10 Questions for Joe Valentine of FireBird Restaurant & Caviar Parlor

Where else but in New York City can a few steps transport you to another world?

FireBird, a Hell’s Kitchen mainstay, reawakens Russian dining in the double-townhouse, a vision of Baroness Irina von der Launitz. Yearning for St. Petersburg, the Baroness implored her millionaire husband to recreate the magic of her homeland in a restaurant styled like a true Tzar’s manor, built around the theme of her beloved Russian Firebird ballet. From the imported furnishings to the walls of fine art and military portraits of the Baroness’ own family—and more than one baby grand piano—the manor transforms history into modern-day grandeur.

Today, it’s a place to enjoy Russian cuisine in a refined, opulent atmosphere: indulge in a flight of caviar, ranging from classic to high luxury and served with traditional accoutrements: red onion, egg white, egg yolk and crème fraîche on mother-of-pearl spoons. Enjoy this with a vodka pairing—FireBird has an extensive selection, from rare imports to unparalleled housemade infusions

It’s all led by Joe Valentine, just the Renaissance man to guide FireBird into its own rebirth. A veritable New Yorker, Joe’s is a classically trained musician, which allowed him to see the world. When his family purchased FireBird, Joe returned to New York City with a vision to bring new sparkle to the family restaurant, and reawaken the classic space for a new generation of diners—while retaining the authentic beauty of a baroness’s dream. In his new role at the helm of FireBird, Joe has breathed new life into the menu and celebrated space.

(Joe Valentine, Managing Partner of Firebird)

Haute Living: What’s currently new at Firebird?

Joe Valentine: We just hired a new chef who is an amazing creative person. I’m really excited to start working with him. Also, on Mother’s Day, we kicked off brunch, which will soon be followed by events taking place on our private outdoor patio.

HL: What are some of your favorite types of caviar?
JV: I really enjoy our domestic black caviars. The Hackleback sturgeon is a great caviar. It has a great nutty, buttery taste to it.

HL: Where do you like to dine when you’re not working?
JV: I’m a night owl so I love places with a late night kitchen. A couple of my favorites are Blue Ribbon down in SoHo and The Spotted Pig down in the Village, or one of those Korean BBQ spots on 32nd Street.

HL: What’s your ideal meal?
JV: I’m pretty simple when it comes to eating. I could always go for good pizza or a great cut of meat.

HL: Where do you like to dine on a special occasion?
JV: I’m a big fan of Del Frisco’s or Plataforma. That Brazilian BBQ is the best! I love how they bring all different types and cuts of meat to your table.

HL: What’s your favorite NYC neighborhood and why?
JV: I enjoy the Alphabet City area, which still has a bunch of cool shops around as well as some cool places to eat or drink. It also still as a little bit of that old New York grim to it.

HL: What do you like to do in NYC on your days off?
JV: I love relaxing at home. I’ve become more of a homebody now since I’m always working. Otherwise, I do love to explore the city. I enjoy finding those cool boutique shops or new places to eat and drink. The city has so much to offer—you need to see it to take advantage of it.

HL: What’s your favorite vacation destination?
JV: I think Prague is a great city. The architecture, the food and the people are all really great. It is one of my favorite places to visit. I do also love Venice. It’s like walking through history. The way the city was built is just amazing.

HL: What’s your most memorable meal?
JV: This is a tough one. I could go a great meal or a crazy experience. I’d have to say it was the time I tried cuyo. I was up in a mountain village in Peru called Cuzco and I was told to try cuyo, which is guinea pig. As someone who always tries something at least once, I decided, why not? The locals told me it tasted similar to rabbit. Since I enjoyed the times I’ve had rabbit, I thought I might enjoy this as well. But when I finally got to try my first guinea pig, I can tell you it didn’t taste like any rabbit I’ve ever eaten. It definitely was an experience considering the place I was in. Luckily enough I was able to wash it all down with some pisco sours.

HL: What are your five favorite ingredients?
JV: I’d definitely have to say garlic as my top choice. Frank’s Red Hot I think is great on almost everything. Italian seasoning is a must have for me. Red pepper flakes for when you need that little extra kick, and finally rainbow peppercorns; I use it on everything.

Fire Bird is located at 365 West 46th Street; (212) 586-0244

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Visit Haute Dining columnist Tracey Ceurvels’ blog, The Busy Hedonist for food + travel inspiration.