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Acclaimed New Jersey Chef Makes a Mid-Pandemic NYC Fine Dining Debut

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Wicked Jane is chef Zod Arifai’s first project since closing his critically acclaimed New Jersey restaurants Blu and Next Door in 2015

A fried pastry stuffed with foie gras rests on a black ceramic plate
Foie gras cannoli
Wicked Jane [Official]

At a time when many New York City chefs are making their menus more casual for takeout and delivery, the owner of a new high-end American restaurant is doubling down on his fine-dining roots. “People have really missed fine dining,” says Zod Arifai, the owner of Greenwich Village newcomer Wicked Jane, and a beloved chef of several popular New Jersey establishments. “There’s still a place for it in this city, at least I hope so.”

The new restaurant, located at 15 West 8th Street, between Fifth Avenue and MacDougal Street, opened for its first day of service last week with a menu that’s a bit higher-end than what many of its peers in the fine dining scene are serving right now. Wicked Jane offers a taste of pre-pandemic New York City, Arifai says, with dishes like sea urchin with lemon and fennel served out of a chalice, a slab of duck breast accompanied by a flourish of red wine emulsion, and foie gras cannoli.

The menu was originally envisioned as a two-hour tasting menu, but has since been adapted to be a la carte because “no one wants to eat a four-course dinner in this heat,” Arifai says, adding that the pandemic forced him to curtail his menu, as well.

Cured and smoked cod with orange and olive
Wicked Jane [Official]

At Wicked Jane, Arifai’s fine dining ambitions have been somewhat limited by supply issues. The chef-owner says that supply chains of certain fine cheeses, olive oils, wines, and fish, particularly those coming from Europe, have been interrupted as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic. Wicked Jane’s monkfish, for example, comes prepared with a cauliflower puree and seafood broth, though the chef says there were two days last week when his supplier couldn’t get a hold of the imported fish.

“We’re working with what’s available,” Arifai says, adding that the restaurant’s menu, which is only available for outdoor dining, is constantly changing.

Duck with cabbage and turnips
Wicked Jane [Official]

Before opening Wicked Jane in Greenwich Village, Arifai owned several wildly popular restaurants in New Jersey, including a gastropub called the Duke and Elephant, its casual American sibling Next Door, and the critically acclaimed Blu in Montclair, which is credited as being one of the first small plates restaurants in New Jersey. Wicked Jane is the chef-owner’s first project since 2015, when he closed Blu and Next Door to focus on opening a restaurant in New York City, Arifai says.

Since the start of the novel coronavirus pandemic, some of the city’s fine dining restaurants have opted to open their doors for outdoor dining — or try their hands at takeout — but many high-end restaurants still remain closed at this time. Arifai says that Wicked Jane will forge ahead with its original fine dining plans “as long as we can,” though he may also incorporate takeout, delivery, and lunch services in the near future.

The restaurant is open for outdoor dining from Tuesday to Saturday, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Wicked Jane

15 West 8th Street, New York, NY 10011

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