Editor's note: Starting this week I am going to post a restaurant review every Tuesday night. Why? Because it's fun to do and because I think serious eaters could use a little guidance when they're searching for something delicious to eat in New York City (I know I certainly appreciate any reliable food advice I get). That's what my reviews are going to focus on: the search for deliciousness. When it comes to what I'll be reviewing, I'm certainly not going to limit myself to fancy-pants restaurants or even dinner. In the coming weeks I'm going to review breakfast joints, lunch spots, and even places that serve only snacks. Serious eaters just want something delicious when they're hungry, and hopefully we're going to help you find exactly that. --Ed Levine
I drink so little wine I would not even call myself a casual drinker, so wine bars in and of themselves hold little interest for me. But when a serious chef and his passionately unsnobby wine expert and restaurateur partner open a wine bar, well, that gets my attention.
Marco Canora, whose long, deep-flavored food I've been eating for ten years, and his business partner, Paul Greico, have opened Terroir, a casually spiffy wine bar just down the street from their first restaurant, Hearth (they also own a terrific Midtown Italian restaurant, Insieme).
Though the food at Hearth and Insieme is clearly the work of a very serious cook using the best ingredients, Canora has always had a fondness for hearty populist foods like sandwiches, soups, and sausage. He was the original opening chef at Craft Bar when those kinds of items were on the menu there, and the food at Terroir is a continuation of his love affair with those kinds of foods.
Hearts of Bibb lettuce with a creamy garlic vinaigrette and breadcrumbs were the best version of an Olive Garden salad imaginable, complete with too much dressing.
Both of the paninis I tried were stellar: Duck ham was layered with hen of the woods mushrooms and Taleggio cheese. Appropriately piggy roast pork came with lemony rapini and garlic aioli.
The veal and ricotta meatballs were light, tangy, and cried out for bread to mop up the sauce.
The pork blade steak was insufficiently seared and a little tough.
The best dessert at Terroir is a killer chocolate budino, refreshingly unsweet but oh so creamy; it comes topped with candied hazelnuts.
For a wine bar, Terroir is a surprisingly comfortable place to eat and talk. A long, narrow table actually allows you to sit across from your dining companions and hear what they have to say.
If Terroir were in my neighborhood, I'd be there a couple of times a week. Both the food and the welcoming vibe make it a special kind of wine bar. And if you are into wine--or just to want to learn a little something about it--Terroir is a terrific place to sample many wines at reasonable prices.
413 East 12th Street, New York NY 10009 (b/n First and A)
Notes: No phone, no reservations
Hours: 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., Monday to Sunday (kitchen closes at 1 a.m.)