It’s that time of year where it’s cold out and all you want to do is stay indoors eating comfort foods and drinking some wine. Which is why the annual Time Out New York’s Grilled Cheese Meltdown, which took place on Sunday, November 13, at Hotel Eventi’s Second Floor, was such a success. A grilled cheese sandwich is one of those nostalgic snacks that takes us to a warm and fuzzy place every time, and it’s especially an effective remedy for beating the winter blues. Guests eagerly queued up for the different grilled sandwich stands on the floor, with cups of Jam Jar sweet wine and bottles of beer in tow, not caring even when the lines snaked its way across the room.Read More
Houseman is a neighborhood restaurant in the truest sense. It’s located a bit out of the way in the weird area known as South Village, too west to be Soho, too south to be West Village, and not quite Tribeca. It’s a pretty hard sell to get people out here, which means that Houseman is mostly frequented by locals. I saw so many real families, like actual extended families including grandparents and pre-teens, sitting around me, which is rare in downtown. I have to say I did rather like that homey community vibe.
The food is seasonally-driven American with a twist. The chef Ned Baldwin is a veteran of Prune whose cooking is “strongly influenced by classic French and Italian and British cuisine, his Seattle grandmother’s jicama crudite plate, his wife’s grandmother’s holiday brisket, and just about everything he’s ever eaten in Chinatown.” And indeed, there’s a lot going on in these dishes, with a strong tendency towards the pickled and the salted. When done in moderation, like the wilted fall greens, it was an effective way of brightening up the palate, but when done in excess, like the strange, overly brined roasted squash appetizer, it was time to pucker up and move on.
I did enjoy the roasted half chicken, which had the requisite crispy skin and the tender meat underneath, and the stewed favas were an interesting twist on pureed potatoes, starchy and creamy with a bit of a nutty flavor profile. The golden batter-fried haddock was cooked well and avoided being too thick and greasy, symptoms that so many fried fish suffer from, but something about the dish lacked cohesion. On a different, juicier protein, perhaps the spicy salted cabbage and the fermented mango could have had some sway, but on the haddock, they seemed like forced attempts to make a mild fish more interesting.
New World American cuisine is something that’s been done so many times, so you better be at the top of your game if you want to stand out. Houseman’s cooking is certainly distinctive, but unfortunately, it’s not always for the right reasons. When it does get it right, it’s not compelling enough to make the walk over to the no man’s land that is South Village. I could just as easily get a solid chicken at Market Table or Balaboosta. But for those in the area, it’ll have to do.
Houseman 508 Greenwich St (between Spring and Canal)
New York, NY 10013 (212) 641-0654