Cru is New York's Newest Destination for Wine Lovers

Burgundy is the highlight of a list that contains classics, as well as a few surprises.
Sep 2, 2004

With 3,300 selections and more than 45 wines by the glass, Cru is New York's latest magnet for wine lovers. The sleek, richly wooded restaurant, which features a separate wine bar, is located on lower Fifth Avenue in the former Washington Park space.

Owner Roy Welland, general manager Robert Bohr and sommelier John Slover have kept the Washington Park wine inventory, augmenting it with 1,200 more selections. The focus is Burgundy, with an all-star cast of growers that would make any Pinotphile's pulse race.

The list is strong in other areas, with perhaps the strongest offerings of dry Riesling and Grüner Veltliner from Austria available in the United States. Bordeaux, the Rhône Valley, Germany and Italy are also well-represented. The California selections are less extensive yet show depth, with several verticals, including several cult Cabernets and Ridge Montebello back to 1970.

Although the classic wine regions dominate, Bohr, who is also the wine director, likes to challenge customers with offbeat choices. This is evident in the by-the-glass program, which offers both 3-ounce and 6-ounce pours. A Greek white, Asprolithi Patras 2002 from Oenoforos winery, is a nod to the Athens Olympics at $7 a glass, or $4 for a taste. A Verdicchio dei Castello di Jesi 2001 ($17/$9) from Gli Eremi in Italy "…is a little pricey," Bohr conceded, "but it's the best Verdicchio I've tasted."

Obscure reds such as the Domaine Peyra Côtes D'Auvergne Rieusseau 2001 ($8/$4), a Gamay-based country wine from the upper Loire Valley, rubs shoulders with a Turley Zinfandel California Old Vines 2002 ($19/$10) and Château Pichon-Longueville-Lalande Pauillac 1982 ($150/$75).

"It was hard to find a lot of value whites we really liked," Bohr said. "It was much easier to find value reds that work well with [chef] Shea Gallante's clean, bright dishes."

Gallante worked at Felidia in New York before joining Bouley, spending two of his three years there as chef de cuisine. Thus, it is not surprising that his cooking is grounded in Italian tradition, with more contemporary French and Spanish techniques added.

The 22-seat wine bar currently offers small plates from the dining-room menu, but the goal is to develop a separate bar menu of small plates, to which wines will be matched. "The food here is very nuanced," Bohr explained. "It goes very well with Barolo, Austrian Riesling and Grüner Veltliner and red and white Burgundy."

Several offerings of crudo ($6 apiece) are exemplified by the langoustine with green papaya-truffle salad and gin sauce. Appetizers ($12) include rabbit cotechino with casteluccio lentils, speck and mustard flavor. There are also pasta dishes ($13) and main plates ($15), such as Atlantic halibut with baby beets and sunchokes.

The renovated wine bar area in the front room (which is not quite finished, since the restaurant is so new) matches cool limestone walls with warm, exotic woods. Bolivian cocobolo was milled from a single tree for the bar, which is trimmed in rosewood. The dark hardwood floor of African wenge adds another shade. The cocobolo/rosewood theme continues in the dining room, with wainscoting and a floor-to-ceiling serving cabinet. Although it all looks urbane and civilized, one evening, strains of Herbie Hancock's funky 1970s album Head Hunters added a hip, downtown feel to the atmosphere.

24 Fifth Ave.
New York, NY 10011
Telephone: (212) 529-1700
Fax: (212) 529-6300
Web site:

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