May 30, 2017
Francis Mallmann, the revered Argentinian chef made famous by his many restaurants around the world, a couple of books on his cooking style and a hit television series, Chef’s Table, has ensured his legacy with a diaspora of chef proteges, two of whom have rolled up in New York. Norberto, better known to his friends as Negro, recently opened Metta, a neighborhood restaurant located on a quiet corner two blocks from the Fort Greene farmers market in Brooklyn. It offers sustainably sourced, vegetable-forward dishes all cooked in a custom designed, open-fire kitchen, using South American asado techniques, utilizing all aspects of the fire (smoke, flame, ash and embers) to create layers of flavor in dishes. Packed with happy diners the night I went, it is relaxed, delicious, interesting and fun.
Ignacio Mattos was born in Uruguay and learned to cook in the kitchens of Mallman and Slow Food legend, Alice Waters. His two other restaurants in New York, Estela, with its bold, Mediterranean-inspired cooking, and Altro Paradiso, with its Italian cuisine, are favorites of mine. Now, Ignacio has come with his team to the Met Brauer on 76th and Madison, offering small bites as well as main dishes in a comfortable setting either indoors or on the open terrace. Service is superb, wines delicious and the food captivating. The space, in my opinion, could do with some tlc – easily accomplished. If you can serve food like that, a bit of flower planting and decorating should come easy.
Francis Mallmann's Restaurant Garzon is arguably Uruguay's best restaurant and one of the finest in all of South America. But what is less well known is that it is also one of the world's most charming inns - an eatery (albeit a fine one) with a few rooms attached. 5 to be exact, each of which makes you want to settle in and not move for a while.
Francis is one talented chef to be sure but perhaps, again, what is less well known is what an extraordinary eye he has. He makes no bones about being a lover of beauty, but here is someone who creates it in so many different ways. Hotel and Restaurant Garzon in the pueblo pays homage to the fires that create great, passionate food, but it also celebrates Mallmann's quiet, subtle side. His ability to create warmth, intimacy and fantasy in his interiors is unique. And now the inn has had a makeover that is akin to the best facelift possible. Its five rooms and public space have been freshened with newly painted furniture and reconfigured to maximize space, light and privacy. Remarkably, however, none of the soul has leached out and, if anything, I would say that there is a renewed sparkle to the gem.
So much so that, maybe after dinner tonight, I might just bunk in and move no more.