Accompanying food porn, here: http://www.girleatscity.com/2011/03/f...
Fedora, reborn in early 2011 under the same name, but different ownership, might be the best thing to happen to the West Village from a culinary standpoint, since Recette (whose food Fedora's resembles, a bit). For 52 years, this West 4th St. institution served up stiff drinks and a healthy dose of character, if not always great food. We only knew it in its previous incarnation during its final year and a half of existence, but we knew it well enough to realize that when its well-loved, 80-some-odd year old original owner closed up shop in mid-2010, many neighborhood residents mourned the passing of an era. The restaurant, the owner, and the neighborhood had been through a lot, together.
But for every end, there is a beginning and the food at the newly reopened Fedora, Gabriel Stulman's third West Village restaurant (after Joseph Leonard and Jeffrey's Grocery), is absolutely wonderful. It's the best of his three ventures, actually. On a recent evening, fat little Kusshi oysters were briny, fresh, sweet, clear and cucumbery. They didn't need the mignonette that accompanied -- just a tiny spritz of lemon -- though the mignonette was delicious. There were also Blue Point oysters on offer, which I didn't try.
My dining companion's starter of crispy pig head with greens and sauce gribiche was a bit overdressed, but the crispy pig head, richly flavored shredded pork formed into croquettes, was very good: substantially meaty and tender on the inside, with a thin, light coating of deep fried breadcrumbs, well drained and not at all greasy. Greens were slightly wilted when brought to the table, which intensified their flavors. The dish would've been perfect had it only included about half the amount of sauce gribiche.
My main dish of sweetbreads and octopus with roasted lettuce and red butter (pictured at the top of this post) was balanced and so well conceived as to seem obvious: Why aren't octopus with sweetbreads dishes more common? They are a lovely match. In this dish, tender, chewy, mildly-flavored octopus played well with the slightly metallic tang of creamy sweetbreads. The bitter roasted lettuce honed your tastebuds, enhancing the delicacy of other flavors in the dish. All of this came plated on a bed of pearl barley with striking red (beet?) tinged butter on the side and a wee bit of creamy, white something that I think was bechamel sauce.
My dining companion's crisped duck leg with barbecue sauce, dates and herb salad was very well executed. A substantial cut of tender, flavorful, moist thigh meat came with crisped, almost lacquered skin. Bits of roasted cauliflower florets in the dish added pleasant texture and faint sweetness, though their mild flavors were largely overwhelmed by the other components. I didn't taste the dates on their own, but they were a perfectly logical match for duck and tasted wonderful when eaten together.
As good as the food was, cocktails could've commanded the stage in their own right. Between the two of us, we tried three cocktails: a Black Squirrel Old Fashioned with "Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Citrus, Maple Wash and House Pecan Bitters Inspired by the Voyageur Hotel’s Famous Bar"; a lovely green-tinged Songbird (with IIRC Gruet brut, elderflower liquor, violet bitters and a few other things); and the Mr. Graves Pendelton made, according to the menu, with "Elijah Craig Bourbon, Clove BBQ syrup, the spirit of the South and our pal Alex’s grandpappy". The old fashioned and Mr. Graves Pendelton were brawny, serious drinks, though the Graves Pendelton was a bit sweet for my tastes. The Songbird was a lovely, light springtime drink, sweet, but not overly so. It was well named. These cocktails rival the best in town and give the likes of Little Branch and Pegu a run for the money.
I'm thrilled to have this restaurant just around the corner. Part of me wants to keep it very hush hush so I have it all to myself.
22 Seventh Ave South, New York, NY 10014
239 W 4th St, New York, NY 10014
170 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10014
328 West 12th Street, New York, NY 10014
172 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10014