In part one of my interview with Harold Moore, the chef-owner of Commerce (50 Commerce Street, 212-524-2301) talked about his philosophy and experience, divulging why he dislikes special requests and explaining how he came to own the knife of a chef who committed suicide. Here in part two, he shares kitchen wisdom and NYC restaurant picks.
What’s the most underrated kitchen tool?
The flexible pastry spatula–it’s the most well-loved tool in the whole kitchen. You can use it for plating. It’s delicate, but you can flip things with it, like schnitzels, potato rostis, and fish. Mine has a handle that’s all taped together because it’s seen better days.
Favorite item in your pantry or walk-in?
Soy sauce. I love a good soy sauce. I’m a quarter Japanese, and I grew up with the soy sauce always being on the table. Soy sauce can give you that boost of salt and a depth of flavor that plain salt cannot. It has salinity and an umami quality, and it dissolves well into stuff.
What’s the most underrated ingredient?
I don’t think chicken gets a lot of respect. New York is crazy for pork and steaks, but I get a lot of fanfare around my chicken for two. Chicken is diverse, and it’s lighter than pork and beef.
At what local bar or restaurant are you a regular?
When I want a glass of wine, I’ll hit Buvette. I like Blue Ribbon Sushi because it’s the best late night sushi around.
What’s the most underrated restaurant in New York City?
I don’t know if you would consider Peasant underrated because it’s had fanfare in the past, but it’s 13 years old at least. I love that restaurant. It’s consistent and delicious.
Who’s the most underrated culinary figure in New York City?
There’s a guy named Tony Liu who’s the chef at Morandi and Pulino. He’s so fucking nice and super talented. Because of where he’s working now, it’s hard to sort of imagine how great he can be. But I’ve had some really good food from him. I had breakfast at Pulino the other day. It was so simple: roasted tomato, grilled bread, egg, salt, olive oil. It was so good. The tomato was perfect. The bread was perfect. He’s a rock star in hiding.
At what New York restaurant do you celebrate a special night out?
Le Bernardin. I’ve been there more times than any other four-star restaurant.
On the next page, Moore drops some gift suggestions.
What’s your favorite meal to cook at home?
Meatballs. I have two kids, and I try to cook wit them on Sunday nights, and we seem to always be making meatballs.
What’s the most memorable meal you’ve ever eaten?
I had a really super memorable meal at Taillevent in Paris. It’s a three-star Michelin restaurant, and it was really sort of transformative. We had cote de boeuf for two. Veal chop for two. Farro with black truffle and porcini. They brought the cheese in a little basket with hay on the bottom. The whole thing just worked. The restaurant was old-fashioned, but the food had soul. And at a lot of those Michelin restaurants, the food doesn’t have soul. Taillevent was unapologetically rustic and refined, and the flavors were pure.
What one tip would you offer an amateur cook looking to improve his or her cooking?
No matter what you do, put the food in your mouth. Taste everything along the way, not just at the end. You can’t go wrong. When you’re tasting things, you’re learning about what’s happening in a pan. If it’s tasty, you’re in good shape.
What’s your favorite dish on your menu right now?
The newest thing is generally my favorite because I haven’t tasted it as many times, so now it’s the lamb chop–I’m pretty fond of it. As for an old thing, I’m reinvigorated by the ragu–it’s pigs feet, tripe, and oxtail braised together. The weather’s turning cold, and it’s so delicious.
What are your favorite local purveyors?
Pat LaFrieda. Those guys are super good guys. I like a company called Sid Wainer. It’s not super local; it’s based out of Massachusetts. Their produce and herbs are of such high quality. And SOS Chefs. I’ve been buying from her for along time. She just reopened the store after the hurricane, so we support her as much as we can.
What’s always in your refrigerator at home?
Soy sauce, hot sauce, Golden’s mustard, and red pickled ginger (not the sweet kind–it’s salty).
Favorite food-related item to give as a gift?
I like to give people fancy wine. Most of the people I know like wine but aren’t going to spend a lot of money on it. I’ll buy people a Lodge castiron pan because I feel like those pans get cast aside by things that are new and fancy, but that’s the thing I use most at home. They’re so versatile. You can bake bread, make food, make gratins of cauliflower, braise … it’s such a versatile tool.