Town Square loses an innovator, and two chefs make Esquire list

Town Square has claimed another culinary victim: Talented chef Brian Howard has departed for the French Laundry in Napa Valley, Calif. Before he left, he dazzled his fans at Nu Sanctuary with an extravaganza he dubbed “The Last Supper,” featuring dishes such as steelhead with cucumber and crème fraiche, and char-grilled Hudson Valley foie gras paired with smoked duck.

I’m not implying Nu Sanctuary won’t continue to be accomplished without him. But Lolita’s has lost some of its early luster, and chains such as Cadillac Ranch and Miller’s Ale House dominate the landscape. Serious cooking just doesn’t play well at Town Square, it seems.

Cooking has taken a serious turn, though, at the Sporting House Bar & Grill in New York-New York, which recently replaced the ESPN Zone there.

Credit Ark Restaurant Corp.’s executive chef David Waltuck, of Chanterelle in New York City, for his effort. The menu is a departure from that of the typical sports bar. Here, you can do Maine lobster club wrap, Wagyu Kobe flatiron steak or smoked meat loaf.

The menu doesn’t ignore traditional fare, though, just tweaks them. Hoisin sauce chicken wings, wood-roasted barbecue chicken pizza, Philly cheese steaks and interesting burgers are on hand. Twelve beers are featured on tap as well, along with premium and crafted bottled beers. It’s open 11 a.m.-11 p.m. daily (9 a.m. on weekends during football season).

Kudos to Julian Serrano and Shawn McClain, both of whom were singled out for praise by John Mariani in the November issue of Esquire.

Serrano’s eponymous Aria restaurant was included in Mariani’s list of the “20 Best New Restaurants of 2010,” while Sage, also in Aria, made a list called “11 U.S. Restaurants Not to Miss.” McClain is Sage’s chef.

Meanwhile, I’m singling out chef Kim Canteenwalla for his incredible new fall menu at Society Café in Encore. Society made Mariani’s list last year, but the chef has really hit his stride now. This man has been in kitchens around the world, from Dubai to Singapore and Mississippi. His food is as eclectic as any in the city.

New to the dinner menu are buttermilk-fried chicken oysters (not oysters, but tender nuggets of flesh from the chicken’s back), barbecue pulled-pork pot stickers, a split-pea soup flavored with tasso ham and pickled green beans, and roasted young beets with poached pears, blue cheese and Minus 8 vinegar made from Iniskillin, an Ontario winery noted for its dessert wines.

Society is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, seven days a week.

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