n’eat-ness counts

n’eat (neat + eatery)

Cuisine word of the day is…drumroll…you got it. Huzzah! It’s Nordic. The northern European culture of food and ephemera has firmly entrenched itself in New York City. It’s hi end at Agern and Aska, lower end at the Northern Food Hall in Grand Central Station and now Goldilocks, we have the bowl of porridge that’s just right, a choice that is smack in the middle. n’eat in the East Village. The intention is to have it be a neighborhood spot albeit with a dash of destination thrown in. The new Nordic, intriguing Danish food but the rustic chic version. Less fancy, less pricey, same substance. Inventive, inspiring and a very good time.

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A Swede and a Dane walked into a bar and we got lucky. Chef Gabriel Hedlund, yet another Noma survivor and veteran of several European restaurants joined forces with restauranteur Mathias Kaer, owner of a few spots in Copenhagen. Together they focused on creating a cool casual restaurant of the Scandinavian kind, making use of local ingredients while staying true to their roots. They pickle, they brine, they smoke, they ferment, importing just a few necessities like moss, seaweed and Danish cheeses. The food is fresh, zesty, flinty, you grasp the terroir.

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It’s fun here. The vibe is on point for the neighborhood and these times. Ambience: check, well crafted wine/beer list: check, excellent service: check, food: check check and major check. And the actual check? Not scary.

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The chef is creating just behind the counter so you can happily grab a stool and be privy to the magic.

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A picnic table just outside the entrance sets the relaxed tone. The front dining section seats about thirty people, there’s the counter seating with that view of the open kitchen, plus a few more tables further back placed before a lovely private room that seats about 20 people and is anchored by a glass walled wine room. The restaurant feels spacious but homey.

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Friendly servers are quick to answer questions and make you feel comfortable while sporting aprons that pay at least a little homage to vintage viking.

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Modern. Spare. Cultivated. Earth tones, light woods, whitewashed walls.

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Blackware instead of silverware. Lightweight, distinctive, stylish.

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The menu has 15 dishes that will adapt with the seasons as well as available ingredients. They’re all $16, just a couple augment a surcharge and we were advised to consider 3 – 5 plates per person. Dishes are definitely not tiny so depending on how many wooden slabs of the fabulous bread you order, you can do 2 – 3 plates and be fine. But…you’ll likely want to keep foraging, it’s that good.

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On offer are five seafood, five vegetarian and five meat dishes so you can design your own meal or avoid an argument about preferences if sharing.

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A little Pet Nat to help with the post election night blues. A highly enjoyable storytelling bottle from the Veneto, akin to prosecco but better. You can taste its whispers of must and tradition as you grab at a little bit of sanity. I’m sure it’s as great any night not following a decimating election.

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The most seductive sourdough bread. Salty crust, a hint of sweetness to the center celebrated by it’s cohort – fermented butter with a sweet velvety tang you might actually cry over. Happy tears.

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A stoneware bowl accentuates the lovely raw mackerel, nasturtium, and horseradish in a chilled green tomato broth. It’s vibrant, acidic with buttery flavorful fish.

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Fried fluke, cauliflower, tarragon with whey is a delight. The fish is more like a pan seared filet, nicely cooked and the cauliflower is rendered into yet another new dimension for cauliflower. I didn’t think there were any left. Lovely dish.

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The lamb tartare with chives and capers had a pleasantly surprising mouth feel, soft and smooth with bursts of buckwheat crunch. Perfectly seasoned so that it elevated the lamb rather than overpower its delicacy.

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This dish is barely there, heavenly and light, but full of flavor and adds up to one of the best on the menu and one of my favorite dishes in recent dining. Delicately cured thin slices of scallops with slivers of radish in a weightless but snappy buttermilk dressing and then the craziest part – frozen mussel snow. A granita really, flavored by the lushness of the mussels and their liqueur. It’s floaty, but the combined depth of flavors make it feel substantial.

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Rehydrated beets, thinly sliced beets, pickled beets with big, juicy luscious blackberries and pine. One bite encompassing each loamy, warmly sweet, slightly tart ingredient is a pleasure.

