Volume 77 / Number 44 - April 02 - 08, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since

Villager photo by Frank Angelino

Chef Craig Hopson

Chef a big addition at One if by Land, Two if by Sea

By Frank Angelino 

At One if by Land, Two if by Sea, the historic and romantic Village restaurant, hand holding across a candlelit table rivals fork holding. Heightening the slightly edgy charm of the place as a romantic hideaway is its link through unofficial lore as having once been the carriage house of Aaron Burr, Thomas Jefferson’s vice president, best known for killing Alexander Hamilton in a duel.

The restaurant has hired Craig Hopson, a creative young chef from Picholine on the Upper West Side, to give new life to the menu’s perennial favorites, like beef Wellington and the dark-chocolate soufflé. Some might wonder, however, why One if by Land, Two if by Sea would tamper with a seemingly recession-proof formula.

Oscar Proust, the restaurant’s owner for the past eight years, who took over from the original longtime owner, proudly notes the improvements he has made to revitalize the 36-year-old eatery.

“I’ve replaced the rugs with wide-plank wooden floors, put antique chandeliers in the dining room and eliminated the 1970s partitions,” he said. Touches like two life-sized portraits gracing the dining room help give the space both a colonial and modern feeling at the same time.

Recently bringing in Hopson was equally important in the restaurant’s transformation. Chef Hopson was a surfer in his native Perth, Australia, before embracing a cooking career. Among that career’s highlights, he said, have been stints at “two three-star restaurants in France cooking with Guy Savoy and Alain Senderens,” before landing at New York City’s Artisanal, in East Midtown, and Picholine.

“I tasted Craig’s food at Picholine before I hired him, and I loved it. I gave him carte blanche to do whatever he wanted to do,” said Proust, who manages the business end by day. Colleen, his wife, runs the flower-filled place at night. Proust says that he tries to eat there at least three or four times a week.

Hopson is very engaging and talks enthusiastically about his cooking.

“My style is sort of continental French and I make the food as interesting as I can,” he explained. “I try to make dishes taste delicious with different elements of texture.”

The standard menu is a three-course $75 prix fixe and Hopson says 40 percent of customers will order the filet of beef Wellington. The chef has elevated the popular 1950s dish by using, as he puts it, “better beef and seasonal roasted vegetables with a foie gras sabayon and a drizzle of Bordelaise sauce.” The chef works international flavors into his pan-seared black sea bass, which has tandoori-flavored oil, roasted grapes and preserved-lemon yogurt.

“Things should be on a plate for a reason to make exciting dining,” Hopson said. Certainly falling in that category are his appetizers: marinated John Dory sashimi with leeks, radishes and winter truffles and his gruyere gnocchi with Burgundy snails, yellow-foot mushrooms and bottarga.

According to Proust, Hopson’s being in the kitchen means, “Having access to more fresh, more diverse and more organic products.”

The restaurant is immensely popular, attracting more than 200 diners on a weekend night. Proust and Hopson have created new options so patrons can enjoy One if by Land even more fully. They recently opened for Sunday brunch and there’s a new, imaginative bar menu that makes it easy for those who want less than the prix fixe menu or would like to dine alone at the bar in the high-ceilinged front room. While the front room is further away from the coveted window tables in the rear of the dining room facing the garden, it’s closer to the music from the elevated piano player near the entrance.

Some intriguing items on the bar menu are monkfish cheeks “Bang Bang” with turnip and tamarind, and tempura hen-of-woods mushrooms with orange salt and truffle aioli.

“This is a special-occasion restaurant where we’re trying to do good food; so people come whether or not it’s an engagement or an anniversary,” Hopson said. “I like to think the majority are focused on the food.” 

One if by Land, Two if by Sea, 17 Barrow St. (between Seventh Ave. So. and W. Fourth St.), 212-228-0822; www.oneifbyland.com; open for dinner seven nights and Sunday brunch ($20) 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; chef’s tasting menu $95 and $150 paired with wines; private party room seats up to 45 persons; street-level access.




Reader Services


Email our editor ARCHIVES

Support the Advertisers who support us!

The Villager is published by Community Media LLC. 145 Sixth Avenue, New York, NY 10013
Phone: (212) 229-1890 | Fax: (212) 229-2790 | Advertising: 646-452-2465 | © 2008 Community Media, LLC

Written permission of the publisher must be obtained before any of the contents of this newspaper, in whole or in part, can be reproduced or redistributed.