There are any number of East Village spots billing themselves as equal food and drink destinations—but few with such names behind them as Prima, open to the public this week. It's the work of Hamid Rashidzada and Greg Seider, the men behind the Summit Bar on Avenue C; you might recognize Seider from his recent work with the cocktail menu at Le Berdardin's lounge, or from Minetta Tavern a few years back.
As for the food? Mathieu Palombino (of Motorino fame) and his former BLT Fish colleague David Malbequi have designed the bar-restaurant a short, focused menu of fish-based plates. (We've been eagerly waiting on Palombino's forthcoming Bowery Diner for awhile now, but it looks like he's been busy.)
Add daytime coffee service from Ninth Street Espresso's Ken Nye and you've got what Rashidzada calls "an awful lot of nerds under one roof."
All marble-topped high tables, with one long aisle down to a center bar, it looks more drinking spot than restaurant, until you catch a glimpse of the glass-walled kitchen behind. Though just serving drinks and dinner now, Prima will eventually do split shifts, an espresso bar serving coffee and light food (sandwiches, pastries) until 5pm, when the the bar is handed over to cocktails and the kitchen fires up for dinner service.
By night, both starters and mains are ocean-focused; half a dozen starters, all salads and small seafood plates, with six fish options as mains. Any one of those is served in your choice of preparation—pesto, sauce vierge, tartar, bearnaise, or "green condiment." Ample use of olive oil and butter notwithstanding, the dishes are clean and light, showcasing the seafood, most of which is locally caught and will change seasonally. "We wanted Mathieu and David to do something healthy," said Rashidzada. "Something a little lighter, while still doing what they do." And the two chefs seemed happy to do so. "This is how I like to cook; this is the way to eat fish," said Palombino. "Seared, lemon, salt, oil, that's all."
Greg Seider's cocktails, not unlike the food, are essentially light but layered in flavor, consistently refreshing and reliant on herbs and acid. (There are exceptions; you can get a burger and Seider's take on an Old Fashioned here, too).
Check out the food and drink in the slideshow above.
58 East 1st Street, New York NY 10003 (map)