Son of a Gun, Los Angeles review

Son of a Gun

Don’t judge a fish by its scales! To the West 3rd Street passerby, Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo’s summery seafood joint Son of a Gun resembles a casual but whimsical, south-Florida fish shack, with its sun-faded pastel shades as the canvass to a large, nautical pawn-shop collection of beachy tchotchkes. But once the dishes emerge, it becomes soberingly obvious that there’s nothing laid-back about the food.  Here Shook and Dotolo have created an equally popular, full-flavored, scales-and-shells equivalent to Animal, their immensely successful carnivore paradise less than a mile away.

The comprehensive sharing menu is grouped by critter category rather than courses, and the bright and cheerful, color-splashed plates arrive with hurricane speed, but never seemed to deluge the table.

Son of a Gun - Hamachi


In the what appears to be the land of 101 vinaigrettes, the Hamachi crudo (raw fish) is splashed with a wonderfully sour dressing and prodded with sweetness from the doll-sized apple dice.

Son of a Gun - Lemonfish Poke

Lemonfish Poke

The superb Lemonfish Poke and radishes enjoy quite a different vinegary bath as they hide under a nest of the most exotically crispy sunchoke chips. Sunchoke chips? Finally someone brave enough to do something with sunchokes other than purée or au-gratin.

Uni & Burrata might very well be the names of my unborn children, but I can’t say that the fresh sea urchin and cream-centered mozzarella played very nicely in the sandbox together. Even the addition of yuzu lemon and button mushrooms couldn’t seem to entice them to get along. But the Jamaican jerk spiced Scottish Salmon with a sweet vinaigrette, chilies and cherries was like raiding a pirate ship with all sorts of treasures from The Carribbean to the coast of Spain and beyond. But enough about the crudo!

Son of a Gun - Peel n Eat Shrimp

Peel n Eat Shrimp

I could have made an entire meal of the Chilled Peel & Eat Shrimp spiked with cajun spices and a citrusy mustard dipping sauce, were it not for the Hamachi Collar, a large, triangular section of fish from just behind the head and gills. In strict accordance with the adage that everything tastes better when cooked on the bone, Shook and Dotolo finish this especially flavorful fish cheek with yet another vibrant vinaigrette and fresh herbs.

Son of a Gun - Fried Chicken Sandwich

Fried Chicken Sandwich

Normally one wouldn’t dare order chicken at a seafood restaurant, but that’s not the word on this street. On most of the dozen or so tables (ours included), stood at least one 9-inch tall gobbeliciously crispy, Sriracha aioli Fried Chicken Sandwich, stuffed with a zesty, citrusy, peppery, pickley coleslaw. A monumental challenge to bite into (given that a temporary jaw dislocation was out of the question), many of the slaw shreds escaped from between the fingers, landing on the plate (for subsequent re-consumption) or landing on the trousers right next to the napkin (for subsequent dry cleaning), but a highly satisfying ordeal nonetheless.

Son of a Gun - White Peaches

White Peaches

The menu winds down with a bright and seasonal choice of salads and sides like the popular Shishito Peppers smothered in Bottarga (cured fish roe) aioli and fresh basil or the wonderfully refreshing White Peach salad with mint and chili.

Desserts are equally summery with sorbets, gelato sandwiches and an impossibly delicious Banana Bread with coffee ice-cream and salty candied pecans.

It certainly appears that everything this dynamic duo touches, turns to caviar. I anxiously await the opening of their next act, Jon and Vinny’s on Fairfax this fall.


Umami Burger review

Umami Burger

You probably wouldn’t believe it, but there is a connection between the words Umami and Chutspah. Umami – borrowed from Japanese – has to do with the perceived fifth “savory” taste after salt, sweet, sour and bitter, and Chutspah is Yiddish for gall, guts, courage, fortitude, determination and a touch of arrogance. But Adam Fleishman (coincidentally Yiddish for “meat man”, hmm…) is the very personification of both. After going for broke, the California native created Umami Burger, a formidably successful franchise from the umpteen-thousandth re-re-re-invention of the hamburger. But when that wasn’t enough, he did the unthinkable – he brought it to New York City. As you can imagine, New Yorkers of all walks of life were unspeakably apoplectic with indignation that Fleishman would have the chutspah to enter their holy burger grail, tell them that he could do it better, and that he was an Angelino no less!

