Saturday, April 20, 2013


This address used to by Lyon, a wonderful location for a now-shuttered csual French restaurant with which I wasn't at all impressed.  So when it closed and reopened as a New American bistro called Cole's, I was intrigued.  Plus, a reader board outside the menu touted a Pat LaFrieda (my butler: long story) burger, AND still had brussels sprouts available as a side dish even though spring is pushing its way in...  both appealing factors.   Anyways, I figured better sooner than later, because the chefs here are certainly on the seasonal bandwagon.

The exec chef harkens from the laudable Chestnut in Brooklyn, and teamed up with Jimmy Bradley of The Red Cat and The Harrison to create a fresh take on American classics- something both of these guys are VERY good at.  The rest of the team has The Lambs Club, Jimmy at the James and The Waverly Inn on their resumes, so we're of good pedigree.  The room itself transitioned from Lyon's standard French bistro decor to moody shades of dusky blue and black.  Somehow, the demonic exit signs that haunted the prior locale here seemed less ubiquitous.  Our waiter seemed a little surly at first, although he warmed up a smidge with coaxing~ but that shouldn't need to happen.  A place like Cole's needs to be welcoming and neighborhoody.  It's food is good, but not good enough for attitude.  Anyways, he provided us eventually with menus, and scrolling down there is a lot to choose from.

We began with a hearty chopped root vegetable salad that was substantial and sizable enough to split.  Tufts of frisee teamed up with crunchy caramelized pumpkin seeds and crumbles of goat cheese, along with delicately sliced radishes, chunks of tender roasted squash and turnips, chewy discs of baked carrot and a flurry of tender sunflower shoots atop.  Other notable appetizers are a spicy hot flashed squid with chorizo and shishito peppers, and harbinger of spring featuring artichokes and arugula with lemon under a chickpea panisse.  One could make a balanced and interesting meal out of the appetizers alone.

But big plates are appealing as well.  Amongst these, of course, is that LaFrieda burger, which on the printed menu was egregiously misspelled "LaFreida" (hopefully now corrected), served with cheddar and fries.  There also four  other meats, a poultry, two fishes and a pasta.  Atlantic salmon was aptly grilled and served with a creamy puree of great northern beans enriched with pancetta, sturdy enough for a persistent winter with a sautee of swiss chard in a nod forward to spring.  Sunflower sprouts again found their way in as a garnish here, as well.

    Another fish was a sturdy filet of cod, seared golden and seasoned generously with black pepper, and topped with a flounce of chervil.   Creamy celery root puree contrasted with a smooth salsa verde beneath, dotted with lentils that performed a subtle caviaresque trompe l'oeil.   The food here is beautifully plated, colorful and balanced, without too much finicky precision: no spherification or foams.  And there there were those brussels sprouts, which needn't rely on their beauty:  vigorously charred with chewy hunks of diced thick-cut slab bacon, and sweetened with a touch of maple syrup.

Dessert menus were never offered, and neither does their website list any of their after-dinner options.  I saw a chocolate concoction of some sort saunter past our table, though, and read of a lemon curd dessert noted in the press.  Instead, we were given our check, and sought out Empire Cake just up 8th Avenue after the fact to finish the evening on a sweet note.  But I like Cole's... certainly I like it much more than I did Lyon.  The quality of the food is excellent, and there is an easy, comfortable vibe here.  So a return visit to Sherlock Holmes that dessert menu... well, no one's going to have to twist my arm.

118 Greenwich Ave
New York NY 10011
212 242 5966

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