Condo towers are sprouting faster than Jack’s magic beanstalk in East Town, yet their new residents face a landscape that’s (with a few notable exceptions) still a dining desert.
Thus the news that Eastside’s previously less-than-palate-palpitating menu had been revised by Grand Café’s illustrious Jamie Malone prompted this new East Towner to snag a rez. I entered smiling; I left bemused.
A focus of the new list is on family-style entrees, meant to serve two to four, priced at $55 for chicken to $130 for a ribeye/lobster thermidor combo. As far as I could tell, only one party had settled on this section of the menu on the night of my visit.
So, if you’re a twosome or simply wish to explore more than a sole entrée to feed your four-top, you’re limited to six entrée selections, three of which are pasta ($16–$39). We’ll dissect these in a minute.
First, a glance at the starters, leading off with oysters and frites ($22) or shellfish platter ($40). For us working stiffs who rarely splurge that much for an appetizer, the list continues with a few more choices.
From these, we selected the wood-fired oysters Rockefeller ($12 for three). (Note to chefs: Yes, a trio of something looks pretty on a plate, but how many parties of three do you seat? Right. Don’t make it awkward for us, as in “Go ahead, take the last one.” “No, you have it.”) Anyway: the oysters were downright tiny upon their bed of greens. And bland.
On to the beef tartare ($14). The juicy patty proved pert with onions, abetted by a pool of suave mustard sauce. It’s garnished with translucent moons of radish and greenery and presented with toasted slabs of the house-made sourdough, which is stupendous. We wolfed down every crumb. (It’s also served as the house bread, along with unsalted butter. Fine.)
Or choose a salad, caramelized cauliflower or burrata to begin your meal.
From those six entrees, we selected the roast quail, $28. Ms. Malone chose to disassemble the bitty bird and present dollops of the tasty, tender meal around the rim of a plate, punctuated by plump, sweet prunes and a drizzle of prune-red wine demi. On the side, out comes a tray of caramellzed onion bread pudding.
The presentation veers between precious and awkward. Were I queen of the kitchen, I’d have served the bird whole, bordered by those limpid prunes, with the bread pudding (aka stuffing) plumped alongside it.
On to our second choice, the lobster spaghetti — a dish that was the hit of 2018 in a couple of East Coast cities I happened to visit, so I learned to love it. And it’s my fave on this menu, with sweet chunks of the pearly meat (too small, however) spangling a tangle of noodles along with cubes of roasted butternut squash (which need longer cooking) in a lovely Cognac cream.
We continued with more pasta — wide, gutsy ribbons of pappardelle in a sofrito of — get this — braised hazelnuts and pistachios (thus, a vegetarian ragu, for a nice change). It’s fine but not memorable. Or choose scallops or short rib.
Or dessert. Three choices (plus ice cream): lemon tart, financier cake or cherry olive-oil cake ($7–$8). We chose the cherry treat, presented as a generous Bundt slice, dark in mien, moist and sweet with bits of cherry and cherry liqueur. Also, tobacco cream (which had intrigued us but couldn’t be discerned in the crème anglaise, although we kept trying.)
The most interesting cocktail — the Bufflehead, with duck fat-infused Bourbon — was unavailable that night (“Not up to our standard”), so we settled for a house-bottled Manhattan. (Why bottle, you may wonder? So did we.) Both fine.
Or go with wines BTG ($10 and up) or beer. Or cocktails “to share” ($50–$72).
I wish I could say this new menu will drive folks back, or in for the first time. I hope I’m wrong, but it doesn’t seem to nail the neighborhood’s demographic — much less diners heading for the nearby stadium or Guthrie Theater.
505 S. Washington Ave.