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Comings & Goings: Port Sa’id, gourmet delivery kitchen, glory of Rome and…Chicken à la King

BY CAROLINE BENVENISTE | Typically, summer is a slow time for openings, but in July there were a fair number of new spots appearing around the neighborhood, some of them quite high-profile. We did not observe any closings this month for the first time in a while.

Top Openings:

Cecchi’s – 105 W. 13th St., near Sixth Avenue

Cecchi’s opened in the space that previously housed Café Loup. Throngs of people snagged reservations once they went live, which resulted in an instantly crowded and noisy spot. The owner, Michael Cecchi-Azzolina, author of the recently released “Your Table Is Ready: Tales of a New York City Maître D’” moved around the dining room, chatting with guests at all the tables. He described the restaurant as “an American Bistro” to Grub Street. But I found the menu a bit odd, with dishes all over the place in price and style. The steak in the Steak and Fries was cooked to perfection and the fries were great.The striped bass was also well-executed. But the vegetarian option, a nondescript eggplant preparation, was disappointing. Not surprisingly, the next time I stopped by, it had been replaced with a cauliflower dish. I found it a bit jarring that Chicken à la King was on the menu, but maybe that is only because I always think of Calvin Trillin making fun of Chicken à la King in his 1987 book “If You Can’t Say Something Nice,” where he writes: “There was a time — in the 1950s, say – when the whole country seemed to be awash in chicken à la king, but now the gluelike concoction is probably stored in huge silos.” The cocktail descriptions sounded lovely, but the drinks themselves were lackluster. Perhaps in time the restaurant will morph into something more akin to the neighborhood spot that Café Loup was, but for now I was reasonably happy with my visit but not in any rush to return.

Wonder has an eat-in area but is mainly geared toward delivery. (Photo by Caroline Benveniste)

Wonder – 128 W. 23rd St., between Sixth and Seventh Avenues

Wonder has opened its second NYC location, in Chelsea. This new style of food hall — they stress they are not a “ghost kitchen” — offers dishes from a number of restaurants, some established and some specially created for Wonder. The goal is to provide food quickly and deliver it, so that it is still hot, and to offer a varied selection, so that everyone in a group can find something appealing. The prep work is done in an off-site kitchen, and the food is cooked to order at each Wonder location. So that the food gets to its destination quickly, Wonder employs its own delivery people. I was impressed by some of the restaurants I saw featured: Barrio is a famous Phoenix Mexican spot I’ve been to, and I can’t wait to have guacamole with pomegranate arils again. The BBQ from Texan restaurant Tejas was excellent, and there was a good selection of Mediterranean dishes from Yasas, a “restaurant” by Michael Symon, a Food Network personality. Other options include pizza from Di Fara. The delivery zone for this location is irregularly shaped, but essentially extends from Second Avenue between 11th and 34th Streets, to West Street between 14th and 27th Streets.

Roscioli – 43 MacDougal St., at King Street

One of the great food pleasures in Rome is eating at a Roscioli venue. There are a few, including a bakery, a pizza restaurant and a salumeria that in the evening turns into a fancy restaurant. Now, Villagers will no longer have to travel to Rome for a Roscioli experience. The two-part eatery will have an alimertari on the ground floor which will open at the end of August. According to their preview e-mails, “This homage to our sister restaurant in Rome is based on one idea; great ingredients from the deli make for a great meal.” The more formal tasting menu-only space downstairs is already open, and some nights are reserved for ticketed wine events.

