April 7, 2014
Met Doc Willoughby for dinner last night at a sweet tiny new restaurant. It was cozy and friendly, and we really wanted to like it, but the service was so clueless that after telling us the special the waitress had no idea how much it cost. That would have been okay. But the food wasn't very good, and we poked around at it a bit and then gave up. We left hungry and wandered around for a while, searching out something good to eat.
When we passed Charlie Bird I looked wistfully through the window. The place is always packed, reservations impossible to get. But the one time I was there I loved the food, so we went in and asked if there might be a seat at the bar.
No wonder people love this place so much! The hostess greeted us as if we were just the people she'd been wishing would come walking through the door. The waiter was equally welcoming. The sommelier offered to serve us a half bottle of any wine on the list. And every single item on the menu looked appealing.
We'd already nibbled around one dinner, so we restrained ourselves. We started with this light little plate of raw fluke sliced into silvery, shining sheets and scattered with slivered almonds and tomatoes.
I couldn't resist "tripe lovely style." The two little toasts heaped with tomato-stewed, cheese-strewn tripe were fantastic: funkily flavorful, satisfying and just enough.
We had a dish of broccoli raab too, tossed with olive oil, a few secretive chiles underlying the vegetable's bitter edge.
The food at Charlie Bird has a joyful exuberance that makes me happy. But what made me happiest was that pasta at the top: made with duck eggs, it was tossed with sea urchin and hints of lemon before being topped with crisped guanciale. Pure delight.
Chefs clearly love this place. Nick Kim, the wonderful sushi chef who worked with Masa before opening Neta a couple of years ago, was sitting at the bar. Nick's no longer at Neta; he and his partner are opening a new restaurant this summer.
I can hardly wait.
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