Taking a Rest From Resto
Not that long ago, a new restaurant opening in New York City meant that investors had funded a seven figure installation as well as huge overhead for staffing the kitchen and the front of the house. But over the last few years, many young chefs and entrepreneurs have shunned large capital investments and instead have been opening smaller restaurants featuring cuisines that are based on top quality market ingredients combined with highly competent cooking. Restaurants like Prune, Tia Pol, Spotted Pig and Degustation are a few that come to mind, where the chef is talented enough to be running a kitchen that turns out 200 or more dinners a night, but who have chosen to work in a setting that is not much more than a bar or pub serving between 50-100 covers a night.
One of the best restaurants to open in the genre was Resto, which is sort of half bar/half restaurant, and which resides in the middle of E. 29th St, equi-distant from Park Avenue South and Curry Hill. Resto's chef is Ryan Skeen, who for some reason that has never been properly explained, decided to showcase his talent through the prism of Belgian cuisine. But for many of us who are familiar with the restaurant, the Belgian theme is almost an affect and the real draw at Resto is the superb ingredients that Skeen sources from various producers in the Northeast. For example, I have no hesitation to say that his 28-day aged Cote de Boeuf from Four Story Hill Farms is among the five best steaks one can get in New York City. That he serves it with a nice, bitter greeens, and some very good double cooked fries with mayonaisse (otherwise known as Belgian style,) only adds to the gustatory pleasure.