Chez José: On The Nature Of The Pop-Up Restaurant

Photos by Austin McAllister

NO. 4

Chez José

On The Nature Of The Pop-Up Restaurant

What is the purpose of a pop-up restaurant? Its very nature is fleeting; the point is its immediacy and the excitement you get from being able to say, “I was there!” For both chefs and diners, the pop-up restaurant is liberating: menus that feel predictable get thrown out, and the chef can control the experience in a waynthat remains inspiring for him or her—and fresh and new for the diner. The rules vanish, and all that remains is the food.

Well, that’s the ideal anyway, but that ideal is seldom reached in life. Too often, the things we love wind up being ephemeral, and we’re left searching for the next best thing. Luckily, with Chez José, the pop-up restaurant run by chef José Ramírez-Ruiz and Pamela Yung, the perfect balance has been struck between pop-up and permanence. The couple has been operating their reservation-only, prix-fixe, 10-course meal out of the once-shuttered Lake Trout space on Havemeyer Street for months now, and has been serving their vegetable-focused menu to an incredibly receptive crowd. The warm reception has to do not only with the food itself, which is innovative and driven by seasonal ingredients, but, also Ramírez-Ruiz and Yung’s welcoming nature. (They do all the work on their own.) The two operate seamlessly, with Ramírez-Ruiz doing all the cooking (except for the delightful housemade breads that Yung provides), and they usually sit down to have some wine with their diners at the end of the meal.

So while we understand that nothing lasts forever, we’re also pretty happy that Chez José seems like it’ll be sticking around for awhile.


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