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Thursday
Feb232012

Danny does Downtown! Dinner at North End Grill

  • Restaurant  North End Grill
  • Cuisine  American, seafood
  • Location  104 North End Avenue (at Vesey Street), Manhattan
  • Phone  646-747-1600
  • Directions  Hopstop
  • Atmosphere  spacious, modern
  • Attire  smart/business casual
  • Ideal for  group dining, 1x1, foodies, private parties, dine at the bar, bar scene/post-work cocktails
  • Price  moderate - expensive
  • North End Grill on Urbanspoon

In my opinion, Battery Park City is one of Manhattan's loveliest, most unique, and least urban/hustle 'n bustle communities.  A "zen-like oasis," if you will, within this concrete jungle that we call home.  Think:  lots of grass - flowers - trees - modern residential buildings - and virtually no traffic.  Oh, and the neighborhood also happens to back up to the Hudson River - revealing picture-perfect views of Lady Liberty.  Sounds ideal, doesn't it?  Well, BPC (short for "Battery Park City") would be ideal if it weren't geographically located so far away from virtually every other neighborhood in Manhattan.  Hell, I've even thought about moving down there...until I mapped out my commute! 

In terms of commerce, there was never an abudant amount of food shopping or dining options in BPC.  However, I had a strong feeling that it would only be a matter of time before someone like Danny Meyer discovered this rather uncharted area and set up shop(s)... And set up shop, he did!  Multiple shops, in fact.  Recently, the sleepy 'hood was gifted with Blue Smoke, Shake Shack, and North End Grill (famous Executive Chef/Partner, Floyd Cardoz, used to be the Executive Chef at "Tabla," which has since closed).

~

While awaiting Jean's arrival to NEG (North End Grill), I made my way past the hostess stand and through the maze of Wall Street imbibers.  "B there in 10," Jean's text read.  With this small bracket of time on my side, I proceeded towards the sprawling bar and ordered a Tamarind Margarita.  After all, nothing else sounded quite as unique and delicious to sip and savor while I partook in my favorite "at the bar" past time:  people watching...

Sweet and tangy (though just a tad too sweet) with a subtle whisper of aromatic tamarind, I finished my margarita before Jean even showed up!

Upon her arrival, the two of us were seated within minutes.  Once settled, both cocktail and dinner menus were immediately presented.  "I can't believe how big this place is!"  Jean blurted, as she momentarily looked up from her cocktail menu-perusal.  She was right; NEG was quite spacious - occupying a sizeable quadrant of the city block.  The entire Westside of the restaurant was framed by floor-to-ceiling windows - offering a handful of lucky tables a water-view.  Aside from its contemporary design and black and white hues, one important aspect that I observed was the dining room's fantastic acoustics:  despite the fact that every table was occupied, not once did we have to yell to speak/hear one another.  Brilliant.

Photo: Women's Wear Daily dot comAfter placing our lengthy food order, we received a hunk of sliced, crusty bread and spreadable salted butter.

In the spirit of sampling as many menu items as possible, Jean and I chose to split an array of dishes:

Appetizers

Soft Scrambled Eggs with hen-of-the-woods mushrooms and grilled bread

A grilled, liberally buttered slice of country bread was topped with a generous helping of the creamiest, lightly-scrambled eggs interlaced with meaty chunks of sauteed hen-of-the-woods mushrooms.  Finely-minced green onions crowned the dish.

OK, I know what you're thinking, "Ewww, eggs for dinner?  Where are you, a diner??"  Sure, I'll admit that even I was a bit perplexed by an entire section of the *dinner* menu dedicated to eggs.  That was, of course, prior to my first bite of the city's most outstanding scramble.  Not even a dash of salt/pepper was necessary to accentuate the flavors of this already-perfect dish.  Trust me, folks, eggs this good should be spotlighted on menus beyond just breakfast/brunch.

Roasted Beets with orange ricotta and grilled bread

Roasted quarters of purple and yellow beets were color-separated by a fluffy cloud of ricotta cheese that was spiked with fragrant orange essence.  Liberally buttered, grilled toast points accompanied.

