An Early Taste of All'Onda, Which Opened Monday in the Village
Fierce buzz preceded the entrance of All'Onda (22 East 13th Street, 212-231-2236), a new restaurant near Union Square from chef Chris Jaeckle and restauranteur Chris Cannon.
As the story goes, Jaeckle and Cannon crossed paths years back when Jaeckle was the incoming chef at Ai Fiori and Cannon was the outgoing restaurateur at Altamarea Group. They re-connected on LinkedIn and met for lunch, bonded over their shared history with and departure from Altamarea, and when Jaeckle started planning a new project, he brought Cannon on board as a consultant.
Early rumors said it would be Italian. Then a risotto-forward restaurant with an emphasis on sparkling wines. Eventually, the pair settled on Northern Italian with Japanese undertones (don't call it fusion!), which Cannon sees as a natural outgrowth of Jaeckle's earlier time at Morimoto.
Cannon says he encouraged Jaeckle to bring Japanese emphasis on technique and plating to the Italian table, which was a struggle at first: "For awhile," Cannon says, "[Jaeckle] was really afraid, like, 'Oh no, they're going to call it fusion.' And I was like 'Don't worry about that...If the [resulting] food tastes Italian and feels Italian and you've used a couple Japanese products or techniques to make it more interesting and flavorful, that's great, don't worry about it.'"
Cannon, who has spent the last thirty years serving critically-acclaimed Italian food, says strict adherence to "authentic Italian" limits chefs and food alike: "If you deviated even slightly, everyone was like 'Oh my god, you can't do that,' so no one [has been] willing to mess around with [Italian food], and that's ridiculous."
Other cuisines, Cannon says, aren't boxed in by the same traditions: "If you go to eat at Le Bernadin or Jean Georges, three quarters of the menu is from South America or Asia. It was fine for a French chef to do that, but as soon as you get to the Italian vernacular, it's like, "That's not Italian -- you can't do that."
We had a nice, long chat with Cannon, so check back for a longer interview in the next few days, but to whet your palate, we swung by opening night to see what all the fuss is about.
On the ground floor is a sleek entry hall, an airy space with clean, modern design. This is a room made for drinking before dinner, a bar room with high tables and the kitchen at back. One imagines meeting friends for snacks and some pre-dinner sparklers before heading upstairs for a proper dinner in the dining room.
Upstairs, a long row of booths hug the wall, leading to a floor-to-ceiling window at the front of the room, which overlooks the NYU-driven bustle of 13th Street. From a story up, it's not fishbowly at all. Long, chestnut-colored posts reach to the ceiling, harkening back to old-world wall-studs you'd expect in an Italian cottage but at clean, contemporary angles; there's also plenty of whitewashed exposed brick. At the back of the room, there's a banquette and more tables, which could be used for semi-private functions.
Dinner is properly Italian at the outset. Waiters deliver a bowl of fine, crusty bread and a pot of spicy, northern Italian olive oil.
The wine list is sparkler-heavy; Cannon's list keeps to the Northern Italian theme, but you'll find lots of esoteric, uncommon wines, and unless you're a sommelier or a serious enthusiast, you probably won't recognize most of them. Cannon has them clearly mapped out, and the list, an approachable 150 bottles, describes each wine in detail. Most of them ring in at under $60 per bottle, and Cannon says that's because they're too obscure to garner much demand. To us, that's super exciting and fun.
We opted for a dry, non-vintage Villa di Corlo Lambrusco ($13), from Emiligia-Romana. It was a quiet, dark red sparkler with lots of blackberry and rhubarb, that was light enough to work with most of the dishes we tried, all of which arrived on gorgeous Japanese earthenware, beautiful complements to Jaeckle's pretty but unfussy plates.
Pumpkin soup ($10) is but a bowl with nibbles of pacific prawn and bits of herb and the cooked squash, until a waiter pours in the savory, bright orange soup from a tiny teapot.
You'll find fish spread across the menu, which is organized into bites, small plates, pastas, mains, and sides. In the bites section, look for monkfish liver crostino ($9) or a musky, jet-black squid ink arancini ($9) with slivers of uni.
Other small dishes include razor clams ($11) with sopressata; scallops ($17) with cauliflower, anchovy, and olive; and sweetbreads ($16) with celeriac and bonito.
Jaeckle is putting out some enviable pastas, which include pappardelle ($18) with duck ragout and a black risotto ($17) with radicchio. And airy, ricotta-stuffed tortellini ($15) bob in a bowl of parmesan dashi. Everything about the dish is clean, delicate, crystal clear, and balanced.
But the menu does strive to cover its bases. We tried the steak ($29) for good measure, and served in thin, red slices with tiny fingerlings and seared mustard greens, it's a fine cut of meat and a safe bet if your date (like mine) is intimidated by more challenging seafaring options. But we'll go back for the dorade ($28) with pickled chili and salsa verde, and the guinea hen ($27) with parsnip and fois gras sugo, a classic French dish we saw at Perla a while back.
We were stuffed by the time dessert rolled around, but couldn't resist a scoop of Jaeckle's soy sauce ice cream ($3), which reads a little like salted caramel ice cream: salty and sweet, but with a hint of soy.
We're eager to try more of Cannon's colorful sparkling selections and savor more of the menu.
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