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In which the Lambs try again to make the little room next door work as a restaurant - this time, a wine bar with Spanish small plates. Tapas, if you like, but they aren't really tapas, devised by the young and rather good-looking Werner Genovart, formerly of Perry Street.

 

Confused punters wandered in and out as I waited for a walk-in seat: you see, it is not what it looks like, and it looks like what it's not. It's a sushi bar. Where's the wine bar? Ah, the sushi bar is the wine bar, and it's rather a good idea. If you think about it, a sushi bar is not unlike a tapas bar in structure and function, and this is set up very neatly: the chef and two assistants manning the pans and grills behind the bar, a charming server roaming between them and delivering dishes, and two sommeliers out back behind the customers, taking drink orders and dealing with checks. Smooth. Also - like Toronto's fabled Perigee - but on a smaller scale, diners can easily chat with the chef and his colleagues.

 

My first real shock, though, was the menu. I think it's fair to say that Jack Lamb's restaurants, for all their virtues, are not renowned as bargains. This, however, is very inexpensive food. Very inexpensive, given the quality. [Message: Go soon because this is going to be popular.]

 

The short menu has two lists of plates priced from around $6 to $10, the desserts and cheese jumbled in with the savories, and one list of slightly larger plates running up to $15. I ate exclusively from the first two lists, and spent barely $30 on food.

 

And what food. Fans of Tia Pol and Casa Mono need to try this - not that there's anything mightily Spanish, except for some choice ingredients: it's just very good. The somewhat inevitable slow-poached egg (45 minutes, if you're counting) was served in a pool of dark, rich chicken broth, studded with jamon Serrano breadcrumbs. I broke the egg and stirred as instructed. Good egg - but the final touch which lifted the dish was the snappy flavor of lemon thyme. Throughout the menu, excellent use is made of really fresh, high quality herbs.

 

I got a few forkfuls of the salad, with Marcona almonds and orange wedges, and suitably refreshed tackled the stuffed calamari. This is the utterly tender body of a squid, stuffed tight with braised short rib, sliced like a chubby sausage, and layered over a warm lentil salad with chorizo. The main component worked very well, but the lentil salad really sang. The morsels of chorizo announced Spain in a way that more literal attempts at authenticity often do not. This dish could be served in Barcelona. Chef Wesley later, when pressed, picked it as his favorite.

 

Next up, the so-called roast beef sandwich - actually a small round of toast, layered with raw roast beef, and topped with a handful of delicious green herbs (parsley, mint, chives, y'know - green stuff). The beef was fine but unremarkable, but I had been led to the sandwich by the promise of foie gras mayonnaise, which was as good as it sounded, in a WD-50-ish sort of way.

 

Two desserts are available, a refreshing and spicy ginger granita with torched strawberries and a eucalyptus foam (and again, the sight of a cook using a blowtorch on strawberries behind a sushi bar will make you think otoro is about to be served). Although not tasted, the tarte tatin was observed to be trendily deconstructed - the apple over here, the pastry over there, some goat cheese foam lurking frothily.

 

It made me anxious that the menu described the cheeses as "composed". I feared it would mean someone had thrown honey or syrup over them. Fortunately, untrue. A piece of Tetilla and a piece of Montenebro were served unadorned, ripe and at absolutely perfect temperature - about to get oozy. With rounds of toasted baguette came some Marcona almond butter, which appropriately kept its impertinent distance from the cheeses.

 

A fairly short wine list, and a number of inexpensive glasses available. I really liked the Estbeban Martin Carinena, a soft, chewy Spanish Merlot/Shiraz blend.

 

Well, this was really very good. And it's really very small. Get moving.

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Are you kidding? I LOVE watching curling.   Curling is like Minimalism. It takes being boring so far that it becomes transcendent.

FYI...Wes and his wife Chloe just opened a burger joint in an old gas station in Rawsonville VT: https://www.facebook.com/eatathoneypie Filled a gaping hole in the restaurant scene around here; it's

If you can sell thirty dollar bowls of posole in the middle of the woods, life is good.

Two other notes: there's a five course tasting for $50. And people who need to go to Katz's for a sandwich after WD-50 will feel the same about this place: there are no weighty carbs - potatoes, rice and bread - to fill you up. This is a place to graze.

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Yes, and I would strongly recommend making one. I think I was lucky to snag a bit of the bar last night, and I waited twenty minutes or so, with Jack whizzing past from time to time, waggling his eyebrows and hissing "Won't be long!" :( . Word will get out soon enough.

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Guest Aaron T
I waited twenty minutes or so, with Jack whizzing past from time to time, waggling his eyebrows and hissing "Won't be long!"

This sounds kind of scary to me. :( Sounds like an escaped animal.

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So I called to make a res. Woman answers the phone just says "reservations, may I help you." I'm guessing the Lambs have it centralized. So I say "is this the line for Degustation?" (pronounced correctly). She says "yes it is, and you get extra points for that pronunciation!" Oh goody. So we go through the business, and she puts me on hold to answer another call, comes back after a minute, and gets my phone number. All set. Then she says thanks, and we look forward to seeing you at DAY-GOO-STAY-SHUN.

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I loved it. More than anyplace I have been in a while.

 

It is, as Wilfrid described, a very Lamb-ian place, pretty and relaxing but a well-oiled machine. The tableware was all very attractive, especially the little striped earthernware plates. Jack was whizzing in and out last night, too. :(

 

I got there very early, a little after six, and as we left at about 7:45 the place was just starting to fill up. With nuxvomica and her husband among others--nice to see them again even if we only had a few minutes to chat. The chef (and Wilfrid was conservative in describing him as 'rather good-looking'--he's gorgeous) told us they usually get extremely busy between 7 and 8 and stay so all evening. There are only sixteen seats.

 

It was hard to choose because so many things on the menu sounded intriguing, among them the roast beef sandwich we could see the chef making a stack of. We started with an amuse of frisee and smoked salmon tossed with fennel dressing--very nice. Smoked bacon and onion croquetas were crisp, hot, smoky and the very thing with the white wines we were drinking, a Gruner Veltliner and a Spanish varietal. The slow-cooked egg was delicious, and the flavors in the strong broth really sang. I very much liked the textural contrast of the soft egg with the little bits of chorizo and breadcrumb. My friend loved a salad of baby artichoke, malpeque oyster and grapefruit with grapefruit foam. The squid stuffed with shreds of short rib more than worked but it was indeed the lentils and chorizo that stole the show. Roasted loin of lamb with mushroom was beautifully tender and the chlorophyll sauce swathed alongside was terrific. We also finished with the tetilla and montenebro and asked for more bread to finish the irrestible marcona almond butter the cheese came with. The cheese, as well as the chorizo, is being sourced from Despana.

 

With six glasses of wine, including a peppery,fruity Chateau Musar which was great with the lamb and cheese, $100. Well worth it and I am eager to return.

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I loved it. More than anyplace I have been in a while.

 

That's a relief. I thought I might have dreamt it.

 

 

The tableware was all very attractive...

 

Laguiole cutlery, I just remembered.

 

The chef (and Wilfrid was conservative in describing him as 'rather good-looking'--he's gorgeous)

 

Yes, but I am happier with it coming from you than from me.

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