I particularly enjoyed pairing segments of the sweet, roasted beets with the "orange ricotta."  However, I found that the bread tasted unappetizingly pork-y.  Perhaps it was grilled side-by-side with the meats?  Fail.

Tuna Tartare with fried quail egg and crispy shallots

A 1"-thick disk of chopped sushi-grade tuna was seasoned with salt and pepper before being topped with crispy shallot "crumbs" and a perfectly-fried quail's egg.

The trinity of textures - firm, yet slightly gelatinous, chew from the tuna / crunch from the crispy shallots / creamy, liquid yolk from the quail's egg - was dynamite!  There was so much flavor exploding in each bite and, though the tartare was a bit saltier than even I would have preferred, every last ingredient married symphonically.

Lobster (sadly, it looks as if this is no longer on the menu - a damn shame, to say the least...)

While I couldn't tell you the approximate cooked-weight of this lobster, I will say that it was giant enough for Jean and I to comfortably share...which speaks volumes.  Most of the hard outer shell had been removed, thus exposing the crustacean's perfectly-cooked, pristine white flesh.  The lobster was accompanied by an unmemorable side of cooked greens.   

Hashed Brussels Sprouts and Lentils

Roasted Brussels sprouts were shredded, or "hashed," and blended with lentils.  While my personal verdict is still out on shredded vs. whole 'sprouts, this particular side was a pleasant accompaniment to our lobster entree (...though, at a price of $8, I probably would not order it again). 

Desserts

Butterscotch Pot de Creme with Chocolate Streusel and Single "Maltmallows" 

A pool of liquid butterscotch was cradled beneath an insanely rich and creamy butterscotch pot de creme (similar to, but a bit denser than, pudding).  A mound of chocolate streusel "ashes" and speared, boozy "maltmallows" (marshmallows spiked with liquor) sat atop.

Everyone, including their mother - cousin - pharmacist - and boss, recommended that I order this item for dessert.  Honestly?  I wasn't much of a fan.  I thought that the pungent "maltmallows" were too spongy and had an odd aftertaste.  The pot de creme, itself, was good - don't get me wrong - but it did not and came nowhere near change my life.  I found the chocolate streusel topping to be a bit of an after thought.  Sometimes, less is more.

Sticky Toffee Pudding with Ginger Ice Cream

Now THIS was everything - and more - that I could ever want or hope for in a dessert:  moist, dense cake with a subtle toffee/caramel aftertaste sitting atop a pool of warm, buttery, brown sugar-y sauce + accompanied by a scoop of spicy ginger ice cream (...the other scoop is 'salted caramel,' but we ordered that separately). 

I wanted to frolick and bathe in that golden-hued sauce and fall asleep atop the soft, pillowy cake.  Ahhh...

To conclude

It's about time that Manhattan "stepchild," BPC, got a fantastic restaurant!  Even in its infancy, NEG was doing smashingly on the evening that Jean and I visited.  There was not a single unoccupied bar stool or table.  And the restaurant is huge, by Manhattan standards!

Wishing Floyd Cardoz and the Union Square Hospitality Group the very best of luck and success with its newest downtown endeavors.  I'm so pleased to see how much business they're already bringing to lower Manhattan, and hope that more restaurateurs follow suit.  This neighborhood has come a very long way since September of 2001, when it, especially, saw some very dark days.  Rebuilding and revitalizing is a beautiful thing, and it's something that Danny Meyer does better than anyone.  And, for that, I give my thanks.

I look forward to return visit - preferably for lunch - so that, post-meal, I can take a stroll along the breathtaking Hudson River Park.

~~~

Until we eat again...

The Lunch Belle

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Reader Comments (1)

I felt the same exact way about the Butterscotch dessert! Everyone in the resturant was raving about it- the hostess, waiters, etc. but I thought the Sticky Toffee Pudding was amazing and completly blew the pot de creme out of the water.

February 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRoze

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