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Chef Who Faced Neighbor Concerns of Roast Pepper Smells Opens Restaurant

By Danielle Tcholakian | December 27, 2016 5:17pm
 Fluke with Fuji apple, coriander and ginger is one of the dishes offered at Chef Vincent Chirico's new restaurant Coarse.
Fluke with Fuji apple, coriander and ginger is one of the dishes offered at Chef Vincent Chirico's new restaurant Coarse.
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WEST VILLAGE — A chef whose application for a liquor license at a new restaurant on West 13th Street was opposed because neighbors worried about the smell of roasting peppers has succeeded in opening his eatery.

But, just a month in, he's had to rename it because of confused customers who thought it was serving raw meat.

Chef Vincent Chirico slogged through several Community Board 2 meetings, the most memorable of which involved liquor license committee members complaining that neighbors might have to endure the smell of roasting peppers.

READ MORE: We Live Tweeted Last Week's Community Board 2 Liquor License Meeting

He agreed to apply only for a wine and beer license, instead of a full liquor license, but ran into trouble when he expressed a desire for an outdoor dining area.

READ MORE: Chef Tries Again to Get OK for Liquor License From Stubborn Board

Chirico told DNAinfo New York after his first interaction with the community board that he was shocked by the opposition he encountered and wanted to get out of the lease he'd signed, but was unable to do so without losing tens of thousands of dollars.

READ MORE: UWS Restaurateur 'Smacked in the Face' by Opposition to Village Eatery

He persevered, however, and opened a 50-seat eatery at 306 West 13th St. on Nov. 7 under the name Raw New York.

Asked why he went ahead with the restaurant despite all the troubles, Chirico said he "had no choice."

"The landlord came around and helped me as well," Chirico said. "And I always loved the space, so there was really no reason to walk away from it."

But a little more than a month in, on Dec. 20, he changed the name to Coarse when he found customers and potential customers mistakenly thought the restaurant was serving raw meat.

"[Raw was] too provocative of a name," Chirico said. "The implication [was] that we serve raw food. People mistook the name for describing food instead of the space."

Both the original name and the new one are references to both the gritty concrete and brick space decorated with graffiti and the fact that the restaurant serves only food that can be cooked with hot plates and a convection oven, since a gas line could not be run into the kitchen.

Chirico, who also maintains a popular restaurant on the Upper West Side called Vai, described the cuisine at his new eatery as "contemporary American" with a "modern approach," made from local ingredients from New York State and the greater tri-state area.

While he does serve uncooked offerings like crudos, ceviches and a hamachi with preserved ginger and Fresno chili, the menu also boasts slow-roasted and baked dishes, including a slow-roasted rabbit with chestnut and salsify or a beef short rib with parsnip.

But the most important element is that the restaurant has no servers: instead, chefs bring out the food and "interact with guests at tables."

"That was always the concept of the restaurant," he said. "It's a pretty unique concept."

There are typically three or four chefs working at any given time, and Chirico plans to integrate into the menu "interactive dishes" where the chefs are "making them in front of the guests," he said.

"What I'm trying to create is a direct experience between chefs and guests in a restaurant, so there's no traditional division with chefs and servers kind of hiding out in the kitchen," he said.

When guests are seated, chefs consult with them on a menu of dishes meant to be shared.

The dishes, such as oyster mushroom with a soft egg and white truffle, white asparagus with preserved lemon, wild striped bass with miso and poke and American Wagyu "minute steak" focus on ingredients high in protein and low on gluten and dairy.

Beverages include a selection of 50 sustainable, biodynamic or organic wines from all over the world, 15 bottled beers from New York State, sake, and non-alcoholic fruit- and vegetable-based "cocktails," such as the crisp Cucumber Thai Basil, made from cucumber juice, Thai basil, simple syrup and tonic water.

Chirico's love of the space has not waned.

He and designer Sylvia Zofio built it out with an open kitchen with five stools, a 25-seat floating, counter-height concrete communal table, and interior elements made from concert, untreated white oak and uncoated metal zinc panels.

More seating is available at a neutral-colored round table at the entrance and a banquette the length of the entire restaurant.

The walls are adorned with photographs by local artist Amon Focus, also known as New York Said, whose work features messages found across the city, and grey and black graffiti-style faces drawn by artist and model Noemi Manser decorate the poles supporting the communal table and a wall in the open kitchen.

"It's kind of a tribute to New York," Chirico said.

Guests can make reservations for a $79 tasting menu with beverage pairings prepared table-side at the communal counter, or choose items off an a la carte menu if they're seated at the banquette.

For now the restaurant is open for dinner only, but Chirico aims to add lunch and brunch service in the future.

He's also still interested in having outdoor seating, but hasn't put in an application with the city for it yet.

And despite the initial opposition he faced, Chirico said there have been "no real issues with neighbors" since the restaurant opened.

Coarse, 306 West 13th St., (646) 896 – 1404. Open for dinner Monday through Saturday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.