New York Opening: Cherrywood Kitchen

At Cherrywood Kitchen, a classed-up New American spot from chef Chris Cheung (Jean-Georges, Nobu), a cherrywood log burns on the fire and makes for a rack of ribs on par with the best of any Gotham barbeque offerings. In a twist of pairings, the apple celery slaw is the real spicy counterpart to the rich but milder ribs. You can eat them with a fork and knife—the bones just fall to the bottom of the plate. In fact, it may be best to keep your hands off, since Cheung doesn’t shy away from slathering on a sweet chili glaze, and the sexy librarian-themed dining room doesn’t exactly jibe with wet wipe packets.

The hands-off approach doesn’t quite apply to the rest of the menu. The market fish stew, which comes with or without the fish head pending your request, is also loaded with a workout’s worth of shellfish to pry open. Behind a frosted glass divide, the bar fare brings a kick of its own. Lobster tacos are a brilliant mix of hot and cold: chilled lobster meat dusted with Old Bay and stuffed in just-fried shells made of eggroll dough. The house variation of a Manhattan sees a smoked orange rind in Knob Creek bourbon, which I recommend over some of the alternatives that lean a little heavy on the sugar.

All said, the best part of the meal might actually be the bread to start. A complimentary loaf of ciabatta, which looks like a horned turtle, comes hot out the oven with a generous bowl of whipped blue cheese. Spread it, dip in it, eat it with a spoon. You can’t miss.

[Related: BlackBook New York Guide; Listings for Cherrywood Kitchen, Jean-Georges, Nobu; Download the free BlackBook app for iPhone and Android; Subscribe to the weekly BlackBook Happenings newsletter; More by James Ramsay]

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