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ewindels

Apiary

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It is heartening, in these times of chaos and uncertainty, to find most of my fellow gotham gulleters still reliably obsessed with two imperatives: getting in with David Chang and the immediate and gruesome demise of the Times' principal restaurant reviewer. What nirvana said comrades in comestion hope to achieve from either of these attainments I’m not sure I understand, and either one seems to be a lot of work when nirvana is so much more easily attainable and available just steps from the Chang empire at Apiary, where Scott Bryant has landed and is recreating the stellar cooking so many of us thrilled to when he was Veritas.

Located in the heart of the east village in an unprepossessing block of low storefronts, Apiary’s quiet, understated elegance distinguishes it from its immediate neighbors and the general area, more given to economic eateries with a student demographic, though Apiary is undoubtedly hoping to capitalize on all the recent high-end residential construction in the area. The space is small, intimate and elegant in a cool, slightly modernist way: pale walls accented with dark wood slatted divisions, dark mirrors, and low plush seating furnished by the restaurant’s sponsor, the furniture company Ligne Rosset.

The menu skews French / bistro, with the occasional global touches and hints. We had:

Apps:

Crisp sweetbreads, with romesco and frisée

Thai squid salad, with lemongrass, ginger, peanuts, mint

Serrano ham dressed with aged balsamico and a little arugula

Terrine de foie gras with grilled bread

Entrees

Grilled pork loin, shaved brussel sprouts, glazed tokyo turnips, calvados

Grilled hanger steak, roasted shallots, potato puree, green peppercorn sauce

Chatham cod, chickpeas, bouillabaisse broth, rouille

Confit of duck leg celery root puree, french green lentils

Desserts

Cherry financier brandied cherries

Apple tarte tatin whipped crème fraîche

Warm valrhona flourless chocolate cake vanilla ice cream

I could rave about each item individually, but it’s easier to say that the whole was superb. The only thing of note was the hangar steak, traditionally a lower cut of meat that comes across pretty rubbery and chewy. That was also the case here, though in the restaurant’s handling was terrific, but we all were interested in the inclusion of a lower-end cut in what was otherwise a high-end handling, though it fits in with the bistro skew of the menu. Also the brussel sprouts had the merest whiff of something spicy: I guessed wasabi powder, a friend suggested mustard seeds. The kitchen insisted neither was involved, but whatever it was, it was superb and would be a worthy thing to attempt on one’s own.

Service couldn’t have been smoother or friendlier. Though full when we left, the noise level never approached the onerous. Best of all was the price: the above, with two bottles of wine and three caffeines, came to $100 a person including an extremely generous tip.

If, like myself, you were wowed by Bryant’s cooking at Veritas, you won’t be surprised to find that he’s back in full form. If you never get to Veritas, make a visit to Apiary a priority.

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Had a very solid dinner tonight at the bar at Apiary. I agree with much of what ewindels said about the spot, the ambiance and the food. The restaurant was full from about 7:30 on, and they're now doing no corkage on Monday nights.

Finding food at this level on 3rd Ave is a welcome surprise. We shared the scallops, succulent and crisp, a delight. The menu reads "diver sea scallops, madras curry, apple puree" - I'm not sure that I got much curry, but the sauce was a both tart and sweet, and lovely with the scallops. Also had the pork loin (with shaved brussels sprouts and slightly sweet calvados sauce which complemented the pork perfectly), and the roasted chicken with polenta and mushrooms, which I might not normally order but did so at the suggestion of several of the staff. Both were extremely flavorful, hearty preparations, perfect for a cold night. Devoured the side of brussels sprouts with shallots and bacon, as did my dining companion who heretofore "hated brussels sprouts."

I was a huge fan of Scott Bryan years ago at Indigo and later at Veritas. He's responsible for a very significant food moment for me - the first time I ever tasted foie gras was at Veritas, and it blew me away. This isn't a foie kind of place, and while eating Chef Bryan's food again made me wistful for those days, this is a down to earth, reasonable spot that I can (and will) return to often. Tonight's dinner was excellent, especially given the price point (with two glasses of wine, not including dessert (which was comped) but including tip, under $70/person).

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I went last night and enjoyed my meal. The sweetbreads with romanesco were the highlight. I would put this place in the same category as Hearth, but maybe my meal here last night was a little better than my last Hearth experience from the food perspective. Monday BYO is a great deal, even though the wine list isn't unreasonable by NYC standards.

My only concern is that the place was fairly empty - maybe 30 covers for the night as a whole. Hard to say if that was economy-driven or just a Monday after a major snow storm. From other comments, it seems they were doing ok, so I hope they stick around.

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Thirty covers on the Monday night after a snowstorm is pretty good, bearing in mind that the restaurant has not yet had any reviews since Bryan arrived. Even in perfect weather, Sundays and Mondays are usually the slowest nights.

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Thirty covers on the Monday night after a snowstorm is pretty good, bearing in mind that the restaurant has not yet had any reviews since Bryan arrived. Even in perfect weather, Sundays and Mondays are usually the slowest nights.

I'm glad to hear this view - I just didn't have a guess given the weather.

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I went there on Friday night and thought it was not perfect, but excellent and absolutely a restaurant to be excited about. (Note that several members of our party have known Scott Bryan since his days at Luma, at least one socializes with him outside of work, and he knew that. Based on other reviews we've read I don't think it affected the kitchen's output, but it seemed worth mentioning.)

