Cookshop is a casual West Chelsea restaurant that, like sister restaurants Five Points and Hundred Acres, serves a Greenmarket-based menu stacked with appealing snacks and small plates. But is it possible to eat there on the cheap? I stopped by last week to see what a meal of appetizers would look like at Cookshop.
Like Mesa Grill last week, Cookshop has a standout bread bowl where crispiness rules: crusty slices of whole grain bread, a crispy roll, and a handful of olive oil-laden breadsticks come along with an onion-horseradish spread to tide over starving diners. Certainly a good sign of things to come.
We started with a dish from the snacks menu, which contains five items each priced at five dollars: Deviled Eggs ($5). The eggs were rich and smoky, with a luscious, buttery filling, topped with a generous sprinkling of pimenton and a small anchovy fillet. While these didn't disappoint, and they were worth the five bucks we spent on each of them, they paled in comparison to the dishes to come.
Next was the Seared Montauk Squid ($9) with pickled padron peppers, green onions, double-fried golden potatoes, harissa aioli, and parsley leaves. Somehow what looked like a laundry list of components on the menu came together to form a seriously delicious plate of food, albeit a small one. The mild aioli and spicy pickled padron peppers played beautifully off of one another, while the squid was tender without being undercooked.
The best value of the night was Cookshop's Lardo Pizza ($13). The lardo is house-cured, and the pizza also comes topped with mozzarella, pecorino, mustard greens and not one but two eggs. Mustard greens do little to fool you that this pizza is anything but a well-pedigreed gut bomb, but it's worth it. This dish alone could make a light dinner for two, and a pretty substantial meal for one. Rounding out our meal was another rich plate from the sides menu: Pumpkin Chanterelle Cornbread Pudding ($6) reminded me of cornbread stuffing. Really, really good stuffing. Covered in a gravy scented with the chanterelles, it was an unexpected standout.
Like sister restaurant Five Points, Cookshop excels at being casual without being too casual, a fine dining restaurant that's a little fancy but never snooty. The service was friendly, the food was reasonably priced, and everything was absolutely delicious. We spent $33 before tax and tip between the two of us, just over the $15/person target price, but could have stayed well under it and still left satisfied.