Written by Hulda Lawrence
New in the neighborhood is The Zipper Factory restaurant at 336 West 37th Street, between Eighth and Ninth Avenues (212 695-3600). The locale is an ancient place surrounded by old shops purveying spices, baked goods with garages and parking places. The restaurant shares space with a small theatre and is full of objects d'art from the early 19th century. On one wall features an old sewing machine amidst wonderful old photos, and the room's light fixtures are turn of the century. The music we heard was soft and appropriate to the era it emphasized.
Our waiter, Alin from Columbia, described chef Lawrence Kolar as one who is determined to maintain home-cooked foods as well as to prepare his own charcuterie. Although the wursts are available only at dinner, Alin said that the chef wanted us to sample some.
We began by tasting one of the several salads; this one is named "The Zipper" and consists of roasted beets, corn, peas, haricot very, mizuna and eggs all done with a sherry vinaigrette. Then came the wursts. There is Bratwurst of veal and pork, Chorizo of smoked pork, Kielbasa smoke beef and pork, and Sweet Anise Sausage. Each was very good and each was accompanied by two mustards, French bread and sauerkraut. The wursts are priced at two sausages for $14, three for $17 and four for $20.
From the extensive wine list we began our lunch with a Pisco Sour for me and a Negroni for my companion. Each was $10. As we nibbled the several wursts we had ordered we sipped Pinot Blanc, Adam, Alsace, France for my companion and an excellent Tempranillo, Campo Viejo Reserva, Rioja, Spain for me. There also is a promising list of beers on draft and in bottles as well as wines by the glass from $7.
We noticed that at nearby tables diners were enjoying Cheese Steak ($10) and Sloppy Joe sandwiches at $9; next time we visit we'll try them. For those with larger appetites there are Semolina Pudding with wild mushroom and broccoli rabe; Sirloin Steak with French fries, Pork Spare Ribs with shoestring potatoes or Orchiette with pesto, pine nuts, grana parmesan with baked beans and warm potato salad at $12 to $24.
At dinner the list of entrees is expanded to include Double Pork Chops with baked beans and warm potato salad; Grilled Calf's Liver with mashed potatoes and fried haricot verts; Monkfish; Arctic Char with spaetzle; and Chick Fricassee. Always ask what that night's specialties are.
Desserts include Lemon Tart, a delicious lemon curd on flaky crust, and fresh berry Napoleon, a marvelous concoction of puff pastry layers with fresh raspberries and pastry cream. Very popular are the Jelly Donuts and Flourless Chocolate Torte. Desserts are $7 each.
Porcao, at 360 Park Avenue South, 26th Street, is fairly new in town and is presenting a special kind of cuisine in handsome surroundings (212) 252-7080. This churrascaria is expansive, with plenty of room for diners and a tremendous selection of foods both hot and cold presented in buffet style. At table diners receive kibe, spiced ground meat balls, cheese bread and fried codfish balls. This is just a teaser to prepare diners for the many delights of the buffet.
There are regional specialties, with such favorites as coconut shrimp with pineapple sauce; salted cod; black beans and rice; and moqueca tilapia layered with shrimp in a coconut milk sauce. After a second or third visit to the buffet comes the parade of meats. Each diner has a two-sided token which switches from red to green. When ready for meat the green side is exposed and the skewered meats are brought. During the rodizio servers cut portions of the meats for the diners who have metal tongs to place the meats on their plate. There are all kinds of steak, 18 to be exact. There is also turkey with bacon and prime ribs with all kinds of side dishes as well as fish and chicken.
Porcao is its name today, but it was not so originally. In Rio de Janeiro the restaurant was called Churrascaria Riograndense. After a storm when the restaurant's sign was lost it was called Porcao or "Big Pig" even though the meats are more beef than pork.
Among the special cuts of meat are picanha, top sirloin coulote; chuleta ribeye steak; cordeiro, boneless Australian leg of lamb; and peru com bacon, boneless turkey breast wrapped in bacon. The server comes and you choose what you wish. The meat is sliced from the main cut and presented to you. Along with the meats there are a multitude of sauces, salads and sushi rolls because of the large Japanese population in Brazil.
There is an extensive bar with a plethora of wines and cocktails priced from $7. We enjoyed Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc and Rioja Marques. A capirinha cart is rolled up to the table when you order Brazil's national drink, a mix of sugar cane, rum, sugar and muddled limes which also comes in flavors of passion fruit, kiwi and grape.
The dessert cart has Papaya Cream; Beijinho (little kisses), grapes coated in condensed milk, rolled in sugar and quindim; custard done with egg yolk and coconut milk.
This is a new experience for New Yorkers, to try Brazilian foods without taking the long trip!
An executive lunch of buffet, sirloin steak, chicken or salmon is served noon to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday at $22.90. Rodizio, the parade of meats, is served seven days a week from noon to 11 p.m. at $50.90. A 50% discount is offered to all patrons 65 years and up.
Credit Cards: All major
The dollar sign indicates the approximate cost of dining for two persons, excluding beverages, tax and gratuity.