Monday, March 9, 2009

Bar Seats

At Dell'Anima, the downtown late-night hot spot that everyone keeps telling me to visit, the worsening economy has not reared its ugly heads.  We entered a fairly empty dining room a little past one in the morning and sat at the kitchen bar.  That is, the line of seats directly in front of the chef.  You can watch the grill and pasta stations as you eat.  

The chef, a friend of my dining companion, informed us that the restaurant had served a staggering 200 people.  On a Sunday night.  In March.  Few restaurants have the loyal following of this one.  No ornery disposition followed us into our late-night meal.  I appreciated that.  All too often, I've been the server on the opposite side, livid at the nerve of the diner before me eating well after normal human hours. 

We ordered four dishes, ate six.  Grilled sweetbreads arrived amidst a fennel marmalade and parsley root puree.  The sweetbreads, unadorned by the familiar trappings of batter and oil, were soft, clean, and delicate. 

Next came Brussels sprouts and a farm egg with lardon.  The egg was runny and bled gooey innards over tender sprouts.  I hated sprouts until last year.  I don't know what took me so long to come around.  

Paper-thin ravioli stuffed with a blood-red beet puree.  Poppy seeds.  Brown butter.  

Homemade tagliatelle (flour-free diet be damned!) with bolognese.  Pliable, toothsome pasta, yolk yellow.  Perfect. 

Gnocchi with oxtail ragu, mirepoix, perfect celery leaves.  

Finally, the most perfect dish of all: skin-on orata (seabream) cooked en papillote with green and black olives, fresh thyme, fingerling potatoes, and lemon.  

They charged us for our lambrusco and amaro.  Where had the food disappeared?  The six-course meal, in all its delicacy and impeccable execution, had been sent out to us for free.  

But I would have paid, and been happy to do so.  And I'll definitely be back. 

38 8th Avenue 
New York, NY 10014

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