November 22, 2004 | Ask Gael
What in the world is New York cuisine?

Photo: Carina Salvi

        Chef Kevin Reilly’s affection for Katz’s Deli and departed German bistros colors his sanely measured homage to New York ethnic eats at the Silverleaf Tavern. Our demanding foursome is totally won over by a play on brunch, chèvre-stuffed French toast with black-truffle fondue, and buttermilk-fried squid and clam bellies to dunk in hot-mustard mayo, a Coney Island reverie. Short ribs stuffed into a knish are amusing, and delicious, too, alongside the fine hanger steak. Happily, the theme never overwhelms Reilly’s impressive performance. Surprisingly juicy smoked-paprika lemon chicken sits on a hill of nut-studded grains that quickly disappears. And a come-lately NYC ingredient, panko, is the secret of the extra-crisp pork schnitzel, wearing a truffled, fried-duck-egg chapeau, that my pals can’t stop eating. Reilly is so good, he deserves a less amateurish staff. “Is everything delicious?” a maître d’ cries, making us cower. And how about a less ponderously baroque dining room? What is this darkness? Reilly thinks the leather and gilded rococo fit his rich food. Since I’m always looking for a lunch spot in this neighborhood, I’ll try to see it his way.

 43 East 38th St. at Park Ave. 212 973 2550