So it looks like the UWS has one more decent place to finally call its own.
Neptune (Amsterdam between 84 & 85) opened last night. We happened by, checked out the menu and saw some open tables and decided to go in. Overall I was pretty impressed - the service and food were quite good (remember it is the UWS), and the room with its raw brick walls and polished wood was fun. Even one of our neighborhood celebs decided to check it out on opening night.
The management also own Jane, which I know has its CH detractors, but I think Jane is just fine for what it is: a place to get brunch or a drink and a bite in the front room. Jane is not a CH destination, but still executes some perfectly fine food.
In keeping with its name, there is a marine motif at Neptune. Interesting design details inside, some of which I suspect will be revamped in the nearterm (like the ridiculously narrow space next to the open seafood bar area that houses the waitstaff's ordering station, stairs, a dropped ceiling that looks like the hull of a ship and three 4-top booths). Bathrooms were a smart use of funny space in the main dining room and feature the now prerequisite cool sink. Surprisingly the main dining room is filled with 4- and 6-tops and the bar only has four chairs. Hope they change that fast.
Onto the food. The menu features a basic raw bar and about 10 or so "bait" bar options at $6 each, which are small servings of interestingly seasoned/prepared seafood. It also has salads, appetizers, entrees & sides.
The table offering is warm slices of bread with creamy white bean and garlic dip. We followed that with six baits (sorry - I've forgotten all the seasonings): tuna with grapefruit, white anchovies, grilled octopus with tomatoes and black olives, yellow tail with lemon and basil, spanish mackeral and calamari. The latter was the only loser of the bunch - the calamari was rubbery - but the anchovies, bright and briny, and grilled octopus were just right. Some of the servings were small, only enough for two people to have two small mouthfuls each, but others like the anchovies, provided an ample amount for us both to have our fill. Each bait is served in a bowl placed on a raw bar tray with ice, which is then placed on a stand at the table (am I the only person that hates those stands? don't make me crane my neck to look at what I'm eating and my arm to get at it!). Anyway, I'd happily go back and hit a bunch of bait bar options at table-height again.
We followed our starters with two well executed salads ($8 each): one with an anchovy dressing and one with parmesian and pears. It was late and we didn't want to do entrees, so we ordered an appetizer (cripsy whole fish) with aioli, and some sides that included toasted gnocci in a very rich funghi sauce. We enjoyed these, enough so that I would consider a double (or 3x) order for my main another time. Very similar to the Jane version of this dish (which I consider a safe thing to order at Jane), except that where Jane's gnocci are tubilar, Neptune's are flat half-dollars. Next time however I'll try the roasted branzino, skate, or another fish entree.
For desert (on the house b/c we were "locals") we had strawberries with madeleines (better than most of the terrible madelines you fine in NYC) and zabayone sauce. Very nice.
The mixed drink menu needed some help, but they offer some nice sherries, beers and good wines values (by the glass and bottles). Was pleased to see the selection of after dinner drinks too.
Service was extremely competent. For the first night everything went very smoothly - we didn't experience a single hitch.
Our total came to about $100, including 4 drinks, and we even got our monthly Conan citing - he was holding court in the front dining room.
For all of you living in other nabes you may not think this is worth trecking up to (and you may be right), but for the UWS I'm happy that Neptune's here especially if it can keep what we experienced last night going!