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Wild mushrooms, Blanquette and Roasted sourdough. We were instructed to take a bite of the gorgeous mushroom toast and then a sip of the sauce following. Mushroom stock, yolks, cream and I don’t know what else but holy all that’s earthy – this was the path. It’s lusty, warm and consoling, especially welcomed this night.

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A lovely $40 bottle makes this the neighborhood place you can afford to be. The wine list developed by sommelier Pernille Folkersen is well priced with an emphasis on natural & organic, but also includes a few bottles of distinction. Plus there’s sake, bubbly, and cider  too, all joyfully complementing the food.

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Dessert list is small but its offerings are exquisite.

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The gossamer walnut parfait companioned by pear granite and hay oil. Of course. Hay. Melts in your mouth.

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This kinds of beats all. Icelandic yogurt, white chocolate, sprays of dill and surprise surprise surprise…

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icy cucumber balls that reveal themselves as if they were the most unimaginable treat in the world. Enchanting. And it’s cukes! This is stellar.

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The art will be jars of pickled things. Edible art.

My only complaint is that the soundtrack does little for the atmosphere or the food. The night I was there the music included My Way and Hopelessly Devoted To You. I wouldn’t allow either on an AM car radio much less backing a beautiful dinner. When I asked about it, I was told it was to inspire memories. Maybe in Denmark these are the songs of good times but perhaps something more unique or interesting would be more motivational for those sublime memories that will surely come after you dine here.

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You can frame your dining experience any way you’d prefer. Go full tasting with all the dishes and make it a luxe evening with friends, dine alone at the bar for a plate or two and a glass of wine, or just pop in to share a few menu items, a few glasses and a pal. It’s the kind of place where anything goes so don’t wait for the right night, just go and let it become the night that it’s supposed to be.

n’eat

58 Second Avenue between 3rd/4th Streets

917.892.6350

Open Sun – Thurs 6pm-11pm  Fri – Sat 6pm-12am

Hail To King

King

Three girls three. That’s how this tale of a boîte-to-be begins. Chefs Clare de Boer and Jess Shadbolt were working at the infamous River Cafe in London and they shared a dream. An introduction to Annie Shi, a general manager at the cutting edge Clove Club brought forth a further meeting of the minds, plus some hopes, fantasies and luckily for those of us on this side of the pond, a plan. New York City. As luck would have it, they scored the about-to-be-vacant-after-10-years space belonging to Mekong, and the rest in these short weeks gone…is history. This charming, kicky, cozy, irrefutably sublime bistro is every bit as good as the word on the street has been.

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It’s a concise, continually changing menu leaning keenly on southern Italy and northern France, a modern European take on comfort dishes, classic dishes, dishes with refinement…sparked by creativity.

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There are several tables in the small bar for dining as well as stools for a pre-dinner cocktail. Great cocktails. On the lighter side but that bartender will do a strong classic for you in a second.

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The menu includes the date because at the very least it partially changes daily.

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Carta di Musica, a favorite of mine is thin, crisp, crackling and treated to a pool of buttery oil.

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Highly enjoyable bottle from a well rounded and well priced list. Definitely one to have with food. Big and fruity, good tannins, long finish.

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Salt cod on grilled polenta was a fusion of cool, creamy, whipped, warm, crunchy. Layers of satisfaction with a nod to northern Italy’s favorite carbohydrate and an homage to the preferred dish of the Vikings, baccala, imported from them to the Veneto in the 15th century. The sweetness of the polenta counterbalances the saltiness of the cod. It’s a great bite with a glass of red wine but I think I’d love it for breakfast as well. Breakfast wine up to you.

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Fresh ricotta with lentils and marinated anchovy was lovely. The anchovies provide a umami quality offering depth and complexity to those earthy stalwarts, the lentils. Perfecting the plate is the familiar pair of lush ricotta and bitter greens. All together, comfort at its level best.

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Hand cut tagliarini with chanterelles and parmesan was both hearty and delicate. It gives you that sense of place, maybe a cozy trattoria on a snowy Italian afternoon? Though its hook translates seductively as a contemporary dish of an evening in west Soho.