The predictably feverish hype and hoopla blitz ensued, and instead of standing in line for 3+ hours outside their Greenwich Village location (although I’ve read that the wait has shrunk to below 30 minutes for a table nowadays), I decided to sample Fleishman’s creation in its natural habitat. I sat at one of the raw wooden benches with a view of the parking-lot outside the tip of Fred Segal’s ivy-covered clothing empire in Santa Monica, as my server wearing the iconic logo of a cross between a burger and a pair of Rocky-Horror-Picture-Show-ketchup-stained lips on his T-shirt, brought me the Original burger with a side of Smushed Potatoes dredged in a roasted garlic aioli.

Umami - Original burger

The Original

The soft, yet dense Portuguese roll has a cute cattle-brand of a “U” on its lid. The meat is roughly chopped Wagyu steak, which is loosely packed and cooked to a juicy medium-rare with Fleishman’s secret seasonings that are supposed to unleash that unbridled Umami flavor. The toppings are on the unconventional side, with sautéed shitake mushrooms, roasted tomatoes, caramelized onions and a Parmesan crisp wafer that adds an interesting crunch as you bite down.

The overall flavors are definitely restaurant quality. There’s char-grilled depth, salty moisture and a heartiness you wont find in a fast-food factory burger (which always remind me of gray wood-shavings and Purina puppy chow.)

But is it the best burger in the land? Probably not.  Is that such a bad thing? Probably not.  And will this be the last ever re-invention of the burger as we know it? Most definitely not.

Next time someone wants to reinvent something, why not try Escargot? They’ve been prepared the same way for over 350  years. I think it’s time.

Blenheim review


Manhattan’s “farm-to-table” restaurants have become so claustrophobically commonplace, they are practically their own cuisine: “American New-age”, “Southeast Asian”, “Asian Fusion”, “Californian”, “Farm-to-table”… the trendy moniker barely sounds like the rigorous ingredient discipline it used to be. The idea of toques only using seasonal produce ripped from the earth this morning, from less than 100 miles away has become SO one hour ago. Don’t get me wrong, I worship the concept, but it’s one thing to be a farm-to-table restaurant, and quite another when the restaurant owns both the farm and the table!

Such is the case at Blenheim, the West Village’s charming conduit for the enjoyment and nourishment of their very own harvest of sustainably grown fresh greens and humanely raised animals. Brainchild of the Smörgas Chef cofounders Morten Sohlberg and his partner Min Ye, their family farm in the Catskills is home to beehives, maple (syrup) trees, a hydroponic greenhouse for year round salads and veggies, dark barrels for mushrooms and a host of rare and heritage breeds of cattle, sheep and pigs. Enter multiple Michelin star honoree, chef Ryan Tate and suddenly you are faced with the best of all possible worlds on the plate in front of you – and I’m just talking about the BUTTER! 

Blenheim - Butter

The Blenheim butter

I could quite easily sit here and write an entire review just about the Blenheim butter (and I would, were it not for all the other star-studded weapons in chef Tate’s arsenal). But if I did, here’s how it would go: Restaurant bread and butter are the most overlooked, unsung heroes to ever exit the kitchen. They are as expected and ubiquitous as the battery-operated flickering candle, the lonely and lifeless nine-day-old stem in a waterless vase, the empty salt and clogged pepper-shaker or that dishwasher-proof, 2nd hand crust on a dull knife. And thanks to the low-carb diet craze, some restaurants wont even bring you bread and butter anymore.

