A mod atmosphere sets the mood at this subterranean brasserie where Chef Julian Alonzo has created “nouvelle” French cuisine, translated through his unique vision. Descend down the dramatic sweeping staircase and be transported to a sleek bar and dining room, featuring original Matisse paintings, and dine on French and international flavors made with local ingredients: New England clam chowder with bacon and cockles, Japanese yellowtail with avocado roulade, Spanish Coast octopus with preserved Meyer lemon or Chatham cod wrapped in serrano ham. A native New Yorker, Alonzo stepped into the restaurant industry at only 16, working under David Bouley at Montrachet, and it shows in his refined menu.
Haute Living: What’s new at Brasserie 8 1/2?
Chef Julian Alonzo: My summer menu, working with all local farmers.
HL: What are some of your favorite dishes at your restaurant?
JA: It’s like asking which one of your children you like better. In all seriousness, I love the raw section of my menu especially the hamachi with avocado and the scallop ceviche with jalapeno and pineapple sorbet.
HL: Where do you like to dine when you’re not working?
JA: I like to try different places, New York is so diverse and with so many restaurants, something like 26000, I like to try something new. Some of my favorites are Nha Trang in Chinatown, for its bold flavors; Lupa for their bocconcini, and a Dominican restaurant in the Lower East Side named El Castillo de Jagua.
HL: What’s your ideal meal?
JA: Going to my mom’s house is always inspiring.
HL: Where do you like to dine for a special occasion?
JA: Blue Hill, Gramercy Tavern and Robuchon
HL: What’s your favorite NYC neighborhood?
JA: The West Village, which is where I live.
HL: What do you like to do in the city on your days off?
JA: Hang out with my son Julian. He’s 7 and it’s a wonderful age. We go to my house in the country and just chill. When I’m in the city on my day off I love walking around and going to different markets
HL: Your favorite vacation destination?
JA: San Sebastian, Mexico
HL: What’s your most memorable meal?
JA: Alain Ducasse in Paris, Pierre Gagnaire in Paris, Mugaritz in Spain
HL: What are your five favorite ingredients?
JA: Salt, mango vinegar, Blis maple syrup, duck fat and eggs.
Brasserie 8 1/2 is located at 9 West 57th St; 212-829-0812