What to Eat at Aprés, Opening Tonight in the East Village

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All photos by Evan Sung
Just a few blocks from where John Fraser is doing his unique spin on vegetable-forward cooking at Narcissa comes a new restaurant with a similar focus: Aprés (60 Third Avenue, 212-254-0888) opens tonight under Apiary managing partner Jenny Moon and chef Mazen Mustafa, who will put out a board of dishes where meat serves as the garnish.

Mustafa spent years working in some of the city's best restaurants, including Bouley, Daniel, and Momofuku Ko, but he spent much of his time under Paul Liebrandt, most recently serving as a lieutenant in that chef's kitchen at The Elm. "I spent a good portion of my career with Paul, and I've been cooking my food through his eyes," Mustafa says. "He's the basis of my career. But now, I want to start doing my own thing. This project came along, I was intrigued, and after meeting with the owners for many months, it felt right. I think it will be a really great restaurant."

At Aprés, he's set up a menu built on plates meant to be shared over several courses, highlighting the produce on the dish instead of the protein. The brasica, for instance, stars broccoli, cabbages, turnips, and mustard and is garnished with a bit of short rib. The heirloom carrots features a number of different preparations of that root vegetable -- marinated in koji (the starter for miso), roasted, glazed, dehydrated, raw, and carrot jus -- plus a bit of langoustine. "We're trying to take the nose-to-tail idea with vegetables," Mustafa says. "We're using the whole thing as many different ways as possible."

There's been a rise in this type of cooking, but the chef says his motivation to turn out this kind of menu came from a deep-rooted interest in vegetables. "This is the way I've always eaten," he says. "I was more interested in the sides than the big hunk of meat. I feel better eating that way -- it's a little bit more satisfying."

His menu pairs to a market-driven cocktail list from Hernan Martinez, who comes from Sinigual. Look for opening night tipples like the rhubarb -- a blend of that stalk plus rye, absinthe, and fernet branca -- and ramps, which mixes that spring beauty with gin and dry vermouth. The pour will also pour 250 white and light red wines -- 20 of which will be offered by the glass -- and it'll carry over Apiary's No Corkage Monday tradition.

The restaurant opens tonight at 5:30 p.m., and it'll serve dinner seven days a week. Look for a tasting menu to roll out in about six to eight weeks.

Click through for a few more photos.


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