So when our waiter gave us the choice of cheddar crusted white or red fife brown dinner rolls, and then placed a jar of what looked like a rich wedge of dark lemon curd topped with coarse chunks of Sel de Mer on the table, we were plausibly beguiled.

“Is this…butter?” I asked as I tore into a golf-ball-sized cheese puff, covering the exposed bread with a generous smear of the soft and shiny, ochre-colored paste.

“Yes.” replied the waiter. “It’s from one of our Herefords on the farm. All she does is produce butter for the restaurant.”

And then we tasted it. What followed was a bit of a blur. The two of us fell into a happy and nostalgic cloud of déjà vu. Not only was this what butter used to taste like, but I vowed right there and then – with God as my witness – never to eat or serve factory butter again. All my partner could utter was: “Bring me that cow!”

Blenheim - King Crab Legs

King Crab Legs

The modest menu of six app’s and six mains sounded like the ingredients of a farmer’s basket: Cauliflower soup, Roasted beets, Heirloom salad greens. Just reading it felt healthy. As the dishes started arriving, Tate’s signature plating style revealed itself as the Christmas wreath. The King crab legs were layered in a carousel of flavor amongst chanterelle mushrooms and an assortment of sea plants on the most deliciously buttery squid ink sauce.

Blenheim - Sockeye Salmon

Sockeye Salmon

The subtle taste of the cured Sockeye Salmon paired beautifully with the trail of nasturtium blossom puree (a first for me) and sea buckthorn pearls and crisps.

Blenheim - Roasted Trumpet Mushrooms

Roasted Trumpet Mushrooms

The mains covered all bases with a hanger steak, a pork loin, a guinea hen and a couple of fish. The ultra-crispy Striped bass was paired perfectly with coffee-roasted carrots (whole and pureed) and the odd blueberry in a scrumptious sea urchin sabayon sauce. The rich and hearty-as-a-filet-mignon Roasted Trumpet Mushrooms (from the aforementioned dark barrel), were surrounded by a bed of homemade sauerkraut, shaved fennel, and (not nearly enough of) the most wonderfully crispy roasted Spätzle ever.

The desserts are an equally interesting blend of farm fresh ingredients with Tate’s personal spin, like buckwheat crêpes and buttermilk sorbets, but the Apricot and Popcorn Crémeux is definitely the highlight.

And so if it is indeed true that “you are what you eat”, then go ahead and call me a farm-to-table Blenheimer!

Obicá review

Obicá. The Grand Palace of Mozz

Obicá. The Grand Palace of Mozz

Silvio Ursini is probably not a household name amongst New York foodies, but one of Bulgari’s top creative executives for their Hotels and Resorts division just so happens to have also founded the world’s first Mozzarella bar a decade ago. The concept behind Obika was to create a restaurant around several different varieties of fresh gourmet Mozzarella, milked exclusively from water buffalo in the Campania region of Italy, and thereby earning the much coveted, but seldom seen, “Protected Designation of Origin” certification.

Obicá - Caprese Classica

Caprese Classica

I vividly remember been blown away on my first visit to the bar in Rome’s Parlamento district, by the creamy sweetness of each of the four cheeses, complemented by their feather-soft texture from skin to center. (I should have a penny for every time I’ve had to plough through “so called” Mozzarella di Buffala, that was either tight, runny, hard, crumbly, sour, chalky or ho-hum.)

Ursini’s little idea turned into a global brand with eighteen mozzarella bars worldwide. To celebrate their tenth anniversary, they just opened their newest location and renamed the brand Obicá, which means “here it is” in a Neapolitan dialect. And so if you stand just off the northeast corner of Broadway and 21st, you too can say “Obica!”

