A Place to Take Those Special Guests:
Tribeca Grill - NYC
(parents of our son’s fiancee) were coming to town, and we were taking
them to dinner. The big decision loomed before us. Where to go? Swanky
Upper East Side eatery or bohemian Greenwich Village bistro? Pasta place
in Little Italy or new high end dining spot on the Upper West Side? Maybe
dim sum in Chinatown?
Then we thought: Tribeca,
the Tribeca Grill. What area is more latter-day New York City? What
restaurant more dynamic? Contemporary American cuisine, always enlivened
with unexpected influences and combinations. A warm and inviting staff. A
setting that’s striking but also comfortable. And there’s no telling what
media mogul or movie star, rock musician or basketball player, politician
or famous financier might be seated at the next table.
On the way downtown, we
told our guests the story of the Tribeca Grill as we had heard it from our
friend, Tracy Nieporent. Back in 1985, Tracy and his brother Drew opened a
restaurant called Montrachet in a non-descript area of light industry
south of Canal Street near the old Washington Market. The first quality
French restaurant in the neighborhood, it took off like a rocket, drawing
people from all over the city and out-of-towners too. Before long, the
triangle below Canal Street had developed a new cachet -- which many say
was spearheaded by Montrachet -- and began to be identified by the acronym
moved into the suddenly fashionable area became Montrachet regulars. Among
them was the actor Robert De Niro. One night he astonished Drew by asking if he’d like
to get together with him on another Tribeca project, a world-class
restaurant together with a film center. A star-studded cast of investors
including Mikhail Baryshnikov, Sean Penn, Ed Harris and Christopher Walken
was assembled, and De Niro and Drew located a landmark building a few
blocks away that had formerly housed the Martinson Coffee Company. By
1990, it had been transformed into the Tribeca Film Center with the main
dining room and kitchens of Tribeca Grill taking up the entire street
As we concluded the story,
we ushered our guests into the restaurant, noting they seemed as smitten
as we were when we first saw an interior best described as industrial
chic. Elements of the original coffee factory -- exposed pipes along the
ceiling, brick walls and pillars– were retained and they have been
combined with sleek modern furnishings and fabulous lighting fixtures of
patterned glass that hang from the ceiling looking like torcheres without
pedestals. Wall-high windows face out onto the cobblestone streets and
high price condos across the way that were warehouses a few years ago. A
massive mahogany bar – it had previously been at Maxwell’s Plum and before
that Jack Dempsey’s – stands as the focal point in the restaurant’s
center. And throughout the spacious, high-ceilinged room, the intriguing,
sometimes playful, sometimes haunting paintings by Robert DiNiro, Sr.
decorate the walls.
This night was the first
time we had been at the Grill since Don Pintabona, executive chef from the
beginning, left to pursue other ventures. But Stephen Lewankowski,
formerly chef de cuisine, has clearly slipped into the number one role
with ease and aplomb. The famous sweetbreads, served in tiny portions as
amuse bouches, were as succulently delicious as ever.
Our choices reflected the
range and dynamism of the Grill menu. Asian influences appeared in
optimally rare seared tuna with sesame noodles and coconut tempura shrimp
in a yellow curry sauce. The sautéed lump crabcake, nicely paired with
crispy shallots and corn sauce infused with truffles, represented the
American standard. And the salad of poached pear with blue cheese, endives
and candied walnuts served with a fig balsamico reflected a Continental
turn of mind. Then there was the grilled duck breast, lean and flavorful
with a carmelized barbecue sauce, crispy and tender lemon-flavored chicken
with glazed root vegetables, seared scallops with asparagus, and the
roasted red snapper in a Riesling sauce – a Grill favorite one of us
always seems to go for.
The Tribeca Grill Gang: Tracy
Drew, in shirt and tie, center.
A trio of welcoming, charming regulars on
the Tribeca Grill scene
||We also regularly end up
with at least one in our party ordering the signature Tribeca Grill
chocolate torte. Layered with both a dark and milk chocolate mousse and
topped with a chocolate ganache, this is one dessert that is worth every
There was also the almond milk custard, the fresh fruit
platter, and the Grill’s own ice cream to conclude a dinner that satisfied
everyone’s best expectations.
Grill has an extensive wine list and well priced selection of wine by
the glass. But to suit the occasion, we each had a glass of Veuve
Clicquot champagne. We toasted our children’s future and what we hoped
would be the start of a beautiful friendship that had its beginnings at
one of our favorite New York City restaurants.
Photographs by Harvey Frommer
375 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10013
Photos by Harvey Frommer
# # #
About the Authors: Myrna Katz Frommer and Harvey Frommer are a wife and husband
team who successfully bridge the worlds of popular culture and traditional
scholarship. Co-authors of the critically acclaimed interactive oral histories
It Happened in the Catskills, It Happened in Brooklyn, Growing Up Jewish in
America, It Happened on Broadway, It Happened in Manhattan, It Happened in
Miami. They teach what they practice as professors at Dartmouth College.
They are also travel writers who specialize in luxury properties and fine dining
as well as cultural history and Jewish history and heritage in the United
States, Europe, and the Caribbean.
about these authors.
You can contact the Frommers at:
This Article is Copyright © 1995 - 2012 by Harvey and Myrna Frommer. All rights