Date Night: Uneven Organic Dishes at Foragers City Table
In the days following Hurricane Sandy, Foragers City Table in Chelsea closed. It recently reopened with a new menu that's pricier and not as suited for sharing. But the focus on organic ingredients prepared with an Asian inflection in an open, echoing space remains the same.
Foregoing the $30-something entrees, we split four small plates, to our server's disappointment. She emphasized that the plates were too little to split. We were fine with our two dishes apiece, but hungrier eaters might splurge on a main or stock up on artisan loaves or chocolate from the Foragers City Grocer on the way out.
The charcuterie offers three choices: head cheese, duck pâté, and rabbit rillette ($14); we opted for the latter. Rabbit had been flaked and ground to the consistency of tuna, then sealed with a smear of salty lard and served with chewy white bread, pungent mustard, and tinier-than-normal cornichons. It was meat and fat in their purest forms.
Our East Coast fluke carpaccio ($15) was overdressed in lemon vinaigrette, toasted poppyseeds, and chive. Perhaps "bedazzled" would be a better word. While the fish was fresh and flaky, the toppings dominated its delicacy. Like a rottweiler trying to befriend a chihuahua, the spices, seeds, and dressing didn't realize their power, and knocked the fish straight out of the dog.
Next up, a big bowl of dumpling soup ($14). Tiny honshimeji mushrooms abounded, and floated alongside shreds of shiso, soft cubes of daikon, and dense buoys of chicken and shrimp dumplings. The dumplings had the squarish shape and density of shumai, but their peppery aftertaste was unexpected, and welcome as an enlivener for the plainer broth.
We finished our meal with another outstanding dish, the housemade crepinette ($15). Ground pork had been wrapped in pastry and decorated with a sweet-and-sour apple relish; atop this went a firm poached egg. With its mix of flavors and textures, from soft to crisp to crunchy, this was great for dinner, but would be perfect for brunch.
We entered through the aforementioned market, and the restaurant might have been a cavern or meatlocker in a former life. It's all concrete and steel, with pipes and vents above and slate below, but on the night we visited, few other diners meant we could relax for a while by candlelight, occasionally watching the chefs work or people walk by on 22nd. We could enjoy our food. Foragers City Table is best for: an ambitious date.