We were there for a BYO wine dinner, and asked the restaurant to make a tasting menu for us, so we were able to sample a good cross-section of the available dishes.

The first dish, a Thai squid salad, was great. Despite the name it wasn't spicy, and the acidity level was perfect. The next was a sea scallop with some microgreens. Unfortunately, this dish was somewhat oversalted; a true shame as the scallop was cooked perfectly and the non-salt flavors were terrific. This would have been as good a scallop dish as I've ever had if it had been salted a bit less.

Crisp sweetbreads with romesco sauce and frisee was another just-miss. The sweetbreads were also prepared perfectly, but the spicy romesco overwhelmed the dish (and the wines). I've read other reviewers who loved the match of the romesco's heat and the sweetbreads, though, so maybe it was just us.

Atlantic skate with clam chowder was probably the best dish of the night. One of my favorite dishes at Veritas during Bryan's time there was the skate, and my extremely high hopes were justified. Following that, we had a dish of duck breast (again, cooked perfectly) matched with duck confit (alas, oversalted and a bit dried out). Finally, our last savory course was a portion of hanger steak with risotto. The meat was, again, prepared well, but neither the risotto's flavors nor its texture really seemed to come together.

We wrapped up with a small cheese course served with 3 excellent honeys, followed by desserts: a superb cherry financier, and very good versions of warm chocolate cake and tarte tatin. The staffmentioned when they presented the desserts that there is no pastry chef; Bryan is doing all of it himself.

The service staff seemed stretched a bit thin, but part of that may be because they're not used to larger groups. They were very nice to us, always welcome when you're the last party in the place, but we had to request extra bread a few times (necessary as the sauces were so good), and our server didn't have a great sense of how much to pour out to get 8 or 9 pours to a bottle of wine. Also it was a modest struggle to get appropriate glassware, which seems inconsistent with the restaurant promoting itself as a wine destination with no corkage fees on Monday nights.

Overall, we were extremely happy with the quality of the food, and the prices are very reasonable for the quality. I'll certainly be back.


Edited by cganzer (log)

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Just had a confusing and surprising experience while making a reservation at Apiary. Via a link from Apiary's website, I went to OpenTable in search of a 7:30 reservation. I saw that they had both 7:15 and 7:45 available, but not 7:30. So I called the restaurant directly, assuming it probably wouldn't be a huge matter to request a 7:30 slot (which I was in need of due to timing issues with the arrival of my two guests). To my amazement, rather than accommodate me, they told me that 7:30 would be "impossible", but I could still have either 7:15 or 7:45. I find it hard to believe that a restaurant with several tables available at both 7:15 and 7:45 is making a good business decision by not helping us out in this small way. I know it's just a matter of 15 minutes, but I was a bit shocked, I have to admit. It's especially confounding when you consider that most restaurants will generally hold a table for 15 minutes, meaning that were we less considerate than we are, we could have arrived by 7:30 for a 7:15 reservation and reasonably expected that our table would still be available for us. Surely, what they could have achieved with a minor gesture of good will would be been a greater gain for them than saving the 15 minutes and pissing me off before I even arrived at the venue. Thoughts?

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Update: Had the dinner at Apiary. Food quite good. Service quite bad. (Which I suppose is consistent with what happened above.) While not nearly as ambitious or impressive as what he was doing at Veritas, Scott Bryan's food is very solid. A nice combo of eggplant caponata and seared scallops made for a surprisingly well-matched combo in my appetizer, and the skate with a sort of razor clam and corn chowder as a sauce were very good, as were the dishes of my dining companions. He's not breaking any new ground culinarily here, but it's what I'd call a very good neighborhood restaurant. Not worth a major trip, but definitely one of the best in the area, and well worth trying.

On the negative side, the room is VERY loud, even when half empty, due to hard floors, bare tables, and the general design of the place. By the time it filled in, it was deafening, which doesn't really suit the overall ambience of the place. Further, service was pretty spotty. It took a very long time to get our appetizers, but we shrugged that off. Then, over 40 minutes after ordering them, the waitress approached us and told us that they were out of one of our mains. I have no idea why it took them so long to inform us of this, but it was very unprofessional, and we were starving. Then it took another 25-30 minutes or so to get our food, presumably because they were then starting from scratch on cooking the dish that replaced the one they were out of (and maybe re-making the others at the same time). In the interim, they didn't offer us anything else to eat. Once the food did come, it was very solid, as noted above, but there was nothing done about the service issues apart from an apology at the time they took the revised order. No comped dessert, no snack to tide us over, no round of drinks. Nothing. Between that and the whole reservation thing, I'd say they need to direct a little attention to their service procedures. It's not like they're packing the house every night and can afford to lose business.

I first ate at the restaurant within a week or two of their opening, and the service was smooth, even though newly opened spots often struggle with that. For them to have gotten so much worse is really surprising and not good. Scott Bryan's food deserves better.

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We also had a disappointing meal here, though in our case it was the food, not the service, that disappointed. You can even tell from the photos in my review that the entrees were horribly over-cooked.

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What a shame to read these, especially I was looking forward to making a re-visit sometime in the near future. Does anyone know if Bryant is still involved? That might explain some of these recent experiences.

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What a shame to read these, especially I was looking forward to making a re-visit sometime in the near future. Does anyone know if Bryant is still involved? That might explain some of these recent experiences.

I assume you mean Bryan. Yes, I am pretty sure he is still involved, and was during all of the recent visits described above. He is a sufficiently high-profile chef that his departure would be well covered in the NYC food media.

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