1st St. between 1st and 2nd Aves has another restaurant to join Prune, The Tasting Room and The Elephant and after my first visit all I can say is I'm glad I live nearby.
Smith is, at first glance, like many of the new restaurants that have popped up recently. Eclectic menu with some strong bistro influences and a pretty cool bar. But here's the good news. The food is excellent. There were 4 of us and everything put down in front of us was well conceived and well prepared.
To start we had warm oyster pie, lamb sausage, crispy calamari, and sardines in the can with toast points. Nothing outrageously different than the norm (except the sardines in the can were kind of fun and different), but each was terrific. Oyster pie was flavorful and full of plump oysters, lamb sausage was big and delicious, calamari were fried, but not the deep heavy fry that overpowers the squid, sardines were served with some condiments like sea salt and parsley, minced capers and red onions that really complimented the fish.
The mains; Roast chicken for two, Pekin duck (not peking), and Sauteed Cod (really nice hunk of smoked sable). The chicken got raves from those who ordered it as one of the better roast chickens in town, the duck was outstanding and cooked to the perfect medium rare, the sable was a great piece of smoked fish sauteed to give it a nice, light browning. The chicken came with some delicious and incredibly rich mashed potatoes.
Desserts were pretty standard, with a very good warm chocolate souffle, which seems to be a requirement for a restaurant in NYC.
Wine list was not huge, but interesting. We weren't drinking much so the option to order a pitcher (about 3 glasses worth) on 4 different bottles was nice. Service was very friendly, although a little slow between entree and dessert, but it is a brand new restaurant and might have been one of the usual gliches.
Seems like it's going to do very well, full by 9pm (Ben Stiller joined the fun).
2 complaints: First, the room. It's a little too spare. They might not be done with it, but if they are it feels like they're not. I usually don't care, but my wife pointed it out and she was right. Second, the chicken is brought out whole for effect and then brought back in the kitchen for carving. When it returned, the legs had mysteriously disappeared. We asked about them and they were eventually returned with the explanation that they do not serve them because most people prefer the white meat. Not us, dark meat rules. Serve the legs! If you go, make sure you tell them in advance.
That said, Smith definitely earned a return trip on food merit alone.