Obicá - Bufala Beet Salad

Bufala Beet Salad

The battleship gray, sleek interior with mirrored surfaces and discreet lighting feels more like a Japanese designer boutique than the Grand Palace of Mozz, but the four brine-filled tanks housing the baseball-white puffs of goodness flown in twice a week is unmistakably why the place is so crowded. The “Classica” is what all mozzarella dreams it could be: sweet, smooth, silky, light and ever-so-slightly salty. The almost caramel colored “Affumicata” has a sharp and distinctive hay-smoke bite to it. The “Burrata” is the runnier, cream-centered version of the classic, and it’s brother “Tartufo” is infused with black summer truffles.

Obicá - Bufala in Carrozza

Bufala in Carrozza

You can order them solo, with Salumi or Antipasti, on Bruschetti, deep fried (In Carrozza), on pizzas or in several salads (the Caprese Classica is a cheerful collage of multi-colored tomatoes, and the Beet salad has roasted pine-nuts and string beans for crunch).

Obicá - Pappardelle al Ragú di Anatra e Arancina

Pappardelle al Ragú di Anatra e Arancina

Unlike their lunchtime bar in the IBM building on 56th street, chef Enzo Neri’s menu elaborates way beyond the Mozz to include more substantial dishes like his signature homemade pastas, pizzas, seafood and vegetables. The Rosemary flavored Pappardelle al Ragú di Anatra e Arancina has an incredible Tuscan-style duck ragú spiked with a surprising zest of orange, and the Taglierini di Botarga e Granchio is like an enchantment-under-the-sea dance with a blend of crab ragú with roe from Sardinian mullet, topped with fresh sea-urchins.

Obicá - Ananas Carpaccio

Ananas Carpaccio

The desserts are a very fresh respite from the usual institutional suspects. Three guesses what cheese the Crema de Ricotta comes from…Mmm!

And what better way to walk home than with the crisp and lingering taste of Ananas Carpaccio – X-ray-thin, mint syrup marinated Pineapple slices with lemon sorbet and pink peppercorns.

Khe-Yo review

Khe-Yo - Sesame Beef Jerky

Sesame Beef Jerky

If you are only going to try one new “it” restaurant this year, then let it be Khe-Yo. Not just because it’s located on a trendy TriBeCa shopping street, nor because Soulayphet (“Phet”) Schwader – who after years of cooking for Marc Forgione, managed to convince his mentor to partner with him and open a South-east Asian joint. Definitely not because it’s one of the few Laotian/Thai restaurants in the city, and certainly not because the service is flawless, nor the fact that the fern-adorned exposed brick walled, aged-wood bedecked room happens to be both chic and cozy, but primarily because it is a fireworks treat, thrill and delight for the senses.

After immigrating to the Midwest from his native Laos when Chef Phet was a kid, his mom would send him to school with Laotian food when all he wanted was a ham sandwich like everyone else. Wait, what? If my mother would have packed Tam-Mak-Hoong (Smashed Green Papaya Salad) or Ping-Sai-Ua-Moo (Grilled Laos sausage with green mango and peanut sauce) or even Laap-Dip-Nguah (Steak tartare with bone marrow) in my lunchbox, I might have gone to school willingly!

With only 14 family-style items on the menu (the 15th being a single dessert of fruit-topped rice-pudding) Chef Phet ratchets a variety of proteins all the way up and down the flavor scale, thanks to his deft use of the gamut of south-east Asian herbs, roots and seasonings. If the end result isn’t 100% Laotian (or 100% Thai for that matter), Phet’s years behind the cooker have yielded a comprehensive understanding of what his customers want before they arrive, how to blow them away while they’re there and then how to keep them insanely loyal thereafter.

Khe-Yo - Sticky Rice

Sticky Rice

The first order of Sticky Rice (always on the house) arrives in a little whicker basket and is accompanied by a Babaghanoush-looking eggplant pate and a dipping dish of (chili-chili) Bang-Bang sauce. So when you roll the coconut-sweetened rice into a ball, dip it into the Bang-Bang (for as long or as deep as your internal fire hydrants will allow) and then top it off with a dollop of eggplant moosh, you will experience a VIP invitation to a marathon tea-dance for all five tastes senses.

