Is Bunny the New Bird in NYC?


Gee, it doesn’t quite look like fried chicken, does it? Fatty ‘Cue’s fried rabbit with spicy vinegar dip

Is rabbit the new chicken? Well, probably not! But Fork in the Road has been encountering rabbit all over New York menus in the last few months, and it seems to be more than a fluke. It all started this past March (So March Hare!), when we encountered a novel rabbit cacciatore at Zero Otto Nove, depositing a good-size and tender haunch in a rich tomatoey hunter’s sauce shot with capers and onions, and thought, “Gee, this is great.” Somehow, the hare, with its firm pale flesh, stood up much better to a sauce that would have overwhelmed and nearly dissolved a piece of chicken.

Rabbit cacciatore at Zero Otto Nove

In short order, rabbits were flying out of area kitchens like Peter Rabbit’s siblings hopping out of the hutch into Farmer McGregor’s fields to steal carrots. Fatty ‘Cue (the one on Carmine Street) established deep-fried bunny as its signature dish, looking very much like a misshapen version of fried chicken and served with a tart Southeast Asian dipping vinegar. Meanwhile, cooler heads at Daniel Boulud’s Boulud Sud were offering a rabbit porchetta configured as a room-temp roulade.

Debuting this summer near the Barclays Center, Woodland featured Bugs basted in Riesling on a bed of spatzle that was almost bread pudding, while the recently opened Le Midi deposits a dark rabbit ragu, Italian style, on thick fettuccine.

The Organ Meat Society has also been downing lots of bunny lately, including deep-fried rabbit livers with tartar sauce at Hospoda, and rabbit hearts with garlic and olive oil at Porsena.

Fried rabbit livers with tartar sauce at the Upper East Side’s Czech restaurant Hospoda

Next: More bunny!

Rabbit ragu served with pappardelle at French newcomer Le Midi

Not to be outdone, area Sichuan restaurants have hunted down the hopper. Lan Sheng tenders a rabbit with pickled chiles in Midtown on 39th Street – a favorite lunchtime haunt of office workers – while Lower East Side Fujianese spots have long braised every bunny they can find in red-wine lees. In this vein, the version of lichee rabbit at Food World is more than worth chasing into the hutch.

Just last night, rabbit meatballs were spotted as a special at Monument Lane, where the menu also lists braised rabbit with herbed spaetzle and hedgehog mushrooms.

But by far the most rabbit intensive menu so far has occurred recently at Swine, a West Village boite that took over the old Rubyfruit space. You can begin with a rabbit-and-mushroom terrine and a handful of rabbit croquettes, then proceed to the wonderful bacon-braised rabbit leg, served on a bed of pillowy polenta.

Really, the question is no longer where can you find rabbit, but, if a restaurant doesn’t have hare, why not?

Rabbit croquettes at Swine