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To paraphrase a favorite Preston Sturges line from The Lady Eve , the halibut roasted over lemon leaves with braised spinach and baby artichokes was a poem. Each bite was a delight, traversing from spinach to fish to artichoke and back again. I couldn’t stop eating it. And the lemon leaves…ahhh. Our lovely waiter suggested we sniff them and then lick them. In all earnestness!  He was right, the fragrant lemony aromatic fills your senses and somehow lends a deeper understanding to the French-ness of the dish.

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Slow cooked Florentine fennel was soft, deep and carmelized. A pleasing side dish.

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Prune and cognac are classic companions and though this prune and cognac tart wasn’t grand, it was definitely good. A thin riser of pastry laid with a cozy cover of custard that suspended juicy prunes and was lightly baked.

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The atmosphere is bright and spirited with the intermingling of a busy kitchen and chatty clientele, almost like a big family dinner with every recognizable character at the table. Except it has an understated elegance, is nothing short of charming and neighboring diners don’t eat off your plate.

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The always evolving menu provides an ideal canvas for the chef’s mastery and style. Their appetite for timeless dishes enhanced with an edgy imagination appears effortless, and offers the warmest of invitations. Flavors are straightforward, satisfying, beguiling. Service is on point, everyone working seems to be having a good time and interested in sharing that with the room.

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Alchemy is in play here, this trio of women, the food they create, the ambience they’ve fostered…the magnetism is inescapable. It’s the kind of place you wish was in your own neighborhood but wouldn’t think twice about hopping an uber to pretend that it is.

King

18 King Street with entrance at Sixth Avenue

917.825.1618

Closed Sunday. Monday-Wednesday 5:30pm-Midnight Thursday-Saturday till 1am

Mimimimimimiiiii

Mimi

Everyone’s been talking about it. Me included. Just hadn’t put pen to paper (finger to key?) for months and finally another lovely dinner a few nights ago propelled me to a mention at last. Holy holy holy, this is the real deal. If the real deal is a group of under 30yr olds opening an intimate, classic but edgy, comfy but sexy, bold with a soupçon of bygone fare cloaked in a French boîte headed up by a 25yr old chef. Because that’s what this place is.

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Grab a table outdoors for some street life with your rosé or white negroni, then score one of 27 seats inside for the kind of meal you’re ever grateful to be in NYC for.

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Chef Liz Johnson and her kitchen co-horts including fiancé Will, are confidently cooking with dynamite. She weds the urbane with the odd and eccentric, often taking long forgotten dishes and warping them into innovative, considered creations. It’s ingredient driven, imaginative and definitely outside the lines. A little Japanese, a touch Scandinavian and you’ve got the most non-French yet still French bistro around.

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The menu is handwritten and changes at least weekly if not more often. Just because your best friend had a dish they loved doesn’t mean you’ll get to try it tomorrow. But you could get a differently realized version. Sourcing matters deeply to Chef Johnson so it all depends on what’s available. Add to that a hefty amount of creative spark and I swear no one will ever be bored dining here. The owners, all similarly aged compatriots are completely involved but have wisely let their chef…cook. Louis Levy, brothers Evan and Daniel Bennett, and Camilla Deterre oversee, design, serve, and make pretty great cocktails. Like my very pleasurable French 75.

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I was fortunate to have first dined here last winter, sans phone so sans photos. Kind of refreshing. And as it was soon after they’d opened, sans crowds too. The menu I had was epic. As the menus continue to be. Ms Johnson seems to enjoy the constants of clams, shishitos and renditions of citrus or smokiness in her oeuvre. There’s pork fat galore, veal stock, cod sperm and broths of blood & body parts. She’s gone way beyond the currently popular bone. The dishes smack of layers of something deeper, unidentifiable, intriguing. Her cooking is to food what Edward Scissorhands…um…scissors were to shape. Wildly artful. We do not bear witness to her agenda, it’s more like absorbing her calculated free fall.

The menu is divided into four sections, three of which are appetizers. Hmm, okay. There are appetizers, cold appetizers, and hot appetizers. Interesting. The choices are inviting, making selection a full time occupation. Tonight for us it was seafood focused but carnivores will be consumed with revelry here. We started with the Madai, part of the Japanese sea bream family and considered a luxury fish there. An absurdly good crudo, anointed with brown butter and a kind of lemon coulis & cream. That taste could linger in my mouth forever and that would be fine.

