Bright and Hearty Fare at Trattoria Bianca

January 16, 2015 Updated: October 8, 2018

Chef Julian Clauss-Ehlers has traveled the world, cooking at five Michelin-starred restaurants in Europe, including La Côte St. Jacques and Les Prés d’Eugénie in France.

Early in his formation, he was taken by his sous chef into the woods near Joigny, France, to forage for mushrooms, an experience he never forgot. “When you take these wonderful wild mushrooms from the forest and put them in a frying pan, it’s the most amazing, amazing culinary experience. You’re picking it from nature and putting it on the plate,” he said.

The love for fresh, local ingredients has stuck with him. The U.K.-born chef, who met his wife in Miami, has lived in New York for 14 years now, but very early on held some skepticism about American cuisine—something about that universal stereotype of Americans surviving on burgers.

But that quickly vanished. “I’m spoiled because it’s New York. People know how to eat well,” he said. At his present gig as executive chef of Trattoria Bianca, which opened in November on the corner of Eighth Avenue and 35th Street, the chef has brought his love of fresh ingredients and simple food.

Hearty Dishes, Bright Notes

He builds up a beet salad, whose slices are so shiny you could see your reflection in them. They are startling in their brightness, you could almost picture them in their eagerness and thirst for life, jumping off the plate. Clauss-Ehlers slices them raw, and layers them with orange and orange zest, lemon and lemon zest, thyme, and vinegar. Served with goat cheese, pear, fennel, and arugula, it wakes up the palate ($8).

For roasted eggplant, Clauss-Ehlers uses Japanese eggplant which in turns becomes hot and cool in your mouth, with bits of red chili flakes and flecks of mint subtly holding court ($8).

Braised dishes like a short rib is stick-to-your-ribs rich, after a hefty braising time of four to five hours. It is served as a ragout with pappardelle, which add to its heartiness ($20).

A striped bass, served over a celery root purée, is paired with a bright sauce where onion, pancetta, veal stock, and red wine are slowly cooked together. I am not a great fan of celery root but the fish, with its sweet, savory, and tangy notes, was light and delicious ($22).

Since tourists throng this part of town, cheesecake is on the menu. I ordered it with some apprehension, but it turned out exceptional, light with a sumptuous texture all at once ($8.50).

The pear tart also satisfies the sweet tooth wonderfully, with the texture of the pear set off nicely against the puff pastry ($8).

Trattoria Bianca, true to its name, is predominantly white and ivory. Italian art deco posters add pop of colors throughout. A bar lines the window side overlooking Eighth Avenue. The restaurant carries a variety of amari (Italian bitter liqueurs) featured in many of the cocktails, which include five variations of Negronis alone.

Trattoria Bianca
481 Eighth Ave.
Daily noon–11 p.m.