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47 E Houston St (between Mulberry St and Mott St, Nolita)
Fatty Kat Eats: Egg Salad with Boquerones on Matzo, Mussels a la Plancha, Raw Scallop with Green Radish, Avocado and Yuzu, Beef Tartare and Fried Sunchoke, Burrata on Charred Toast with Salsa Verde, Roasted Half Quail, Pork and Mustard Greens, Ricotta Dumplings, Panna Cotta
21 Cooper Sq (between 5th and 6th St, East Village)
Fatty Kat Eats: Baked Oysters, Long Island Fluke Crudo, Dungeness Crab Salad, Rotisserie-Grilled Sweet Potato, Barley Risotto, Lacquered Duck Breast, Carrot Fries, Grilled Short Rib, Parsnip-Carrot Cheesecake, Toasted Fennel Cheesecake
I've already had numerous food romances this year. What can I say? I'm a flirt. But one whirlwind romance takes the cake. Narcissa and Fatty Kat sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G...
Narcissa is a classic restaurant in modern form. There are no trends or food rages to speak of, just inventive and well-executed dishes composed of fresh ingredients, lots of veggies and a pinch of sass. This locavore movement towards lighter flavors and higher quality produce continues to flourish throughout the country, particularly on the coasts. Narcissa is a great example of that movement which places just as much emphasis on taste as it does on ingredients.
We were impressed right from the start with the Baked Oysters served over piping hot rock salt. The plump oysters were enhanced with a subtle truffle-bonito butter, which was heavenly if you took your time in each bite. Nowadays, whenever I see the word "truffle," I'm almost certain that each bite will equate to one truffle-flavored punch to the mouth. Truffling everything has become too overwhelming, but these pearls did not fall victim to such abuse.
Pesto and crudo? Those are 2 things you never see on the same plate, so we had to order the Long Island Fluke Crudo. I'm so glad we did. The pesto could have easily overpowered the fluke had it been made with basil, but this earthier version made with broccoli was perfect. I made sure to scoop up a little bit of everything with each bite, which is the only way to really enjoy it.
The Rotisserie-Crisped Beets sounded different enough to actually taste good, but this dish was the only mishap of the night. Surprisingly, it wasn't the horseradish or bulgur salad that sank the ship. The beets themselves were flavorless despite their deceiving "rotisserie-crisped" appearance.
Dungeness crab is a proud weakness of mine. I'll take big chunks of sweet crab meat over blue crab any day. If you pair it with hearts of palm, blood orange and hazelnuts, the resulting foodgasm is that much more intense. It's almost pity to call the Dungeness Crab Salad a "salad," because it's more magic than salad.
Got ya! What looks like a juicy pork chop is actually a few sexy slices of Rotisserie-Grilled Sweet Potato. These arrived glistening in jerk spices and a naturally sweet glaze. The sweet potato's soft texture was accented with a toasty skin thanks to the rotisserie. From dishes like this, it's clear that veggies don't take a back seat at Narcissa. In fact, Chef John Fraser is known to be a "veggie guru" who generally sticks to a vegetarian diet--something I'll never understand.
This is by far my favorite risotto in recent memory, and it's not even risotto! Narcissa's Barley Risotto is incredibly unique. The littleneck clam flavor is intense and pure. You feel like you're sitting at a seafood shack in...let's say Cape Cod or Montauk. And how does the barley fit in? It just works. Each plump grain swims in a sea of clam juice, cream and herbs. Think vongole a la risotto.
Am I crazy, or does this Lacquered Duck Breast look like a big piece of tuna sashimi? That's beside the fact, but my point is that this duck breast brought a twinkle to our eyes. Each bite came with a thick layer of skin, which is usually too much of a good thing in one bite; however, this dish was heavy without being overwhelming. The cranberry sauce, while hidden under the duck breast, really balanced everything. I've never had duck so tender and juicy, let alone fatty enough to resemble foie gras.
Let me introduce you to these Carrot Fries. I'd read about them before dinner but had never seen a visual until they arrived at our table. So what I thought were going to be carrot sticks ended up being whole carrots! They seemed to be fried in a tempura-type batter, because they were light and free from excess oil. The jalapeño tofu dip told the same story: light and oil-free. This side dish, although fried, didn't weigh us down one bit.
For my meat lovers...the Grilled Short Rib was the definition of "melt in your mouth." Everything was bursting with flavor, from the syrupy beef to the creamy radish salad. For a sometimes vegetarian, I'm impressed. For a New York City chef, I'm impressed. Either way, I'm impressed!
After being spoiled by all that savory goodness, I didn't expect the sweets to blow me out of the park. But guess what? This Parsnip-Carrot Cake was undeniably excellent. Cream cheese frosting is a wonder in itself, but this version was almost airy enough to resemble whipped cream. The golden raisins, poppy seeds and shredded carrots enhanced an already delicious cake and had me scraping for crumbs.
When I eat cheesecake, I'm always digging for crumbs at the bottom of the cake to add some texture to the party in my mouth. Narcissa's Toasted Fennel Cheesecake makes it easy by dressing every delicate block of cheese in the good stuff. The "fennel" part didn't really come through, but I was more than happy with the fluffy cheesecake to care.
We focused on the small plates since they sounded much more appealing than the entrees. After this first meal, however, I'll definitely be back for the other stuff. This beautiful restaurant won me over with its clean flavors, love of veggies and an amazing duck breast. That's really all it takes to be my favorite meal of 2014 (so far). The simple interior is romantic, yet familiar and completely agrees with the menu and neighborly service. I hardly expected a restaurant in The Standard to be so serene, delicious and, frankly, classy. Two thumbs up! And two big toes too :)