Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Bits & Morsels

Baked eggs with tomato, cheese, and ham at The Smile.

by Erin Frankel

Where I ate this week:

Brunch at The Smile. With its vintage décor, photo-ready hipster wait staff in skinny jeans and plaid shirts, and an extensive menu filled with refined yet hearty favorites, The Smile is an optimal brunch choice for the chic yet unassuming downtown denizen.

Descending the stairs to the space below street level on one of New York’s swankiest, you will find sort of a hybrid mix between a vintage store and café. The ambience is smart yet rustic, with a sophisticated vibe that makes it very New York.
Scrambled eggs with toast and greens.
The dimly-lit wooded space is decorated with distressed wood farm tables and vintage knickknacks on the wall. Very charming indeed. And cool, too.

The restaurant draws the expected crowd its owners Carlos Quirarte and Matt Kliegman have cultivated at the exclusive Jane Ballroom and The Westway, but the Smile’s food trumps many established brunch favorites and has been enlisting newcomers each weekend.
Herb roasted turkey breast sandwich.
You’ll want to order The Smile’s award-winning brunch favorite: the baked eggs with tomato, manchego and avocado. Make sure to arrive before 2pm or the popular dish may be unavailable (I should know).

If you happen to find yourself in that unfortunate predicament, opt for either a healthy but delicious option like the scrambled eggs with toast and greens. Or go for one of the restaurant’s savory sandwiches, like the simple but tasty herb-roasted turkey breast with lettuce, tomato, and mayo on toasted white bread. Pretty straightforward yet conscientiously prepared to make your morning (or afternoon).

The Smile
26 Bond St # 1

If you are nowhere near sommelier status but love the vino, Wine & Roses may be your new uptown spot. Here, the menu features the ideal wine to pair with each dish, or you can freely choose from over 200 selections.

I started with a Pinot Noir, Bourgogne Hautes Cotes de Nuits from Burgundy, "a firm and silky structure with a bright and long finish that was uniquely flavored with berries and layers of truffles." Really.

Everything about this restaurant is pleasant, including the roses on each table or strewn across the floor, the dimly lit lighting, u-shaped bar, quaint outdoor seating, and even the poetic (and somewhat erotic?) touches to the menu.

The lack of pretension here extends to the food, which is easy and delicious. Try any one of salads to pair with your wine. Two of my favorites were the shrimp and avocado salad (a mound of fresh, classic shrimp over avocado and baby arugula, finished with a light, citrus-flavored Athena dressing) or the chicken paillard salad (thinly pounded grilled chicken that is topped with a light arugula salad and sprinkled with a zesty and flavorful dressing). The quaint and cozy restaurant is a nice choice for a quiet, intimate and light dinner.

Wine and Roses
286 Columbus Avenue
A glass of Pinot Noir from Burgundy. The shrimp and avocado salad.
Beet salad. Chicken paillard salad.
Seared tuna salad.
Morandi is Keith McNally’s first Italian restaurant, but retains all of the classic McNally elements of its predecessors. Morandi is quintessential McNally — you know ... the bustling restaurant that you walk past ... which immediately conjures up feelings of envy towards the pretty people seated al fresco at small wooden tables ... with a glass of wine in hand and a plate of pasta at table... basking in the afternoon sun. Yea, that one.

Burrata with small roasted tomatoes.
Spaghetti all'aragosta.
Or, when the weather gets cooler, you will likely see the same fashionistas, celebutants, and West Village regulars seated inside the rustic McNally-esque space hobnobbing around dimly lit votive candles. McNally really has a knack for setting up shop on nearly every trendsetting corner in New York City, but I’m sure he would still pack it in with the same glitzy crowd even in the most banal of neighborhoods.

On a recent Sunday night at 10pm, Morandi was still packed to the brim. Yes, they come here for the people watching and the exceptionally cozy yet glam ambience, but more often than not they come here for the reliable, classic Italian fare.

On this same evening, I started with a favorite of mine — the burrata e pachini — a soft, creamy burrata cheese accompanied by small roasted tomatoes “on the vine."

I then moved onto one of Morandi’s well-known pasta choices — the spaghetti ail’aragosta — pasta with chilled lobster, spicy roasted peppers, and fresh tomatoes.

Morandi is as an ideal place to sit with friends and a bottle of Pinot Noir to toast the first signs of fall in New York City.


211 Waverly Place

Photographs by Erin Frankel.
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