|Brasserio Caviar & Banana|
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Mega-restaurateur Jeffrey Chodorow has done more than turn lemons into lemonade by fashioning Brasserie Caviar & Banana out of the figurative ashes of the Rocco's on 22nd space, he and co-owner/chef Claude Troisgros have created one of this year's most appealing (if pricey) restaurants. Who needs a 10-hour flight to Brazil when you can enjoy the best of this country's cuisine right in the heart of town?Review By: Brian Scott Lipton
Designers Rogerio Ribas and Monica Reis have slapped on some ocean blue paint and crafted banquettes with "rag confetti" upholstery to help create a resort-like ambience out of this former Italianate spot -- and it proves to be perfect for enjoying Troisgros' masterful cuisine, as well as tropical libations like a classic caipirihna. The restaurant's unusual name derives from the amuse-bouche that greets all patrons, a tin of tapioca caviar and a glass vase of plantain chips. While it's surprisingly good, you'll want to leave lots and lots of room for the goodies to come.
Order the delicious cheese bread at your own risk, since it is completely addictive. A quartet of tapas -- you can choose from about a dozen options including the excellent red onion with sugar cane or an unusual shrimp salad made with acai vinaigrette -- makes for an exceedingly light beginning. Of the 10 regular appetizers offered, I can unequivocally endorse the "Saint Jacques," a trio of perfectly prepared scallops surrounded by a wonderful quasi-chutney of cashews, raisins, ginger and red onion.
You might be tempted to skip the carioca bread pizzas – I was before our charming waitress insisted otherwise – but please reconsider. The Copacabana was tremendous: the crispy pizza bread (very similar to what the Alsatians use for tarte flambee) was topped with yummy beef tenderloin, mozzarella, arugula, mushrooms, and, to gild this delicious lily, white truffle oil. The pizzas are great for sharing, or making an ideal light supper.
The churrascos are the menu's other don't miss item! What arrives on your (too small) table is a platter with three large skewers: one with meat; one with grilled vegetables; and one with grilled tropical fruits. Based on my experience with the truly incredible duck breast – it arrived beautifully rare in a just-sweet-enough sugar cane-and-caramel coating – I want to go back and try them all: lobster, shrimp, tuna, steak, baby back ribs, lamb, chicken and veal. And next time, I'll suggest holding the quintet of dipping sauces, which were interesting but totally unnecessary.
Side dishes for the churrascos – or any other entrée, including a whole sea bass baked with a cheese cover or the classic stews known as moquecas – aren't de rigeur. But you might want to sample the fine green rice (which gets its color from spinach and broccoli) or the one-of-a-kind banana skins with bacon, a singular combination my frequent dining partner adored.
When it's time for dessert, Troisgros recommends his Crepe Passion, which ends up being a very tasty variation on a passion-fruit soufflé. But your eyes might well wander to the aptly-named Hot Chocolate, a gooey, soufflé-like confection given a definite kick by a dash of red pepper. It's hot, alright. And so is Brasserio Caviar & Banana
Neighborhood: Flatiron District
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