Wednesday, August 27, 2014

1200 MILES

1200 Miles is named after the geographical distance between Provence and Algiers, but the menu's particulars were as far removed from anything even remotely African as is my own Scandi-Euro heritage.  Aside from the chermoula accompanying a tea-brined chicken entree, I honestly couldn't discern a single indigenous ingredient from that region, nor much that was particularly French, either.  The decor could be interpreted is nouveau harem chic, but even that's a stretch.  The room expansive and industrial, metal fixtures, eclectic mirrors,  and sturdy shelving abutting white tile-work prevail.  The bar was boisterous when we visited, but pretty much keeps its noise to itself, allowing the dining room a little more serenity.  There is also an additional section towards the back of the dining room,  a space which can be cordoned off by an opaque white sliding door,  for more seating or even a private dining space.

The menu features quite a few of those de riguer inescapable ingredients like avocado, little gem lettuce and pancetta- all that have little to do with France or Africa, but not offensive in and of themselves.  Overall the execution of the food is sound.  A beet salad with which we began was quite winning- sprinkled with just a dusting of crumbly goat cheese, the beets got the spotlight, ensconcing  chunks of onion roasted so intensely that they took on a similar sanguine hue, attaining a sweetness that mimicked the beets and enhanced the umami effect of the cheese.   Even the fluke crudo, whose fish was a little sloppily cut, fared better once it made it onto the fork, the cool, translucent slices of fish mild and succulent, and a Christmassy garnish of minced herbs and tomato somewhat placated the bumbling presentation.  Underneath,  disproportionately ample wads of guacamole seemed indulgent, although made for a decent spread to go along with the the complimentary bread basket.  And that bread got a lot of mileage, because wait times between courses were arduous.  In fact, the service as a whole is pretty juvenile- they are pleasant and amicable, but a little bumbling and nescient

We both went piscine for our entrees, although the menu is fairly diverse, with the obligatory chicken/pork/lamb/beef and one vegetarian options, here a black garlic fettucini with summer vegetables.   A meaty steak of bluefish exhibited its prominent fishy funk atop an ample succotash of sweet Long Island corn and diced padron pepper, a novel pesto of verdant asparagus crowning the dish.    Crispy skate wing did indeed retain its crispiness even surrounded by the thin herbal broth that so threatened to besog its perfectly golden crust.  In fact, the skate might have been the best cooked piece of skate in recent history, retaining its unique texture so often lost in excessive breading or sodden with the underlying broth.  It somehow transcended the physics of osmosis, keeping crisp and firm even as the deceptively verdant, but bland,  broth began to infiltrate its crust.  Propped up on
 chopped tomatoes and cucumbers along with citrus segments, it could've used a more complex accompaniment, even if just roasting those tomatoes or grilling the orange and cucumber, which would've contributed a nice charred flavorful and a tenderness to the vegetables to complement the fish.

Braised kale made for a winning side dish, cooked just to a toothsome tenderness but still retaining a bit of firmness, as well as its earthy viridity.  Enriched with pancetta and
 caramelized onions, it's not a pristinely virtuous dish, but it easily satisfies on all fronts: health (greens!), harmony (balance of flavors) and hedonism (mmm.... bacon).  It paired really nicely with the skate, too, rich enough to balance its the fresh citrus, and giving it a needed boost.

I forfeited my dessert preference of any of the three options other than what we got:  a warm almond cake with berry coulis, a summer plum tart, a panna cotta with vin santo and berry sorbet... and of those would have been exponentially more interesting than the generic chocolate espresso parfait my tablemate chose.  But although I had been satisfied, even happy with the food, nothing thrilled me so much as to render continuing research on dessert absolutely vital, so I let him get what sounded good to him... (I'm sometimes... rarely- but sometimes- generous that way).  And it was just fine, a dense coffee-inflected chocolate pudding, the best part of which was the fluffy chantilly, which tasted of fresh dairy just gently sweetened.  It found a happy partner in the subtly bitter Illy espresso, an Italian classic that was well-pulled and strong.  

1200 Miles is a really decent eatery, much better than some of the others in the zone if you're in the neighborhood in need of sustenance.   If it was 12 miles, or even 1.2 miles away from you, you'd probably find a better restaurant in transit.  But in that it's only 3342 feet from my house, 1200 Miles was worth the distance.

31 West 21st Street •
 • 212.510.8722

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