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Fall Previewing 2008, A Primer

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Now that the Times has dropped their mega preview, the Fall Preview Season has officially begun. It's a heady time for the food industry, as just about anyone opening a restaurant in the city shoots to get those doors open sometime between Labor Day and Christmas.

Over the past two weeks all of the industry followers— the Times, NYMag, TONY, and the scrappy Metromix— have posted their listings, sneak peeks, and projections for when this season's two dozen or so restaurants will actually open. However, trying to digest all of the info and make sense of more than just the heavy hitters can be nearly impossible. Here's a brief guide to deciphering the listings, and over the next month we'll be taking a closer look at the projects worth focusing on.

1) Compare reviews to yield the best intel. While Jordana Rothman at TONY and the Robs at NYMag pen almost identical pieces about the new restaurant Aldea (It's "Iberian," the chef is George Mendes, formerly of Wallse), Flo Fab and the team over at Metromix bring something new to the table:

NYTimes: George Mendes, whose résumé includes Bouley and Wallsé, will have a menu with a Portuguese accent, with dishes like sardines and Madeira raisins, and pork chop with clams and kale. He has enlisted Stephanie Goto, who worked on Morimoto and Corton, to design sleek, intimate spaces for the narrow room with a mezzanine: 31 West 17th Street. Late fall
Metromix: Sometimes, the longer the delay...the better the restaurant? Let's hope so: Former Tocqueville chef George Mendes' first solo project has been delayed for over two years, but he hopes to finally open in November or December. Mendes describes the cuisine as "heavily market-driven [and] Iberian, based on my heritage, but with a free-spirited global influence." A preliminary menu features staples like razor clams cooked a la plancha, house-cured salt cod, and Monkfish with chorizo and chickpeas. Mendes also plans to offer a tasting menu in this Stephanie Goto-designed space.

2) Keep an eye on listings light on the info. Whether the restaurateurs are simply being coy or they actually have no plans in the works, it's not a good sign for a fall opening. There are a few in this category this season including Jeffrey Chodorow's Center Cut, Rock Center's La Fonda Del Sol, and Govind Armstrong's Table 8 (where most blurbs focus on his back story). Our favorite is the new Dell'Anima project, because writers are forced to find a name for it (and fill in space with scant intel). TONY calls it "Untitled" while Flo Fab sticks to "Dell'Anima II" and says it will be "the tail that wags the tiny pup that is dell'anima in the West Village."

3) Watch the big name projects. We're talking Ken Friedman's John Dory, the whole Bouley shuffle, the new Susur Lee project Shang, Drew Nieporent's Corton, and even Chodorow's Center Cut and the import Table 8. These guys have been garnering the most hype since the pre-plywood stages. They have the most to deliver and the farthest to fall should they disappoint.

4) If a restaurant is truly close to opening, and it's not press shy, there is lots of information available. Check out, for example, the most recent write up for Bouley:

"David Bouley’s new flagship for his refined French fare is the grandest yet, but maintains a vaulted ceiling, here glossed in gold. Workmen and materials, including hand-cut stone and 300-year-old wooden beams, have been brought from France to create a downtown chateau, with a hand-painted garden room, a library and a romantic lower-level 'cave.' The cooks have not been forgotten either, with a windowed, street-level kitchen paneled in marble."
NYMag adds that the place "has the feel of a French château" and features are new cameras in the kitchen wired to Bouley's apartment upstairs. All details released by a PR machine running on all cylinders, ready for a September opening.

We'll be back with more preview madness soon. In the meantime you can get perusing on your own and let us know what you find.
· Even Chefs Have to Wait for a Table [NYT]
· The Best of the Rest: Food [NYM]
· Where the Underground Gourmet Will Be Dining [NYM]
· Open Season [TONY]
· Fall Dining Preview '08 [Metromix]