Thursday, August 12, 2010

Northern Spy Food Co. Review

Getting to Northern Spy Food Co. in Alphabet City is a bit of a trek, but it's one that pays off. The place had popped up on my dining companion's list of suggestions for dinner several times and I had continually bypassed it in favor of other, closer spots.

Around 7 p.m. on a Sunday evening, the place was just lightly filled and it was easy to get a table, but by 8:30 p.m. it was packed. The casual setting, with white wood-paneled walls and exposed brick, was something you might expect by the shore.

The drink list includes an interesting list of seltzers. My dining companion ordered a watermelon-basil seltzer while I opted for the sparkling sangria made with blueberry juice. Both were refreshing, though my dining companion wished the watermelon flavor hadn't been so diluted. And when our check arrived, we were pleasantly surprised to find that we'd made it in time for happy hour and got a $2 discount on the sangria.

The menu includes a board of daily specials. Northern Spy offers a $22 three-course Sunday Supper. We liked the look of it so we ordered one and added a few other dishes to our meal.

The Sunday Supper menu started with an eggplant caponata with shisito peppers and a bit of lamb. It was a nice mixture of ingredients, but those big leaves on the plate got in my way. 

Oil-poached squid, mussels, navy beans, cherry tomatoes, jalapeƱo, toasted rice. I loved this one — the tender squid and the crunchy rice played off each other and the broth made me want to lick the bowl. Unfortunately, there's no bread served here to sop up the last bits.

Freekeh risotto with zucchini, turnips, clothbound cheddar, mascarpone. Freekeh was new to me — a popular Arab and North African dish made from roasted green wheat. When a dish of grains is made well, it's a sign that they're doing something right in the kitchen because grains stereotypically seem bland and healthy-tasting. Unfortunately this risotto wasn't impressive. It had that sense of something you eat it because it's good for you. It was under-seasoned; my dining companion wished it had been more robust. The beans and corn and leafy greens mixed in were a good touch, but it could have used more flavor.

The brook trout came with summer squash, cherry tomatoes, corn puree and salty collard greens. The fish tasted fresh and delicious and the vegetables were sweet. This was a better example of pulling off something seemingly healthy but that would still be something you'd want to eat.

Vanilla pound cake with peaches and caramel and creme fraiche. This was a very dense slice of cake, but it stood up well under the fruit and caramel. The peaches weren't too syrupy or sweet and made it an appropriate summer dessert.

Chocolate hazelnut tart with creme fraiche and hazelnuts. Rather than choosing a second fruit-based dessert, we chose chocolate. And it was a good choice. This slice was like a good chocolate mousse pie, but with a texture slightly more solid and ganache-like sitting atop a crumbly graham cracker crust.

If you believe that good cooking and friendly service can overcome tight quarters and out-of-the-way location, then make your way to Northern Spy Food Co.

No comments:

Post a Comment