King is a restaurant run by three young women from London that seems like it ought to be adorable and lives up to that promise. It should be a very good neighborhood spot but, because there aren't that many restaurants that pretty much nail their proffer, it is sort of a destination lite.
Chefs Clare de Boer and Jess Shadbolt worked at River Cafe (and it shows). FOH person Annie Shi was at Clove Club (and it doesn't show so much). The place is a typical West Village* type nice/charming/comfortable but not chi chi space (where Mekong was for a long time, as joethefoodie points out -- but they made it nicer and airier). You walk into the bar area (where the full menu is also served); the dining room is behind.
The menu changes daily (although maybe the change isn't complete every night). The food is kind of light, refreshing Mediterranean; it might be cliched if it weren't so well and freshly done. Based on my one meal here, the food is pretty consistently delicious, which is the important thing.
Maybe I looked hard-boiled in my Fedora, or maybe my bulk suggests need, but as soon as I sat down the bartender warned me that the cocktails on their list are "light" and said he could make me a classic if I preferred. I figured I would go with the flow, and had two from the list. I like the "light" cocktail trend in theory: as with low-ABV wines, I like that you can drink these cocktails without worrying too much about consequences. But I wish they weren't so "light" in flavor as well. I wonder what they'll do in the winter -- maybe go heavier on oloroso sherries.
For an appetizer, I had whipped salt cod on a thick piece of oily toast, with some nice tomatoes and mache on the side. A simple dish, but a very very tasty one. (The kind of thing you take for granted at River Cafe.)
My main dish turned out to be exactly what I was in the mood for: a whole lobster roasted in vermouth. Now lobster (especially roasted) can be dry, it can be chewy, or conversely it can be mushy. This wasn't any of those things. This was nice, flavorful lobster, the vermouth contributing a subtle but discernible tang.
This seemed so up-their-alley that I couldn't help but wonder (as with the cocktails) what they'll do when the weather calls for more rib-sticking dishes.
Dessert was a concord granita in prosecco: light as a feather, but full of that foxy flavor that we Northeasterners love (I'm happy that these London chefs can appreciate it).
This is a very easy place to like -- in fact, to love. It's already a favorite of a lot of people -- and as the next few weeks go by it will only become a favorite of more people. There should be many more places like this, throughout the City, because a restaurant like this shouldn't seem at all exciting. And I guess, really, it doesn't. Only exceptionally charming. And, of course, delicious.
* Neighborhood boundary fanatics will recall that the Village used to extend down to Spring Street before SoHo was invented -- and the blocks around King Street look more like the West Village than any other neighborhood.