Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Bits & Morsels

Beef tartare at The Lion.

by Erin Frankel

The Lion. When you're teeming with cash and clout in this city, you choose to see and be seen at one of several dining establishments. A good portion of which are owned by Graydon Carter and Jon DeLucie of the once uber-exclusive Waverly Inn. Jon DeLucie expanded his illustrious restaurant empire with Crown (reviewed earlier this season) and his downtown version, The Lion.

Now a West Village standby, The Lion scrupulously combines quality food and a haute scene for its lionized clinetele. Like DeLucie's other supper clubs, The Lion's entrance is simply an unmarked door at the bottom of a Townhouse.
Interior of The Lion.
Upon entering the restaurant, you will stand in the Tavern, a dimly lit dark wood room with copper-topped tables and a long refinished oak bar. It is here that you will either wait for your table in the dining room brimming with the prominent regulars or try snagging one of the walk-in tables in the front. In another room in the back, you will find the DeLucie-esque elegant clubhouse-inspired dining room; white-tablecloths, a large wood chandelier, oversized murals, and framed pictures of iconic figures adorning the walls, and a waitstaff dressed to the nines. Think neo-speakeasy meets the Clue mansion.

The menu is typical of DeLucie's French Bistro meets contemporary American specialties. Start with the delicate wagyu beef tartare and the delicious new addition to the menu, the kale salad with a warm lemon and garlic dressing.
Old-Fashioned at The Lion.
The Lions's kale salad with celery, ricotta Salata, cashew, apples in a tahini cashew dressing and hot chili pepper flakes.
The classic American entrees include two favorites: The creamy Black Truffle Gnocci bathed in a warm sauce comprising sweet butter, chives, and black pepper (and a generous helping of more Truffles for a mere addition $65) and The Lion's crowd-pleaser, The Lion Burger 'Special Blend', a large slab of perfectly juicy bespoke beef and decadent toppings, including a combination of tomato, caramelized onion, provolone and smoked cheddar and a thick helping of pork belly for $18 (worth every penny).

When you are done with dinner, make your way back to the boisterous bar where you will frame the rest of your evening over a couple of Manhattans or a stiff Old-Fashioned.

The Lion
62 West 9th Street
The Lion's 'Special Blend' Burger.
As a West Village groupie, I may be biased when I say that there aren't many other neighborhoods in the city that are filled with consistently good, homey restaurants. The corner of West 4th and West 10th is a neighborhood unto itself. And It's oftentimes hard to find a place where you know the waiters and manager by name (and they know yours), you have memorized the menu, and can always score a prime seat at the bar. Here are two of my favorite spots which offer just that:

Many have favored Gabe Stulman's other two West Village spots, Jeffrey's Grocery and Joseph Leonard, but his newest addition, Fedora, is cozy and beaming with energy all at once. All of Stulman's restaurants are small (Fedora has 8 tables) and packed with upscale hipsters, typically hunkered down at the bar on any day of the week with a bourbon or scotch-infused cocktail in hand, while slurping oysters or a small hearty dish like the favored egg in a hole with tripe ragout and cheddar cheese; or the chanterelles and shiitake under a poached egg bathed in a sweet brown butter sauce; or the creamy ricotta gnocchi with smoked chicken meatballs.
Bowl of lettuce in a lemon vinaigrette sauce at Fedora.
Fedora is known for its fondness for pig so the heritage pork shoulder swimming in smoked herring aioli is a must. Pair any of these dishes with the delicious and lighter sides like the brussels sprouts and bacon doused in a hearty cider sauce, a simple bowl of lettuce in a lemon vinaigrette sauce, or the fluffy potato pancakes accompanied by a radish and scallion salad. Try all of this at the long mahogoney bar or at any one of the tables – either way, you will feel part of a closely-knit dinner party.

239 West 4th Street
Potato pancakes at Fedora.
Chanterelles and shiitake at Fedora.
Ricotta gnocchi with smoked chicken meatballs at Fedora.
Heritage pork shoulder at Fedora.
The Windsor. I can easily call The Windsor my second home. The small space is cozy and intimate yet always lively enough for a new experience each and every time. Most people know The Windsor as an upscale sports bar, but for regulars like myself, there are plenty of dishes that make The Windsor more than just a pit stop.

There are a number of hearty dishes that make it the go-to spot for upscale comfort food and grub fare. Consider my all-time favorite dish, The Windsor's Organic Turkey Burger with gruyere cheese, bathed in the most delicious truffle aioli sauce, and accompanied by perfectly salty, sweet potato fries.

There are also a number of light, healthy alternatives on the menu like the Beets and Watercress salad with pistachios and goat cheese and a lemon vinaigrette, the pan-seared chicken breast over wilted arugula, mushrooms, and roasted baby potatoes, or the sauteed brussels sprouts, a perfect side to all of the aforomentioend dishes. You'll defintely want to flag down Olef (nicknamed Obi), arguably the kindest, most handsome manager the West Village has to offer.

The Windsor
234 West 4th Street
Beet & Watercress Salad at The Windsor.
Brussels sprouts at The Windsor.
Pan Seared Chicken Breast at The Windsor.
Organic Turkey Burger at The Windsor.
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