The sublime sticks of Sien-Haeng (Sesame Beef Jerky) are so unbelievably morish that you will find yourself resorting to kindergarten tricks to distract your dining companions to look away while you snag them all. They arrive with a small dark wedge-shaped paste of smoked chilies (more fragrant than hot) and fresh radishes for contrast. Also on the un-sharably sharable list are the Fried Calamari dribbled with chili mayo between diced cubes of fresh watermelon.

Khe-Yo Chicken Wings

Chicken Wings

The Chicken Wings (from tip to shoulder) were deep fried and then smothered in an impossibly sweet and tangy marinade from Hoisin and Sriracha, before being tossed with nubs of crispy pork rinds and crisped Thai basil, and served next to a pickled cucumber salad.

Khe-Yo - Berkshire Spare Ribs

Berkshire Spare Ribs

I wish I had something better to say about the gorgeous-looking soy-crusted Ping-Sien-Moo (Spare Ribs), but the ensuing struggle to get them to release their vice-grip from their bones was a bit of a defeat.

Khe-Yo - Chili Prawns

Chili Prawns

As odd as it might have been to see two fresh fish options on the menu (Banana Wrapped Red Snapper and Whole Black Bass) from Laos, a land-locked country, we still ordered the game-changing Goong-Phet (Chili Prawns) that were the reason we had such an enormous full moon. A clutch of hearty head-on shrimp draped over the most unbelievably delicious Sriracha, basil, butter and coconut curry with doorstep wedges of crusty ginger-scallion-lathered toast to mop up the sauce. And mop it up we did. (Had there been any left, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see our fellow diners dabbing a little on their wrists and behind their ears.)

The cocktails are unsurprisingly exotic and the modest all-French wine list has been well selected to cope with (and complement) the uncompromising food flavors, like a red Sancerre named for Marc Forgione himself.

Khe-Yo is without doubt my restaurant of the month for August.

David Burke Kitchen review

David Burke Kitchen - Outdoor area

The anxiety-inducing thought of serving dinner to a rather demanding group of 15 executives after a long day of butt-numbing meetings is enough to insert molten shards of glass directly into the cornea. On one hand you have a ravenous team who has just spent the last 9 hours struggling to stay awake through flip charts, pie charts and stale coffee, and who rightfully deserve a few foo-foo cocktails, a table bedecked with a variety of sumptuous dishes and flawlessly attentive service. On the other hand you have an über-popular, high-brow restaurant in a trendy neighborhood, with a highly decorated and acclaimed chef accustomed to cooking and serving immaculate dishes for parties of 4 or 6. Perfect storm warning!

David Burke Kitchen - Lobster Dumplings

Lobster Dumplings

I think it’s important to separate the delights from the disasters as they transpired during our recent team dinner at the David Burke Kitchen in Soho’s James Hotel. Chef Burke has made a solid name for himself as an inventor and patent holder of many culinary feats that have become commonplace kitchen practices all over the world. His whimsical cooking style using basic ingredients gives his many restaurants a unique edge and distinctive flavors. But if we are truly measured by our weakest link, then someone’s got some ‘splaining to do in the service department.

David Burke Kitchen - Burrata and Squash Carpaccio

Burrata and Squash Carpaccio

The dish-sized menu groupings are obviously a collection of greatest hits rather than any themed journey, starting with at least one of Burke’s many signatures – his little glass jars with Ratatouille and Ricotta. The Peanut Butter Maple Bacon Dates and saffron-infused Burrata and Squash Carpaccio with melon nuggets are hands-down crowd pleasers.

David Burke Kitchen - Parfait of Salmon and Tuna Tartare

Parfait of Salmon and Tuna Tartare

And while the fragrant Baby Octopus and beets salad and the sublime Parfait of Tuna and Salmon Tartare can silence a room, nothing compares to the gorgeous Lobster Dumplings, which combine zucchini, white beans and roasted garlic in perfectly swirled, petite wraps.

