Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Smith

"I Love The Smith." The other day, I was sitting with a group of friends, talking about restaurants when The Smith came up in conversation - and that was the direct quote from at least three people at the table. And, to be perfectly honest, I think that just about sums up my experiences there as well. Trying to keep up with all the openings and hot spots in New York, I often find it difficult to make repeat visits to restaurants outside of my neighborhood. However, I have managed to make it to The Smith over four times since their opening less than a year ago - and there is good reason for this. Everything - from the food and the prices to the setting and the staff - is just done right. It doesn't hurt that I know one of the managers there through a friend who used to work in the restaurant industry and so each trip some sort of special service is thrown in for me. But, in all fairness, we barely do know each other - and he still insists on sending over a sample of the special of the night or an after dinner drink. That is just the kind of place that The Smith is.

The restaurant is one large open room with a bar on one end and the sides opening onto Third Avenue. The end of the bar actually also faces onto the streets and serves as a take-out window. If you haven't made a reservation and there are no tables available, the bar is a great place to eat with one other person - offering the same menu and an interesting, specialty cocktail list. When you are seated at a table, they bring out two glass bottles of tap water - clear for still and green for bubbly. I love this idea and am still not certain how they manage to fizz up tap water - but, it seems simple enough since the minute the bottles were emptied, our waiter rushed right over to replenish them. Another great service that they provide is carafes of wine - small, medium, and large - the large being over an entire bottle of wine. This is definitely one of the reasons that the prices are so reasonable. For those of you who are not quite ready to commit to an entire bottle of wine, the medium is perfect. And for others who know that they will end up wanting a bottle and then some, the large is ideal.

While the setting seems very French to me - a large, open brasserie, the menu falls into that ambiguous category of New-American. As frustrating as it can sometimes be to define this type of food, I think it is a wonderful genre - basically embracing traditional American dishes as well as the best of world cuisines - especially French, Italian, and Asian. The Smith does just that. Since I have been so many times, and also been treated to so many supplemental items, I have had a chance to sample a variety of dishes. I actually have so many favorites from both the appetizers and the main dishes that I think it will require most people to take several trips to try them all. Of the appetizers, my favorites are the roasted tomato soup and the mac and cheese. Based off the traditional American soup, the tomato soup actually follows the mold of French onion soup with a cheddar (instead of Swiss) and bread melt forming a crust on top - creating the perfect take on a grilled cheese and tomato soup combination. The other starter that you cannot miss out on is the mac and cheese served in a cast-iron skillet. I actually rarely order mac and cheese, but I am always willing to sample it when people tell me how delicious their dish is. At most restaurants, I am normally never impressed when they attempt to turn this dish into a gourmet item. However, since first sampling The Smith's mac and cheese (it was luckily on the house during my trip), I have not been able to return there without ordering it! If you are in the mood for a lighter appetizer, their string bean salad with tomatoes, ricotta salata, almonds, and dijon is the way to go.

Make sure you are hungry when you go to the Smith because they are not shy with portions and the main courses are equally as filling - but so delicious, it is hard to validate leaving much behind. While there are a variety of great items, my two favorites are the vegetable Bibimbap and the pork chop. This Korean specialty is served in an iron pot with sushi rice, shitake mushrooms, spinach, edamame, and topped with an egg sunny-side up. Since this was one of the few Asian items on the menu, I was hesitant to order it on my first trip there. But, after seeing one arrive to the table next to ours, I knew that I had to return and indulge in my own. This dish is as good or better than the ones I have ordered in Korean restaurants. On a completely different note, the pork chop with apples, chipotle onions, and fennel served over polenta is my other top choice for the entrees. The meat is always juicy and full of flavor - the chipotle giving the dish a really nice kick.

I love that these two dishes are such a contrast to each other. And, that is one of the many aspects that I love about The Smith. No matter what your mood, you will always be able to find something on the menu to suit your liking. They have such a great variety of items, and, at the same time, they are able to successfully create and cook from all ends of the spectrum. I could not say that they specialize in French, Italian, American, or Asian. But, rather, they have expertly covered all grounds. However, for the desserts, they do stick to an American tradition - sundaes only. If you have room for one of them, I highly suggest sharing one for the table - they will surely come out with a cherry on top! I am now just waiting for the I Love The Smith T-shirts to be made - and for my next trip there since I know it is never too far away.

The Smith
55 3rd Ave
New York, NY 10003
Phone (212) 420-9800

1 comment:

Carrie said...

My mouth is watering! Can't wait to go there!