New exciting dining spots, events in New York, Las Vegas

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on April 8, 2019.

Chef Shani will bring the party to New York.

Chef Shani.

Rosé every day at The Poni Room.

Japanese-style room dividers decorate the subterranean space.

Pizza in several guises on offer at BigA.

Flay is back in action at Shark in Las Vegas.

Zagat 2020 New York City Restaurants Guide will come out in November to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the guide.

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New York; opening on April 12

Eyal Shani is one of Israel’s top chefs and the judge of MasterChef Israel. But he is best known for the raucous wedding-party-style dinners he hosts at his Tel Aviv restaurant HaSalon, which happen two nights a week (with two seatings per night). The first seating is traditional: a parade of ingredient-focused dishes served as classical music plays in the background. At the second seating, the music gets increasingly louder, a DJ appears, and the menu slides into the realm of performance art. “The first seating is dinner. The second seating is a party,” said Shani.

Now he is bringing the singular experience to New York’s Skyline Hotel, which will open three nights a week, Thursday through Saturday. A line of eight cooks working from an open kitchen will face the large, low-ceilinged dining room, with white and silvery grey bricks, and outfitted with variously sized tables seating around 120.

The menu will change nightly, but a typical dinner will begin with squares of hot focaccia and spicy dip. There will inevitably be beef carpaccio literally served on the table: A server wheels a butcher cart over, throws some sliced raw meat on the table, and uses a mallet to pound it thin.

Shani has well-known affinity for tomatoes, choosing to serve them “naked” in his new restaurant: the fruit in varying stages of ripeness, chopped and drizzled with Sicilian olive oil and salt. He also offers pizzas, made with dough that ripples with big air pockets with toppings like an olive oil-heavy tomato sauce with mozzarella melted into it. He will also serve pastas that may range from squiggly shaped pici with calamari and burnt butter (or lamb ragu) to tomato ravioli with sage butter. The restaurant’s tabun — a special, pizza-like oven — will be utilised for roasting whole fish and large cuts of meat such as rib-eye and sirloin, which will be drizzled with butter and herbs before serving.

The wine list will include about 60 bottles, mostly from Burgundy, plus some selections from the US, Israel, and Italy. A small selection of liquors, such as cucumber gin, will be on offer, along with a few food-friendly cocktails. But anyone who wants a Manhattan or Negroni will have to go next door, to the soon-to-open cocktail bar.

Shani said table dancing is to be expected as the night goes on. “Sometimes it’s weird — mostly it’s fun — but everyone says they’ve never had an experience like it,” he said.


The Poni Room
New York; opened last Tuesday

• For everyone who knows rosé season is year-round, the new dining room below the destination bar Saxon + Parole (S+P) has arrived. The design group AvroKO (Beauty & Essex; SingleThread) created the space from S+P’s former wine cellar. It seats 36 guests at a mix of high tables and banquettes. The walls are decorated with classic-style, Japanese-fabric room dividers made from coral fabric and velvet, plus flags made from deconstructed antique horse blankets. The adjoining “beverage room” is stocked with rosé, for customers who want to see and Instagram the wine they are about to drink.    

• Chefs Brad Farmerie and Nicole Gajadhar are featuring a seafood menu that highlights small plates. There are uni-topped English muffins, barbecued oysters with shrimp-chili paste, and lobster with pickled mango and lettuce leaves for wrapping. Skewers such as seared tuna are accompanied by green-tea noodles, and prawns with Thai chile dipping sauce. Non-seafood fare includes Forever Crispy Wings with blue cheese aioli.

• To drink: a selection of 20 different rosés from around the world, by the bottle, pitcher, or on tap. The handful of cocktails include the Poni 50/50 (gin, vermouth, cucumber bitters) and a rotating boozy slushie. The all-purpose list also has red and sparkling wines, soju, sake, and beer.


BigA Pizza
New York; opened last Wednesday

• BigA is touting a “healthy” version of the beloved pizza.

• Chef Giovanni Barbieri, who honed his skills at the Università della Pizza in Padua, Italy, creates a crispy, light crust. The secret is “biga”, a 19th-century fermentation process that makes the dough airy and moist inside.

• Toppings range from classic Margherita to the Gorda (hand-crushed tomato sauce, fior di latte cheese, spicy salami, gorgonzola, shaved leeks) and the Veneta (tomato sauce, fior di latte, spicy salami, Italian ham, mushrooms). There is a fast-casual-style selection of base crusts, including a multigrain round pie, a long, rectangular slab that can serve 20, and a panini-style bread.

• Barbieri offers a few non-pizza small plates, including assorted salumi, and salads, such as sfiziosa with tuna and hard-boiled eggs.

• For now, it is necessary to bring your own alcohol. The restaurant expects to receive a beer-and-wine licence in the coming weeks.

• The place seats 48, including 10 at the bar. The corner space has big windows overlooking the street and an open kitchen with the vibe of an old school pizza joint.


In the news
• Shark in Las Vegas: Bobby Flay is opening his first new concept in five years as part of the Palms Casino Resort’s US$690 million (RM2.82 billion) renovation. The restaurant is named for Damian Hirst’ famous Shark which sits in the Palms’ lobby bar. “Latin flavours have been the backbone of my entire cooking career,” said Flay. His seafood-heavy menu features those flavours with such dishes as cured salmon and egg tostadas with rocoto hot sauce and black bean butter; a skewered taco cooked on a robata grill; and salmon sashimi with hot smoked chili dressing, made by a former Masa sushi chef who has joined the team.

• The return of Zagat: “From the moment we took control of the brand, we were interested in bringing Zagat back to print in some shape or form. We started hearing from Zagat’s most loyal fans from day one. It feels good to have an answer for people,” said Chris Stang, co-founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of online restaurant guide Infatuation, who bought Zagat in 2018. Zagat 2020 New York City Restaurants Guide will come out in November to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the guide. It is the first print edition since 2016, and will be open to comments until May 5 at

• The Lincoln Center Alternative Investment Gala: Created to support the performing arts in New York, such as Jazz at Lincoln Center and the Metropolitan Opera, Honoree Ilana D  Weinstein, founder and CEO of the IDW Group LLC, and gala chairs Steven A Cohen of Point72 Asset Management, Bennett J Goodman of GSO Capital Partners, Anna Nikolayevsky of Axel Capital Management, and Steven A Tananbaum of Goldentree Asset Management LP all plan to be in attendance on Wednesday.

• Bronx Museum Gala and Art Auction 2019: Swiss Beatz, TK Wonder, and Larry Ossei-Mensah are headlining the dinner and art auction today to support art, social justice, and education. Honourees include Junko Kobayashi of the Stan Lee Foundation; gala chairs include ex-Millennium Partners managing director Olivia Douglas.

• Edible Schoolyard NYC’s 7th Annual Spring Benefit: Some of the country’s top chefs are gathering on April 15 to raise money for the programme that partners with the New York City public school system to teach children about food. Jake Gyllenhaal is the honorary co-chair; Momofuku’s David Chang is the culinary chair. — Bloomberg