Monday, June 2, 2014

The Bees Have It; Bar Primi and Bacchanal, That Is

Restaurants open at a pretty fast clip here in NYC.  As summer approaches, it sure seems like a new one opens every day.  And though I'm not usually one to run to a restaurant that's only been open for a day or two, over the past few weeks we've tried a number of brand-new places.

There was, you'll recall, Bâtard.  Then, over the past week, Bar Primi, Bacchanal and a new ice cream parlor, Morgenstern's. Where to start?

Well, let's start with Andrew Carmellini and Sal Lamboglia's Bar Primi.  I met a friend; we sat at the bar. Had a laugh when I went to move one of the bar stools, which looked heavy and meaty, and turned out to weigh about 4 ounces.  Picked it up with my pinky. And it, like most bar stools these days, was about as comfortable as it was heavy.  But fuggetaboutthat, because we really liked what we ate. One starter, stuffed meatballs, was delicious.  Big, tasty balls, stuffed with a bit of cheese, topped with a fantastic red sauce.  3 to an order - $12, and worth it. Another starter was the baked clams and these I didn't like half as much.  4 to an order - $12...take a pass.

Then on to the pastas - something AC has always gotten right. These were no different; as a matter of fact, they were great. My bucatini with lamb "Amatriciana" was nice and funky from the lamb, with a nice hit (like a good Amatriciana has) of heat. The pasta was cooked perfectly.  Friend's spinach cavatelli was also a winner, served with a white veal sugo and topped with Piave cheese, a full-bodied cow's milk from the Veneto. Good stuff.  The pastas (for now) are all under $20.  Cocktails were OK; there are at least 15 Italians wines on offer by the glass.

On Friday night, Significant Eater and I walked the other way on Bowery, to the corner of Kenmare St., and checked out brand-new Bacchanal in The Sohotel.   Chef Scott Bryan also comes with quite a pedigree.  Cocktail king Naren Young heads up the bar, and the cocktails are, as to be expected, great.  As are the people behind the bar - and I'll give a shout out to both Erica and Vanessa, who took great care of us. But once again, I'll point out that the bar stools are mostly meant for the young 'uns, who will undoubtedly be flocking here as the Bowery morphs into the new Meat Packing district.

While our starter of codfish fritters were just right, we weren't knocked out by the sweetbreads. Described as "crisp sweetbreads" on the menu, I think I was expecting something more along the lines of Chang's seminal popcorn sweetbreads, from back in the day at Momo.  We moved on to a pasta and a risotto dish, both of which, to be frank, left us wanting more. The swiss chard and ricotta agnolotti were kind of one note, and the poppy seeds in the sauce were just, to my mind, weird.  The hen of the wood risotto was served quite soupy, the way a seafood risotto should be served; I guess I expect a mushroom risotto to be a bit "tighter." It's a work-in-progress, obviously, and with a chef this good, I expect it will only get better.

For dessert, we headed up the block to #2 Rivington Street, where Morgenstern's Finest Ice Cream parlor just opened. Significant Eater went inside to order, while I watched the parade go by on the street.  Place was jammed; the ice-cream was good. But I'll probably still head to Il Laboratorio del Gelato, which has always been my favorite for frozen treats on the lower east side.

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