i ran into the chef of 71 clinton a couple weeks back, and he spoke glowingly of the tasting room -- which i hadn't gotten wind of yet -- but we didn't get around to checking it out until wednesday night. this guy from daniel, colin alevras, opened up this place in the east village with his wife, offering an ever-changing menu of small dishes (which can be upgraded somewhat to entree portions if desired) and a really massive list of wines. it is a wine bar, after all. similar to troquet in boston, but less conservative. the dining buddy/SO deems it a real wine geek's place.
we started with an asparagus terrine, a tidy little paved square of stalk, held together with veg aspic, accompanied by some remarkably savory grapefruit supremes and some asparagus spears; the foie gras, a modest lobe with lemon jam and some winey-saucey thing underneath, garnished with a big ol' pile of chives; poached cod with spring peas in a cardamom-laced sauce (so delicious, and yet there was still string in the cod from poaching, and the peas were very undercooked. still, i would eat this one again, and again); and oh yes, the squid with chorizo -- while very, very tasty, the sausage dice was too large i thought and overwhelmed the delicate squid flavor. but the textures were nice, and i felt like it was the right idea. we got a large (relatively) portion of the braised rabbit, and nearly licked the plate clean. excellent ciabatta in the breadbasket.
the room is small but unassuming. lots of exposed brick, dark wood, bicycle paintings. the service has to be one of the least pretentious in the city, just alot of enthusiasm and sincerity. alevras is the nicest guy.
we had some champagne with the starters, glasses of dry and yeasty blanc de blancs, and a bottle of pinot noir with the rest of the meal. cheese plate: i remember only the sally jackson and the point reyes, but they selected three others that were superb, and the cheese came with thin slices of dense, nutty bread, pesto, honey, and pickled grapes. pickled grapes are now my ideal fruit pairing with cheese -- i feel like dried fruit just reinforces the dryness of some cheeses, and regular grapes, while acidic, don't have the smack of pickling liquid. for the perfect dessert to cap off such a spring-y meal, lemon tart.
while considered by some to be on the not-cheap side, we felt it was a really great value: 4 small plates (run about $10-15), 1 big one (mid-$20s), cheese plate, 1 dessert ($6), 2 glasses of champagne, bottle of wine = $160 (before tip). it was just enough to feed two.
my only complaint (besides string and peas) is the pricey wine list. it's very likely that my opinion should be discounted, however, as i only really looked at the pinot list (of which only 1 was $30, i believe, a few $50-ish, the rest $90 and up -- out of maybe 15 choices), as i didn't choose the wines, and i can't pretend to know a whole lot about them. there is, granted, a whole page devoted to wines by the glass. that said, the wine-chooser also commented on the priciness of the list.
in any case, i think we may have found our favorite new place to eat in new york (when budget allows).