Fantastic dinner at Hearth tonight. This was my second time there, last time was about a year ago, and it's really nice to see that they keep on cooking at a very high level without resorting to coasting on the laurels of (deserved) hype.
We had 9:30 reservations but actually got there at around 9:00. There were unfortunately no open tables, so while sitting at the bar waiting for a table, we figured, what the heck, might as well eat at the bar. It was perfectly fine -- in fact, the service might have even been better than had we been sitting at a table. The bartender was extremely friendly and very attentive, having only us and another couple at the bar to serve. Highly recommended for those who enjoy bar-dining.
We started off with an amuse of pureed fennel soup. Kind of odd to have hot soup when it was 90 degrees outside, but the air conditioner was working just fine, so we enjoyed the soup, the nice taste of fennel being perfectly complemented by the undercutting chicken broth.
I started off with a fava bean and pecorino aalad. A very good dish, the fava beans were cooked perfectly. My girlfriend had the roasted quail, which was fantastic. The fava beans were good, but meat is meat.
I had the roasted guinea hen for my entree, done two ways -- wrapped in pancetta with a braised thigh and side of swiss chard, the swiss chard actually prepared like a very good creamed spinach (the kind where the cream is a complement to the spinach, not vice versa). The braised thigh was almost duck-like, full of flavor and cooked perfectly. My girlfriend had the bacon-wrapped monkfish. The bacon overwhelmed the fish a tad too much, but the dish was very good nonetheless, and if I'm going to have a dish where the intended focus is overwhelmed by something, it might as well be bacon. We also had a side of a very competent polenta.
For dessert, my girlfriend had the malted pudding, which was perfectly fine if unmemorable. I had the blueberry doughnuts, which might have been the most pleasantly surprising part of the meal. My last time at the restaurant, I had the apple cider doughnuts, having heard all the commotion about what an excellent dessert it was, and frankly I was quite underwhelmed. My disappointment might have been a result of it not being apple season (it was the spring), but if the fruit's not in season a restaurant shouldn't have it on the menu. The blueberry doughnuts, on the other hand, were fantastic.
Again, this meal reaffirmed that Hearth is one of the best casual-fine dining destinations in Manhattan, and an experience certainly not at all diminished by dining at the bar.