Thursday, January 19, 2012

Terrible Twos

Well, maybe not terrible. But not great, either. I hit the East Village twice this week, once for a pricey meal at Hearth and once again for a steal at Apiary, even though we splurged on wine. At Hearth, we ordered a massive charcuterie board for a staggering $45, but most of the offal offered was a little too livery for my taste. By the time my delicious quail appetizer arrived--over a vinegary bed of grains--I was almost too full to enjoy it. A spatlese riesling to begin left me wanting more great wine, but a premier cru Burgundy disappointed, as did a dormant 2000 Bordeaux suggested to me by an enthusiastic sommelier. My main course--a selection of meats of which I can only clearly recall a smooth and lovely tongue--was too rich and ineptly composed. I couldn't figure out how to eat it or what to compare it to, besides a hard-up pot au feu. I had wanted the spaghetti and meatballs; next time, I'll go with my gut.

Donuts were average. I left very disappointed and a little broke. Apiary broke my heart a little less. Our seven-course tasting included a bright and clean tranch of hamachi, served with micro greens and hearts of palm. But, like so many of the following courses, it was undersalted. Hake had a perfect crust and came in a creamy pool of razor clams and potatoes and bacon. Papparadelle with rabbit and tomatoes and basil was toothsome and satisfying, even if it defied the season a little (who garnishes with fresh basil in January, anyway?). Sweetbreads, though overcooked, came bathed in a sticky, salty, and sweet sauce and over a fine puree. Duck was perfectly cooked, but the accompanying cabbage had no seasoning whatsoever.

A composed cheese plate offered three cheeses, fruit bread, and a trio of honeys. It was nice, sure, but a little basic for a full course of seven. And the chocolate lava cake was reductive, as was the overwrought and chewy apple puff pastry provided at meal's end.

But Apiary has an enviable wine list, something it has in common with Hearth. Both lists can bring a person closer to Bordeaux with some funk and age than any of New York's other prize places. A 1982 Prieure-Lichine was actually in our price range, believe it or not. And so we escaped tough puff pastry on the back of old Bordeaux. Next time, maybe I'll stick to the bars at both haunts.

403 East 12th Street
New York, NY 10009

60 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10003

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