I'm leaving on a jet plane...
Before I go, a little inspiration for where to eat while I am away.
It’s midwinter break next week and Craig and I are taking our kids to Israel for a family vacation. (Yes we are divorced, and yes we travel together.) I’ve never been to Israel, but we were gifted a trip from Craig’s parents (thank you Marjorie and Roy!) after Eiji’s Simchat Mitzvah in last year, so we are going!
Naturally, I have gathered restaurant and shuk intel from many trusted sources (Adeena Sussman, Sari Kamin, Lior Lev Sercarz, and more), so I plan on eating well and sharing all my meals with you on the Strong Buzz when I return. (Follow me on Instagram if you can’t wait to read about it when I get back.)
In the meantime, here are some thoughts to tide you over until I return on March 1st!
Chef Marco Moriera has reopened 15 East at Toqueville after a fire last year. I had a chance to visit last week at the reopening bash and the place has been given a breathtaking new life, truly; I’d say the room is sumptuous. The walls are painted this rich dark plum, the color of dusk after the sun has set, a shade that makes you feel like you’re sitting in a cubby of suede. And you know the food is fabulous—Marco’s signature elegant French-Japanese mix, heavy on the uni, thank you very much. This is a place for a special night whether for dinner, or a really beautiful cocktail at the low-lit bar. Take someone you love, or think you might love one day.
Dawn and I had a fantastic dinner at the bar at Le Rock last week before we saw Tom Stoppard’s Leopoldstadt. (I have many thoughts on the play, which was powerful, but hard to follow, but even so, worth seeing.) But back to Le Rock, it’s flawless, so if you find yourself in midtown for a meeting, or heading to the theater, or really doing anything at all in the vicinity of Rockefeller Center, you must go.
As you probably know, Le Rock comes from Balthazar veterans and Frenchette owners Riad Nasr and Lee Hanson. The cooking, under executive chef Walker Stern, is just what you’d expect from a team with this pedigree, and exactly what you want while sipping a bracingly cold martini or a glass of very nice Aligote.
Le Rock is a room gilded in Old New York glamor with magnificent lighting (oh what a difference good lighting makes). You will feel lovely in this room, and you will want to stay, if just to bask in the glow of a perfect evening. But the food is also excellent. So you may have trouble figuring out how to depart. So don’t. Linger for a while. It’s the right place to do it, and the menu will feed you for hours from amuse and snacks (the uni toast should be ordered in doubles), the leeks vinaigrette, the roasted sunchokes with tahini and za’atar, and on and on. We barely touched the surface, because our curtain time was drawing near but we will be back.
If you haven’t been to Le Rock yet, go! When you do, be sure to start at the bar (or dine there) and say hi to Paul, the barman, who will take wonderful care of you, as will the wine director who tasted us on several bottles and was quite patient while we found just the right one. And of course, be sure to say hi to Joel Michel (formerly of Five Ninth) who is Director of Operations. Have fun!
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What else? Well, chef Greg Baxtrom is prolific these days, following up his Five Acres opening by adding yet another wonderful restaurant in his Prospect Heights empire (Patti Ann’s, Olmstead, Maison Yaki). This latest one is a seasonal, French bistro with white butcher paper on white tablecloths called Petite Patate. Named for Greg’s adorable dog, the restaurant is located in the old Maison Yaki space (which is moving) and features an easy to love menu that includes duck fat potatoes with racelette cheese (as good as the duck fat potatoes at Bar Bete, I will say), a Salad Lyonnaise — frisee with soft fried egg and warm bacon vinaigrette, crepes, a juicy burger au poive with four pepper sauce, a perfectly medium rare steak frites, and mile high profiteroles to finish you off.
Oh, I have one last spot to get on your radar. If you have’t had brunch (or any meal for that matter) at Leland Eating and Drinking House, you must. I know it’s also in Prospect Heights, but maybe a little eating crawl would be nice? The bar is terrific. I love Leland so much. The restaurant has this great welcoming vibe with beautiful cozy blankets and pillows tossed around just so. It feels so much like a home, you may feel as though you should have brought a hostess gift for Randi and Jeanette, the couple who own the restaurant. But it’s okay. You’re good. Just come in and enjoy.
The restaurant is named for Randi’s great-uncle Leland Chin who settled his family in Oregon in the 1930s. Leland’s Portland restaurant, Chin's Kitchen, became a neighborhood favorite. Randi and Jeanette have done the same at their sweet corner restaurant, where they’ve been serving a modern Brooklyn menu (Mediterranean with some Chinese tendencies in there) since opening during the pandemic.
Settle in at the bar with a glass of natural wine or a craft cocktail and snack on some of their housemade laffa topped with anchovy, Za’atar and parsley. Or come for dinner and tuck into a bowl of Chicken Jook Porridge with rice, egg, ginger, scallion, tamari soy and chili oil, a plate of roasted sweet potatoes with pine nuts, shallots, cilantro, dill and basil, a delicious whole fried fish with fresh fennel salad, and lots of Fresno chilis and cilantro, or their fantastic salt and citrus brined, 24-hour dry-aged half chicken with salsa verde.
Brunch is bonkers good, so maybe make that a weekend plan? If you can’t decide between the Sausage, Egg and Cheese Sandwich with pickled jalepenos and za’atar chips, the Pork Shank Hash with eggs, potatoes, and tomatillos, and the Babka French Toast, go with enough friends so you can order it all and share.
Also, be sure to have a few of their homemade breads: sourdough, focaccia, or one of their brunch signatures, the mini banana oat quinoa loaf (it’s gluten free, loves!), a jalapeno biscuit, a slice of their zucchini bread or a sourdough cinnamon bun, all of which they make from scratch daily. So good!
Okay that should keep you eating well until I return. Can’t wait to see you back here in March!
Wishing you a wonderful trip! We went in 2017 (first time for my husband). Stayed in Jerusalem, Eilat and Tel Aviv, plus three days in Jordan.
Not sure you'll get this email Andrea since I'm replying to your substack, but I'm such a huge fan of Israel. I love being there. Two restaurant that are 100% must-eat is seafood at Uri Buri in Akko and Balinjera, Ethiopian in Tel Aviv. The best. Make sure to get there! And have a wonderful trip.