We caught up with Zak Pelaccio, the chef from whose brain sprung such Malaysian-inflected delights as the now legendary crispy pork belly and pickled watermelon salad, to chat about the soon-to-open Borough Food and Drink. He was getting ready to fly to London to check in on his other venture with Jeffrey Chodorow, a Malaysian spot that opened in March called Suka.
How did you hook up with Jeffrey Chodorow?
I met him through Steven Greenberg at the opening party for 230 Fifth. I'm not sure which project happened first. We started collaborating on a whole bunch of ideas.
When we first heard about your involvement with Borough Food & Drink, we were concerned that your love affair for Malaysian cuisine was waning.
Not at all. I intend to keep opening up Southeast Asian restaurants. I'm gonna indulge and play with anything that tickles my fancy.
What inspired Borough Food & Drink?
The pleasure I derive from eating all around New York City. If I can catch just a little snippet of the city's vast offerings and bring it to Manhattan that would be very cool. To serve things to people who otherwise wouldn't be willing or able to travel to Flushing or elsewhere.
And what type of things would those be?
Cevapi from Astoria's Cevabdzinica Sarajevo. Bauernwurst from the Forest Pork Store in Ridgewood will be featured on a sausage plate, along with blutwurst.
Surely bacon will make an appearance on the menu?
Absolutely. There will be four or five kinds. We'll have coriander and black pepper bacon from M&I International Foods in Brighton Beach and standard bacon from the North Carolina Country Store in Brownsville, Brooklyn.
Egads. What do you plan to do with those fine products?
There will be a double-decker BLT using the Carolina and M&I bacons. We'll also have a salad of sliced, braised bacon with fresh spring peas.
What are some of your favorites on the BFD menu?
There's a lot of comfort food. One thing that I like is a three herring plate -- herring in cream sauce, herring in mustard sauce and Matjes herring -- served with crushed potatoes.
That sounds good. What about stuff that people may not have heard of?
We'll be serving roast duck with Hong Kong style noodles from one of my favorite spots, East Corner Wonton. Eventually I'd like to serve Fukianese fish balls stuffed with ground pork.
What's your current soundtrack to the city?
In the last two days I've been listening to Willie Colon's Que Conosco. It's from the early 70s. I picked up at a great shop right near Suka.
What do you think is the best place in the city for live music?
I hear this place Hill Country has a great music venue downstairs.
What's the best subway line?
The JMZ, because it doesn't take you anywhere important. If you're riding on it you're not in a hurry. If you are, you've made a grave error.
Lastly, where do you go when you want to eat something cheap and tasty?
I love the hand-pulled and hand-peeled noodles at Sheng Wang on Eldridge Street.