For their second restaurant, chefs Jeremiah Stone and Fabian von Hauske are staying close to home — but thinking outside the prix fixe menu box. The young duo has opened Wildair two doors down from their critically acclaimed hot spot Contra on Orchard Street in the Lower East Side.
“The ambition catches up to you. Contra is a little more elevated now than it used to be,” explains von Hauske, who takes the reins as pastry chef at both restaurants. “Wildair is the reaction to that. We always wanted to do a casual space. The vibe is very different, we’re doing things here that we’d never do next door.”
“We approached it with thinking [about] what are the things that we’ve wanted to do, wanted to see or eat, but people wouldn’t get it in the format of having a set menu,” Stone explained, and described the concise menu as “familiar with a twist.” The resulting dishes — snacks really, such as artfully plated radishes with seaweed butter and fried squid paired with squid ink aioli — still convey the integrity presented at Contra, but are made to be enjoyed at a more leisurely pace alongside the list of natural and biodynamic wines curated by Jorge Riera.
The 45-seat space is compact and boxy, with communal high-top tables and cross-stitched artwork on the ceiling that’s meant to convey ivy. The all-glass windows in front open onto the street, and the no-reservation policy is intended to lure in passersby and diners turned away due to lack of space at Contra.
And as for the restaurant’s whimsical name, the chefs tapped a Lower East Side legacy — Wildair was the name of a thoroughbred racehorse owned by the 18th-century politician James De Lancey. Only time will tell if the duo’s stable of restaurants is as long-lasting.
142 Orchard Street, New York
Open 6 p.m. to 12 a.m. Wed-Sun