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Minetta Tavern


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#1 Wilfrid1

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Posted 09 March 2009 - 04:54 PM

No, I haven't been yet, but someone will eventually need to go. Early word from Eater, et al mentions aligot, which I don't recall seeing in New York previously. Boned pigs feet too.
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#2 Sneakeater

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Posted 09 March 2009 - 05:09 PM

I am by no means complaining about this, but boned pig's feet are becoming the minor-league pork belly of 2008/9, aren't they?
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#3 Wilfrid1

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Posted 09 March 2009 - 05:16 PM

Perhaps we can look forward to a thoughtful piece in the Times about how New York diners are finally embracing rustic, hearty peasant dishes like pig's feet, pig's head and tripe. An article which doesn't once mention the price per lb compared with pork tenderloin. smile.gif

Okay, excuse to link to the Monday Room's excellent pig's head terrine.


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#4 nuxvomica

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Posted 10 March 2009 - 03:05 PM

QUOTE(Wilfrid @ Mar 9 2009, 05:16 PM) View Post
Perhaps we can look forward to a thoughtful piece in the Times about how New York diners are finally embracing rustic, hearty peasant dishes like pig's feet, pig's head and tripe. An article which doesn't once mention the price per lb compared with pork tenderloin. smile.gif

you bet laugh.gif
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#5 Sneakeater

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Posted 11 March 2009 - 04:23 PM

I had a longstanding date to have dinner last night with my old friend Young Jim. (Young Jim is now in his mid-40s, which should show you how ancient I am.) I called Young Jim late Monday afternoon.

ME: Young Jim! I got us a reservation tomorrow night at the hottest new place in Manhtattan!

YOUNG JIM (warily): It better not be expensive.

ME: No! Not at all!

YOUNG JIM (warily): Where is it?

ME: Minetta Tavern!

YOUNG JIM: Oh. I was thinking that would be a good place for us to go. But isn't tomorrow their opening night? Who in their right mind would go there THEN?

ME: Young Jim, you've got to stop being so mature.

If Morandi had never happened, I'd have told Young Jim not to worry, because if anybody knows how to open a restaurant, it's Keith McNally. But Morandi was one of the famous Botched Openings Of 2008 (unless it was 2007), showing that even Keith can blow it.

No such problems here. Minetta Tavern is a solid hit. In fact, as I'll explain below, that's what's going to be the problem with it.

Maybe the flaw in Morandi was that it was McNally's first "chef-driven" restaurant, and he doesn't really operate that way. Here, he's back with his usual team, and this is, I would say, their best food yet. Or maybe he's not comfortable with Italian, but knows perfectly how to present bourgeoise French (and whatever you'd call the food at Schiller's). In any event, Minetta Tavern simply works.

The room revamp is perfect. It's also exactly as you'd expect, so I won't go into detail. I will say that to call it a "Disneyfication" is just wrong. It looks like the old place, spruced up. You don't necessarily get extra points for a century of built-up grime.

The food is rustic French, well cooked but not amazingly well cooked. In other words, a good solid bistro, but not one of those bistros that amaze you with how good the food is. The menu is more interesting than Balthazar's.

I ordered what you'd expect me to order. I started with the three-tartare appetizer: a dollop of veal, a dollop of lamb, and a dollop of beef. The veal was excellent (plenty of garlic); the others were very good. Then, the boned pig's foot with mustard. A good, creditable version (maybe some of the skin could have been a little crisper). And the aligot. Since I've never had this dish before, I have no idea whether my comment that I'd have liked more garlic is valid. It was still very good (ummmm, a bit rich). The desserts were negligible. Cocktails, OTOH, were excellent. Wine list decent.

Other than dessert, I very much liked everything I had. This was all good solid food, exactly the cuisine I like the best. But in no way extraordinary (except insofar as this cuisine remains underrepresented in New York).

So this should be the kind of good, solid place that you drop into when you're in the mood. A place you'd eat at, casually, a couple of times a month, maybe even once a week. But, of course, it isn't. I rushed to go this week because once this place gets rolling, I won't be able to get in again for months. Yet, this isn't "event" food. It shouldn't be difficult to get it. The idea that you'd reserve a month in advance for it is absurd. That's the paradox of a place like this.

A note on the crowd. When I made my reservation, I tried to get a 9:00 table but was told they take no reservations for that hour: I'd have to take 8:30 or 9:30. I took 9:30, and then accidentally got there about 20 minutes early. What I saw, waiting at the bar for Young Jim to arrive, was interesting.

When I got there, the crowd was predominantly older -- older than me, even. But between about 9 and about 10, the crowd turned, so that by 10 it was predominantly much younger -- younger than Young Jim, even (not that he's been young for decades). I guess they plan two general "seatings", with a 9:00 turn. Interesting.

Either way, the crowd seemed moneyed. The younger crowd didn't glisten like the crowds at Balthazar and Morandi; it seemed more bohemian. But this was opening night. Who knows who those people were? (Well, later on, some of them were the management and staff of 10 Downing, coming in to celebrate their Times review after closing.)

I'd love to go back here. Too bad I can't.
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#6 Wilfrid1

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Posted 11 March 2009 - 04:55 PM

Fast work!

I have eaten at Balthazar many times, but always day-time or at the bar, for precisely the reasons you give. It would take a heroic effort to make this place less successful than Balthazar.
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***Every Monday***At the Sign of the Pink Pig.

If the author could go around the place hitting random readers with a rubber hammer, the Pink Pig would still be worth a visit.

#7 Sneakeater

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Posted 11 March 2009 - 04:57 PM

And that's an effort that I don't think Keith McNally is up to.

ETA: I eat at the bar at Balthazar all the time, too. The problem is that, here, you won't even be able to eat at the bar for at least a year -- if even then.
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#8 Wilfrid1

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Posted 11 March 2009 - 05:07 PM

Right, much smaller I'm sure. Lunch, perhaps.
Elect-a-lujah

***Every Monday***At the Sign of the Pink Pig.

If the author could go around the place hitting random readers with a rubber hammer, the Pink Pig would still be worth a visit.

#9 Rich

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Posted 11 March 2009 - 05:09 PM

QUOTE(Sneakeater @ Mar 11 2009, 12:23 PM) View Post
When I got there, the crowd was predominantly older -- older than me, even.

Even older than me?

#10 Sneakeater

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Posted 11 March 2009 - 05:12 PM

You know what? Yeah.
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#11 Rich

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Posted 11 March 2009 - 05:14 PM

QUOTE(Sneakeater @ Mar 11 2009, 01:12 PM) View Post
You know what? Yeah.

...and they were still standing after 9pm? I'm impressed.

#12 Sneakeater

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Posted 11 March 2009 - 05:16 PM

Not only that. They looked GREAT.
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#13 Rich

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Posted 11 March 2009 - 05:20 PM

QUOTE(Sneakeater @ Mar 11 2009, 01:16 PM) View Post
Not only that. They looked GREAT.

People have said that about me, but that's when they thought I was 93.

#14 Sneakeater

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Posted 11 March 2009 - 05:22 PM

They may be looking at you, but they're talking about Peggy.
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#15 mongo_jones

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Posted 11 March 2009 - 05:50 PM

QUOTE(Rich @ Mar 11 2009, 12:09 PM) View Post
QUOTE(Sneakeater @ Mar 11 2009, 12:23 PM) View Post
When I got there, the crowd was predominantly older -- older than me, even.

Even older than me?



QUOTE(Sneakeater @ Mar 11 2009, 12:12 PM) View Post
You know what? Yeah.


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