I posted my review as part of the discussion about whether or not the restaurant deserved 3 stars from the Times. The discussion was then moved from the Manhattan board because there was lots of talk about whether people liked or disliked Sam Sifton.
Here's just the review part:
Ok, we've now been for a small plate meal in the Tap Room, pizza night, and then a full dinner there (though not the tasting menu) a couple nights ago.
Our best experience was our first one at the bar in the tap room. We had the octopus salad, a potato pizza and a their pretzel dessert. There are a couple other small plates in there too but it was a couple weeks ago and I can't remember. The octopus salad was nearly perfect. For me, that's the dish that got me thinking that perhaps this would be the place for simple, very well prepared dishes without paying Craft prices. The potato pizza similarly was satisfying and perfect with one of the dark beers on tap (try to Motor Oil which is really well balanced despite its name!). The pretzel dessert was remarkable and something we would go back for even after eating dinner at home. Much like the popcorn dessert at EMP and the pine nut crostata at Babbo, it's sweetness and saltiness is so well balanced that I wondered why more desserts didn't find a way to incorporate salty little morsels of something.
The pizza night was less impressive. Their ricotta was good but the pizza I felt needed either something a bit acidic or else maybe even some chili flakes on top. It felt bland but again, decent for bar food.
Lastly, we went for our full dinner in the main room. The hamachi appetizer is very good and I think the most complex dish we ate. The beets were unusual with a mild fish I thought but it worked and in a really interesting way. We also had this white bean pasta with octopus which was the least well executed dish of the night. The pasta was thin an might have been cooked a minute too long. Not the end of the world, but we're talking about whether the restaurant deserves the same star rating as Babbo so it's ok to be picky. We then moved on to the venison and the lamb. Both proteins were cooked perfectly and the parsnip accompaniment to the venison was spectacular. The plates are also beautifully composed as others have mentioned. For me, the proteins themselves were elegant but not richly or boldly flavored (if that makes sense). The lamb looked like a textbook photo of a perfect medium rare lamb loin but I'm not sure it needed to be wrapped in fat with an awkward merguez between the meat and the fat. It was tasty to be sure, but not that daring I don't think. The desserts again were amazing. We had donuts with coconut cream as well as a raisin brioche that tasted like French Toast from the Gods. There was also a rosemary ice cream that really blew me away. Dessert has been the high point every time we've been.
Maybe I need to go to Craft as I love when the ingredients are showcased simply. I also love the complex flavors at higher end places like EMP and Le Bernardin but this fell in between. The savory dishes are busy enough so that the ingredients don't shine that strongly but not so complex that you are wowed by the chef's complex and brilliant combinations.
I suggest having some great, simple small plates at the bar and enjoying their beers on tap and desserts.
110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011
155 W. 51st St., New York, NY 10019
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