North End Grill
I have a ton of respect for Danny Meyer and his restaurant empire. From Shake Shack to Maialino to The Modern to Citifield to infinity and beyond, the man really knows what he’s doing. Each and every one of his restaurant stays true to the concept at hand, whether it’s in terms of décor, staff knowledge or authenticity. Thanks to Meyer, New York has an extremely high standard of service that the city now thrives by which emphasizes the entire “experience.” And while the food doesn’t always stand up to the rest of the restaurant, often times, it really does…….hello Union Square Café, Maialino, Blue Smoke!
On this humid and rainy summer night, Teresa and I found ourselves at a newish restaurant in the Financial District (of all places). Our amazing server described and gushed over practically every dish on the menu and definitely spent a good 5 minutes with us just on that. She was very helpful and perky which got us excited about the meal at hand. We started with the Hamachi Tartar with hearts of palm, pineapple and candied ginger. This was by far the best dish of the meal with its inventive and fresh combination of ingredients. Y’all know how much I love sweet + savory! The pineapple was just tart enough to help cure the hamachi while the candied ginger gave it a mild kick. Microgreens brought this beauty together and we couldn’t get enough of this well-portioned dish!
Teresa and I also tried the Coddled Egg with peekytoe crab, bacon, ramps, spring onion and grits. Again, here’s another example of how popular eggs are becoming at trendy new restaurants in the city. The lightness of the hardly cooked egg obtained an almost hollandaise-like consistency which, when paired with grits, composed a homey dish with strong flavors found in the crab, bacon, ramps and spring onion.
We got very original with our entrées when we both ordered the Wild Salmon with quinoa, spring carrot purée, cashews and balsamic glaze. Our server, Christyd did her job too well because we both needed to try this beautiful wild fish prepped medium-rare. While the quality of the fish was incredible and the ”Native American”-like compliments really brought out fun flavors, neither of us really loved the dish. I just don’t think earthy and nutty flavors in such a dominant manner work naturally together, but I definitely would have preferred it in a smaller, appetizer portion.
The Thrice-Fried Spice Fries were pretty bad. Way too salty and fried. Mayo was the only respite. On the other hand, the Grilled Hen of the Woods were phenomenal! Sprinkled with just a touch of salt, these fancy mushrooms were incredibly simple and flavorful.
We finished off the meal with the restaurant’s infamous Lemon Meringue Pie which Christy couldn’t stop raving about. I think there are two camps when it comes this pie – you either love it or you hate it. Teresa and I might both be in the ladder’s camp, but we knew this was some special lemon meringue pie from the get-go. The meringue was feathery light like I’ve never seen or had before. I just wish the lemony custard part was creamier and not so eye-twitchingly tangy. Next time, I want to try the highly recommended Butterscotch Pot de Creme, which I’ve seen all over the foodie web.
According to NYT, North End Grill is supposed to be “an update of the American bar and grill,” and it definitely was that. The space was so many things all at once: modern, sleek, glossy, light, familiar yet corporate-y. Maybe too many things? Nonetheless, Teresa and I felt comfortable in the dining room as we matched everyone else in our dreary work clothes.
What I take away from this experience is that Danny Meyer is a pioneer when it comes to setting up camp in untapped neighborhoods throughout the city. Union Square Café was a pretty risky idea in the 80′s when diners were scared of the then-sketchy Union Square area. Respected restaurants were located more uptown then. Along those lines, his newest restaurant, North End Grill, opened Battery Park City up to Danny Meyer loyalists (like me and all my friends) along with Shake Shack and Blue Smoke. The area has never been known to house any culinary heavy hitters, but Meyer is quickly changing that. I’m sure the food will improve as the restaurant “finds itself,” and I’m excited to go back!