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Little Giant

Robin Shuster

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  • 1 month later...
The duck confit ravioli, the salad of baby beets, the sticky toffee pudding with poached quince and that chicken liver mousse, which is seasoned with restrained measures of cinnamon, clove and allspice, are reason aplenty to wander in and reward enough for having done so. Their appeal is basic and its potency sneakily intense, affirming an oxymoron beyond this restaurant's name. Little Giant's dishes speak in a loud whisper.
During one of my visits, a companion's bavette of beef arrived stone cold.

Julie Taras and Tasha Garcia, chefs and co-owners of Little Giant, present a "whimsical love child" born of the Lower East Side in post-contemporary New York City.

Little Giant (Frank Bruni) (from the NYT DIGEST update for Wednesday, 19 January 2005. Scroll down for the appropriate link to the article.)


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I was there a few weeks ago with my husband and we both enjoyed our meal. It reminded me of HOME as it was when it first opened. Mostly but not exclusively Local produce. Good American bistro food. That night it was not crowded but I suppose it will be now. The sausages were excellent and the swine of the week braised shoulder of pork was succulent.

I spoke with the chefs. The kitchen uses induction cooktops because the landlord would not let them install a stack for gas.

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I went to Little Giant a couple of Saturday nights ago, a few days before their NY Times review. It was the single worst restaurant experiance I have ever had in Manahttan and I was born and raised here. I never even ate and swore that I would never return, that is until I received a phone call from one of the owners.

I was looking forward to going Little Giant after reading some reviews and I liked the sound of their down to earth seasonal American menu. On the Saturday I went, the restaurant was still taking reservations, a policy that was changed as a result of the evening I was there. I arrived 20 minutes before my 9:30 PM reservation and the restaurant was packed to the rafters and 3 people deep at the small bar. When I gave my name to a guy holding a clip board (little fellow, looked like one of the Hobbits), he told me that they were running "about 20 minutes behind." Not a big deal.

Since getting to the bar was an imposibility, I asked if he could reccomend a bar in the area, his response were that there were plenty all around but had no specifics to offer. Having lived her all my life but I nonetheless have not done much bar hopping around Orchard St.. So, out I went in search for a bar. After a two block walk with nothing in sight, the young lady I was with was freezing (It was particularly cold and she is Southern, a very poor combination). Out of respect to the girl's toes, we started to head back to the restaurant, when we spotted a bar across the street and up the block from Little Giant. Perhaps clip board guy is new to the area, but the bar is right there, you can see the restaurant from its front window.

At 10:00 PM I was back in the restaurant. It was still packed and now I was told it would be another 20 minutes until I was seated. I was calm, decided to let the girl I was with defrost and get a drink at the bar after spotting a square inch of opening. If I lit my head on fire, I could not have gotten the bartender's attention. Between mixing drinks and making cappuccinos and espressos, this guy was deep in the weeds and never ever picked his head up once.

I was ready to leave at this point and said as much to one of the owners, Tasha Garcia, who I was finaly able to get a hold of. She apologized, promised to get me and my date a drink immediately and asked if would wait a bit longer . Well, she is a very attractive and disarming woman, so I decided to stick it out.

As the clock hit 11:00, I was out, and cursing the place as I left. The only thing the clip board guy taking names could say to me was "I don't blame you." I headed over to Landmarc and as usual had a great dinner, as always a true beacon in the night.

That would be the end of the story, except for a call I received Sunday evening. It was Tasha Garcia of Little Giant. I am a cynical guy by nature, but she launched into the sincerest and most contrite of apologies. She fully admited that there was a complete breakdown in order at the restaurant the night before and s a result, they were canceling their policy of taking reservations. She implored me to return and to call her before I do. Despite the no reservation policy, she expalined that she would set aside a table for me and my guest for any time I desired.

It was a smart business move on her part. With a phone call she turned someone who had nothing but awful things to say about her restaurant into a potential customer. It was also just a very nice thing for her to do and something that most restaurantures in this City in the same situation would not. I will be taking her up on her offer.

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  • 1 year later...

Little Giant takes reservations again.

This is just the kind of place I like, so the fact I didn't like it more than I did may be significant. It's not bad -- it's good, actually -- but it isn't in any way special.

Maybe the food is most comparable to Ici in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. Emphasis on local produce, seasonal ingredients, etc. Fairly free-form cuisine (although Ici seems to me to be roughly French-based and Little Giant seems roughly American-based).

I started with one of the house cocktails. It's a real improvement to life as we know it that so many restaurants now feature cocktail lists. The problem is, of course, that some are really great, and some are good, and some are just OK. The cocktail I had here -- the Spiced Mojito, made with house-spiced rum and ginger along with the usual ingredients -- was good. But maybe it's that we cocktail aficonados are spoiled now, but it wasn't exciting the way the house cocktails at, say, Cafe Gray -- or, to be more egalitarian, Franny's on Flatbush Ave. in Brooklyn (one of the great unsung cocktail sources, if you ask me) -- still are, at least to me.

I started with braised artichokes with an herbed ricotta dip. The ricotta was a little blander than I'd have hoped (which would become a theme for the night). Not bad, but not better than that.

I then had the cavatelli with pickled ramps and ramp emulsion. It's highly unusual for me to order something like that when the menu also features an enticing short rib dish and the famous "swine of the week." But it had been an 85-degree day (and I had ended the afternoon with a four-scoop sampler at Il Laboratorio del Gelato). And I figured that this would probably be my last shot at ramps for the season. Again, though, the dish was good enough, but to my unsubtle palate too bland.

Dessert was something they called a "Thin Mint Sundae" -- mint ice cream atop a very good brownie. I have nothing bad to say about this.

Our waiter was snotty.

If I could walk to Little Giant, the way I can walk to Ici, I'm sure I'd appreciate it more. As it is, it's not worth avoiding, but it's hardly worth a trip.

Edited by Sneakeater (log)
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  • 3 months later...

Has anybody had brunch here? My friend who lives around the corner from them really likes their dinners and has been trying to get me to go to brunch with her all summer. Normally I'd just chance it, but my dining out budget is so meager these days that I hate to waste one of my few oportunities on bad food.

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