An Early Taste of Andrew Carmellini's Sustainable Fare at Little Park
All photos Sara Ventiera
The interior of Andrew Carmellini's Little Park (85 West Broadway; 212-220-4110) gives off the same natural feel as the food. Warm oak booths are wrapped in neutral variegated fabric. The whitewashed ceiling is softened with a rectangular cut-out of draped cream cloth. Subdued lighting highlights the marble-topped bar.
The latest addition to the Noho Hospitality Group empire, set in the base of the Smyth Hotel, the eatery focuses on spotlighting seasonal ingredients with Carmellini's longtime provisioners. Chef de cuisine Min Kong oversees daily operations, putting together a Mediterranean-inspired menu that's healthy, sustainable, and equally gratifying. Spanning from coastal Spain and France to North Africa and Turkey, it's filled with feel-good items, like grass-fed beef, free-range poultry, line-caught fish, heirloom grains, and organic vegetables.
"Over the past 20 years I've spent cooking in New York, I've forged strong relationships with local farmers and purveyors. Little Park is a tribute to that," Carmellini tells the Voice.
The emphasis is on sharing, with a wide selection of small and mid-sized plates. The offerings are divided into sections that get progressively hearty as it moves along.
Grass-fed hanger steak
Raw and cured includes a few light seafood selections, like Island Creek oysters ($13) with grapefruit and coriander. The Long Island fluke ($14) comes with four thin slabs of fish topped with crunchy relish and Amagansett sea salt.
Autumn vegetables make up the bulk of the menu. Butternut squash ($17) is sliced into paper-thin layers, served atop burrata cheese and garnished with nasturtium (a form of watercress that looks like a lily pad). Crispy brussels sprouts ($14) are tossed with smoked parsnip and apple. Roasted sunchokes ($13) are presented with toasted hazelnuts and black trumpets.
Pastas and grains include divergent options. Black kale ravioli ($14) with fall squash and pine nuts is hearty yet delicate. Beetroot risotto ($15) is visually stunning; colored from the root, it's a bright magenta hue. The vivid dish is spotted with white tangy cheese and black poppy seeds, then topped with slices of golden beets.
The fish and seafood and fire-roasted meats are the largest of the dishes. Steamed black bass ($24) is served with beluga lentils and oregano. Dry-aged duck ($18) is a standout. It's served two ways, with simple grilled breast and a kebab from the leg. It sits atop turnips and grains with pickled grapes on the plate. Grass-fed hanger steak ($20), with broccoli and green sauce (a rich combination of numerous herbs), is another winner.
Desserts are the most playful. Cinnamon toast ice cream ($8) tastes almost exactly like the cereal. The frozen lemon fluff ($12) with honey-lemon sorbet is a knockout; brightly flavored with an airy texture, it feels like an adult take on the marshmallow topping. Fall sundae of apple and beer ($12) is interesting, but not quite as impressive.
Cinnamon Toast Ice Cream
Little Park isn't open for lunch. It does, however, serve breakfast. It features a short selection of simple dishes. Poached eggs ($15) are offered with hen of the woods, heirloom grain porridge, and pine nuts. Brûléed Florida grapefruit ($7) is finished with ginger. Spelt pancakes ($16) are topped with roasted local apples, apple syrup, and vanilla butter.
The fare is high-minded and beautifully presented (as you'd expect with a Carmellini concept); however, the atmosphere is unpretentious. Set to the side of the dining room, the bar packs a crowd as the evening progresses. Following in the footsteps of the food, mixologist Anne Robinson (formerly of PDT and Booker and Dax) has compiled a list of cocktails that incorporates classics and seasonal offerings. Try the Bog on Fire ($15), Vida mezcal, Hangar One Mandarin Blossom vodka, Rabarbaro Zucca Amaro, lemon, cranberry syrup, and grated cinnamon.
The wine list is just as appealing as the drinks. Beverage director Josh Nadel has created a list of varietals from cooler climates of the Mediterranean and the U.S. Expect to see picks, such as Pigato ($16), a crisp white wine made from Liguria, comprised of vermentino. Domaine de la Butte "Pied de la Butte" cabernet franc ($16) is sourced from Bourgueil in the France's Loire Valley.
Frozen lemon fluff
As part of the rollout, Carmellini and the team have also revamped the hotel's Evening Bar. The intimate space is nearly the complete opposite of Little Park -- aside from the cocktail and wine lists compiled by Robinson and Nadel. It's dark and secluded. Bar bites follow the sourcing concept of its neighboring eatery, as well. Expect to see dishes like foie gras and jelly sandwiches, hot smoked trout crisps with apple butter, and a Bartel's Farm grass-fed burger.
Little Park is open for breakfast Monday through Friday from 7 to 11 a.m. and for dinner from 5:30 to 11 p.m. Lunch service will begin within the next two weeks.
Follow Sara Ventiera on Twitter, @saraventiera.
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