The mains include every variety of popular proteins, including a crispy Branzino and the much reviewed and requested Short Rib with truffle mousse, or the cheddar bacon Kitchen Burger. The impressive Heritage Pork comes two ways: seared loin medallions au jus and the most delicious BBQ pulled shoulder baked right inside a light and fluffy corn bread torte.

David Burke Kitchen - Maine Lobster BLT

Maine Lobster BLT

The green goddess dressing and tomato marmalade regretfully overpowers the magnificently presented Main Lobster BLT, and the prime rib-eye with extensive dry aging via Burke’s trademarked SaltBrick™ method harboring a trace of rancid mustiness from perhaps a tad too much of a good thing, was further exasperated by someone confusing medium-rare for medium-well!

David Burke Kitchen - Heritage Pork

Heritage Pork

The Chocolate Hazelnut Crunch Bar is rich and sinful enough to share and although we ordered (and were looking forward to) the Coconut Trifle with peppered pineapple jam, we had to make do with Burke’s cheerful Cheesecake Lollipops instead.

Note to self: Team dinners + prix fixe menu = probably the way to go.

Salvation Taco review

Salvation Taco - Just because the two-bite-sized taco in your right hand bears no resemblance whatsoever to the ones you ate at that cute little Tex-Mex cocina outside of Houston, or the ones they deep-fried and served from oars on the beach in Ixtapa, doesn’t mean that this isn’t a taco. In fact apart from the tortilla press churning out 5 inch discs of flattened maza at the edge of the bar, there’s absolute nothing authentic about April Bloomfield’s Murray Hill Mexican gastropub Salvation Taco. And you know what else? I don’t care!

Located on the ground floor of the Pod Hotel, Bloomfield and partner Ken Friedman have put together yet another reservation-less hangout for food freaks amongst a cacophony of loud colored walls, noisily tiled tables and apple green ceilings – with the odd quasi-religious deity here and there. There’s definitely something enjoyably naughty going on here – and everyone seems to be in on it. If you’re stuck for conversation, just point at something around the room and trust me, the rest will happen.

Salvation Taco - Empanadas


While many of the items sound Mexican, they only bear a distant relationship to their forebears. The menu starts off coyly enough with a dozen “Snacks” from Spicy Nuts to Chips and Guacamole and before you know it – you are staring down at the cutest little torpedo-shaped dough wedges filled with gooey Chihuaua Cheese and Serrano ham. Unlike any other Empanadas you’ve ever tried, the good news is: these will explode in a single mouthful. The bad news: too few mouthfuls to go around!

Salvation Taco - Mexican Sticky Rice

Mexican Sticky Rice Tamale

We skipped over the Pig’s Head Tostada (with crispy ears and pan-seared cheeks) and tried the Mexican Sticky Rice Tamale instead. Surrounded by a banana leaf, little chunks of aromatic Chinese sausage and morsels of pulled pork are dotted over a small, hot square of rice cake in a sublime sauce.

Under the “Taco Dinners” it was a tough toss-up between the Roasted Lamb Shoulder, that the couple next to us were busy tearing apart and shoving into fresh tortillas topped with Cucumber Pico de Gallo and Crema, or the Beer Battered Fish Filet with Tartar and Mayan mayonnaise, (our enthusiastic and bespectacled waitress’s favorite) but we finally settled on the Korean BBQ. This prompted a visit from one of the kitchen staff who proceeded to cut a large and delectably marinated, fire-roasted loin with a large pair of scissors, while firing off a barrage of questions about our heritage, our commute, our love life and other vital curiosities as she explained the tray of flavor accoutrements: crunchy pickled Daikon radish, fresh scallions, house-made Kimchee, Furikake and seaweed spices and a thick (and liberally salted) hot sauce – all the makings of the most inauthentic Taco ever.

