At first glance, Little Park does not seem like your typical New York restaurant: with its subdued atmosphere, its rustic feel and emphasis on organic material to create its furnishings and accessories; and the emphasis on locally sourced produce in its menu, the restaurant seems more suited for the West Coast than in Tribeca.  However, with its happening bar scene and excellent cocktails (thanks to mixologist Anne Robinson), as well as its clientele, dominated by Wall Street types and local celebrities, Little Park feels more like a New York outpost of a successful establishment in San Francisco.  It is an oasis from the daily Sturm und Drang of city life.

For me, any trip to Chicago includes stops at my favorite restaurants, which include Next, Schwa, Alinea and, recently, Grace.   However, I always try to make room for at least one new restaurant during each visit, and for my recent vacation at the Windy City, I chose Formento's, the newest venture from the group behind popular Chicago restaurants Bristol and Balena.

Imagine yourself strolling along the Mediterranean coast, the sun kissing your cheeks and the sea breeze refreshing you.  You chance upon this cozy little restaurant along the shore: gaudy and noisy, with Italian and French covers of American pop songs blaring in the background, and the wait staff resemble fashionable pool boys, it comes off as a bit tacky.  The food itself is not particularly interesting: all-time favorites done okay.

When the original Mission Chinese Food on Orchard Street was closed in October 2013 by the Department of Health, it left chef Danny Bowien in a deep funk, as critics and haters took him to task.  The restaurant's numerous devotees were lost and despondent, and even Mission Cantina, which had just opened weeks before, did little to cheer them up.

It has become a tradition of mine to spend Super Bowl Sunday at Momofuku Ko: regardless of who is playing, I prefer the pleasure of eating good friend with good friends to the hoopla and cacophony that accompany the game.  This Sunday had a greater significance, being the first Super Bowl Sunday at the new digs at Extra Place, and despite the inclement weather, I braved the cold to have dinner at Momofuku Ko.
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The opening of Cosme, chef Enrique Olvera's first restaurant outside of Mexico, signaled a renaissance in Mexican cuisine not only in the United States but in New York City as well, where Mexican food has earned a reputation for being inferior compared to the rest of the nation.  Chefs and food critics sang praises of Mr. Olvera's unique interpretation of Mexican food, but the reception for Cosme by foodies has been surprisingly muted.

Chefs Owen Clark, Philip Krajeck and Matthew Rudofker preparing dessert during the Momofuku Ssam Bar Late Night Dinner Series

For the lastest incarnation of the Late Night Dinner Series, Momofuku Ssam Bar has continued its travels down South and invited Nashville-based Rolf and Daughters to grace its kitchens last night.
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A large wooden door dominates the otherwise nondescript façade.  Inside, a sleek wraparound counter sits prominently in the center of the narrow dining space, while a brick wall abuts the counter.  The interior is minimally adorned, allowing the diner's focus to concentrate the chefs preparing the food behind the counter.  Just out of sight, another chef prepares the warm dishes, while a portly, tall and bearded gentleman prepared cocktails for the diners.

After a few unsuccessful attempts, I was finally able to get a seat at the uber-popular Sushi Nakazawa last week; the restaurant partnered with Dassai Sake that evening for a special omakase dinner, and I was fortunate enough to get a reservation.  Since the restaurant opened last summer, it has been the hottest ticket in town, and the reviews it has received have been nothing less than glowing (Michelin’s snob notwithstanding).

The thing I admire most about Danny Bowien is his willingness to take risks, to move beyond expectations and to surprise.  His ingenious and playful interpretations of Chinese cuisine at Mission Chinese Food were well-received on both coasts.  Seeking new worlds to conquer, he took on Mexican food with Mission Cantina, to similar acclaim.  Now, by offering breakfast at Mission Cantina, he has taken on a new challenge: Vietnamese cuisine.
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