Hip-hop thumped through the speakers as we took seats at the marble bar at Charlie Bird, the restaurant that opened at 5 King Street in the South Village just before the weekend got underway. It was Sunday, but the bi-level dining room hummed at the frenetic pace of a Saturday, a team of servers delivering wine and plates in a choreographed dance relaxed enough to allow for some improvisation.
Menus are neon-hued, the noise level approaches roaring, and the staff is young, all details that give this restaurant a deceptively casual façade. At first glance, dishes follow suit; chef and co-owner Ryan Hardy–who made his name at Aspen, Colorado, fine dining restaurant Montagna at the Little Nell–turns out a board of accessible Italian comfort food via dishes like oysters, seasonal salads, rigatoni with veal ragu, roasted chicken, and skate on the wing. And the wine list, honed by co-owner and sommelier Robert Bohr (formerly of Cru) with help from sommelier Grant Reynolds (who came here from Colorado’s Frasca), is long on affordable bottles.
The ambition is evident as soon as you scratch the surface. With offerings like bone marrow accompanied by anchovy, a special pasta topped with a generous cut of uni, and even simple peas boosted by sweet spring onions and ribbons of fat-laced guanciale, Hardy is subtly twisting seasonal ingredients in ways aimed at delighting the fooderati. And that wine list is similarly edited, reaching into esoteric regions and producers to ensure it will turn up something exciting for even Bohr’s seasoned sommelier peers. So if your mom is turned off by the booming bass when she first walks through the door, she should feel better once something is in her glass. And as for your pals who squirm at the thought of white tablecloths and coddling service, well, they should feel right at home at the bar.
An early look at a couple of dishes:
Creamy stracciatella topped with fava beans, radishes, a drizzle of olive oil, and a generous dusting of salt is served with toast.
“Chicken liver isn’t really my thing, but I licked the bowl clean when I tried that dish,” the host divulged after we made our order. The pate comes studded with sweet raisins and walnuts.
We also dug into the rigatoni with veal ragu, which our bartender noted was the chef’s favorite dish, hence its place on the warm-season menu despite its hearty nature.