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But I did the proverbial ‘died and went to heaven’ homage for the Gnocchi Parisian with a brandade cream and yes, shishito peppers. If air could be eaten and satisfying, this is what it would taste like. A plate of silk velvet. I wish I had my own table at Mimi’s and the staff would bring me bowl after bowl in a never ending parade. I don’t think I’d ever tire of it.

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I missed the early spring version with Hokkaido sea urchin, white asparagus and sesame seeds several months ago – and may never forgive myself.

Not a drop of that luscious sauce was going back to the kitchen so the sudden arrival of bread was timely. Don’t know if it’s made in house but it’s as good as everything else here. A crust with bite, the bread’s heady liquor dissolving into soft yeasty pockets. The butter is sensational. I alternated slices with remains of the brandade cream and the butter. A sin worth living for.

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On an earlier winter menu, there was Surf clam with leek vinaigrette, almonds and brown butter, a favorite of mine. Others at the table flipped over the Blanquette de veau, Skate amandine with razor clams, and a classic, wildly gorgeous Pate en Croute. Hard to recall details now but I do know it was all superb.

Mediterranean Turbot with Manilla clams, grilled squash and saffron had an unexpected sweetness. The fish that is. Flaky and firm, perhaps with a bit too much of the citrus vinaigrette. Overall though, slamming.

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Beautifully cooked Golden Snapper with sweet Manilla clams, brandade stuffed in a cuttlefish sauce plus charred shishitos. Nutty, earthy, mild brine, lovely.

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Now when it comes to Bibb lettuce, one might think oh salad, not worth missing a more exciting dish but one would be wrong. So wrong. I don’t know what’s in this champagne vinaigrette – it’s fragrant, light but not trivial and the incredibly fresh greens with the acidic pops of picholine olives makes this a plate to go out of your way for.

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The almost mythical Chocolate Tart demands it’s well deserved reputation. Black cocoa infuses the creaminess, keeps it from being cloying and balanced with the chilled scoop of milk sorbet, it’s glorious. It’s not too much, it’s everything right.

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The design is visually subtle, but ultra sophisticated and arty. It’s a stainless steel cocktail bar, spun aluminum lights, there’s marble, velvet, hand drawn murals, and formica tables. It’s clever and unassuming. Good jazz on the sound system and we have Paris meets the Greenwich Village of The Beats and of now.

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The staff is winning and very passionate about the food they are offering. Gracious service combined with an interest in the diner’s take. It may be the first time I believe a server when they say, oh that’s really fantastic if asked a menu question. The wine list seems to be oddly half Bordeaux and they are focused on suggesting pairings for the food. I only had a glass of Pinot Noir after cocktails but will amend this on my next visit.

It’s a neighborhood spot for those lucky enough to live nearby but the rest of us are lucky too. There are subways and ubers so any neighborhood scene is fair game for claiming. Plus an enchanting destination restaurant such as this is always welcome in the dining sphere. Now you just have to snag a table.

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Mimi

185 Sullivan Street between Houston & Bleecker

212.418.1260

Open Monday-Saturday serving past midnight and Sunday for brunch

 

The Truly Avant Garde Avant Garden

Avant Garden

It started with the olives bathed in herbs and warm oil. An enticing welcome. And a signpost for the enchanting meal to come.

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So, it seems that vegetarian is the new thirty…or some variation on that theme. Like dogs became the accessory du jour a few years ago, being vegan/vegetarian, at least having a BFF who is, or even honoring meatless mondays is pretty much on trend. A welcome trend (as are dogs!) but sometimes the fare that supports the philosophy is less than amiable. There were a scant handful of decent vegetarian restaurants in NYC for many years. Candle Cafe, Blossom, Souen led the pack and when Dirt Candy came along, carnivores and herbivores alike experienced a paradigm shift. And now, with the advent of Superior Burger, Chloe and the coup de grace – Avant Garden, we have definitely left late night tv’s Ronco Vegematic in the dust. We’ve gone beyond dicing.

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A shiny new jewel in the crown of restauranteur/bar owner and almost lifetime vegan, Ravi DeRossi, he also has the infamous Death & Co, lovely champagne and wine bar Riddling Widow, tiki bar Mother of Pearl, tequila bar Mayahuel, bitters bar Amor y Amargo and the fish focused restaurant Bergen Hill among others. He brought along his longtime and very notable executive chef Andrew D’Ambrosi, who has created an inventive and fabulous menu.

