You figured Chris Cipollone was gonna get another shot. The food media loved Tenpenny, his restaurant in the back of a midtown hotel, but he followed the founding GM (Jeffrey Tascarella) quickly out the door, citing low pay.
After a brief stint at Abe & Arthur’s in the Meatpacking District, he resurfaced at Piora, in the lovely West Village space that was The Goodwin. Going by the critical acclaim (three sparklers from Sutton, two apiece from Wells and Platt) and the difficulty of getting a reservation, I’d say Cipollone’s gonna be here a while.
Critics have struggled to describe the cuisine: Sutton called it “French–Italian–Korean fusion.” Wells said merely that “Korean flavors dart in and out of the menu.” (Owner Simon Kim is part Korean.) But in a lengthy interview with the Village Voice, Cipolline said, “we’re a modern American restaurant” and “we’re not fusing much.”
To the average diner, walking in the door without reading the publicity, Piora seems more Italian than anything else, down to even its vowel-heavy name, which in fact is the Korean word for “blossom.” But you’ll see a section of the menu for pastas, and assume the place must be Italian, although the menu is not in the standard five-part format, and there are no Italian headings like primi or contorni.
Actually, there are no headings at all, and the pastas are entrée-sized. As you’d expect for a hit restaurant, prices have edged up over the last six months. Chicken at opening ($26) is now Poussin ($29). The acclaimed Bucatini pasta has gone from $26 to $36; the duck from $28 to $33. But the chef now serves an amuse bouche, of which I saw no mention in the early reviews. An $85 tasting menu has been added, and there’s the obligatory off-menu dry-aged 40-ounce ribeye for two ($150).
None of this is to suggest that Piora is charging too much. This is simply the arc that successful restaurants travel. For the quality of the food, Piora is fairly priced, with appetizers $15–20, entrées (including pastas) $25–36, and side dishes $9. The menu is blissfully short, with fewer than twenty items fitting on one generously-spaced page.
The amuse bouche (above left) was a rich truffle-y soup. So-called Monkey Bread is extra ($6; above right), but at least what they send out is stunning, and it comes with two kinds of butter, both excellent.
In the interest of journalism, we probably should have tried one of Cipolline’s appetizers, but we weren’t that hungry, so we just ordered a half-dozen oysters ($24; above left). The slightly spicy Bucatini ($36; above right) includes black garlic, dungeness crab, maitake, and chili. It’s a wonderful dish.
Dry-aged Rohan Duck ($33; above left) is as rich and hearty as Peter Luger’s porterhouse. We finished with a selection of cheese ($12; above right).
At the bar, there’s an impressive selection of spirits, and serious-looking bartenders in crisp white jackets, but neither cocktail I ordered ($15 each) impressed me. The Leaves Falling (Plymouth Gin, Calvados, apple, maple, Earl Grey, lemon), the flavors seemed to cancel each other out. The P&T (Laphroig, Monkey Shoulder, tonic) was too bitter. Perhaps I ordered unluckily; they did transfer my tab to the table.
I didn’t make notes on the wine list, and it is not available online; for a restaurant of this caliber, it should be. Piora is one of those increasingly rare places where the staff keep your bottle on a service table in the middle of the room, and you’re dependent on them to keep your glasses charged. This they did admirably.
Tables in the dining room are close together, and you may feel like you’re in your neighbor’s lap. The room was full all evening, and at times we had trouble conducting a conversation. It’s really the only negative at Piora, where the chef’s excellent food doesn’t require a sound track.
Piora (430 Hudson Street between Morton & Leroy Streets, West Village)
Food: American cuisine, with accents of Italian, Asian, and French
Service: A casual model with high-end touches
Ambiance: A crowded room with a lovely outdoor garden in back