India is an extremely diverse country home to many different religions and dialects, yet the food that is represented in the States is pretty one-dimensional. You usually have some sort of heavily curried meat accompanied by rice and naan bread. But with the openings of several Indian restaurants in NYC this year, that’s changing somewhat. Paowalla, the highly anticipated new restaurant from Top Chef Master Floyd Cardoz, goes beyond the standard tikka masala and tandoori. In fact, naan might be the only familiar item on the menu, and even that is more of a crisp and elegant flatbread than the doughy, buttery crust we’ve come to expect.Read More
Barbuto has actually been around for quite awhile, but for some reason it never crossed my radar. It was only when I saw Chef Jonathan Waxman make an appearance on Top Chef as a judge that I dug into his past and found that he ran a well-regarded Italian restaurant in the West Village. Of course, at around the same time I discovered this, I also read that the restaurant might be closing soon. This sense of urgency drove me to start searching for reservations before Barbuto officially closed.
Other people seemed to be driven by a similar sense of urgency, and getting a table at a reasonable hour seemed impossible. What I did do was drop by during a weeknight and try my luck as a walk-in. There was one outside table available, and while the weather wasn’t all that warm, we decided to roll with it.
Barbuto is a beautiful restaurant with a bit of a scene, and if I happened to live in the neighborhood, I would have dinner here regularly. The Italian menu is a traditional one, with all the classics like bolognese and bruschetta represented, and the way the restaurant executes the dishes is pretty much by the book. I had very high expectations for Barbuto, given that Waxman was a strong contender on Top Chef Masters, and I was a little surprised by how the food was always competent and very solid, but rarely surpassed that. There was never a moment when I thought something was rapturously delicious or a contender for best in the city, other than the pollo al forno, which is legitimately one of the best roast chicken dishes that I’ve ever had.
The insalata di cavolo tasted like a pretty standard kale caesar salad. The ingredients were all very fresh, and I liked how the dressing was very light and vibrant, especially with the peppery undertones, but it was all a little too basic to really make an impact. The gnocchi stagionale was a little more interesting. The gnocchi had been pan seared beforehand, creating a satisfying, mochi-like chewing sensation. It was accompanied by some spring greens like asparagus and ramps, all of which were draped in a rich, buttery veil. On paper, it seemed like it would have tasted amazingly good, but that wasn’t the case. Maybe the decision to sear the gnocchi, which had created an impermeable charred crust, prevented the pasta from absorbing the sauce and creating the buttery chemistry that it deserved? Don’t get me wrong, it was certainly Top Chef good, but not Top Chef Masters good.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter, because overall the food is pretty good, and you’re just happy to be eating outdoors. You’re in good hands here–there’s a reason why Barbuto’s been around for 10 years.
775 Washington St (between Washington and Green St)
New York, NY 10014
Root & Bone first entered my consciousness by way of scandal–I had read that Top Chef alum Jeff McInnis had an affair with fellow alum Janine Booth, and the two of them had run off to New York to open a Southern restaurant together. While that was my initial impression of Root & Bone, my second impression, which was formed after a recent brunch visit, was more focused on the restaurant’s excellent fried chicken.
There’s nothing groundbreaking about making fried chicken, but it’s still hard to get it right. Common errors include an overly thick and bland batter, or extremely dry meat, especially where breast meat is concerned. The batter on the fried chicken at Root & Bone is extremely light and flavorful, I’m happy to report. It’s a hybrid between something you’d expect from a more traditional buttermilk Southern fried chicken and the sweet glaze on the crispy skin of a Korean fried chicken. Adding a few generous drops of the house tabasco sauce will give it a tangy and spicy kick should you want your chicken with some edge. And most importantly, the chicken isn’t dry at all, and the breast meat impressively passes the moisture stress test. I was planning on having a light brunch and tried to resist a second piece, but after a very favorable encounter with a juicy drumstick, I quickly helped myself to more.
It’s really all about the chicken here. I did try the biscuits and a zucchini salad, but I probably could have done without them. The biscuits, first of all, were extremely tiny. For $7, we literally received two tiny croutons. The foundations of a great biscuit were all there–buttery and wonderfully flaky–but it was served with a side of liquid honey and sesame seeds, which left me scratching my head. Honestly, if the biscuit were normal sized, it would have the structure to be able to withstand the liquid honey without wilting, but these tiny little sponges started to sag with a dip into the honey pot. And it was like an awkward game of Operation trying to sprinkle a few seeds onto these tiny biscuits. Afterwards I just gave up and popped the whole thing in my mouth, which is what I should have done to begin with.
