If you wanted to go to Mr. Dohahue’s, the new NoLiTa restaurant opened by the same people that run Uncle Boon’s, the best Thai food in New York, you’re going to have to wait. And it’s probably going to be a long, long while. There are four chairs at two tables plus five bar stools, and now, Pete Wells has reviewed the place. And he liked it a lot, so the restaurant is going to be jammed every night for the foreseeable future. But, as Wells said, he “didn’t take a newspaper job to keep secrets. [He] did it for the company stock.”
At Mr. Donahue’s, nostalgia is the theme. But it’s not “cheap nostalgia,” which Wells says “hands you a fake past to make you smile. True nostalgia is mixed with pain because it conjures a past that was real and isn’t coming back.” That’s what Mr. Donahue’s has. The menu is written on a chalkboard. You choose a main dish, and it comes with a sauce and two sides. Chicken-fried pork cheeks, Swiss chard, and Crab Imperial filled Wells with “gratitude.”
“Romesco sauce — unorthodox, with more spicy red oil than usual — was very good with a whole porgy or the broiled steak of steelhead trout that replaced it….Honest-to-goodness gravy, rounded and meaty-tasting, is what you want with the heroic slab of roast beef.”
There are never many people in the dining room, so you can always hear the music, which is “soft and sounds as if it were coming from a tube radio that is still picking up an AM show that was broadcast a couple of years before the Beatles played Shea Stadium.”
For dessert, options include root beer floats, but the banana pudding was Wells’ favorite.
Still thinking about last night’s meal and wine from @ruffian_nyc. Thanks gents for the great food & hospitality! Photo from @meltingbutterdotcom by @dana_delaski of the #lentil salad. #iworkintilit #tiliteats #nyc
A photo posted by Tilit Chef Goods (@tilit_chef_goods) on
This week, he also reviewed Ruffian Wine Bar & Chef’s Table, which can seat more people than Mr. Donahue’s, but not by a lot. Despite its size, though, it has a surprisingly light, almost airy design.”
The food is, for the most part, good. “The cheese soufflé, almost like a tower of soft scrambled eggs, makes a lush spread for toast darkened with a swirl of balsamic vinegar.” The lentil salad is not to be missed. There are also usually savory pies on the menu. They’re either big or small, and might be filled with a “well-seasoned mince of rabbit meat.”
There are also misses. Beef tartare is “soupy and sour.” Profiteroles are “odd and overelaborated.” The wine list is great, and showcases the sommelier’s “open-minded curiosity.”
Overall? Two stars for Mr. Donahue’s, one star for Ruffian Wine Bar & Chef’s Table.
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