My Favorite Fall Dishes So Far: Late Night Noodles, Charcoal Thai Beef, More Au Poivre!
Cafe Chelsea, Bangkok Supper Club, Jazba, Llama San, and Cote make my early list of top autumn dishes
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The Slow Return of Late Night Dining
I dropped by Cafe Chelsea last Thursday to test drive the mushroom au poivre, and let me just get this out of the way: You should absolutely try it. A manicured bouquet of charred maitakes sit atop a pool of beige peppercorn cream. Throw in a side of fries and a Monkey 47 martini and honestly you’re set for the evening.
But before I dive too deep into how it tastes, let me just paint a picture of what’s happening around me — well after 10:00 p.m. — at this energetic late-night haunt.
Bartenders pour complimentary flutes of Terre de Solemme Champagne for a patient couple; the dining room is running behind. Right on. The host tells another party that she’ll drop a few hints to a table that’s lingering after the check was dropped. Merci. And still another party gives up on the dining room to eat raw bluefin tuna at the bar. Smart move.
Folks show up wearing turtlenecks under blazers, corduroy suits, faux fur trims, Beccacore berets, fancy watches with distracting complications, and in one case, a Garmin-style heart rate monitor peeking out from underneath a gray blazer. Folks do not show up in tech bro vests. This isn’t that type of place.
And at 11:15 p.m., a guy in a Yankees cap apologizes to the host for running a few minutes late. The restaurant is still about 80 percent full, at least. Honestly, what a f&cking relief to know that a 10:00 p.m. dinner is slowly becoming a prime-time booking again — in our city that sleeps too much.
Work-from-home policies, restaurant staffing shortages, and other pandemic realities have contributed to 6:00 p.m. becoming the new 8:00 p.m. for certain venues, per a Rachel Sugar T Magazine story from last year. But it’s a joy to learn that a small but growing cadre of restaurants are testing out a return to the vital after-hours scene.
One could even argue that 10:00 p.m. is early for some of these hangouts.
When I checked out Simon Kim’s Cote for the new late night menu last week, the room still crackled with energy around 12:30 a.m. And then there’s Bangkok Supper Club; if you don’t want to go the walk-in route there, your best bet is booking a last minute 11:30 p.m. table. Even the bartender at Cafe Chelsea suggested I was lucky to sit down when I did, adding that it can be “crazy until midnight.” This is the New York that I miss.
So enjoy this list of my favorite fall dishes, so far. And if you can, try dining out a bit later to help our city get its groove back. A 5:45 p.m. reservation really is just a late lunch.
Behind the paywall:
The maitake au poivre at Cafe Chelsea
The charcoal beef tongue and gai yang at Bangkok Supper Club
The brisket noodles at Cote
The wagyu tonnato carpaccio at Llama San
The dabeli at Jazba
The maitake au poivre at Cafe Chelsea
One of the issues I had with those cauliflower and mushroom steaks of the 2010s isn’t that they didn’t do enough to merit their classification as a steak. That’s not to say a brassica should have to taste like beef or lamb to be delicious, but those preparations, at times, felt too much like a large vegetable on a plate.
They didn’t rise to the level of a proper indulgence. So, not a steak.
Chef Derek Boccagno doesn’t fall into that trap. He prepares his dish in such a way that it evokes a good mushroom (which it is) as much as a filet au poivre (which it is not).