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The Orchard


Noodlebot
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The Orchard is the new restaurant from John LaFemina, who brought us two of my favorite restaurants in New York, Apizz and Peasant. While the latter two are Italian, The Orchard is more New American with a few Italian tastes thrown in (the pizza-like flatbreads and a few pasta courses, for example).

The decor is very reminiscent of Apizz, but without the rustic tinge. The walls are light brown, w/long mirrors and accent lighting. The chairs and benches are light wood and upholstered in a chocolate brown micro-fiber.

The food: this was my weekly dinner out with my boyfriend. The two of us shared the chanterelle flatbread. The flatbread was like an oblong thin-crust pizza. A nice, crispy dough w/a rich sauce topped off with a generous portion of chopped chanterelle mushrooms.

For my entree, I had the langoustine risotto (at our server's suggestion). Nice smoky langoustine served in its shell over a creamy risotto filled with red and yellow peppers and chunks of braised octopus. My boyfriend had the pork w/candied apples and yams. The pork was nicely herbed and full of flavor; his only complaint was that the meat could have been more tender. The apples and yams were delicious.

For dessert, I had the dulce de leche ice cream cake w/caramelized banana and my boyfriend had the flourless chocolate cake. Both were great.

Edited by Noodlebot (log)
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  • 1 month later...
Appetizers appear in a category on the menu just below the flatbreads, and that's where you'll find the beef wraps and empanadas, both somewhat disappointing, along with several respectable, pro forma salads and a yellowfin tuna tartare that might not jump out at you.
The daringly sweet, dauntlessly rich agnolotti were filled with a purée of butternut squash and brown sugar and sauced with vin santo, cream and toasted hazelnuts.

Behind the scenes, that spirit is being challenged by Mr. LaFemina's battle with his local community board. The board has thus far blocked his liquor license, a financial setback for him but a cost-saving opportunity for diners, who can bring their own bottles without incurring a corkage fee.

The Orchard (Frank Bruni)

Click here for a thread on Apizz.

Click here for discussion relating to Peasant.

Commentary and related discussion regarding Mr. Bruni's style of reviewing and the New York Times star system can be found here.

Soba

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It's across the street, just down the block a bit from Heirloom - no signage to speak of, however.

Looking forward to a return visit as I was not blown away the first time we ate here - but, it was opening week, so...

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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  • 1 month later...

The Orchard is a good little restaurant. (I hate that locution -- condescendingly calling things "good little" whatevers -- but in this case it fits.)

I don't particularly like Peasant: it always seemed like nothing more than an OK Italian restaurant to me. While The Orchard isn't really great or anything, to me it has more appeal. As Noodlebot said above, the food could be characterized as "New American" with Mediterranian overtones. That sounds pretty generic -- "restaurant food", as I call it -- but here it's done with some flair.

We split one of the highly-touted flatbreads to start. The one with short ribs and horseradish. I think it lived up to the hype. The topping was incredibly rich, the thin dry bread was toothsome, and the whole thing together was an excellent snack.

I went on and had the lamb tenderloin which, as Frank Bruni explained, was pounded and spiced. It wasn't breathtakingly good meat -- how could it be, at these comparatively gentle prices? -- but the preparation was very flavorful. It came with a cheesy rissotto (or something like it) that was, if anything, a bit too rich. My dining companion's lobster empanadas were good, although not excellent.

With food at this level (i.e., perfectly good but not really great in and of itself), the room really matters. I really like the room here. There's a beautiful bar up front -- too bad the neighborhood is stopping them from getting a liquor license -- and then through a doorway to the dining room. The dining room has inexpensive-seeming but very tasteful modern furnishings, and the whole room is suffused with a very attractive orangish light. Since Peasant is so dark you can't read the menu (forget that it isn't in English), this is a real step forward. But the point is, I really enjoyed being in that room. You want to spend time there.

The lack of a liquor license is a problem -- and an opportunity. You can bring your own wine without a corkage fee (we now know from the Times that's illegal, but nobody's busting them yet). Of course, you won't know in advance what you'll be having, so you can only do the most general, predictive kind of pairings. But on the other hand, it's much cheaper than ordering off a restaurant wine list. (I thought, hmmmmm, Mediterranean influences, I'll bring a Balearic red and -- I know Galicia is on the Atlantic, but it's nearer to the Mediterranean than, say, the Loire Valley or Australia are -- an Alberino. Since you're paying unmarked-up retail for these wines, you can afford two bottles to accomodate possible dining choices. Even if they won't be perfectly tailored to what you order.)

Will I go back? I wouldn't go out of my way, but it's nice enough if you're in the neighborhood and want something less prepossessing than THOR or WD-50 but more sedate than Schiller's or Freeman's.

Edited by Sneakeater (log)
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