The space: Here’s the thing about Chez Sardine: It’s sushi sans
Charlie Bird NYCA Little Birdie Told Us
The inside scoop: Yes, we know what you’re thinking. How could Charlie Bird be a No Reservation spot in NYC? OpenTable has it booked for at least the next four weeks, unless you’re willing to dine at the shunned hour of 5:30. The secret here is the half dozen or so walk-in tables. Keep your party to two and be prepared to wait it out with drinks at the bar, which is heavy on the wine and select cocktails and craft beers. The vino focus should be no surprise considering that Robert Bohr, formerly of Cru, is at the helm on beverage. Though Charlie Bird opened in 2013, buzz continues to build for the organic, ingredient-focused, local cuisine by Ryan Hardy (of the famed Little Nell in Aspen). As the Charlie Bird team so eloquently sums it up, they’re “Italian influenced, American executed, and entirely New York.”
The menu: Ingredients are the highlight, and dishes like the signature baby clam risotto are pure and almost delicate in flavor as they’re allowed to shine in their natural, unadulterated state. Chef Hardy serves the risotto with a side of quietly intense hot chili sauce, for those who want to punch up the flavor. Other standouts are the truffle egg toast, an elegant dish of soft scrambled eggs and black truffle, and the stracciatella toast, with tangy pickled chanterelles. (We love toast). Raw bar items continue with the refined theme. The diver scallops with brown butter and chives are fresh and savory at the same time. It’s almost de rigueur at this point to have a brussels sprout dish on the menu, and this one was memorable. Served lightly crisp with a spicy red sauce, it’s one of the most full-flavor dishes in Charlie Bird’s repertoire.
The wine selection is equally impressive, and excels in its French and Italian classes. On the French side, order a table wine of $50 J. Boutin Crozes Hermitage. Or venture into some serious Château Haut-Brion for $240, or a 1982 Château Batailley Pauillac, which feels like a steal at $265. The Italians are even better value, including the Scarpetta Barbera for $45 and the 1997 Conti Costanti for $190.
The space: This isn’t a place that takes itself too seriously. While the food is at a fluent level of culinary execution, the atmosphere is casually chic. Lights are bright enough to thoroughly assess your date, tables are spaced at a civilized distance, and noise level is comfortably lively. It helps that their music selection, which ranges from ‘90s Mary J. Blige to current Beyonce, has everyone dancing in their seats. It’s a good choice for couples and groups up to 6–8 tops. If you’re going to bring more than two, plan to get in the reservation line.
Charlie Bird, 5 King St., SoHo, charliebirdnyc.com
(Photos courtesy of Charlie Bird)