and garlic; or Acili Ezme, a spicy spread of finely minced vegetables with walnuts, spices, and lemon juice. ali-food2

Hot appetizers are generous in both flavor and size. Icli Kofte, a traditional dish of wheat bulgur stuffed with seasoned ground lamb and pine nuts comes artfully presented with yogurt sauce and scallions. An order of Pacanga Boregi is akin to a Turkish boreca that pairs crunchy filo dough with salty pastrami and sweet, oozing kashar cheese—an explosion of flavor and texture. Liver-lovers take note cubes of calf’s liver, potatoes and shallots is a terrific starter.

No Turkish meal would be complete without an assortment of grilled meats, and it is in this category that Ali Baba’s Terrace truly distinguishes itself. Though grilled meats are perhaps the most commonly found element of Turkish cuisine, Ali and Chef Bakir are quick to point out that they’re also the most commonly ruined. Whereas many vendors buy their meats pre-chopped and frozen, the kitchen staff at Ali Baba’s Terrace dedicates itself to the tedious process of hand chopping all meats freshly every day—any leftovers are donated to food banks rather than re-used to preserve quality, freshness, and flavor. The love and work that go into the meats shows through best with the Doner Kebab, thinly sliced lamb and beef marinated with the chef’s secret blend of spices and cooked on a rotating spit that gives the dish it’s name, which means “turning kebab”. ali-food3

 

Still, the vast menu goes beyond grilled meats to include specialty poultry, seafood, and meat dishes as well. The Teras Tavuk, or Terrace Chicken, is a house special made with a unique Kashar cheese and cream sauce—the purely original dish marries some of Turkey’s most famous flavors and is exclusive to Ali Baba’s Terrace. Levrek, or sea bass, is grilled whole with just a bare rub of olive oil and salt, preserving the fish’s natural flavor. Ali Nazik, perhaps the restaurant’s most popular dish, consists of chopped kebab with smoked eggplant puree, garlic yogurt, and tomato sauce—it is a time-intensive dish bursting with freshness and vibrant flavors.

Diners would be wise to save room for dessert. Those who enjoy a well-crafted pastry will no doubt be more than content with the Kazandibi, a milk custard enveloped by a ball of sweet dough. Baklava and Rice Pudding are familiar favorites, but the real showstopper is the Kunefe, a round cake of shredded filo dough stuffed with naturally fat-free, sweet goat cheese that stretches with each forkful and melts in the mouth (Fabulous! Don’t miss it).

All Turkish food is best enjoyed with Turkish wine, Ali says, and the wine list at Ali Baba’s is both diverse and affordable. With half the wines hailing from Turkey and no bottle exceeding $63, it’s easy to indulge. There is also a fine selection by the glass and good Turkish beer.

Ali also points out that traditional Turkish meals can be extensive and often take several hours to consume—something he certainly doesn’t see as reason to complain. To aid in the lengthy process, he shares that many stimulate their appetite with Raki, a grape and anise liqueur that’s traditionally enjoyed diluted with water. Though at least three premium varieties of Raki are available at Ali Baba’s Terrace, a full cocktail menu (including the best $11 martini in town) ensures that anyone looking to “stimulate their appetite” will be pleased. Favorites like the Terrace Cosmo (Absolut Citron, Cointreau, Lime and Cranberry) or Nuts and Berries (Chambord and Frangelico) can also be enjoyed on Ali Baba’s namesake rooftop terrace, which seats 60 and boasts a glowing atmosphere with soft gold lighting that emits from the terrace lights and buildings nearby.

Downstairs, a clean, minimalist look offers terra cotta walls, hung with colorful pictures and an equally enjoyable atmosphere in which to enjoy some of New York’s best Turkish cuisine. A group of 4 or more offers the ideal way to pass and taste. Let one of the helpful staff members guide you and you are sure to be delighted at Ali Baba’s Terrace, which rates A Major on the Walman Report.

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Copyright 2009 by Punch In International. All Rights Reserved

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