Doug Flicker has left the building. But the kitchen maestro’s style of compositions continues to be orchestrated by the pair of once-employees who recently replaced his Piccolo with Tenant on the same site.
As the French put it, “The king is dead. Long live the [new] king!”
Tenant — which, as Piccolo (Italian for “tiny”), earned its name with five tables and a few more counter seats — shines as white and bright and busy as before. And the chummy, ultra-talented staffers maintain that inherited opinion of who’s here to serve whom. (Me: “Sir, the [abrasive, anti-relaxing] music is too loud.” They: “We don’t think so.”)
That said, the food and experience are a treat.
Here’s the drill: Arrive (by rez) and take your seat for a six-course (“We won’t tell you what it is”) tasting menu, bargain-priced at $50, served rapidly. (You’re not here to enjoy a leisurely evening with companions; this is more like a dining seminar.)
The menu remains similar for months, simply rotating one dish in and out per week. Tenant’s beverage list is limited (and that’s fine): three pairings for $25 or BTG. My choice, a Hungarian white, proved light, floral and underwhelming. Next to me on the stools, a couple of cooks from a different establishment drank their sparkling Spanish cava with a chaser of Hamm’s.
The menu includes three pasta courses and three with smallish bits of protein. All are composed as if by tiny, focused elves for guests of dollhouse stature.
We started with a delicious dish featuring a few teaspoons of sweet, admirably juicy beef tartare anchoring a composition that included bits (bring a magnifying glass) of charred cauliflower, beet buds, onion petals, a sole asparagus tip, beans cut in quarter-inch segments and nasturtium petals, presented with homemade XO sauce and dill (and probably half a dozen other micro-ingredients I failed to note).
Course two: capeletti, homemade pasta “hats” containing a slurpy, creamy, blue-like cheese in a bowl that also included tiny specks of speck (like ham), burnt broccoli mini (and I do mean mini) florets and more in a rich, charred cabbage broth, poured tableside.
Third, a raviolo called doppio — “double” — because the single pasta square, flaunting pretty stripes of black garlic on its golden façade, contains two separate fillings: one, crumbles of fennel sausage, just as you’d expect on pizza; the second, a creamy ricotta. Green garlic flavors both. It’s terrific. In fact, I want another (but, of course, didn’t ask).
Then, course four. Time for salmon — a bit larger than a poker chip, sweet and tender beneath its crispy skin. It cohabits with a fried oyster, charred onion, translucent rounds of radish, nasturtium leaves and — a surprise, and unsuitable — a big (for here) hunk of herbed potatoes (which the beer-and-cava boys praised mightily), along with beurre blanc and golden globules of smoked roe.
Course five (aka the entrée, I suppose — it’s more substantial): delicious bits of braised lamb shoulder, hunkering under a tangle of bigoli (think robust spaghetti) along with a poached quail egg to pierce and moisten the strands, baby mushrooms, tasteless English peas and a topping of fine-shaved Parmesan. Oh, and a teaser of tarragon.
Time for dessert, and it’s a lovely one: house-made ice cream (natch; they probably make the salt and sugar, too) that’s a smooth, fruity blend of black and red raspberries and red currants, which also garnish the scoop, along with candied pine nuts and puffed sorghum (picture subdivided popcorn kernels), providing a nice, salty balance for the sweets. With it arrived a complimentary glass of Belgian-style framboise beer: summer in a glass.
In and out in 90 minutes and a lot of fun. Plus a lot of persnickety pretention. Best of luck, boys!
4300 Bryant Ave. S.