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Fork & The Road // Restaurants Worth Waiting For

Trois Mec

Trois Mec

For many diners, visiting a new restaurant before The New York Times review, the Beard nomination or your coworker, for that matter, has become a blood sport. I’d love to say I’m above it all. I’m not. I love pursuing the next big thing because I take pleasure in seeing what a nimble mind can create utilizing the same ingredients we all cook with in our daily lives. But for me, opening week isn’t important. I like places that are open long enough to work out the kinks, such as these new gems:

Trois Mec, a 24-seater in Hollywood, functions as a ticketed dinner space courtesy of superchefs Ludo Lefebvre, Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook. Go online, purchase your dining ticket, then get treated to an all-star meal. I had the stunning salt-roasted French varietal potatoes, crushed to order, drizzled with brown butter and snuggled next to an aged rib eye. LA’s Connie & Ted’s is named after chef Michael Cimarusti’s grandparents, and I can’t say enough good things about the raw bar loaded with oysters, live sea urchin and spot prawns. His grandmother’s clam cakes and chowda transport me across the country; the lobster rolls taste like my childhood in Long Island.

Farther up the West Coast, you’ll find Andy Ricker’s latest Portland concept, Sen Yai Noodles. It has killer lunch and dinner service, but I love that it does noodles for breakfast! Its take on jok, a rice porridge in pork broth, served with fish, ginger, radish and fried rice noodles, is about as close as you can get to Thai street food without a plane ticket.

Keeping up with hot restaurants in NYC is like keeping up with the Kardashians. I have to get to Estela, The Elm and Betony, but for a full month it seemed I couldn’t look at my Instagram feed without seeing everyone’s dinner from Carbone, Mario Carbone’s modern homage to the Italian-American restaurants of the mid-20th century. Antipasti includes a prosciutto and melon dish I fell in love with as a kid, a killer Caprese salad, rib-sticking pasta dishes such as spicy rigatoni in vodka sauce, plus a veal Parmesan that would impress even the most discerning Italian grandpa. Alder, Wylie Dufresne’s latest concept, sticks to a more rustic aesthetic than his heralded modernist restaurant wd~50. At Alder, go for house-made rye pasta with pastrami or the pigs in a blanket, made with Chinese sausage, Japanese mustard and sweet chili sauce.

A New York restaurant roundup isn’t complete without mentioning Lafayette, the latest from Andrew Carmellini. It specializes in simple but sophisticated brasserie classics from Provence, Lyon and the Mediterranean coast. Carmellini also has Locanda Verde and The Dutch continuing to pack in diners years after opening. According to Carmellini, the key to turning a hot new restaurant into one that has staying power depends on how you treat your clientele. “You can never take any customer for granted,” he says. “It’s easy to be busy in year one. But I’d rather be hot the second year, as we are always a much better restaurant.” That’s great news for those of us who prefer to wait it out until the early adopters have moved on to the next great place—they may have eaten there first, but we get the more polished experience. //

For more of Zimmern's favorites, check out Delta's Taking Off blog.

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