This week, The New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells reviews chef Chris Cipollone’s Piora, which he says is "put together with intelligence and taste," in Manhattan's West Village. Owned by Cipollone and Korean-American Simon Kim, who has management experience working with Thomas Keller and Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Piora uses Korean flavors in its dishes, according to Wells. "Mr. Cipollone got the restaurant he deserved," as opposed to his last role as chef at Tenpenny, where "nearly everyone agreed that his food was terrific but that eating it in the charmless lobby of a Midtown hotel was like being buried alive with your last meal."
As for Piora’s ambiance, Wells says, "You walk past a long bar attended by men in spotless white jackets, as if they had been flown in from Harry’s Bar in Venice. Then you arrive in a square dining room with walls inscribed by long, sinuous horizontal lines. They look a bit like tentacles emanating from a sideways jellyfish, but they’re strangely soothing, and they make the space look bigger. In another optical trick, the room seems to extend past the windows in the back to a tiered and illuminated garden that makes those of us with plants at home wonder why ours don’t look this green in November."
And on its taste: "Mr. Cipollone makes fearless use of gochujang, the fermented hot-chile paste, blending it with shrimp stock and slathering it over crunchy and charred legs of grilled octopus. The gochujang, hot and deeply funky, is almost too much, but fresh basil leaves and candied pine nuts rein it in."
But not everything on the menu is totally Korean. Wells says the one thing you must eat is the pasta: "Mr. Cipollone, an Italian-American, loves to play with pasta, but he is not chained to the traditions of Italy. He simmers black garlic bucatini in crab stock and tosses it with crabmeat, adding maitake mushrooms for earthy depth. He underlines the candy-like flavor of roasted red kuri squash inside tortellini with a butternut squash juice that’s a little less sweet, a two-note melody in the key of squash. Purple rigatoni — there’s red wine in the dough — looked odd but tasted great, with peppery, fennel-seed-flecked duck sausage and lengths of the bitter green called spigarello."
While the restaurant and the chef seem to be a good match, Wells says, "at times they fall into the slightly stiff good manners of somebody trying to impress future in-laws." "The servers, in slate-colored striped aprons, are attentive, numerous and rather serious about this whole business of dinner."
He adds that "once Piora moves beyond its self-imposed formality, it and Mr. Cipollone can start to settle in and get comfortable. This time, it looks like things may last."
For Wells' full review, click here.