It was a good decision to put the "kitchen" after Chalk Point, because the food here feels a lot like something the well-practiced, very capable home chef could come close to replicating, with a little elbow grease, in their own abode. It's grubbable, satisfying food- more pleasingly voluminous
than elegantly nuanced. The decor merges barnyard-chic with dive-bar kitsch: Handy Bar downstairs is strikingly more sophisticated in mood, even with its raucous patrons, than the dining room above. The bar program, coincidentally, is strong,
so the food upstairs might cooperative better with their inventive cocktails or beer rather than wine, although their list is certainly drinkable.
We started off strong, so strong perhaps, that it was a bit of a false start. A grilled romaine and beet salad featured crunchy lettuce, a nuttiness and inherent juiciness coaxed out by the char. The accompanying beets were tender and dense, again benefiting from an aggressive roast, and sprinkled with a sprightly crumble of blue cheese and toasted walnuts. I do wish there would've been more of
those stellar beets nestled into the romaine, but it was otherwise a memorably exceptional salad. I took my starter from the the Sides, a cauliflower steak artfully carved to resemble a T-Bone in
shape and girth alike. If it was meat, it certainly would've qualified as double-cut, and if they're gonna charge $14, I suppose the heft is necessitated. Easily shareable, it was generously slathered in an oily tahini dressing, with a few too many sweet golden raisins and shockingly hot tidbits of pickled chili.... but yummy all the same, in a gluttonously un-virtuous vegetable way.
There were two special entrees in addition to the menu which changes every Friday: easier to keep track of the offerings on Facebook than on its own website, for the most up-to-date information. Chalk Point (and its chef, Joe Isidori) is paying good attention to what is in the market and where its fundamentals are coming from. One was a glazed filet of salmon, stretched languidly across a wide, white plate and bedecked with oyster mushrooms and salsify, along with shreds of kombo and vibrant tobiko. It's flesh looked suspiciously pale on the outside, but a fork broke into its more robustly hued interior, moist and rare. Catfish, which can be
simply sauteed, missing out on the opportunity to
roast them to their finest state. They toasted the garlic instead, which amounted in crusty little allium crunchies amongst nubs of chewy house-smoked bacon. If I'd my druthers, I'd saute the garlic and toast the sprouts: that would make for a successful side.
For all the accolades I'd been hearing for Chalk Point, it fell short of the bar I had raised for it. But it was a satisfying enough meal for what it was, especially considering the doggie bag of unfinished morsels came close to providing dinner the night after as well.
527 Broome Street (near Thompson)