The rainbow ribbon salad also suffered from some structural issues. I thought the vidalia onion dressing was a little too sweet, and the butter lettuce started getting soggy after a few minutes. Normally you might eat this immediately as an appetizer, but at Root & Bone, everything comes out at once, so unfortunately some dishes have to wait, and suffer as a result. The water content of the summer squash and zucchini also contributed to the moisture issue of the salad, which slowly evolved into a mushy coleslaw throughout the course of brunch. I did like the croutons though, which tasted like crispy, tasty corn bread sticks.
If you do decide to try out the chicken at Root & Bone, you’ll be eating in a high end hillbilly cafe surrounded by waitstaff wearing plaid shirts and beanies. And for some reason, that attracts a ton of girls who look like they may have attended Duke and Vanderbilt and are having a Junior League brunch. This might make the atmosphere slightly annoying or wonderful, depending on your point of view, but it has no bearing on the fried chicken, which is undeniably delicious.
Root & Bone
200 E. 3rd St (between Ave A and Ave B)
New York, NY 10009
I really wanted to like Harold Dieterle’s new restaurant The Marrow in the West Village. Sort of like how I wanted to like all his other concepts Kin Shop and Perilla. He was such a likeable contestant on Top Chef who always received high praise from the judges, so wanting to get behind him was an easy call. But every meal I’ve had at any one of his restaurants was pretty underwhelming. Well-executed, yes, but not very memorable. Eating at his restaurant reminds me of going on a date with someone who looks really good on paper but in person there’s no chemistry. The Marrow unfortunately wasn’t my type and won’t be getting a second date.
The Marrow completely fits the bill as a quintessential charming, neighborhood West Village restaurant. It occupies some highly enviable real estate on a tree-lined street with other quaint and picturesque shops and restaurants. It has an air of formality about it, so the crowd tends to be well-dressed. Think power suits and ladies of leisure as the typical clientele.
The Marrow describes itself as a contemporary German and Italian restaurant. In keeping with the spirit of the bicultural menu, we ordered the prosciutto wrapped dates and cured arctic char for starters, and the grilled housemade bratwurst and sauteed halibut for entrees.
The platter of dates came out first–I was taken aback by how gargantuan the dates were. I felt that the gorgonzola used to stuff the prosciutto was a little too strong and overwhelmed the tenuous sweet and salty equilibrium maintained by the prosciutto and the date. Bacon-wrapped dates has already been done before, but The Marrow’s version doesn’t improve upon existing superior versions. (It’s no match for the bacon-wrapped dates at Alta, that’s for sure.)
The beautifully plated arctic char, which arranged the gleaming orange char fillets and multi-colored beets in a visually stunning fashion, was certainly a feast for the eyes, but not for the stomach. The arctic char tasted like raw sashimi. The “lightly cured’ description was a little too literal, some lemon and salt would have done that fish some good. The beets were fantastic, but I don’t think the point was to have the supporting case overshadow the main ingredient.
I was really looking forward to the grilled housemade bratwurst. From the way the waitress described it, I was expecting a big, hearty sausage nestled inside a golden pretzel bun. But, since this is The Marrow, the bratwurst was much more refined than the one that existed in my street fair fantasies. The sausage was surprisingly dry and lacked that juicy, satisfying burst you get when you break through the casing. It tasted like a Skinnygirl version of a bratwurst, which wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted something greasy and robust to wash down a pitcher of beer with. Something that would scream Oktoberfest, not Namaste. I tried pairing it with the pickled sauerkraut and the mustard to give it more flavor, but alas it was not to be. The pretzel roll, which was much smaller than I expected, was actually crusty and delicious and gone much too quickly. My dining companions said that their halibut lacked flavor and the oiliness from the pan-fried cooking technique didn’t really add anything to the dish.
The Marrow is a perfectly acceptable neighborhood spot, but it does not pass my “worth the crosstown trip” test. There’s already far superior German bratwurst options in my hood at DBGB and Edi & the Wolf, and don’t even get me started on the Italian restaurants. Sometimes it’s just smart to stay close to home.
99 Bank Street
New York, NY 10014