Sunday, February 09, 2014

NYC's The SMITH still superb food, but not fine dining (2-8-14)

The SMITH ( now has three locations in NYC (the East Village, Midtown at 2nd Ave & 51st St and Lincoln Center) making it a great place to grab a meal, or just hunker down for a while when it oh so cold out in NY.
Yesterday, it was below freezing all day and after my Broadway matinee I had lots of free time before an 8pm opera at the Met.
Since Sushi-A-Gogo closed ages ago and not many new spots are popping up near Lincoln Center, I opted to return to The Smith, where I knew I could sit and enjoy a meal over my 2 spare hours.
On arrival at 530pm the place was heaving and folks without reservations were being told to hang at the bar for an hour or just being turned away. Well, with all those folks and the tile floors, glass walls and high ceilings, the place was quite raucous. Luckily, I was alone, so conversation wasn't necessary, although I had to ask my server to repeat the specials once!

Speaking of server, Lance was a gem when I explained I was in no rush and I proceeded to order each of my three courses one at a time, so they would not be rushed; brilliant! The complimentary two bottles of house water, sparkling and still, arrives, which is always a nice touch. The simple baguette is served in a paper wrapper with butter on the side; keep the bread for mopping up sauces, or eat it all and ask for more. At The Smith, the staff is very courteous and quick with your requests.

The noise also helped to mask the very high pitched twang of the lady's voice at the next table. I wanted to go to the men's room and when I asked her to uncross her legs so I could get by (both leaving and returning), you would have thought I asked her to pay for my meal! 
I chose the special appetizer to start and boy was I happy when the rich clear broth WILD MUSHROOM Soup arrived. On this bitter cold night, it was just perfect with an intense flavor from cremini, oyster and shitakis with baby bok choy scallions and a slightly past soft poached egg floating in the middle. A lot of love went into this dish that killed the winter chill.
A small carafe (wines come by the glass, small carafe or large carafe) of Bonarda 2010 by Mairena in Cuyo, Argentina was a great red that goes with anything due to its medium body.

I paused a while and then decided I needed a salad and chose the CAESAR with frico(a giant parmesan disc that is about 4 inches across in diameter across the top of the salad), Boquerones and "the best dressing." The best dressing was very good indeed, but just a slight bit too much for my taste. Lance did warn me that the salad came with anchovies and I said that was why I wanted it; sadly there were four quite tiny fish and I yearned for more. I guess we got spoiled with our extra load of anchovies on the cruise ship's Caesar Salads! I crumbled the frico into the salad and managed to finish all of the huge bowl.

I asked Lance how big the CHICKEN POT PIE was and he smiled and said that everything here tended to be large. It sounded so good on this chilly night that I figured I could finish most of it. I was correct and got through about 65-70% of the huge pie that came in a shallow 7" or so pan with a flaky thin Cheddar Chive Biscuit crust on top that was divine. The sauce was brown and rich, not that white glop you get from Sara Lee, and loaded with huge chunks of white chicken breast cubed, peas, onions, carrots, celery and mushrooms (maybe even a leek here and there?). I would return for this dish anytime in the winter!

I skipped dessert but had a two cups of some of the best coffee I have ever had in a US restaurant. The Guatemala Antigua bean is always one we use at home and love, since Samuel hails from that country and city. This was superb coffee and it was served with a small container of frothed milk for extra body almost like a cappuccino. YUM!