Battery Park City Heads Out to Sea

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Floyd Cardoz brings seafood to a starving neighborhood

By Regan Hofmann

For a neighborhood with more ferry stops than subway stations, Battery Park City has long lacked a proper seafood restaurant to call its own. To be fair, it's lacked pretty much any proper restaurants-residents of the planned community have had to make do with glorified food court fare for the 9-to-5 World Financial Center crowd, pan-Asian for their after-hours expense account revelry and pizza for the kids. For innovative, vital cooking, they've had to look longingly east to Tribeca and beyond.

Now they long no longer. After the post-9/11 desertion and years of serious boosterism by the Battery Park City Authority, the quiet riverfront community is officially up-and-coming. In their most recent coup, the new Goldman Sachs headquarters and its accompanying Conrad Hilton hotel have brought not one but three Danny Meyer restaurants to the same square block: a branch of his burger chain Shake Shack, which can be found as far afield as Dubai; the second location of his Murray Hill BBQ joint Blue Smoke; and North End Grill, a brand-new restaurant from Floyd Cardoz, former executive chef of Tabla and winner of Top Chef Masters season 3.

"Danny Meyer was approached by the people who own the hotel; they were trying to upgrade and update their restaurant and the entire area and we thought it was a great opportunity," said Cardoz. "Battery Park is a neighborhood that has tremendous potential."

The restaurant is a new concept for Cardoz, who built a name for himself with his seasonal, Western-inflected approach to traditional Indian food at Tabla, which shuttered in 2010 after 12 years in the Flatiron District. North End Grill is, as might be inferred, an American seafood restaurant, all clean lines and dark wood, with an emphasis on the grill and an extensive scotch selection.

Though it may seem like a departure, the new cuisine makes perfect sense for Cardoz, who trained in Europe and is an avid fisherman. "I don't cook Indian food at home every day; I cook like I'm cooking now because my kids were born here," he explained. In fact, the concept was developed by Meyer and Cardoz together after Meyer was approached to move into the space on North End Avenue. "We chose seafood because of the [restaurant's] proximity to the water and my propensity to cook seafood."

With plans to open a rooftop garden to grow produce for the kitchen and an affinity for the East Coast waters that lap at the esplanade just a block away, North End Grill intends to be as locally sourced as possible. "Right now it's a little hard, just because of the winter, but once we're up and running and a little more in control of what we're doing, my hope and my wish is to get back to that, like I did at Tabla," said Cardoz.

Even in the dead of winter, the menu proudly proclaims which ingredients are homegrown; scallops from Nantucket Bay in the shellfish cocktail and the ubiquitous Berkshires providing pork chops for the land-faring fare.

But it's not just expense account-baiting surf and turf. The burger here is a blend of shrimp and bacon, served with cumin-dusted fries. The soup is pumpkin-crab, and the traditional meunière preparation, famously cited by Julia Child as the dish that sparked her love of French cooking, is applied to cod throats, an oft-discarded, overlooked portion that shares the same rich, tender qualities as beef cheeks.

"Every menu everywhere has something that people may think is risky, but, whatever it is, is eaten by some culture somewhere in the world," said Cardoz. "It's important to me that anything I put on the menu makes me feel good. We're proud of what we have on the menu, and we truly think that people will enjoy it."

Since patrons who enter the restaurant have to pass by the open kitchen, in which Cardoz can almost always be found, he knows when they've hit their mark. "We've had people from the Upper East Side, people from the neighborhood, people who work here, people from New Jersey-we have people from all over the place," he said. "Most people stop by to say, 'Hey, it was a great menu, it was a great restaurant.'"

A restaurant that draws crowds from around the five boroughs and beyond? Looks like Battery Park City has made it after all.

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