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Food-loving lawyers planning on making a trip to New York, take note: The hottest restaurant scene in the city is located between Union Square and the Flatiron District. And no one, but no one, is hotter than Union Pacific restaurant’s young executive chef, Rocco di Spirito. Rocco — everyone seems to call him by his first name — burst into the gastronomic firmaments in October when Gourmet named him “America’s most exciting young chef” and put him on its cover. Within days, he had become the talk of the New York culinary world. It’s not that di Spirito was an unknown: Food & Wine had earlier named him one of its “best new chefs.” But the muted atmosphere of the restaurant has always seemed at odds with the highly charged character of di Spirito’s cuisine. And to be fair: When he’s not around, the cooking isn’t quite as thrilling. We started with one of Rocco’s signature dishes, bluefin tuna with yuzu and fresh wasabi, which provided sharp contrasts both to the eye and to the palate: A swell sort of culinary wake-up call. With it, we ordered a bottle of the rare, white 1998 Nuits St. George from the Domaine Clos de l’Arlot ($150), which turned out to be a better match for charred Spanish mackerel with celery root, pear, and sweet spice, but also with an enticing hint of sweet mustard and celeriac. Next came Taylor Bay scallops with uni, tomato water, and mustard oil — the white scallops sharply outlined against the pinkish-orange uni atop a bed of shaved ice. Again, a matter of striking taste and color contrasts. The cold foie gras arrived accompanied by a lively persimmon and black truffle vinaigrette. (Those of you fearful of mad cow disease will be happy to know that the foie gras was from New York’s Hudson River Valley, and not from France.) With this we drank a sweet Loire Valley white, the 1998 Coteaux de Layon-St. Lambert “Cuvee Prestige” from Dom. Ogereau ($12), one of many wines by the glass chosen by head sommelier Fred Price to go with individual dishes. His list is full of bright, sharply focused younger wines, particularly those from the Loire Valley, Alsace, Germany, and Austria. Champagne lovers will appreciate the nonvintage brut “Cuvee St.-Anne” from Chartogne-Taillet ($85). The lusty, rich bouillon of forest mushrooms and aged oloroso sherry — a heady brew if ever there were one — called for a red burgundy, the older the better, such as Bruno Clair’s 1996 Morey-St. Denis “En La Rue de Vergy” ($95). But the charming 1997 Auxey-Duresses “Les Grands Champs” from Diconne ($48) would also have worked nicely. After that, it was time to brace up and face some real meat. Duck in brown sauce with plantains arrived tender and delicious. But a loin of veal with a fricassee of green onions and a green paprika foam was sheer perfection. There was, we thought, some mysterious something about the foam — an elusive flavor we couldn’t quite figure out. So we asked the chef. “Calves’ brains,” Rocco told us, grinning wickedly. Now you know. We both thought it was the hit of the night. So just forget we told you and eat the damned thing. If you can spring for it, make a grab for a bottle of the 1992 Pommard “Les Pozerolles” ($135) from Maitre Hubert de Montille — yes, he’s an eminent French lawyer, but he also makes superb red burgundy. The wonderful veal aside, there’s lots more to like on the menu. From the entree list we’ve enjoyed the Scottish salmon, the prune-glazed pheasant (a bullseye), the black truffle risotto, and the immensely satisfying (and extremely filling) short ribs of beef with truffled taro root. Desserts are on the pure and piercing side, always colorful, usually accompanied by tropical fruit or sorbet. Fortunately, too, there is an abundance of dessert wines to go with these. Calvados fans should take particular notice: There are 25-year-old blends and even some 1976 and 1968 vintages on the list. If you have a hankering for serious spirits like these, well, go for it! Meanwhile, our own hankerings had long since been satisfied. After that brilliantly intense loin of veal, we wanted nothing else. No dessert, no petits fours. Just the memory of a scintillating meal coming from the hands of one of the best and most imaginative young chefs in America. George Sape is managing partner of New York’s Epstein Becker & Green. John Anderson is deputy editor ofThe American Lawyer.

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