Saturday, January 24, 2009

Zagat Survey Buzz, January 18, 2008 - "City-Suburban SmackDown!"

By Erik Badia

Suburbanites might have the big backyards, but city dwellers get all the big-deal restaurants, right? While Levittown and the like aren't about to overtake Gotham's dining scene any time soon, a spate of new suburban hot spots suggest that commuters have a lot more to go home to than open space these days.
 
Last month, Laurent Tourondel's BLT Steak opened an urbane outpost in Westchester's brand-new White Plains Ritz-Carlton (221 Main St., White Plains; 914-467-5500). The luxe hotel is also home to 42, a swank New American eatery that reportedly cost close to $20 million to build and features, according to a press release, "all the bells and whistles usually associated with a New York City restaurant opening" (One Renaissance Sq., White Plains; 914-761-4242). Even Nobu seems to be doing some suburban house-hunting, debuting a seasonal "pop-up" eatery in East Hampton last summer that drew the usual cast of celebs.
Of course, outposts of city staples like Peter Luger and Il Mulino have been serving their signature dishes to suburbanites for years now. Which begs the question: Are these sibs more than mere copycats? The Buzz took a look at a handful of popular NYC restaurants and their country cousins to see how they measure up.

Bistro Cassis

This popular French Bistro debuted in Long Island's Huntington Village in 2001 where its no-reservations policy soon resulted in long weekend waits for tables. In 2004, Bistro Cassis reverse-migrated into the city, opening a branch on Manhattan's Upper West Side.
Survey Says: Taking on the New York dining scene is a gutsy move, and while it appears to have paid off (surveyors report long waits at the Columbus Avenue locale), ratings suggest that Gotham foodies feel there’s some room for improvement, especially in the service.

Blue Hill

In 2004, Dan Barber took Blue Hill's fresh, organic New American fare to new heights by partnering with David Rockefeller to open Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Westchester's Pocantico Hills. Set on a working organic farm, it features a choice of seasonal three-, four- and seven-course menus – the latter fittingly dubbed the "Farmer's Feast."
Survey Says: While the original has a cult foodie following, it's hard to beat the suburban spin-off's beautiful bucolic setting. And since it's situated on a farm, the food couldn't be any fresher.

Il Mulino

Nestled in the heart of Greenwich Village, this longtime Italian favorite is known for its top-notch cooking, white-glove service and tough-to-score tables. Its sister restaurant, located on busy Northern Boulevard in Roslyn, Long Island, opened in 2004.
Survey Says: This one's a tough call. The same signature dishes Рfresh Dover sole meuni̬re, rack of lamb with Dijon mustard glaze and double cut veal chop with sage and garlic Рcan be had at either location, with the Roslyn outpost boasting Sunday service, as well as later weekend dining hours. But no matter which one you choose, you'll still have to book prime weekend tables at least two weeks in advance.

Peter Luger

This classic New York chophouse opened for business at the base of the Williamsburg Bridge in 1887 – and has yet to be dethroned as Zagat's number-one rated steakhouse. Its Great Neck spin-off, meanwhile, features different decor and a more varied and extensive menu (think chicken and lobster) – though everyone still comes for the porterhouse.
Survey Says: Having been open for close to 50 years, the Long Island location is a classic in its own right, and its popularity is reflected in its long reservation waits, which require several weeks notice for prime weekend tables.

Sfoglia

Opened on the serene isle of Nantucket in 2000, this Italian trattoria features rustic, homestyle fare crafted from local ingredients, including fresh North Atlantic seafood. The NYC outpost, which debuted in 2006, also showcases an intensely seasonal menu, mostly sourced from the Greenmarket.
Survey Says: The tiny Upper East Side outpost has been a hit since Day One – no wonder scoring a seat is such a competitive sport. For more elbow room, the original can't be beat.