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It’s glowy and romantic. An exemplary staff, spirited and kind, not so easy when navigating a lightly cramped space. Love sitting at the petrified wood bar on a cozy chair stool, watching the alchemy take place. You can preview the goods as you watch them being made, each dish looking tastier than the last, desperately trying not to keep adding to your order. It’s easy to linger here as dishes arrive one at a time, meant to be shared and savored. A few glasses of the lovely dolcetto, good conversation and of course the food – that congenial dining atmosphere becomes a brilliant evening. Our server Ryan and Jack, the chef in front us, were very friendly and we appreciated their direction.

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The menu is in three sections, our first arrival was a Toast as the menu refers to them. The vegan term for bruschetta? There’s a bountiful selection making it hard to choose so I look forward to many return visits. Apparently the Tomato Jam IS the jam and voted Miss Congeniality by most patrons with its Pickled Peach, Tomato, Almond Ricotta & Basil. But we went for the toast coated with a smoky eggplant puree, dotted with calabrian chili, crushed black olives, nuggets of celery and the very perfect goose to the dish – pickled rings of shallots. Deep rich flavor balanced by that smokiness and heat on bread from Balthazar no less – and of course the snappy shallots. Ambrosial, autumnal, gratifying. And accompanied by that luscious Dolcetto – Marziano Ablona, Papa Celso 2013 from Piedmont – which we happily stuck with for the evening.

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So, from hot and smoky to cold, creamy and sublime. Cold, the Second Section. Beautifully designed plates of imagination and whimsy. Cubed red beets, delicate wisps of mango, on a perfectly whipped cloud of avocado, crunchy bits of rice cracker, swirls of black sesame, tamari, tobanjan, a spicy bean paste & lime. Fantastic. Gorgeous pops of colorful swizzles and flecks. This is the Peter Max of the Cold section.

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Then we shared three of the larger plates from the Hot column or aka, A Hug In A Bowl section. Started with a dazzlingly devised dish of King Oyster mushrooms, Maitake mushrooms, in a kind of Smoked Macadamia pesto with Crispy Leeks. Added snippets come from what’s in season at the market, we had the now very popular but still pleasing watermelon radishes. Definitely a contender for my favorite dish of the moment. Avant garde comfort.

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Farro Risotto with Butternut Squash, Baked Apple, & Sage Pesto was warm, seductive, wonderful, the crispy sage a pleasure. Toasting some of the faro added an unexpected texture that was ideal.

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And though I thought over indulging by adding the Spaghetti Pomodoro with capers, basil and bread crumbs seemed unnecessary in a non-Italian vegan eatery, our chef heard us discussing it and said – well, you won’t be disappointed. Right again. A delicious and homey dish – bread crumbs used in place of grated cheese was clever and the memorable right touch.

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Only one dessert is offered each evening and changes when it does. Ours was a lovely warm bamboo rice pudding with mango and sorbet. The blanket of heat against the cold tart sorbet was excellent, a simple but sanguine finale.

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Dining here is intimate, eclectic, inviting and it’s all in perfect harmony with nature being trumpeted on the plate and in the ambience. Plus, it’s just really fun.

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Avant Garden
130 east 7th street between Avenue A/1st street
646.922.7948
Sunday-Thursday 5pm-1045pm / Friday-Saturday 5pm-1145pm

Yes Virginia, There Is A Restaurant…

Virginia’s

The East Village, long known for a bohemian, Trash & Vaudeville kind of scene and sadly some Baby Gaps along the way – has now become the setting for a few, very inviting, low key restaurants with first class cooking. One of these is Virginia’s, sprung out of a pedigree that includes Per Se, Locanda Verde and Charlie Trotters. And huzzah for all of us that the band got together.

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It’s quaint and comfortable. 38 seats. And very charming. Two tops are a bit close together but real estate dictates the intimacy. That’s okay, it’s a friendly bunch. Hand made wooden tables were built by Chris Ramos’s (Per Se) uncle and the vintage menus, the perfect but spare wall decor, are from a collection by Reed Adelson’s (Locanda) father. Even the font on their own menu comes from vintage type and Virginia happens to be the name of both Ramos’s and Adelson’s mothers.

