Chef Ricardo Cardona on the Forthcoming Z Bar (PHOTOS)


Via his work at restaurants like Sofrito, 809, and Hudson River Cafe, chef Ricardo Cardona has developed a reputation for creating menus with bold Latin flavors in buzzy spots. And he’ll attempt to do the same–albeit in a more fine dining-format–at the forthcoming Z Bar (605 West 48th Street), which is slated to open on a Hell’s Kitchen rooftop early next month.

The neighborhood, he says, particularly appeals to him. “I’ve been a pioneer in neighborhoods up to this point,” he explains, pointing to his restaurants in Washington Heights and Harlem. “It’s challenging to open here. It’s a rooftop, and nobody is really opening restaurants within those two blocks. There aren’t many people walking by. It’s a destination place. Most of the restaurants that I’ve opened have kind of been like that.”

But unlike his other places, Z Bar will be intimate. “Sofrito is like a factory,” he says. “It’s really high-volume. It’s crazy how busy it is now.” By contrast, this new place will have a quieter atmosphere with brick walls, exposed beams, orange highlights, and sweeping views of the New York City skyline from the combination indoor-outdoor space.

And because of its size and ambiance, the food will diverge a bit from Cardona’s other restaurants, too. “My career is a melting pot of living in New York combined with my culture and desires of being a chef,” he explains. “I don’t want to stick to one theme. Z Bar is more fine dining. We’ll use a lot of the Latin American flavors like spicy chilies, cilantro, quinoa, and passionfruit. But the presentation and way of eating it is more fine dining and more American.”

Look for a Mexican empanada trio incorporating choriqueso and Norwegian bacalao, mussels with tomato confit and chorizo oil, and tacos with tuna carnitas, flavors that Cardona says pull from his background and the background of his chef de cuisine Gonzalo Colin, who hails from Mexico. Plans so far are for the menu to remain a la carte–and dishes are meant to be shared–though Cardona says he loves when diners ask for a tasting menu.

The food pairs with a cocktail list that includes Latin-themed libations like Rachel’s Caipirinha–made with Leblon cachaca, cashew nectar, and lime–and the Scarlett, a blend of Belvedere vodka, aloe vera, and prickly pear puree.

If things go smoothly from here, the spot should open on September 11, and it’ll serve dinner every night but Monday.

Hit the next page for some photos of the space.

Photos of drinks and the space are on the next page.