Finally got to Betony and now I am perplexed why there has been negative/mediocre reviews because our experience was downright fantastic.
We were meeting friends but GF and I arrived early, we were promptly greeted with smiles and shown to seats at the bar where the very pleasant bartenders chanted with us a while and then helped us decide on a couple cocktails; GF had a Desert Shandy that had a wonderful tartness to it, I tried it and it was hard to stop drinking it, for me it would be a great way to get the tastebuds ready for dinner. I wanted something gin based and refreshing so I had the Ellison, very nicely made, just wish it was a bit larger (but it was in line with cocktail size of everywhere else in NYC). Brought out some wire thin breadsticks and cheddar crisps, I couldn't stop eating the breadsticks, they were proof that big flavor can come in teeny tiny packages. The bar and "bar area" are very nice, the music played was great. I can easily see the bar becoming our place to get a drink in that neighborhood.
Our friends showed up and we were seated immediately in the downstairs rear dining area just off of the bar. I really liked where we were seated, close enough to the bar area that you still get the energy from that area but removed enough that you know you are having a nice dinner.
The guys started with cocktails, the ladies with wine/Champagne. We ordered several of the snacks while we drank our drinks and chatted: potato chips (really good, wish there was more of them), marinated trout roe (my favorite), roasted bone marrow (nice presentation, good but not great flavor), fried pickled peppers (the were just okay, wasn't crazy about the tempura coating, wanted them to be crisper), crushed zucchini (second favorite, very good taste and texture). All of the snacks were beautifully plated. I think the idea of the snacks was a big success.
For dinner we really ran the gamut of choices and except for one dish we all had completely different choices. Between us we had:
Cucumber Salad - Buttermilk, Caraway Vinaigrette GF (a vegetarian) had this and said it was wonderful and refreshing, the bite of the caraway and buttermilk were a nice contrast to the cucumbers
Foie Gras Hot prep - I got to try a bite of the hot foie and it was (IMO) perfectly prepared, I would have been sad to miss this if my cold prep wasn't the homerun it was
Foie Gras Cold prep - Velvety smooth, loaded with foie gras-y goodness, paired with berries, wonderful
Marinated Sardines - Tomato, Fennel - did not get to try but the person eating it certainly seemed to be liking it : )
Main (first main)
3 of us had the lobster. It was INCREDIBLE, my favorite dish of the evening. Presented in a shallow bowl under a "blanket" of dill, a lobster "bisque" was poured in and the blanket was removed, summer beans completed the dish, the lobster was so sweet, so tender, so perfectly cooked, the bisque was so full of rich flavors, I am actually salivating thinking about it. I used my roll to soak up any liquid left in the bowl. This is the "must get" dish for the moment.
Mains (second main)
I had the Grilled Short Rib with romaine and crispy sweetbreads - I'm a sweetbread fiend and I think beef and sweetbreads are a match made in Heaven, this dish did not disappoint, the shortrib was straight forward and tasted like a shortrib should, the sweetbread was crispy (the way I like them) and plumb. Very successful dish for me.
GF had the Sheep’s Milk Ravioli w/ Eggplant and Mustard Greens - she said it was a very rich dish but well balanced due to the sweetness of the eggplant. She enjoyed it very much.
One friend had Seared Brook Trout w/ Artichokes, Lovage - did not get to try but presentation was beautiful, friend said they enjoyed it
Other friend had the Poached Black Bass w/ Tomatillo, Pine Nuts - did not get to try but presentation was beautiful, friend said the fish was perfectly cooked
I did not do dessert, I was comfortably full and didn't want to feel stuffed.
Captain - delightfully engaging, well versed on all the dishes and explained each dish in detail as it was presented (and remember we sampled almost the entire menu).
Sommelier - knowledgeable and helped guide me to two wonderful bottles that didn't break the bank (zero pressure, no attempt to up sell).
Service - spot on and as the restaurant got more and more full the attention to detail did not diminish. Water was always full, staff was always near by but not hovering.
Space - very nice, soft fabrics abound, noise in the dining area was minimal, lighting was nicely subdued but menu was still readable.
All in all a wonderful experience and I would not hesitate to return or recommend to even my most discerning friends.
Disclaimer: We were huge fans of Chef Shuman's cooking at EMP so it shouldn't surprise anyone this was such a success BUT we were not there in a friends and family capacity nor were we there as friends of the house, we have no affiliation to the restaurant, I'm just callin' it like I see it.
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