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A Place to Take Those Special Guests:
Tribeca Grill - NYC

The machetunim-to-be (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 Tribeca.

People who 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 level.

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 Nieporent on the right,Drew in shirt and tie–in the center - click to enlarge

A trio of welcoming, charming regulars on the Tribeca Grill scene - click to enlarge

The Tribeca Grill Gang: Tracy Nieporent, right;
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 single calorie. 

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. 

Tribeca 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

Tribeca Grill
375 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10013

Phone: 212-941-3900

Photos by Harvey Frommer

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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. More about these authors.

You can contact the Frommers at: 

Email: myrna.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU
Email: harvey.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU
Web: http://www.dartmouth.edu/~frommer/travel.htm.

This Article is Copyright © 1995 - 2012 by Harvey and Myrna Frommer.  All rights reserved worldwide.

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