Amid the various bars and clothing stores that populate Orchard Street in the Lower East Side sits Contra, the restaurant from chefs Fabian von Hauske and Jeremiah Stone.  With its unassuming façade, utilitarian interior design, and alt-rock blasting through its PA system, Contra can come off as being too hip and precious.  Without the small blue neon sign in the front, the restaurant may be mistaken for another chic and exclusive hangout for millenials which must be avoided at all costs.

However, do not let appearances fool you: there is much talent and ambition behind all that glitz.

It's a story as old as time: A budding culinary talent gets noticed, opens his own restaurant to wide acclaim, becomes famous, gets cookbook deals and TV shows, opens more and more restaurants, dilutes his brand as he spreads himself too thinly, quality suffers, chef becomes a shell of his former talented self.  It is a cautionary tale that very few chefs have paid heed to, and this seemed to be the fate awaiting Bobby Flay, whose talent seems to have been eclipsed by his popularity.

When I think of chef John Fraser, I imagine dishes whose perceived simplicity belie an intense adherence to detail.  Like a Seurat painting, each component alone may seem out of place, but taken together, produces a dish that is deeply flavorful, vibrantly hued, and beautifully plated.

Clockwise, from upper left: OG Momofuku Ssam; Country rib taco; Edwards ham and egg sandwich; Grilled chicken livers;

Mint julep cake truffles; Carolina shrimp and grits; Duck dumpling soup; and Smoked salmon buns

In an interview with the New York Times in 2009, Momofuku founder David Chang remarked how overrated brunch was: he had no patience for the lines and the crowds on a weekend.

Two weeks ago, it was announced that Ma Peche was abandoning its popular 10-course Kappo tasting menu for a dim sum-style dining experience featuring "passed plates" brought tableside by carts.  I have not been to Ma Peche in some time: my travels rarely take me above 42nd Street, and the departure of Tien Ho had soured my affections for the place.

A medley of Mission Cantina burritos, clockwise from upper left: lamb; carnitas, super vegetable; chicken; fried skate; and al pastor

Danny Bowien's burritos have developed a cult following among New York's foodies, ever since he unveiled them last year to promote the opening of Mission Cantina.  They proved to be so popular when he again offered them for take-out during this year's Super Bowl that he decided to make it a permanent item on the take-out menu shortly afterwards.

The dissolution of the professional relationship between chef Michael White and restaurateur Chris Cannon was one of the biggest controversies of 2010.  The circumstances behind the break-up are still shrouded in mystery, but it was clear both men had differing visions for the future of the AltaMarea Group: where Mr. White saw expansion and profit, Mr. Cannon emphasized caution and quality.  Mr.

Having conquered both downtown and midtown Manhattan (as well as Washington, D. C., London, Istanbul and Hong Kong), chef Michael White and the Altamarea Group next set their sights on the Upper East Side, opening Ristorante Morini during last year's holiday season.

One of the highlights of my trip to San Sebastian, Spain a few years back was visiting the numerous tapas or pintxos bars that populate the Parte Vieja.  Many a cool May afternoon was spent frequenting the bars, sampling the myriad of small plates and finger sandwiches featuring every type of meat and seafood imaginable.

It has been more than a year since I last had lunch at Momofuku Ko, and with the restaurant scheduled to relocate to Extra Place in the spring, I thought it would be a fitting send-off for the six year-old establishment to have one more lunch before the move.  As expected, the lunch menu was ambitious and, for the most part, well-executed.  Here is a rundown of the menu:

1) Blini made from moo shu pancake, topped with crème fraiche and American hackleback caviar.