PUBLIC Hotel Celebrates a New Beginning with Restaurant POPULAR

Chefs Diego Muñoz and John Fraser bring Peruvian to Manhattan’s Lower East Side

POPULAR restaurant
POPULAR restaurant

By Janet Mercel

New York is ready to celebrate, with itself and everyone else, and POPULAR, the brand new restaurant at Ian Schrager’s PUBLIC Hotel, is the place to do it. A collaboration between Peruvian chef Diego Muñoz, and Michelin-starred chef John Fraser, POPULAR’s layers of vibrant culinary diversity are rivaled only by the Lower East Side neighborhood that throbs around it.

Chefs Diego Muñoz and John Fraser. Photo by Ruvan Wijesooriya
Chefs Diego Muñoz and John Fraser. Photo by Ruvan Wijesooriya
Chef Diego Muñoz. Photo by Liz Clayman
Chef Diego Muñoz. Photo by Liz Clayman

“My DNA is Peruvian,” Diego, whose restaurant in Lima was the number one rated Latin American restaurant on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, explained, “but there are so many waves of global immigration to Peru that there are Incan, Spanish, Moorish, African, Italian, Chinese and Japanese influences.” That richness means Diego’s menu is a smorgasbord of clean, fresh flavors and innovative pairings, but in order to pull it off in NYC, he needed a local.

Fraser, who had previously helmed two of Schrager’s EDITION kitchens, put his expertise in operations and knowledge of New York’s rampant supply of fresh produce to use, so Muñoz could focus 100% on letting his multifaceted flag fly in the kitchen. As Fraser pointed out, “I’m the guy in the booth mixing the treble, but it’s his vision.” The result is a seamless, sexy, vivid collection of spaces and dishes that hum with (the right kind of) heat.

Dish at POPULAR Restaurant. Photo by Liz Clayman
Dish at POPULAR Restaurant. Photo by Liz Clayman
Photo by Karlie Louise
Dishes at POPULAR Restaurant. Photo by Karlie Louise

POPULAR’s menu is broken down by substance and preparation. VEGETABLES, with dishes like papa huancaina, yellow potatoes in spicy cream sauce with black Botija olives, and Royal Trumpet mushrooms anticucho style with nasturtiums. WOK, with sticky prawns chow mein, or filet mignon saltado, or mussels and fried yucca. WOOD FIRED is where the full plates hang out: grilled octopus, black sea bass, or a chicken. Adjacent to the restaurant is the CANTINA & PISCO BAR, where the raw bar rules and Diego’s dinner theater comes alive with variations on ceviche and its cultural cousins- crudo, poke and sashimi- prepared bar-side (also available in the main dining room.)

 

Pisco sour at POPULAR Restaurant. Photo by Liz Clayman
Pisco sour at POPULAR Restaurant. Photo by Liz Clayman

A note on Pisco, the national spirit of Peru: it’s the new tequila and you heard it here first. Distilled from unaged grape brandy, Quebranta, the “macho” grape varietal so named for being the strongest of the pisco grapes, features heavily on the cocktail list. With watermelon and lemongrass, or in a traditional sour, it has a sultry, frothy, aromatic mouth feel that goes down easy on a warm night. And for the non-hard liquors, there’s a well-rounded list of international beer, wine and sake.

Night owls: Come after 10 p.m. for live Latin music, DJs, and visit LOUIS, the fast-gourmet food bazaar curated by the chefs. Try a late night Butifarra, (the essential Andean ham sandwich), a grab and go ceviche bowl, or a much needed Chrystie Street hotdog.

Early Birds: BRUNCH. Alfresco seating in the Bowery Garden, quinoa stir fry with an egg, or…horchata french toast.

Live Latin music at POPULAR Restaurant. Photo by Karlie Louise
Live Latin music at POPULAR Restaurant. Photo by Karlie Louise

Here is a video capturing the celebration of PUBLIC reopening and the launch of POPULAR this past week.  And for a glance at the hotel rooms, designed by Ian Schrager and Herzog & De Meuron, check out our PUBLIC hotel review here.

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