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High Street on Hudson is a newish restaurant on the corner of Hudson and Horatio that mainly gets love for its breakfasts and lunches, based on its reputedly superb baked goods and cereals. Their dinner -- also heavy on the grains (this may be the least Celiac-friendly restaurant I've ever seen) -- has been less rapturously received. But without making any claims that this is one of the great restaurants in New York, I quite enjoyed it.


You can't talk about this place without talking about its very sad backstory. This is the first New York offering from the Philadelphia chef Eli Kulp (his most famous restaurant there is called High Street, natch). Chef Kulp was in the pre-opening prep phase for the New York place -- building out the space, designing the menu -- when he was crippled in the Philadelphia Amtrak accident. So he isn't cooking here, as he'd planned. But he's still running the place.


Despite what my tablemate Jesikka says, I'd call this restaurant actively hostile to solo diners at dinner -- a trend that is spreading and that I (for obvious personal reasons) decry. Look at the dinner menu: a few plates "from their hearth" (which, now that I've had one, are too big for appetizers but rather are clearly meant to be shared) (awkward as they are to divide), and then an undifferentiated list of plates "to be shared". Some of these were bigger and more substantial than others -- but I don't recall any of them being portioned in a way that could sensibly serve as an appetizer or a main dish for a single person. They were all obviously "for the table" (again despite the awkwardness of dividing them).


Which is too bad, cuz the food is both distinctive and, generally speaking, delicious. Their most famous dish at dinner is probably the smoked eel on anadama bread ("from the hearth") -- and it deserves its acclaim. Beyond that, most dishes feature little touches -- a fermented sauce, a soured grain, an unusual garnish -- that add interest and, usually but not quite always, work. Don't be put off by occasional (mild) misfires: I'd rather a restaurant be distinctive and (very slightly, I want to emphasize) uneven than just another cookie-cutter American bistro. Especially now, when dining in New York seems to me to risk becoming boring beyond description. High Street on Hudson is not boring.


I'd look forward to going back -- if this place better accommodated my personal dining needs.

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