Had dinner there last night. We were a party of 4, greeted warmly at the door, and seated promptly, even though we arrived 15 min late. Loved the look of the old wooden bar, though the style was incongruous w/the rest of the "mod" feel of the place. Does anyone know if this is the old Harvey's Chelsea?
After being seated, we were given water by the busboy, and then not greeted by waitstaff for at least another 10 minutes (the place was about 2/3 full). Someone finally brought over menus, and nearly everything sounded good, a rarity for me in restaurants. We ordered a bunch of things from the sharing menu. Bread was brought over another 10 minutes later (only after I got up and asked our waiter for it). I was pleasantly surprised by the light freshness of the warm focaccia since I usually can't stand the stuff (too oily/leaden most of the time).
After our long initial waits at the table, I was surprised at how quickly the food followed the bread. Most of it was very good. The gougeres, tiny biscuits filled with gruyere and ham were surprisingly light and fluffy, with a nice mouthfeel, the sharpness of the gruyere and the smokiness of the ham playing nicely off each other. Chorizo with fingerling potatoes was good, but the portion was skimpy. Sauteed spinach was a little spicy, a good workhorse version of this basic. I really enjoyed the orrechietti with sausage, broccoli and buffalo mozzarella. No surprises there, but a good version just the same. The beet and goat cheese salad, with orange and pink beets (so purty!) was another standby, well-executed. The frites were crisp, and texturally wonderful, with their liberal coating of crunchy salt. The mayo served with it was not a hit w/2 members of my group, but I liked it. It was citrus chipotle, or something like that. But they were able to stand on their own as well, those darned frites. The only item that left me cold was the arancini: not much flavor, and nothing to write home about.
When the dessert menus rolled around, we couldn't resist ordering 4, and sharing. The standout for me was the apricot(?) cobbler with black raspberry ice cream. The pastry was very short, but somehow light and buttery as well. The mini ice cream sandwiches were "eh," and the malted ice cream sundae would have been better if they'd used some other nut besides peanuts, such as hazelnuts or pecans. Somehow the peanuts were too salty, and overpowered the thing. The raspberry shortcake (I think that's what it was) had an odd, fake-looking "veneer" to it, but was otherwise okay. We rounded out the meal with a $42 zinfandel (sorry, don't remember the name) that complemented the food well. Even though this was basically sampling from small plates, I came away from the meal very satisfied, and enjoyed the interplay of flavors. The tab for all of us, including tax and tip, was under $45 each.
108 West 18th Street
(between 6-7 Aves)