First Look: Steak Frites and a Cheeky Chardonnay Cocktail at General Assembly
All images by Laura Shunk
The Hurricane Club held sway in the Flatiron neighborhood for three and a half years, a rather impressive feat given that the neighborhood never really warmed to the tongue-in-cheek tiki bar concept that anchored it. But this year, Michael Stillman -- a seasoned vet who presides over restaurants like Quality Meats and Park Avenue via the company he runs with his father Alan -- decided to listen to the people who live and work in the area, and that guided him to open something new. He'd like General Assembly (360 Park Avenue South, 212-951-7111), the sleek spot he opened last week, to become NoMad's equivalent to Balthazar.
"NoMad is still a burgeoning neighborhood, and it's still in need of a Balthazar or a Standard Grill," he explains. "It has places like the Breslin, which is great, but you can't really eat there every day. There are places like Hillstone and Blue Smoke, which are good, but they're not coming from a unique one-off perspective. That's how we got to here."
So he enlisted chef Craig Koketsu, who has worked at both Park Avenue and Quality Meats, to install a bistro-style menu that's "not too French," says Stillman. The chef's background, Stillman explains, is in restaurants well versed in seasonal, local menus, and that's what Koketsu will install here, via dishes like roasted chicken with mustard sauce, steak frites, and a hamburger (made with a Pat LaFrieda blend, naturally) sided by items like maitake mushrooms with tomato butter, crispy artichokes with malt vinegar aioli, and heirloom carrots with carrot top pesto.
Clover Club vet Bryan Schneider mans the bar, and he's created a cocktail list comprised of fresh takes on classics, some of which are downright cheeky. See the Chardonnay, for example, a drink he designed to "look like wine but drink like a cocktail," he says. Playing on the flavors of big California chardonnays, he fat-washes vodka with butter then infuses it with oak, mango, and vanilla. He strains that mix, then blends it with clarified lemon juice and caramel syrup to give it the correct color. It's poured from a wine bottle, and it does, indeed, look like Chardonnay, though it tastes like a light, tropical cocktail.
Prolific designer AvroKo built out the space, but the interior here is less industrial than what that group is known for. Instead, General Assembly is cloaked in art nouveau finishes. There are two private dining rooms in addition to the cavernous a la carte space, though Stillman says one of those opens up and will become additional seating on busy nights.
Above all, Stillman says he wants this spot to tap into the next wave of development he's seeing in the neighborhood. "This is the right fit," he says. "With the Ace and the NoMad, the smart retailers we're beginning to see, and the Dover Street project, this neighborhood is developing smarter. We're going along with that."
General Assembly currently opens for dinner daily at 5:30 p.m.; the restaurant will add lunch and brunch in the coming weeks.
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