Cathy Erway Talks About Her New Pop-Up Restaurant Inside Prospect Heights’ Milk Bar

04/14/2011 9:00 AM |


It seems like pop-up restaurants are all the rage nowadays, from the brunch-only Filipino spot Maharlika to the James Bead Foundation’s star-studded pop-up joint in Chelsea Market. On Wednesday, April 20th, Milk Bar in Prospect Heights will be home to a brand-new pop-up concept from chef and author Cathy Erway. You can expect grub similar to the Asian-influenced cuisine she concocted at her former supper club Hapa Kitchen, this time served in three-course meals for $25 with optional beer pairings from Beer Table. We talked briefly with Cathy about her new venture.

How did you come up with the idea of doing a pop-up restaurant?

I think I fell into it. I was standing by the pool table at the Levee (in Williamsburg) at 1pm in the afternoon and someone asked me if I was Cathy Erway. His name was Josh Kaplan, a chef at Milk Bar, and he asked me pretty much right there and then if I wanted to cook occasional dinner events at the cafe, since it wasn’t open at night. I said, sure!

What’s on the menu?

We’ll have a salad with lightly seared squid and asparagus, with a Thai-inspired spicy lime vinaigrette and fried peanuts. Main course is a bowl of soup noodles with a really tasty ramen-like stock of lamb, chicken and pork. It’ll have leg of lamb slices, black garlic oil, chili oil and some other surprises floating on top. For dessert, there’s a fresh mint-infused panna cotta with an oolong tea reduction. Josh and I collaborated on the menu and tested everything out at least once.

What do you like about the pop-up concept?

Just like a supper club or a home dinner party, you can take your time crafting a special menu for that night only. Billie Holiday said, “It’s not music if you sing it the same way twice.” I couldn’t cook if I wasn’t able to make things differently each time. Also, you’re not limited by what has the most longevity, what’s going to be the big seller, or what’s easiest to source all of the time, which is big, because I like picking things out from smaller farms that most restaurants can’t deal with.

How is it going to work?

We’ll take reservations as well as walk-ins from 7pm on. We’re feeling it out, seeing if people will stumble into it from the street or if we’ll need a more strict reservation system, but for now, that’s the deal.

Can you tell us about the space?

Only 25 diners at a time, so it’s real cozy. I like that the kitchen is right in your face — you can see what’s happening there no matter where you’re seated. It’s also tiny and totally less of a kitchen than most apartments have, which I think is inspiring for those who don’t think they have a good enough kitchen to cook at home.

Is this going to be a regular thing?

We plan to serve different dinner menus every Wednesday at Milk Bar. Except for the following one, because I overbooked myself — oops.

What kinds of dishes are you planning for the future?

For our next dinner, May 4th, we’re thinking of doing oysters with yuzu mignonette, a trio of steamed bun sliders, and lotus root fries.