Digging through the plethora of boxes hiding in the attic of the Culinary Institute of America’s regal central building, Waldy Malouf, the school’s senior director of food and beverage operations, discovered a bevy of silverware, plates, and chairs. The treasure hunt also yielded old chandeliers, buffets, even artwork. With a shoestring budget and a short amount of time, these vintage pieces were given new life as the design highlights of Pangea, the CIA’s new pop-up restaurant overseen by Malouf.
Pop-ups, fleeting enterprises especially pervasive in the fashion and food worlds, are often surrounded by excitement, and casual Pangea — open weekdays from 5:30 to 8 p.m. — is no exception. The plant- and grain-centric restaurant, which opened in January and will shutter in June, offers two menu options, one vegetarian and one non-vegetarian, both of which comprise five-course meals containing 10 dishes each. “It’s an attempt to have a conversation about conscientious dining,” explains Malouf. “Yes, the food has to taste great, but we also need to talk about where it comes from and the impact it has on our health and the environment.”
Pangea, located in the CIA’s Continuing Education Center, addresses this important shift in dining by illuminating the interconnected global pathways of food. It’s not uncommon, points out Malouf, “to go to Paris and have dinner in a sushi bar, visit a Korean restaurant when in New York, or even eat at a McDonald’s in Tokyo. We want our chefs to reimagine the flavors based on traditions, techniques, and spices from different countries.”
There are 70 seats at the new eatery, and patrons have the option of sitting at a communal dining table. The dishes (one of which is served family-style during each course) are an international mash-up. Here, edamame salsa flatbread begins the meal, followed by mussels steamed in retsina broth, which then paves the way for roasted whole celery root. End the meal with Asian steamed buns filled with soy-ginger cured pork cheeks and tropical fruit-carrot sorbet, all washed down by offbeat wines and New York-made beer and cider.
“People just don’t crave creamed spinach and a 32-ounce T-Bone in the same way anymore,” says Malouf. “It’s a return to peasant food, really, when people ate diets low in fat and protein because they couldn’t afford anything else. They didn’t have the option of importing asparagus from Chile in the middle of winter.”
$36.69 (including gratuity, sans beverages); tickets are available at www.ciarestaurantgroup.com/pangea.