NYC Whirlwind 2

2009.Oct.03 Saturday · 1 comment

in Restaurants

So I’m standing in front of the restaurant, waiting for my lunch companions (who never showed – casting a slight pall on my facebook/twitter dining experiment – though I quickly got over it and will forge ahead), and people keep coming up to the corner and snapping photos of the place. A couple of tour groups come by and look at it ardently, dutifully clicking shutters before they are whisked away by their guides. They’re all British. Suddenly, an older couple with a nearly unintelligible thick accent, bordering on a parody of some sort of Scottish brogue, approach me and ask, “Is this the place?” I respond that, if they’re looked for The Little Owl (90 Bedford St in the West Village), then it is. They flip open a guide book to the back cover, within which they’ve taped a review from the London Observer, touting it as the home of The Best Burger in the World. Who knew? (Don’t answer that.)

However, I couldn’t see all the hullabaloo for just that, not from tour groups, and indeed, it turns out with a moment’s search of the web that the very same building is used as the exterior shot for the show Friends, which I’ve not seen other than a momentary clip here and there. I’m guessing it more likely that that is the reason for the happy shutterbugs. Now, back to said burger, and congratulations to Joey Campanaro, the chef/owner, who also has another restaurant or two scattered about, and a casual friend from days past – but, no, he was “in Philadelphia” I was told by the young lady at the door, “he hasn’t been by here in awhile”. She seemed wistful – come back from Philly Joey… your staff misses you.

The Little Owl - fried clams

Since I was soloing it, I settled in at the small bar in the corner. Looking over the menu made me hungrier than I was on entry, a good sign, and damn those no-show friends, I’m not about to order all the things that intrigue me. I know right off the bat that I am not going to miss out on the fried clams with crispy lemon and coriander aioli, and, when they arrive, I know this was the right pick – the clams huge, sweet, tender in a perfectly crispy batter, tossed with tangy slices of, as noted, crispy lemon – on their own, amazing. The coriander aioli, delicious flavor, only criticism was that it was a little thin and didn’t scoop up well with the clams.

The Little Owl - bacon cheeseburger

I was there figuring on the burger, though I have to admit that the soft-shell crab tagliatelle intrigued me quite a bit, it’s been eons since I’ve had a soft-shell crab – we don’t have them in BA, we don’t even have much in the way of decent crab, period. But the hostess and waitress both asserted that the burger was the way to go, and it had been my original plan, so… okay. With a side of the grilled asparagus in black pepper, lemon and thyme please… not avaiable. Darn, that sounds good, but then, the waitress says that they’re substituting brussels sprout fries for the day – that sounds interesting. Now, the upshot – the burger, really quite good. The best in the world? Nah. The best in New York? Nah. But really quite good – plump and juicy, nicely seasoned, though perhaps a touch too much salt. The bun, a tad too small for the burger and though tasty, as soon as the juices of the meat were released it began to turn into wet tissue paper consistency and just fell apart. The burger is served, automatically, as a bacon cheeseburger, both cheese and bacon excellent. The cute little service of mini-jars of ketchup, mayo and mustard a nice touch (mustard on the burger, mayo and ketchup mixed together for the fries, if you must know – kind of a substitute for salsa golf). Fresh lettuce, tomato, onion – oh hey, if you’re going to tout a famed “Gus’s Pickle” as part of the dish, give me something more than a wispy thin sliver – put a pickle on the plate. The “spicy fries”, nicely dusted with their spice coating, but in and of themselves, meh. The brussels sprouts fries, unfortunately, not so good – the sprouts themselves barely cooked, essentially raw, slightly warmed, with a couple of cubes of potatoes that had been fried, and the whole thing tossed with a ton of mustard that rendered them a little eye-watering. As a note on service, since outside of this one thing it was impeccable, no one seemed to notice that I ate one forkful of the side dish and pushed it away – and no one ever asked how things were – they cleared the dish, more or less untouched, without comment. I was stuffed, and must admit I passed on the offer of the day’s special peach cobbler. Oh, last note, to wash it all down, a Porkslap Pale Ale from Butternuts Beer & Ale – quite good, with a fun little touch of ginger in it.

Okay, I guess I got carried away and pretty much gave the place a full on writeup. Ah, what the heck.

Dinner, planned for one of my favorite sushi spots, Sushi Seki (1143 1st Ave, between 62nd and 63rd), only one out of three folk I’d expected to show ever did, at least by the time myself and the one other, one of my oldest friends in the city, had waited around about 20 minutes. Unfortunately, Seki was booked solid until nearly midnight, and rather than look for another gastronomic delight, we decided just to sit and catch up, so we popped across the street to Totoya, another sushi bar, that, well, let’s just leave it as it’s a sushi bar where you might go when you want sushi right now and you can’t get into Seki. I will try to get back to Seki some time before I go – and likely give it a full review, we shall see.

We shall also see how this FB/Twitter thing proceeds, I’m sticking it out on the lunches and dinners I’m free, so hopefully some more of you will not only jump on the bandwagon, but show up!

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

pierre October 4, 2009 at 06:21

Hi Dan
Hello this is Pierre from France !
these photos remind me my stay in NY!! thanks for the sharing !!
If you like French creative cuisine from an amateur come and visit my blog you are most welcome and you can even leave a message I’ll reply to you !!! cheers and à bientôt Pierre

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