Eyal Shani. (Photo by Max Flatow)
Music is a central part of the Port Sa’id dining experience. DJ’s spin vinyl from the restaurant’s library and their private collections on an analog sound system. (Photo by Max Flatow)
Pastries at Qahwah House cafe. (Photo by Caroline Benveniste)

Also Open:


Port Sa’id, at 350 Hudson St. (between King and Charlton Streets), is another Eyal Shani Israeli restaurant. Miznon is the most casual of Shani’s restaurants, Shmoné/North Miznon are the most formal, and Port Sa’id falls somewhere in the middle. Shani first opened a Port Sa’id in Tel Aviv, and it’s a raucous affair. Like his other restaurants, the dishes have descriptive names that are almost poetic (“Juicy Lamb Kebab A Faint Memory from the Alleys of Jerusalem” and “Sac de Coq. Not What You Think but The Same Pleasure Made Out of Chicken”). The food is generally quite good with a few outstanding options. Another Middle Eastern addition to the neighborhood is Qahwah House (13 Carmine St.), a Yemeni cafe. The owner, Ibrahim Alhasbani, is from Yemen and imports coffee from his family’s coffee farm. The exotic coffee drinks and chai are very popular, and there is also a large selection of sweet and savory pastries, including a cheese sambosa, which is similar to a bourek. Another cafe, this one British, from London’s Chelsea neighborhood, has opened in the South Village. St. George Coffee occupies the large space at 74 Seventh Ave. South (near Barrow Street). The main attractions here are their house-baked pastries and sandwiches on homemade focaccia. Robert Sietsema from Eater NY included the mortadella and burrata sandwich on his list of 10 summer sandwiches. One Chinese restaurant has replaced another: Cauldron Chicken has opened at 190 Bleecker St. (near MacDougal Street). Its specialty is Daokou roast chicken, which is described as having “a history of over 300 years in China.” Early Yelp reviews are positive. Formerly, The Rice Noodle, which featured noodle dishes from Yunnan province, occupied the space. Crumbl, a chain of large cookies that seems to be popping up everywhere around the country, has opened a location at 195 Bleecker St. (near MacDougal Street). While some love the cookies and follow eagerly to find out about new flavors, others find them too sweet and not particularly good. The strangely named Goody Fresh Dim Sum (513 Sixth Ave., between 13th and 14th Streets) closed for renovations, and recently reopened as Long Island Dumplings and Dim Sum. The new spot has a smaller menu and a kiosk for ordering. While there are a few tables inside, the food is packaged to-go. Bagel Rx replaces the Subway at 162 W. 13th Street (corner of Seventh Avenue).

Cookies at St. George. (Photo by Caroline Benveniste)
Cauldron Chicken features Daokou roast chicken, which is boiled for three hours so that the meat falls off the bone when you eat it. (Photo by Caroline Benveniste)
Noodles at Long Island Dumpling House. (Photo by Caroline Benveniste)


2nd STREET USA, a secondhand store with 700 locations in Japan, has been expanding in the U.S.A. They recently opened their latest storefront at 110 University Place (between 12th and 13th Streets). A hair salon called Shampoo Avenue B / West Village has opened at 10 Downing St. (at Sixth Avenue) where Clover Cafe used to be. The original location opened in the East Village in 2006 and they feature a four-tier pricing system.

Coming Soon:

Glaze Teriyaki (108 University Place) will be joining Panera and soon-to-come Serafina Express on University Place, creating a little strip of fast-casual chains. The new building on the northwest corner of 14th Street and Sixth Avenue has signage for Oases Food & Drink. The doorman there told me that it would be two venues, one a cafe and one a bar. Astrid & Miyu, a jewelry store, is opening soon at 372 Bleecker St. Buck Mason Women’s is opening at 372 Bleecker St. (between Charles and Perry Streets) sometime this summer. Andie’s Eats, a bakery that sells cake scraps with filling and icing in a Mason jar should be opening on Aug. 25 in the spot recently vacated by Brooklyn Kolache (185 Bleecker St. near MacDougal Street).


For the rest of the summer, Loring Place continues its Washington Square pop-up on Mondays, where a slice of grandma pizza and a drink are offered for $15. Each week a different New York brewery, winery or distillery is featured. Upcoming collaborations are Root + Branch Brewing on Aug. 14, Curious Elixirs (NA Cocktails) on Aug. 21, and Return Brewing Co. on Aug. 28. Many restaurants in the neighborhood are participating in Summer Restaurant Week. One of the best options is One Fifth (1 Fifth Ave. at Eighth Street), which is offering a three-course dinner nightly (except Saturday) for $45, and a two-course Sunday brunch for $30.

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