Salvation Taco - Korean BBQ Accoutrements

Korean BBQ Accoutrements

Thereafter the menu shrinks again with half a dozen different kitchen-assembled Tacos – yielding 3 per order. From the Carne Asada with sweet and spicy grilled Nopales (prickly pear), peppers and onions, to the Roasted Cauliflower with baby Farro held together by the most unbelievably delicious curried Crema – the kind that could easily transform anything into a delectable delight – backpacks and roof-tiles included.

For desert I only managed to get a whiff of the steaming hot, freshly fried and sugared Churros with a little pot of hot Mexican chocolate for dipping as I lingered (probably a little bit too long in retrospect) at the table next to us on our way out.

Salvation Taco - Cauliflower Curry

Cauliflower Curry

This might be Bloomfield’s irreverent salute to all things south of the border, but south of my midtown office after a long day at work, it is without a doubt my salvation (and I didn’t even mention the cocktails!)

Peasant review

Peasant -

There are myriad reasons why New Yorker’s prefer not to eat Italian food in Little Italy. Too many gullible tourists who think it’s authentic, too many look-a-like rooms boasting near-identical menus, too much pressure from manipulative, apron-wasted, hair-slicked-back sidewalk talkers, too many other good options vying for their dining dollars, or perhaps because one can only eat just so many meatballs and just so much red sauce.

Peasant - Cannolicchi (Razor clams)

Cannolicchi (Razor clams)

It’s therefore doubly curious that Frank DeCarlo’s rustic exposed vintage brick, concrete-floored, wooden bench filled ristorante Peasant not only dared to defy his neighbors by not succumbing to any of the Italo-American staples and (quite literally) build his own wood-fire oven and rotisserie kitchen, but that his success story has endured the renaming and reshaping of the neighborhood some 15 years later. If you ask any New Yorker if they’ve ever eaten at Peasant, they will probably say: “Ages ago. Is it still around?” Not only still around but DeCarlo has been consistently packing them in long before, during and (not surprisingly) after Michele Obama and the first daughters’ recent visit.

The menu runs the gamut of delicacies from earth, sea and sky, with just enough flavor restraint to allow the benefit of cooking at over 700 degrees to really pay off. The Acciuga E Radice salad is a wonderfully simple combination of mild white anchovies, radishes and crusty croutons tossed in a complimentary red-wine vinaigrette. The appropriately named Polpi in Purgatorio (Octopus in purgatory) though immaculately tamed in a garlic and chili butter would have welcomed a touch more tenderness, but the white-wine, garlic and breadcrumb encrusted Cannolicchi (Razor Clams) were a home run.

Peasant - Spaghettini Ricci

Spaghettini Ricci

The primi piatti selections include a Risotto, a Gnocchi and a tight handful of pastas including a rich and decadent Spaghettini Ricci laden with roasted cherry tomatoes and fresh sea urchin. Even though the fire-crusted-skinned Orata alla Griglia (Grilled Sea Bream) looked rather lonely on top of a rosemary quilt with only a tiny goblet of herb butter for company, the pure ocean flavor and perfectly moist texture is indubitably the best I have ever eaten.

Peasant - Whole roasted Rabbit

Whole roasted Rabbit

But the money on the table has to be the whole-roasted Rabbit. Although not on the menu, (my hunch says it will be very soon) the leporid is heartily stuffed with rosemary, (clearly chef DeCarlo’s favorite go-to herb) and then tightly wrapped in guanciale (pork jowels) which caramelize around the skin forming a smoky, salty and incredibly fragrant aroma. I realize that the thought of a rabbit stuck between the cheeks of a pig might put one over the edge, but the combination of these two worlds on one plate is utterly delicious and completely unforgettable.

Peasant - Rhubarb and Berry Stew

Rhubarb and Berry Stew

Somewhat more forgettable were the ten-more-minutes-on-the-cooker-would-have-done-it Rhubarb and Berry stew, and the overly-dense Chocolate Ganache, but thanks to our waiter’s theatrically gesticulating descriptions, via his thick yet disarmingly authentic accent, the dessert options are certainly worth hearing about.