My friends visiting from Italy accorded me carte blanche to set the agenda for their last night in New York. The pressure was on to select a reputable American restaurant that had some buzz around it, surpassing the caliber of food that they had encountered so far, and representative of the best of Manhattan's restaurant culture. Yikes.
Allen and Delancey seemed to be the right choice--favorable write-ups, farm-to-table approach to food, and zippy LES location. A new head chef, Kyle Bailey (formerly of Stone Barns and Cru), was running the kitchen and had created a new menu. I was eager to sample the menu and see what all the hullaballoo was all about surrounding Allen and Delancey. Apparently, so was PADMA LAKSHMI, the extraordinarily tall and beautiful hostess of Top Chef. I really do hate being such a Top Chef star fucker, because my friends never seem to share the same enthusiasm at the actual sighting.
Me: OH MY GOD, There's PADMA! She JUST walked past our table.
Friend: Uh, who?
Me: You know PADMA from TOP CHEF!! She's the hostess of the show, Indian, tall, enormous scar on her arm, wrote Tangy, Tart, Hot and Sweet...(Me droning on some more...)
Friend: Oh, yeah.
Me: You know, reality TV, cooking competition! They must air the show in Italy...
Friend: Yes, I think I've seen a few episodes.
Me: THERE SHE IS!!
Friend: Oh, yeah. I see her. Ho hum.
I've spotted Padma twice now (New Museum), Sam (Concert in Brooklyn), Mark (Season 4, Public), Ilan ( Casa Mono). But I digress, back to Allen and Delancey...
The restaurant space has a rustic charm, designed in the manner of an old Vermont barn house, festooned with antique relics, fresh cabbage roses, and oil portrait paintings. The mood was warm and inviting.
My friends, Federica and Daniele, ordered the polenta and foie gras for starters, and the Arctic char and veal for mains, respectively. The char is supposed to be one of the highlights of the menu, based on reviews I've read, however, Federica thought the fish was too dry.
This is what I ordered:
Hamachi Crudo, Grapefruit Beads, Pickled Fennel, Mint
Sweet Cream French Toast, Maple Ice Cream, Bacon Caramel, Caramelized Banana
First, the bread is very good. One of the rolls had a savory, smokiness that was heavenly!
The Hamachi starter was luscious and well seasoned. The high oil content of the Hamachi (yellowtail) gave it a wonderfully, buttery texture, and the the acid and flavors of the grapefruit, fennel, and mint complimented the fattiness of the fish.
The veal was tender and cooked perfectly. There was a pumpkin or butternut squash puree and sauteed leaves of brussel sprouts that surrounded the plate, the sweetness of the puree and the saltiness of the brussel sprouts (not sure how they were prepared) brought out the flavors of the veal. Really delightful. The sweetbreads were also quite good, creamy and delicate.
I ordered the dessert because the bacon caramel caught my eye. Eaten alone, without garnish, the french toast was a bit hard. However, once fully soaked with the caramel sauce, or eaten with the ice cream and banana, the french toast softens to become a playful dessert that is really tasty and fun.
Service: Pretty good
Ambiance: Rustic charm
Price: Beau coup bucks ($100/person) Includes 20% tip and a bottle of wine