Haute Eating: 10 Questions for Roberto Alicea, the Chef of “The Shop” at Andaz 5th Avenue

The Fifth Avenue location of Andaz, a high-end boutique hotel from Hyatt, (the first New York City location is on Wall Street), opened in the summer of 2010 and it’s fast becoming an haute dining destination. The hotel’s restaurant, named simply, “the shop” serves seasonal farm-to-table food and many local delicacies from such stores as Murray’s Cheese Shop and Russ & Daughter’s from the open kitchen. Sit at an intimate table or the communal one as you dine on upscale comfort dishes from executive chef Roberto Alicea: veal meatball with English peas, parsley and tomatoes, chicken schnitzel Milanese with Hudson Valley greens and the Niman Ranch New York strip are just some of Alicea’s dinner offerings. (The shop also serves breakfast and lunch).

And in case you prefer to nibble from the comforts of your hotel room, there’s a retail shop that sells local goodies, from pastries to sandwiches.

HL: What’s new at “the shop?”
Chef Roberto Alicea: Since opening in July, we have managed to build a steady, local following among the neighborhood as well as serving daily to hotel guests. Signature dishes such as the chicken schnitzel Milanese and roasted tomato and mint soup have been the most popular items month after month. Also, the retail portion of the shop has grown in popularity with the fresh pastries baked daily, chocolates from Mast Brothers and Blue Bottle Coffee.

HL: What are some of your favorite desserts that you serve?
RA: The lemon poppyseed cake with Meyer lemon syrup and the chocolate ganache on toast with sea salt.

HL: Where do you like to dine when you’re not working?
RA: I really enjoy small mom and pop focused restaurants featuring classic, simple dishes. And since I have a Puerto Rican background, I love Latin-influenced restaurants. But I also love Zum Schneider Restaurant and Biergarten in Alphabet City (love the schnitzel and of course the pints). And I love tapas! My favorites in the city are Pipa y Mas and Boqueria. I also love Maialino at the Gramercy Park Hotel (my favorite dishes are pigs trotters and tripe). If I’m in the mood for barbecue, Blue Smoke is the place for me (the barbecue chicken wings are to die for and the hush poppies are a must).

HL: What’s your ideal meal?
RA: My ideal meal would be grilling a delicious skirt steak or whole fish with a beer in my hand on a sunny day with my family.

HL: Where do you like to dine for a special occasion?
RA: Gramercy Tavern. It’s a warm and intimate space where you can have a proper meal and truly enjoy the evening. Food and beverage offerings are seasonal and top notch. Le Bernardin, a first-class restaurant, with amazing food and unrivaled attention to detail.

HL: What’s your favorite New York City neighborhood?
RA: I love Dumbo and Fort Greene. They have a great family oriented feel to them. It feels very laid back and easy going. Because my days in Manhattan are so hectic, it’s nice to spend the weekends in Brooklyn, which always feel a bit more relaxed.

HL: What do you like to do in the city on your days off?
RA: When I have a day to myself, I am exploring the neighborhoods of New York City, discovering new restaurants, food trucks, coffee shops and little mom and pop shop. There is so much to experience in New York City and it’s constantly changing. It’s a challenge to keep up!

HL: Your favorite vacation destination?
RA: When I have time off, I’ll visit my family in Puerto Rico or I’ll head to the beaches of California. Relaxing, casual destinations are where I choose to spend my free time.

HL: What’s your most memorable meal?
RA: I’ve had many spectacular meals over the years; however the most memorable meals have been with my Puerto Rican and Italian extended family and friends during Christmas and New Years when we all come together for a traditional Puerto Rican and Italian feast.

HL: What are your five favorite ingredients?
RA: Pork, salt and pepper, olive oil, vinegar and garlic.

“The Shop” at Andaz 5th Avenue is located at 485 Fifth Avenue at 41st Street; 212.601.1234.

To contact Tracey Ceurvels, visit her blog, The Busy Hedonist, or email her with any questions.

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