Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Bits & Morsels

Ribollita soup at Bread & Tulips.

by Erin Frankel

The New York City dining scene has recently experienced a paradigm shift from accessible and casual and comfort-driven style and cuisine to a formal revival of decorous classics. The Lambs Club is a perfect example.

Situated inside The Chatwal Hotel, The Lambs Club's owners (seasoned chef Geoffrey Zakarian and nightlife impresario David Rabin) have modernized the space without forsaking its classic fine-dining stature. And the second you walk up the steps and enter its space, you are transported to Manhattan in the 1940s.

Lambs Club Salad.
The Chicken Paillard.
Cod wrapped in cabbage.
While the building's exterior, designed by Stanford White in 1905, embodies the "American Renaissance," the decor is more like a modernist revision of art deco.

The main dining room is large, sleek, and formal, with white tablecloths, leather banquets, polished red leather elements everywhere, and a massive fireplace. In other words, the perfect place for a power lunch.

Start with a glass of Pinot Noir or, more fittingly, a gin martini, and delight in the top-notch modern American menu.

If stopping by the raw bar, I advise you start with the salmon carpaccio, a dish my dining companion claims was a revelation. Together with the BBQ eel bits, flying fish roe, and cucumber puree, it was a "perfectly executed deconstructed sushi roll."

Or, go for the Lambs Club Salad, a simple bed of romaine topped with a savory tarragon and crispy egg dressing.

The entrees. Opt for the special of the day, which in our case was the cod, which was creatively wrapped inside of cabbage. The restaurant's crowd-pleaser seemed to be the Chicken Paillard, a light and delectable rendition of the classic dish, which is lightly braised and seasoned over a bed of arugula and accompanied by a side of Le Puy lentils.

If you want to linger, move your party up the leather-wrapped handrails to the upstairs lounge or the more private Stanford White Studio, a room embellished with antiques and dark wood. It's a pleasure to sit here, especially with a rye manhattan in hand.

Ultimately, The Lambs Club is a refreshing, elegant alternative to the mediocrity of restaurants that embodies Times Square. This is your new club in midtown. Even thought it's going to be pricey, the focus on quality makes it a worthy destination.

The Lambs Club
132 West 44th Street (btwn 6th Ave and Broadway)
The Lambs Club's dining room with fireplace.
The Stanford White Studio.
It's frigid out there. And your wallet is probably a bit thinner after the long New Year's weekend. Then try two of these new hidden gems, complete with ambiance and menus, that are both homey and warm, with prices that won't break the bank.

Bread & Tulips. Over the past few years some of the most impressive food has emerged from unlikely locales and newbies on the restaurant scene. Owner Riccardo Darda has opened a Mediterranean-influenced Italian restaurant in the large 70-seat space below Hotel Giraffe on Park Avenue.

The space, equipped with an open wood burning oven, is both cozy and casual – perfect for a cold winter night. Bread & Tulips oozes modern-day Italian charm and the aroma of eggplant agrodolce meatballs in the dimly lit romantic space beckon the moment you walk in the door.

Black Tagliatelle with rock shrimp.
Pappardelle with slow-braised lamb.
The kitchen kicks out wild yet homey Italian favorites, and something for every taste bud. I recommend starting with the hearty Ribollita soup, a light vegetable broth with cannellini beans, guanciale, kale and bread; the delicate eggplant-pepper caponata meatballs sprinkled with fresh herbs; and the house-made ricotta crostini, drizzled with a dollop of olive oil, lemon preserve and fresh herbs.

Everything here is meant to be shared, so try as much as possible.

In my opinion, Bread & Tulips' bang lies in its pastas, which are simply prepared yet unpredictable with the variety of contemporary, eclectic ingredients within each dish.

For a Mediterranean delight, go for the Black Tagliatelle with rock shrimp, oven roasted cherry tomatoes, bread crumbs and fresh parsley.

Craving a more hearty Italian carnivore-centric dish? I suggest the Pappardelle with slow-braised lamb and fresh tomatoes, sprinkled with parmigiano.

Or, if you like some spice like myself, I highly suggest trying the Bucatini all'Amatriciana with pancetta, onion, and San Marzano tomatoes, sprinkled with dry chiles and parmigiano.

Bread & Tulips
365 Park Avenue South
Eggplant-Pepper Caponata Meatballs at Bread & Tulips.
Ricotta Crostini at Bread & Tulips.
Bucatini all'Amatriciana at Bread & Tulips.
Left Bank just might be will be your new go-to spot. Helmed by The Red Cat and The Mermaid Inn alum Laurence Edelman, it was clear before settling in that the food would not only be inspiring but most likely, being a Jimmy Bradley and Danny Meyer sidekick, a mixture of seafood and European-influenced seasonal American cooking. And that's exactly what it is. The well-rounded menu is heavy on veggies and meats, starting with a unique take on the shaved brussels sprout salad, beautifully seasoned with bouchot mussels; and continuing with the cacio di roma, or the local diver scallops, accompanied by vegetable studded faro, capers, red chard, and lightly sprinkled with sea salt.

As for the entrees, I highly recommend the iron roasted split chicken, a simple American dish that is augmented with an interesting addition of capers, cornichons, dill, and a delicious aioli sauce. Somehow it all works together. You must get the tasty sauteed Tuscan kale, sprinkled with preserved lemon as a side. And you must leave room for dessert, in particular, the affogato and the maple syrup pie. Both sweet endings to an excellent meal. The vibe exudes just as much warmth as the food, all on a quiet, charming street in the West Village.

Left Bank
117 Perry St., at Greenwich St.
Brussels Sprout Salad at Left Bank.
Local Diver Scallops at Left Bank.
Iron Roasted Split Chicken at Left Bank.
Affogato at Left Bank.
Maple Syrup pie at Left Bank.
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