Little Giant has a small, light-filled dining room looking out on Orchard Street and a small, ever changing Greenmarket based menu. As with so many other restaurants, the starters and appetizers at Little Giant are oftentimes more interesting than the entrees on their menu—which is what led me there for apps one night last week.
We started with a small plate called the Figgy Piggy ($9), black mission figs stuffed with Rogue Creamery smoked blue cheese and wrapped in La Quercia pancetta. Yes, Little Giant has a touch of the ingredient obsession, but that can be forgiven with a snack this tasty. The nine bucks only get you four stuffed dates, but they are perfect. The blue cheese is mild and doesn't overpower the subtle flavor of the figs. The Figgy Piggy is a surprisingly restrained iteration of such an indulgent dish.
We continued with the Asparagus Salad ($14), asparagus spears topped with a poached egg, pistachio vinaigrette, and a crispy hunk of duck confit. Again, the quality of ingredients here made up for the modest portion size, with the duck confit's deep, rich earthiness contrasting beautifully with the market-fresh asparagus. The dressing was bright and lemony, while a poached egg with a runny yolk has never been a hindrance to any salad, ever.
The side order of Mac and Cheese ($7, we splurged and added bacon for $9) with Grafton cheddar and bacon was rich and creamy, studded with chives and topped with plenty of breadcrumbs. I personally like my mac and cheese a bit cheesier, but for a creamier variety this dish was very good. Crisped under a broiler, the top was perfectly crunchy and the serving size made it one of the only bargains of the night—our waitress tried to upsell on an entree sized portion of the dish, but we stuck to our cheapo guns and were justly rewarded. Another surprisingly filling option we tried on the sides menu was the Buttermilk Chive Biscuit ($5), an enormous and slightly sweet biscuit served with a tin of honey butter. The honey butter is tasty but ultimately unnecessary as the biscuit already has a sweet tinge to it. That didn't stop us from slathering it on, though.
Finally, we tried the Chicken Liver Mousse ($13) which turned out to be a great value. A sizable ramekin full of the liver, which is rich enough that you don't even want an enormous serving of it, comes served with grilled bread, a fig-onion compote, toasted hazelnuts, and a small arugula salad—the menu said it would be watercress but the arugula was a welcome substitution. The liver was delicious, funky and rich as chicken liver should be, while the fig onion compote was a seriously delicious addition to the dish. And Little Giant's wait staff should win some sort of Apps Only medal for offering to bring us more bread to finish off the dish before we even asked.
Little Giant is a beautiful restaurant with a laid-back vibe where you can enjoy the latest the market has to offer as prepared by a talented kitchen. In other words, it's the perfect sort of place for spring in New York. It's not cheap, though—our modest meal cost $50 for three of us before tax and tip, just over the $15/head target. While it may not be the easiest place to swing an affordable dinner, Little Giant would be the perfect place for an after work drink and a light bite—beer and Figgy Piggy, anyone? You won't be disappointed.
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