Look for changes in the downtown dining scene in the next few weeks as Five Spice puts the finishing touches on its menu and prepares for a scheduled Dec. 3 opening on Wall Street in the former home of the short-lived Merenda spin-off, Deep.Down the street, downtown stalwart Cork has unveiled a makeover with a new menu and a revised look.
The changes are more indications that the once high-flying downtown dining scene might just have survived the worst of the ongoing recession.
Five Spice owner Lillian Chu said she and her team are looking forward to opening an innovative and affordable restaurant that relies on organic and local ingredients. Highlights of the new restaurant include a sushi bar and fusion menu that grabs from both European and Asian culinary traditions, Chu said.
Although the restaurant takes its name from the five spices considered essential for Chinese cooking, there will be more to the menu than that, thanks in part to help of Greg Unruh, former head chef and co-owner at Cork, who is consulting with Chu and head chef Di Long on the menu.
While the food presentations will be brand new, many customers will recognize the general décor and layout, which Chu said she and her partners decided to keep intact from Deep.
"We'll be keeping a lot," she said. "It's such a beautiful restaurant. At the beginning we debated changes and after some discussion we felt that any change would not be better."
At Cork, owner Carin Cameron went for a more dramatic approach retaining only a single salad and dessert dish from the old menu, despite some time-tested favorites. But after eight years of tip toeing around change, Cameron decided to go big. In an effort to energize the subdued atmosphere, Cork has added color to the walls and gone for a more contemporary feel, which extends even to the background music, which Cameron described as more upbeat.
Cork rolled out the new menu last week and is offering a chef's sample dinner for $14.50 per person this Thursday night. Cameron said the new menu, which features items like Togarashi Halibut with grilled bok choy, puts a renewed emphasis on affordability with dishes ranging from $3 to $23.