The bread and butter at Almond’s original Bridgehampton location are families noshing on gravy fries and oyster chowder. In the Flatiron, it’s suits after work digging into burgers and bowls of mussels at the bar, and nearby at L&W Oyster Co., chef Jason Weiner’s two-year-old seafood bar, it’s lobster deviled eggs and smoked oyster tacos that satisfy. Combine those patrons, those menus, downtown in the cavernous former Kutsher’s space, and you’ve got the third iteration of Almond (186 Franklin Street, 212-431-0606). And to keep everyone happy, including his kitchen staff, the chef has developed his most extensive small-plates menu to date.
“Seeing how people pick over a glass of beer or wine, that’s the direction we wanted to go in,” Weiner told us. “So we’re trying to get our hands on some good ingredients, put it on a plate, and not do too much to fuck it up — like the chickpeas: It’s radicchio, lemon, olive oil, grated Pecorino Toscano, and you walk away from it.”
Still there’s room to experiment. A spicy, quenelle-inspired lobster sausage melts on your tongue, equally smooth and meaty. “It’s combining some old-school techniques and classic sausage making, Weiner said. “That’s where we live, tweaking classic dishes and making them taste familiar while going our own away.”
But while a new menu for each location is a given, expansion wasn’t.
“We weren’t looking at a map in the war room declaring, ‘We shall conquer Tribeca,’ ” Weiner joked. “The space became available and we reverse-engineered it. We’re always looking to expand, but there’s no five-year plan. All the spots going back to Bridgehampton — me and Eric [Lemonides] were out there for a wedding, looking to do our own thing. A spot was available; I took my bar mitzvah money, rolled it over, and we bought a space.”
This is the first Almond space to have the words “Oyster Bar” etched on the window, however. Beyond the small plates and classic dishes like steak frites, and hot-and-cold brussels spouts, the front room raw bar plays a major role here, serving house-smoked bluefish and a seafood pâté heated with Sriracha and served on rice crackers.
Desserts, too, are designed for sharing. Best among them are batches of fresh, sugar-coated donuts paired with a daily rotation of rich sauces like a crushed-peanut chocolate, stout, and tart lemon-lime frosting, made to order by pastry chef Laura Azaravich.
While Weiner says he and his partners still see the Almond restaurants as a mom-and-pop operation, “just running around trying to serve something that’s hand-made,” Azaravich is keeping the pace right alongside them.
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