For years, East 6th Street has gotten a particularly bad rap, pigeonholed like some Bollywood Joe Pesci as a culinary minefield of sporadic Desi Treats. But gradually the tide has shifted, ushering in Italian restaurants and Vietnamese Internet cafés along the way. In April, the stretch between First and Second avenues welcomed the Eddy, a whitewashed, grown-up hideaway that feels like a kindred spirit to the compound of cocktail dens down the road, where Ravi DeRossi plays nightlife David Koresh. Here Jason Soloway, a partner in the West Village’s Wallflower, has teamed up with chef Brendan McHale for this like-minded sophomore act with an equal focus on gussied-up booze and small plates.
As at Wallflower, a pair of modest chambers comprises the Eddy: Here, a front parlor features a mirrored, arch-backed bar accented with terraced Edison bulbs, and a similarly demure dining area breaks up the monochrome with navy booths and banquettes and more Edison-bulb sconces. Both venues offer a five-course prix fixe menu (the Eddy’s is set at $58, Wallflower’s $68), but the vibe is slightly less neo-Gothic at the Eddy, with restored wood subbing for pressed tin.
Kelvin Uffre, who previously shook and stirred at Aldea and Maison Premiere, presides over the brief, if somewhat fussy, cocktail list ($12 to $14). His floral “Mont Blanc” refresher throws together Japanese shochu, Swiss absinthe, pinot grigio, and jasmine-infused coconut cream in a hurricane glass — imagine a drier, nuanced piña colada. Frosty, copper julep cups barely contain a mound of crushed ice for the “King Rodney,” a spiced and fruity concoction made with bourbon, Combier orange liqueur, dark oloroso sherry, and saffron sherbet.
“Do you like margaritas?” is not the question I’d guess would precede the arrival of a gold-rimmed china teacup and saucer filled with ruby liquid. But the “Lily of the Valley,” which hinges on a blueberry-lavender cordial, offset by lemon juice and local gin from Greenhook Ginsmiths, is as bright and refreshing as the ubiquitous tequila-based tipple. Uffre’s proclivity for ornately carved, citrus-peel garnishes and handmade mixers (macadamia gomme syrup, strawberry red bell pepper shrub) is right in line with urbane nibbles like puffs of fried beef tendon filled with charred-onion cream and orange trout roe pearls. They’re chips and dip run through the prep school gauntlet and well worth their whimsy, but tater tots hewn from bacon-infused mashed potatoes can’t find their footing under coarse mustard and pea purée, ultimately a letdown at $1.25 per tot.
A lifelong fisherman, McHale trained with celebrated Boston chef Barbara Lynch before running the show at Grace and Jack Lamb’s fondly remembered East Village seafood nook, Jack’s Luxury Oyster Bar, and he applies a deft hand to all things marine. Silky oil-poached salmon yields to the gentlest pressure, flaking into pristine pink slabs to drag through grassy herb crème. Tinged with saffron, the plump fillet wears a crown of leafy greens, bolstered by lemony artichokes. The upstream idealists are also available as one of those highbrow-lowbrow bar snacks: mashed into rillettes and served with thick, malt vinegar-laced potato skins. Toothsome, seared cuttlefish ribbons texturally mimic planks of rendered pancetta, their mellow sweetness punched up with ajoblanco purée and celery-like lovage leaves. Firm-fleshed tilefish, the Eddy’s sole seafood entrée, is moored by a brushstroke of squid-ink hollandaise and set over artichokes and beans in a saffron braise; it’s a vivid, earthy plate.
Sweet, juicy strawberries ride a righteous wave of pine-nut butter, crested with crunchy turnips and gobs of formagetta di capra, a creamy, grassy Piedmontese cheese made from goat’s milk. It’s an easy victor when pitted against another salad with shards of raw asparagus, which are too starchy for their bonito vinaigrette. Pastrami tongue had ours tied, thanks to fork-tender softness, rye bread croutons, and the plucky addition of yogurt and cucumber. The gnocchi is the only dish available as both a small and large plate — order either one. The supple dumplings bulge with ricotta, dense pasta giving way to pillowy filling. They’re a masterful canvas for fresh pea greens, zesty pickled ramps, and crunchy hazelnuts. Meat entrées employ Francophilic touches. Lamb loin and neck pair with a log of chickpea panisse; grass-fed rib eye, the most expensive plate at $29, enjoys a triple-cream Brie fondue. Nutty and rich, both elements make up for dull, crushed potatoes.
If the savory menu is overwhelmingly stacked with winners, the success ratio falls to 50/50 at dessert. It’s not that McHale’s scoop of malted-milk ice cream isn’t good. It’s just that for $9, a diner should receive more than a single scoop dusted with cake and pretzel crumbs. That’s a naughty midnight snack, not a proper dessert. Thankfully, there’s cardamom panna cotta wearing a toupee of rhubarb granita hit with olive oil, salt, and a basil chiffonade. The herbal assault and bracing fruit spare the ubiquitous confection from becoming tiresome.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 9, 2014