Cookshop Charms With Gutsy Food, Fiery Rotisserie
10-01-06 Revista de Prensa
by Peter Elliot
In a world where Asian fusion, molecular gastronomy and fussy Mediterranean reign supreme, Cookshop, a new restaurant in Manhattan, offers my new favorite food type: Gutsy American.
Think of it as avant-garde Midwestern, as if Betty Crocker had donned a bib by Frank Lloyd Wright. Neither chef/owner Marc Meyer nor his wife, Vicki Freeman, are from Chicago, but their cuisine and their restaurant has a decidedly eclectic feel that is unabashedly born in the U.S. of A., much like their first restaurant, Five Points, which remains a popular Noho joint.
Cookshop improves on Five Points both in finesse, size (115 seats versus about 90) and in likeability. Who else in New York would create a menu section just for nibbles including deviled eggs? And instead of grandma's overzealous sprinkling of paprika, Meyer dribbles American trout roe on top of creamed yolks. Then there's fried spiced hominy (grits) that taste like corn nuts of old. I half expected to hear the sound of pork cracklings echoing off the stunning polished oak tables, rather severe chairs and concrete floors.
The Cookshop philosophy is eco-friendly. The menus are from recycled paper and black chalkboards list the ``favorite farms'' that the chef uses on a regular basis. The earnest, corn-fed- looking staff talks about food that is as sustainable as it can be. ``We do our best not to hurt anybody -- or anything,'' a server said one night.
Try telling that to the little hens, rabbits and ducks that are about to be cooked on Meyer's pride and joy, a vertical rotisserie that occupies one corner of the open kitchen. The buzzy L-shaped room features three giant booths right by the kitchen. Avoid the one closest to the rotisserie unless you enjoy hearing meat sizzle and don't mind leaving with your hair slightly frizzled.
The rotisserie yielded a perfectly ordinary chicken one night and on another visit a duck with bronzed skin and meat so tender, we thought of Shanghai. The rabbit, rubbed in sage and garlic, was a triumph.
Meyer shines with pork. The loin of Berkshire pork, grilled and resting on a bed of cider-braised cabbage, came with a hint of smoked-pear mustard that raised it above the merely American. Fish dishes can be a little too adventuresome for me: A bluefish cured and brined and then smoked seemed like too much attention spent on a fish with already too strong a flavor. He made up for it with a Chatham cod in a chickpea stew.
Perhaps the best thing about Cookshop is that Meyer and his wife are determined to conquer the hyper-competitive restaurant world in a quite old-fashioned way. They have only one other partner, Chris Paraskevaides, who keeps the money side going. Vicki is always at the door. Meyer is always in the kitchen. You don't see him parading around in his chef's whites greeting VIPs (though he appears occasionally with a wrench to confront the grumpy rotisserie). Cookshop's egalitarian spirit begins with the crowded bar, the first thing you see as you walk in from the corner.
The design, by Erin Shilliday, is an intriguing mix of warm and cool. Details like the thin mirror that follows one wall just above the banquettes, or the placement of the wine stand in the middle of the room, are inviting touches. The glass wall is chilly but dramatic.
Like the foods plucked from organic or sustainable farms, the wines come from an offbeat mix of producers chosen by sommelier Rebecca Foster. The list is interesting and well priced. My favorite was a 2002 Mas des Chimeres from the south of France that tasted of the sophisticated earthiness that has become a hallmark of the Languedoc region. It was a steal at $36. A corked $39 Cote du Rhone was quickly dumped out by an unhappy Foster and replaced with a new (and excellent) bottle. So often, you just sit there wondering when someone will take the battery acid away.
Dessert? Try the brioche bread pudding with caramelized apples and cinnamon ice cream. It's all-American and home grown.
The Bloomberg Questions
Main Courses: $18-$26.
Sound Level: Potentially noisy. Go for the banquettes.
Date place? Yes.
Special feature: If you ask really nicely, they'll let you order your food to take home.
Will I be back? Even on my own nickel.
Cookshop is at 156 10th Ave. at 20th Street, (1)(212) 924-4440.
Publicado originalmente en