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Camaraderie notwithstanding, it’s the food I came to spend time with and It’s supercalifragilisticly good. Serious, playful, twists around the classics melt-in-your-mouth good. Higher end than the usual Avenue C counterparts of yore but times they have changed, bringing kitchen magic with them. It’s market focused American cooking and they mean it.

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The menu is designed by small plates and large plates – a description that has become the kale of menu world. There were three of us and though we were all terribly considerate, I’d love to go back and share with myself. And I might just press rewind and start again with the Summer Squash Toast with Fava Bean Tapanade & Tomato Coulis. Fresh, fun, crisp toasts balanced beautifully by the vegetables.. A bite of spring to strike the first chords. But the next two plates were Dylan goes electric.

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Carmelized Romanesco, Smoked Pine Nuts, Clothbound Cheddar & Speck (can be made vegetarian) was a whirlwind of tastes. There’s an edge of glazed sweetness, crunch, smokiness, and then in marches the tang of Cheddar. You might assume it wouldn’t all coalesce but you’d be so very wrong. Grilled White Shrimp, Peaches and Purple Pole Beans captured the essence of summer at the delta, the beans offered the crunch and the peach, some sweet with the brine. (no pic)

I think of the sides as another variation of a small plate these days and very glad to have added two to the selection. The Roasted Mushroom, Chicory and Sunchokes was a delight. Each bite a unique fabulous surprise. Same goes for the simpler but luscious color pop-up dish of Grilled Young Carrots, Pickled Ramps and Tokyo Turnips.

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Diver Scallops, Vidalia Onion, Romaine Heart? Aces on the cook. Great sear on the outside while juicy on the inside. (no pic). The menu special of the evening was the Pork. Ultra farm to table stuffed suckling pig. With huckleberries and fennel. I’d say special alright.

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Since corn season is upon us, the Sweet Corn Risotto, Morels, Parmesan was a definite given. This is something you want to bathe in, tuck in next to you in bed at night, devour every chance you get. It’s gastronomic comfort bliss.

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And for those barstool burger nights, you’ve got it. They are becoming known for the at-the-bar-only lauded burger. Hanger steak + short rib + lard and then add what seems like a wheel of cheddar set atop beef fat carmelized onions. But wait there’s more! A swath of bone marrow mayo all nestled on a beautiful brioche from She Wolf bakery. Get in line.

It’s not an extensive menu. It doesn’t over reach. But there’s plenty to satisfy most palates. The lovely wine list only enhances, priced to accommodate every diner. Plus there’s a small well crafted cocktail list. Virginia’s is the kind of spot where you could go for a family dinner, a tete a tete or a first date and all of those scenarios would play out well. Comfortable chic.

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Virginia’s

647 East 11th Street

212.658.0182

Monday-Thursday 6-10:30pm  Friday-Saturday 6-11pm

I Summon You, Beckon You, to Come…to Comodo!

Comodo

Sometimes there’s a place that you just really like. You feel comfortable as soon as you sit at the table. The elements add up – food, atmosphere, staff, general ambience, a big spoon of truffle butter…and you’re won over. Here lies the very newly opened, barely finished but that’s just fine Comodo. Hooray.

Pan Latin and love. The house that Tamy and Felipe built. A married duo that made their mark with their..shhhh…slightly more underground dining club called Worth Kitchen. Now they are officially brick and mortar, a 45 seat rustic homey chic vintage candlelit farmhouse with a very big twinkle in its eye.

Nothing they do is without irony so it may have a Latin bent but that’s with a South American-Mexican-Spanish pedigree and a great big dollop of New York City edge. Traditions of all sorts meet up with a how YOU doin’ savoir faire.

Felipe and staff

Tamy with my friend Lindsey

The menu is small – at least for these early weeks, but certainly not lacking. And major carnivores, flexitarians and vegetarians are all delightfully included.

They don’t yet have a liquor license but the well stocked Wine Hut is just around the corner and will deliver to your table or as my pal Rick did, you can run over and get some pretty great bottles to accent the meal. We started with a Bandol Rose and a spoon of heaven.

