A small restaurant called Feast opened up in the East Village a few weeks ago, billing itself as "seasonal American". From its appearance (hipstery name and signage, interior industrial rustic chic style that's so ubiquitous now that it's a cliche) and emphasis on sharing and small plates, I had assumed it was going to be a run-of-the-mill, trendy night out-type of place, but its menu offered some really appealing choices that sounded like the place could be more than its appearance let on.
Some background: the chef is Christopher Meenan, formerly Chef de cuisine of Veritas, and the restaurant concept is based on sharing plates and communal eating (our party of four even shared a six-person table with another two diners). What really got this skeptical diner in the door was their $48 three course/nine dish "nose-to-tail feast" with the meat of the month - lamb.
Wise choice. Luckily for me, the rest of our party was happy with the lamb menu, so we chose the "feast" option (full table participation necessary). It was fantastic in flavor and value for price. You can see the menu on their website, but basically, they present you with four dishes per course with portions for each diner.
Standouts: lamb shepherd's pie in a pie crust filled with sweet potato, lamb shank "lasagna" with goat cheese and preserved lemon that was like a ridiculously tasty lamb ragu tagliatelle, potato gratin with vadouvan, and a fricasee of truly delicious brussels sprouts with butternut squash and pearl onions.
Overall, really tasty and creative food, especially considering the price. Of course I had quibbles here and there - bread should be brought out before the first course (not just before the second), there should be more than one tiny bread chip per person to tackle a sizable pot of merguez stew, a dish of pickled marinated peppers tasted like it came from a jar, the bourbon cream for the dessert was way too alcohol-y. Not sure why they call it a nose-to-tail affair because there was no offal, no off-cuts, nothing more unusual than shank, as far as I could tell.
Also, I think the format could benefit from tweaking, as it's hard to eat all four dishes of a course at optimal temperature. The lighter dishes you may want to eat first, but that means the bigger, hot dishes get cold by the time you get to them. Plus, with these small tables, the servers struggled to even get everything on the table at once. Why not split the first course into two?
But again, I walked out of there full, happy with the quality, and very satisfied with the value. Reservations are easy to come by, but for a weeks-old restaurant open with little fanfare, it was pretty crowded when we got there. I think it's only a matter of time before this place gets even busier, so I'm going to return soon before 1. someone reviews it (damn you, Mighty Quinn's, now I have to wait til the fuss dies down), or 2. they raise the price on the feasts. Feast sells pastries in the mornings, so any leftovers are left for diners to take home. Even a cold, slightly squashed croissant tastes great while remembering the highlights of the meal the next morning.