On back to back Sundays I've had the opportunity to dine at two restaurants known for their comfort, approachability and fresh ingredients. Last week I had the pleasure of eating at Perilla while last night brought me to Back 40. Each of these establishments are fantastic in their own right and perhaps a head to head comparison isn't really applicable since they are in slightly different specters of the food sphere but I think they are close enough to say I'd like to go to one over the other given the choice.
My parents took me to Perilla to celebrate my acceptance into a top MBA program and all of us were thrilled with the food. We started with Duck Meatballs, delicious and the sauce they came in was phenominal. I had the hanger steak, my father the duck and my Mom the Quinoa, for sides we ordered the Broccoli Rabe and Edename Falafel. Everything was fantastic, the steak was cooked to perfection and the edename was outstanding - my parents really enjoyed their meals as well (a first for a place I picked for them in NY, normally they just say the food was "interesting"!) The standout of the meal for me was the dessert - while the food was top notch the doughnuts are to die for - the warm sugary goodness that gets dipped into chocolate or key lime mouse may be the best tasting thing I've ever had.
At Back 40 I ordered their fried chicken special which came with a side of 2 biscuits, I also was glutton and got the onion rings. The chicken was perfect, crunchy skin, and still moist although I do like a bit more spice in the batter. I thought the biscuts had the chance to be legendary, crisp on the outside, doughy on the inside, moist, could taste the buttermilk - even better than the ones at Clinton Street. The onion rings were really good but not a standout IMO. The bar tender and I got into a conversation about doughnuts because my friend had brought his fiance to Dougnut Plant earlier that day and I mentioned the ones at Perilla so he offered up the Back 40 version. While the doughnut was really good it was a bit more dense than my preference and not quite as warm or perfect as Perilla.
Head to head both Perilla and Back 40 are really welcoming neighborhood joints, that can be dressed up a bit for a special ocassion - maybe not an over-the-top celebration but a hey congratulations type meal. The food at each was fantastic, Perilla offers a bit more refined menu but in no way can it be considered haute cusine while Back 40 is kind of like an American Gastro Pub (think if the Spotted Pig had American and not English blood lines). All in all both places had great food but if I had to choose one I'd give the edge to Perilla.