Colicchio & Sons
85 Tenth Avenue, New York NY 10011 (at West 15th; map); 212-400-6699; colicchioandsons.com
Service: Friendly, professional and glacial—a three course lunch took almost two hours
Setting: The bar room has wonderful natural light but the decor is a bit more austere than the casual mood the menu might imply
Compare to: Gramercy Tavern, Craft, Craft Bar
Cost: Three courses, $25
Before Tom Colicchio shuttered Craftsteak in the wake of a flagging economy, reinventing the space as Colicchio & Sons, there was an attempt to broaden the appeal of his high-end steakhouse by featuring a comfort food bar menu dubbed Half Steak. As Ed Levine noted in his review, it was half good. The namesake dish, a $15 steak frites was excellent—but a lot of the menu was the sort of stoner-comfort food (fried mac and cheese? Wagyu nachos?) best handled by young cooks in Williamsburg, not distinguished chefs like Colicchio. In any case the move was not enough to keep Craftsteak viable.
Rather than giving up the space or opening a comfort food salon Colicchio doubled down opening Colicchio & Sons, a high-end restaurant inspired by his pop up dinners called Tom's Tuesday Diner over at Craft. It was a gamble that has apparently paid off—Colicchio and Sons garnered three stars in New York Times and Colicchio himself won a James Beard award for Outstanding Chef this year. Fortunately the half steak tradition of value dining has been carried over—but instead of the American comfort foods of yore, the focus is now on a more rustic, Mediterranean-inspired menu.
A twist on a Caesar—the anchovy is integrated into the vinaigrette, the egg served fried on top—made for a disappointing start to the three-course lunch. The Romaine, though fresh enough, I suppose, needed more than the meager portion of anemic dressing served here, and the egg was criminally over-cooked.
Much better was the bone marrow that came under a crisp crust of bread crumbs, charred leeks, and salty white anchovies.
The main course offerings were more solid. A perfectly prepared pan-seared skate wing came served over a zucchini-potato pancake, doused in a tart preserved lemon vinaigrette. A lovely piece of fish—flaky and tender with a crisp golden crust. Laced with chives and brightened by the lemon the dish was evocative of Thai cooking, Bangkok on the Hudson.
But the real triumph of the lunch menu was surely the braised rabbit served over Anson Mills grits with the runny coddled egg that the salad was demanding. A hearty, viscous jus lay in a velvety slick over the dish, the rabbit itself fell off the bone with little effort, and when the egg burst, its yolk oozed all over the dish. Too rich for a summer lunch? Not in my book, I could eat this dish any day of the year.
The desserts are more adventurous (and consequently less comforting) than the rest of the menu. They would not be out of place on the menu in the main dining room, which is not something that can be said of the pizza and sandwiches available in the tap room.
A blackberry chocolate lattice tart served with candied corn nuts and Belgium beer ice cream, for example, needed the sum of its parts to attain balance. The tart on its own was too dry and pasty; the Belgium beer ice cream was flat and somewhat stale-tasting. But combined, the result was pleasing, the ice cream adding a richness to the crust and the sharpness of the cocoa rounding out the beer flavor.
A raspberry shortcake with lemon cream and a savory thyme sorbet also succeeded by virtue of the synthesis of its ingredients.
The disappointing salad aside, there is much to like about the lunch offerings at Colicchio & Sons. At $25 for three courses, the meal is fairly priced—but I must note that a lunch this week took a mind-numbing two hours. The restaurant was packed when I got there, and since most of the menu is cooked in the oven that turns out the pizza, there is only so much space available. Be warned, your schedule may be the victim of the restaurant's success. Having said that, Colicchio & Sons is an easy recommendation, if you have the time.