Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Nukes and Noshes

w and I had an interesting doubleheader last night. The first half kind of made us lose our appetite, the second half cranked it back up....
We went over to Powell's Books early last evening for a reading by William Langewiesche from his new book The Atomic Bazaar. We had heard his NPR interview on the radio last week (read the interview online here), and I have the book on hold at the library so I was very interested to hear him in person. Formerly with The Atlantic Monthly, now with Vanity Fair, Langewiesche delivered a riveting account of coming growth of the nuclear club which he feels is sure to include small, third world countries, as well as the paths these nations- not to mention other non-state affiliated groups (aka terrorists)- can take to get their hands on the technology and material needed to accomplish their goals. He also feels its a fait accompli that Iran and many others will have nuclear capabilities in the coming years. He is of the opinion that the chances of a weapon falling into the hands of terrorists groups, despite the dire, panic-causing warnings issued by the government, while possible, are quite slim. This is mainly owing to the fact that any use of such a weapon by any terrorist group would within hours be traced back to the government which originally supplied such a weapon, and the repercussions would not be pleasant. All in all a very fascinating, enlightening discussion, and I can't wait to get my hands on the book.
After feeding our brains with all that information, our stomachs were demanding equal time. Not to mention after Langewiesche's talk a drink sounded damn good. Since we were in the neighborhood, I wanted to visit Clyde Common, the new restaurant off the lobby of the Ace Hotel run by Castagna Café alumnus Nate Tilden and his partner Matt Piacentini. Nate is one of the nicest people going in the local food scene, this place has been in the works for a long time, lots of money has been spent, and I'm happy to report that based on our experience, it was time and money well spent.
First off the space is extremely welcoming, a big, open floor plan with a kitchen that juts out into the dining room, the bar off to the right, and big, solid, wood communal tables covering the rest of the floor. Both w and I thought the immediate hit, that first "vibe" you feel when you walk into a space , was very good. Their menus are printed out on old office paper, and it is thankfully a small, very well thought out selection of comestibles. We started with drinks, of course, and I was thrilled with a near perfect negroni. You'd be amazed at how many bars fuck up this most basic of cocktails.

The amazing asparagus with a soft boiled, caul fat wrapped egg...wow!

For starters we ordered a Serrano ham croquettes; a salad of confit lamb sweetbreads with bitter greens; and asparagus with a caul fat wrapped egg. The croquettes were creamy and crisp at the same time, the salad was savory, the richness of the lamb sweetbreads nicely set off by the bitter greens and light vinaigrette. The star was the asparagus and this crazy soft boiled egg that after boiling is wrapped in caul fat (a fine fat netting from the lining of a cows stomach, and no it is NOT disgusting, so no wrinkling of those noses!), then quickly sautéed to crisp it a bit, the whole thing set on top of the hot asparagus, which is doused with an olive oil/garlic concoction. So original and REALLY good...not to be missed when you go!
We ordered a bottle of rosé off their by the glass list, and they served it in small tumblers that we both thought was a charming presentation. For entrees w had the seared shrimp, with bacon, ramps, and oyster mushrooms off their starter menu. Nicely prepared, but could've used a few more mushrooms in the mix 9she counted three small pieces). I had the roast red band rock fish with preserved lemon, olive salsa, and lentils (not the chickpeas listed on the menu). This was a delicious combination of flavors, the fish moist and flaky, the lentils and other ingredients making each bite so satisfying, with all these flavor sensations zinging around my mouth. Nice one! And of course we saved room for the panna cotta, that being one of w's favorite sweet things. The CC version was good, properly creamy and sensual, with a few strawberry halves scattered on the plate.
One nice ambient feature is that as the sun sets and it starts to get dark, the street lights outside come on, and their light through the floor to ceiling windows almost feels like the outside environment is being drawn into the space, giving it this almost open connection to what's happening on the street. In this neighborhood, that can be a good or bad thing depending who or what is out on that street, but all in all a very cool effect. Nate also took us on a tour of the soon-to-be-opened mezzanine, which be loungey kind of space, with couches and a few two-tops scattered around.
I really liked what they have going on here. Exceptionally comfortable, friendly, attentive service, and with ex-Gotham Tavern alum Jason Barwikowski running the kitchen, the food looks to be rock solid. My only other minor quibble is that I would like to see a couple more red and white wines on the list in the $25-$30 range. The selection is nice, though, and this adjustment would only serve to make it even more user friendly.
Taking everything into account, this is absolutely a place I could see making regular visits to. Check it out & say hi to Nate for me!

The Clyde menu...click on the image to enlarge.

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