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. Thanks to Meyer, New York has an extremely high standard of service that the city now thrives on 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! On this humid and rainy summer night, Teresa and I found ourselves at North End Grill in the Financial District (of all places). Our amazing server described and gushed over practically every dish on the menu and spent a good 5 minutes with us just on that. She was very helpful and perky which got us excited about the meal.
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 combination of fresh ingredients. The pineapple was just tart enough to cure the hamachi while the candied ginger gave it a mild kick. We also tried the Coddled Egg with peekytoe crab, bacon, ramps, spring onion and grits. Here's another example of how popular eggs are becoming at new restaurants. The lightness of the soft egg obtained an almost hollandaise-like consistency which, when paired with grits, composed a homey dish with robust flavors.
We got very original with our entrées when we both ordered the Wild Salmon with quinoa, spring carrot purée, cashews and balsamic glaze. While the quality of the fish was incredible and the "Native American"-like compliments really brought out unique flavors, neither of us loved the dish. I just don't think earthy and nutty flavors in such a dominant manner work together, and I definitely would have preferred it in a smaller, appetizer portion. The Thrice-Fried Spice Fries were pretty bad. Way too salty and fried. The 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. I think there are two camps when it comes to meringue - you either love it or you hate it. Teresa and I might veer towards the latter, but we knew this was some special lemon meringue pie from the get-go. It was feathery light like I've never tasted 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.
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. Battery Park City has never been home to 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!