Bread and…creamy truffle butter. Served so delicately in an oversized spoon over a glass bowl.

Four appetizers and we had them all. Dishes are based on the day’s market availability and we lucked out with a hamachi tiradito and uni with a ponzu aji sauce. Every part of this dish sang out in full voice and with perfect clarity.

My friend Bruce wondered if he could have the Pao de queijo lamb sliders with a chipotle cream dipping sauce directly injected into his veins. That good.

And c’mon – flash fried hibiscus & queso fresco spring rolls with a fig wine reduction sauce. Any one of those ingredients alone would make me implode from happiness. The combination? Uh, yeah.

The Peruvian styled pollock ceviche with citrus, peaches, cilantro and bocadillo may have been my favorite but only by a nose. It sparkled with layers of flavor and freshness.

Succulent, sublime.

Four entrees but we only managed three selections so that none of our blood would be spilled with fork wars. I’ll definitely be back for the missing fourth – the quinoa with farm fresh vegetables. I’m sure Felipe will make it worth my while.

Hard to say which of these were better and thankfully I don’t have to. Each one was complex, distinct, superb.

Coffee rubbed cochinita in a citrus sauce on a rice grit cake.

Scallops with chipotle and avocado sauce.

Seared duck breast with “classico” sauce and quinoa. I will add that the classico here refers to the marinade of classic coca cola from Mexico! Jeepers.

We hated it.

Happy chef…delightful food.

Two desserts. We ordered both, took a bite of each and straight away asked for round two. So good. Meltingly, hauntingly, addictively kind of good.

Tres leches cake

Flourless chocolate cake with melted brigadeiro and strawberries

Didn’t like them either.

Plus a great dessert wine to go with…

Oh it’s lovely here. It’s fun, inviting and more than satisfying. Happy chef, happy hosts, convivial crowd, intriguing touches, a couple of candles…a table of joy.

Comodo
58 MacDougal Street just below Houston
646.387.9643
They will ultimately take credit cards but cash only for the first couple weeks and same deal for BYO.

*Header photo by Angela Carbonetti / http://www.angelacarbonetti.com

Rouge Et Blanc Et Wow!

Rouge Et Blanc VENUE CLOSED

That slightly off the beaten track block of Macdougal Street that finds itself in Soho and not the Village, hosts a few good finds but most notable, most delicious, most exciting I bet is Rouge Et Blanc. French-Vietnamese with more than a nod to Japan. a superb French wine list and you have yourself one delightful meal.

It’s all orchestrated by owner/sommelier Thomas Cregan and chef Matt Rojas, both of whom have excellent street cred. The decor is Saigon 1940’s but with true style and no pandering to a theme. Love that the soundtrack includes 80’s rock and Piaf. But the best news is that you can have a conversation without straining while hearing the music and soaking in the atmosphere. A novel concept.

Small plates to share or maybe just covet for yourself seem to be the way to go. And once you start ordering a couple, it’s hard to stop. They’re like potato chips – bet you can’t eat just four.

We had the razor clams with a charred leek confit, meant to be sucked right out of the shell. Sweet clam, tangy char, good deal. The offered special of sea bream with flowers, layers of herbs and spice was a soft explosion of one bite wonder. We were crazy about the hamachi with grapefruit, black truffles and soy jus. Maybe my favorite of the evening. Although it was rivaled by the whole rouget fried with nuoc man, herbs and glazed peanuts. Even the fried brussels sprouts with lime, garlic and a soy bean crumble was addictive and invigorating.

Lovely and attentive service comes with provisos as to how to taste each beautifully prepared plate – ‘we’d prefer that you have this in one go so as to properly enjoy the flavors’. Very WD-50 of them. And the perfect way to experience the amalgam of tastes.

More dishes followed, more joy, a few single glasses of white wine and then a tasty bottle of Clos de Cerise Noire 2009. It’s a neighborhood charmer that’s just a bit more special than your local hang but nearby or no – an unqualified destination.

Rouge Et Blanc
48 MacDougal Street
212.260.5757
Open daily for dinner as well as for Sunday brunch

* Header photo by Angela Carbonetti / http://www.angelacarbonetti.com