An array of high profile, high investment nightspots have opened in New York City in recent months. Among them have been Siro’s, a fine dining restaurant and sports bar with investors including New York Yankee Mariano Rivera, plus Kevin Connelly and Kevin Dillon, both stars of the former HBO series Entourage. Also recently opened was Demi Monde, a cocktail lounge by alumni of the critically acclaimed bar Death & Co. that also offers a $130 tasting menu.
Those openings, on top of the $10 million face-lift pop star Jay-Z recently gave to his high-end sports bar, the 40/40 Club, seem to be indicators of a return to pre-recession opulence in New York City.
So is Noir, which opened this week.
A restaurant and lounge in the former space of Nikki Beach — a spot known more for house music and Mojitos than for anything of gastronomic note — Noir has higher culinary aspirations, and owner George Iordanou has brought on Michelin-starred FrenchJean-Yves Schillinger to develop a seasonally inspired, globally influenced menu.
Schillinger operates restaurant JYS in his hometown of Colmar, in the French region of Alsace. There he serves what he calls “la cuisine du monde,” or global cuisine, such as caramelized sweetbreads in carrot jus with lotus root and bok choi; skate with ginger confit, lemon grass foam and warm caper-olive vinaigrette; and his own version of a hamburger that's made with French beef and served with pommes soufflés.
He recently discussed Noir and his general approach to food with Nation’s Restaurant News.
What kind of food will you be preparing at Noir?
I don’t like it when chefs talk about food like it’s something extraordinary. That’s more the part of PR. There are two kinds of food: Good food and bad food. That’s it. Maybe three: very good food.
Can you tell me about the menu?
The basis is French. You cannot do 100-percent French here because the tastes here are not French. For example, we do duck liver with green apple. In France you can’t do that.
We have organicwith sesame seeds. We have rib-eye.
What is very well known in Alsace is tarte flambé. It’s like Alsatian pizza, with onions and sometimes bacon, but here we do one with tuna and wasabi and another with Kobe beef and Parmesan.
If it doesn’t have onion and bacon, what makes it a tarte flambé instead of pizza?
The real tarte flambé has onion, with or without bacon. But it also has a thin crust. You put half fromage blanc, half cream, and egg yolks on that. After you cook it, you put on the tuna, the tomato — whatever you want. It’s simple but very good.
That’s the best kind of food. If I said you have to eat in one restaurant every day for a year and you had a choice between La Grenouille [a traditional French restaurant in New York City] or elBulli [Ferrán Adria’s former temple to molecular gastronomy in Catalonia], you’d choose La Grenouille. And in a restaurant you want 50 to 60 percent [of your guests to be] people who come in every week. You can’t do molecular food so you can be on The New York Times front page one time. Two years later, you’re closed.
Noir is a very nice spot. They put a lot of money inside. I need a good staff in the dining room, a good staff in the kitchen, and I’ll come every six weeks. I’m not going to lie and say I’m going to be here every day.
Who’s going to be cooking there?
Kevin Garcia is the chef. He’s a good guy. Spanish name, but he’s from Alsace.
You first worked in New York in 1997. Has the American palate changed much since then?
The French think they are the best tasters in the world. They think you only eat burgers here, but in the United States your taste is very good. You travel a lot. Twenty years ago, New York and London were nothing for food. You had La Caravelle, Le Cirque, La Côte Basque, La Grenouille, that was it. Now you have so many things. What they do in Japan, what they do in the United States is fantastic.
It’s one reason I like to do restaurants here. I see interesting things and take them home. How do you think [Alain] Ducasse, [Joël] Robuchon, Jean-Georges [Vongerichten] do their own food? They’re traveling, they’re going to the United States, China, Japan, whatever. It’s good for the brain.
How about French tastes — have they changed?
French tastes have changed too. They have to, because if they don’t they won’t be the best anymore. You can’t always do beouf bourguignon and blanquette de veau.