Red Dot: Tao Group goes Italian at New York’s Moxy Hotel

Plus other restaurant openings and news from around Manhattan and the boroughs

By KATE KRADER 

Breaking news from Bloomberg: For the past few years a newsletter dedicated to dining out at new spots, called Red Dot Restaurants, has been circulating. Now, it’s time to share it out. Each week our New York and London offices will highlight new places most worthy of seeking out, as well as food, people and events that have made the news. Here we go.

Feroce (Chelsea; March 8)

Tao Group made its name in the restaurant world by offering cavernous, gleaming palaces with loud music and very decent miso-glazed sea bass satay. You could eat within sight of a giant Buddha in cities like New York, Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

The group is almost as well-known for its Lavo restaurants, featuring southern Italian specialities — including the signature 1lb meatball — and nightclubs, such as the long-running New York staples Avenue and Marquee. At Tao’s newest restaurant, Feroce, in the Moxy Chelsea hotel, the group is again doing Italian, but in a dramatically different way.

For the first time, Tao has tapped a name restaurateur for a project. Francesco Panella has Antica Pesa restaurants in Rome as well as Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighbourhood, which has attracted fans including Bono, Leonardo DiCaprio, and New York Senator Chuck Schumer. “After opening 10 restaurants in the last 10 years in New York alone, we felt it was time to do something different and to step outside our wheelhouse,” says Noah Tepperberg, Tao Group’s co-founder.

Tao downtown has 300 seats and brings in more than 1,000 customers a night

Unlike the vast spaces Tao Group typically populates — nearby Tao Downtown has 300 seats and brings in more than 1,000 customers a night — Feroce seats 132 in a much more toned-down setting. The room, designed by David Rockwell, has booths that evoke vintage Ferraris, with dark green leather and golden velvet stripes, plus a vintage L’Ammazzasette sign featuring a wall-size green bottle of the amaro.

Panella’s pan-Italian menu features starters such as fried dough, gnocco fritto with the cured meat of the moment — mortadella — as well as a tower of fried eggplant layered with mozzarella and tomato. The pasta section includes bucatino alla’Amatriciana and less conventional casarecce alla Luciana, featuring twisted pasta tubes, tossed with octopus, cherry tomatoes, olives and caper leaves.

 

The dish that built an empire: Miso-glazed sea bass satay (Source: TAO Downtown)

Panella highlights an ancient Sicilian recipe as a main course: Grilled swordfish with roasted tomatoes and eggplant, served from a jar at the table. There’s also a mammoth, dry-aged 32oz T-bone with red wine sauce for the table, for US$130 (RM531.70). A roving sgroppino cart dispatches a mix of lemon sorbet, prosecco and vodka from a chilled bowl. Another cart will offer a wide selection of grappas and amaros.

Upstairs, Panella operates Bar Feroce, which has the scent of pizza because there’s an oven in the corner that turns out crispy Roman-style pies like the “rustica”, topped with mozzarella, potatoes and chunks of sausage, for around US$16. Like all Moxy properties, the space promotes games; here there’s a bocce court and a set of rules that include the stipulation that the loser buys the next round.

Fronting Feroce is an all-day cafe that starts with Italian pastries and golf-ball-size doughnuts that are fried to order. Later in the day, the menu transitions to cornetto sandwiches filled with prosciutto, as well as the greatest hits of Italian cocktails, namely riffs on spritzes and Negronis.

Private dining room: Seats 16

Hours: Restaurant, nightly from 5pm; Bar Feroce, from 11am daily

Location: 105 W 28th St; 212 888-1092;

@ferocenyc

Au Cheval (Tribeca; opened March 6)

The first New York outpost of the Chicago joint, famed for sticking a steak knife in its burgers, has finally opened. Waits of three hours were reported on the first nights. (Owner Brendan Sodikoff told New York magazine that people shouldn’t be surprised because there aren’t a lot of late-night options in the area, and advised diners to “bring a book or something”.)

Sodikoff already has a presence in New York — he’s the guy behind the clubby 4 Charles Prime Rib in the West Village; he also serves burgers at the RH Rooftop Restaurant in the Meatpacking District, in the former Pastis space.

First and foremost, the Au Cheval burger (Source: Au Cheval)

First and foremost on the Au Cheval menu: The burger, available as a single or double cheeseburger comprising juicy charred patties with the option of bacon and a fried egg. The peppered bacon, available as a side, is almost as famous as the burger.

Less notorious items include dinosaur-size marrow bones with beef cheek marmalade; fried chicken with honey, chile and sesame seeds; and foie gras with scrambled eggs and toast. A 32oz pork steak with foie gras and roasted apples is US$50 and available in limited quantities. (Sodikoff says the pro move is to chase the burger with the pork porterhouse. Not for the faint of heart.) Vegans will find a few options, namely green salad with pickled shallots and bread and butter pickles.

The classic-focused cocktail list offers Negronis, bloody marys with the option of a beer back, Manhattans, and old-fashioned-plus modern concoctions like pink vodka lemonade (vodka, Lillet rosé, Aperol, lemon) — that go for around US$16. Pickleback shots are US$8.

The brick-walled space has a series of leather banquettes and chandelier-style lights; it seats 85.

Hours: Daily, 10am to 3pm, and from 5pm.

Location: 33 Cortland Alley at Walker St;

@auchevaldiner Bloomberg