Friday, June 10, 2011

SHORTY'S .32 c/o of Josh Eden

Josh Eden gave his restaurant his own nickname.  He earned it  for his diminutive stature. Coincidentally, I share the same nickname, derived from a much more ironic perspective. Another thing we share: an appreciation for the kind of food his kitchen puts out. The .32 of the name is the number of tables in the small, square room (plus eight additional seats at the bar), plus an association with a thirty two caliber pistol: compact (like Josh), shooting clean and straight, with high velocity and energy. Which is exactly what makes the tiny dining room here work.  It also describes his cooking style.

The most effortful part of eating at Shorty's .32 is deciding what to have. Not that the menu is so large, but the offerings are all solid. Seasonal influences abound, but more often than not, garnish a steady cast of menu stalwarts, comprised of dishes that Eden knows his way around. Preparations and flourish change more than the main players. Thus, skate, a favorite of Eden's, so order it if it's on that night. Shrimp, too, (could these also be a thematic nod?) are regulars.
This summery evening they found themselves poached and flecked with crunchy pinenuts and plumped golden raisins, raveled by water spinach and luxuriating in an unctuous, lemony Greek yogurt with just enough of a saline nuance to bolt it from the breakfast category. The shrimp, I think, would've have been better seasoned and grilled, but they were fine, flavorful shrimp at that. Another starter I would've tweaked was a cool, clean, green pea soup, kissed with mint and a tangle of tendrils.... but lurking beneath were some chewy squares of bacon- fine in and of themselves, but out of place in the refreshing verdant broth. Cold bacon loses a lot of its magic.

Beyond those two very subtle (and forgivable) missteps, the meal progressed splendidly. There are a battery of summery salads, one better than the next. The crispiest calamari nestle in a wild nest of frisee, and an unassuming bibb lettuce salad
shines with housemade Thousand Island dressing and crunchy little tidbits of golden brown frizzled onions. The best one, though, was a snowy pile of slivered endive, shaved turnips, roasted hazelnuts and a fluffy blanket of finely grated parmesan atop. Lightly co-mingled with the earthy vegetables was a rich beurre noisette, echoing the toasted nuts and adding a touch of rich, but subtle, decadence.

But man cannot subsist on salads alone (although the ones here could make a really convincing argument). On the meaty side, the burger has garnered national acclaim, garnished with housemade pickles and the most perfect of fries. Just as soul-satisfying, but with a slightly lighter calorie footprint are seared sea
scallops with asparagus riso and salsify. Eden attains an ethereal crust, golden brown and salty, while the tender muscle of the scallop remains soft and sweet. Alaskan cod enjoyed a similar jaunt in the pan, and then joins those seasonal harbingers, ramps, with an abundance of meaty porcinis and dense, buttery fingerlings in an emerald green pesto. And speaking of emerald green, a picnicky side of garlicky, sesame oil green beans made the transition from its similar winter version, but now served crisp and chilled, and just as good.

Startlingly absent from its website menu are any dessert offerings, which I regret to admit we also made due without that evening. But a little googling uncovered some examples that reflect Eden's aesthetic just as his savories: poundcake with Tri-stars, a chocolate bread pudding, a warm apple tart. And even though I couldn't enjoy them that night, there's no doubt that they're as big on flavor as everything else is from that kitchen. The only thing small at Shorty's is the name: his portions, flavors, and energy are all as big as his heart.

199 Prince St (between Sullivan & MacDougal)
New York, NY 10012, tel: 212.375.8275

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