On East 6th Street between First and Second Avenues stands The Eddy (342 East 6th Street, 646-895-9884), a new venture from chef Brendan McHale and co-owner Jason Soloway of Wallflower and Mother’s Ruin. Dressed in a black-and-grey exterior, its muted look is welcome on this stretch, famous for its Indian restaurants festively decorated with Christmas lights. Step inside, however, and the arch-backed bar glitters with candlelight and terraced Edison bulbs. To the right, you’ll find a pillbox dining room decorated in whitewashed brick, restored wood, and dark blue chairs, banquettes, and booths.
Kelvin Uffre’s shakers are the clattering soundtrack for this handsome, shimmering backdrop. The genial bartender, formerly of Aldea and Maison Premiere, has constructed a menu of complicated, proprietary cocktails that remain nuanced despite the occasional laundry list of ingredients. To wit: a breezy, tropical Mont Blanc refresher combines shochu, boutique vermouth, jasmine-infused coconut cream, Clandestine absinthe, pinot grigio, and grapefruit; it’s half cobbler, half flowery piña colada.
Let’s also give the bar team props for the inspired garnishes. Depressed by one too many lemons served with my tacos as of late, I felt especially flush receiving this ornately carved lime wedge. The drink this distinguished citrus adorns, another floral riff on a classic (this time on a rum swizzle), mixes damson plum gin with rosehip-infused rhum agricole, and the Caribbean syrup called falernum — infused with guava, of course. There’s also a bracing, bitter take on an Old Fashioned with rye, minty Branca Menta, macadamia gomme syrup, and an Italian amaro called Genepi.
Mr. McHale takes a pointed approach to his food that straddles that tenuous line between casual and fine dining. Eight of the 12 savory dishes are small plates or bar snacks (although not labeled as such), and the meal begins with a preface from the front of the house: “We serve family style, which means food comes out when it’s ready. We encourage sharing.”
Buck the trend, and you’ll do just fine with entrée portions of pastrami beef tongue ($24), grass-fed rib eye ($29), or lamb loin ($26). There’s also vegetarian ricotta gnocchi ($21) with pea greens and pickled ramps, but those with brinier ambitions should look to the upper half of the menu. Discover lightly seared cuttlefish tangled with sweet peppers and strips of pancetta, the meaty cephalopod only slightly softer than the lardons. Both surf and turf are bolstered by piquant garlic and almond ajo blanco puree and a pile of herbal, celery-like lovage leaves.
More in your face is dill-flecked smoked arctic char ($6) in a small preserve jar meant to spread onto salted potato skins. The char is smoked generously enough that it can stand up to the slightly oily skins, the dill a fragrant and sweet counterpoint. The jar could be a bit larger, but at least you get potato skins rather than middling toasts. It’s an inspiring highbrow/lowbrow mash-up — and we all know the kind of passion potato skins can inspire:
Another high/low bar snack, this raft of bacon mashed potato tater tots ($7) wearing grain mustard and English pea puree berets is heavy enough to stand as an appetizer for one. That spring pea puree is nice and verdant.
Three tiny puffed beef tendon cups ($5) hold a ranch-like charred onion crème. Topped with trout roe for smooth salinity, the crunchy bites deliver a nice punch, but they’re not much of a bargain compared to the rest of the menu.
There are just two desserts. One of them is a scoop of ice cream with pretzel crumbs and dehydrated cake for $9. Look, instead, to the cardamom panna cotta with rhubarb ice, basil, olive oil, and a lashing of sea salt.
The Eddy is off to a strong start. And as it relates to its siblings, it performs admirably in its function as equal parts serious cocktail bar and ambitious dining destination.