Last night we went to the widely anticipated Minetta Tavern, on MacDougal Street, pretty close to our apartment in Greenwich Village, to celebrate Tamara's new job. The place was bought about a year ago by restaurateur Keith McNally, of Balthazar and Pastis fame, and turned into a bistro with most of the original decor - tin ceiling, tiled floor, framed caricatures on the walls, etc. - either left intact or carefully restored or replaced.
I'd never eaten at the original, which used to have a little press clipping in the window saying it was Matthew Broderick's favourite restaurant, though I did pop in for a cocktail a couple of times shortly before it closed. The new menu is largely French with some Spanish influences. When we arrived we stood at the bar and had a couple of house cocktails - a "Josephine" which was gin, apricot liquor, and elderflower liqour-based, garnished with a liqour-infused dried apricot, and a "Ginger on the Rocks" (I think that's the name, I'll update later if not) which was bourbon, absinthe, muddled limes, and ginger ale. Both were good, the latter especially well-balanced.
We started out with the Roasted Bone Marrow, served with toasted baguette soldiers and onion confit. It was nice, but even though we shared it it proved to be a little too rich as a set-up for our meal. Another problem is that the fat in bone marrow can congeal quite quickly, and the way the bone is cut - lengthways instead of the more common cross cut - meant this happened before we'd finished it. The bread service was good, the butter especially delicious, and served at a good spreadable room temperature.
For main course Tamara had the Trout Meuniere which came with crabmeat and brioche croutons, and I had the Poulet Fermier Roti - I'm a sucker for roast chicken, and will always try it in this kind of place. It proved to be a winner, and it came served with mashed potato and spinach. We got a side of Pommes Anna, which were actually the highlight of the night for me - beautifully cooked in duck fat, tender and wonderfully crisp on top, with a light sprinkling of fresh thyme and sea salt to serve, and presented in a small cast iron casserole. I'd go back to the bar and order a drink and a dish of those any evening!
We washed everything down with a bottle of Cotes de Jura, a 2005 I think. It was light and dry, and complemented our dishes quite well. We finished up with Pots de Creme, which came as a trio of coffee, vanilla, and chocolate cremes.
Service was very good, from the front of house, through to the bartender, the waiter, and the busboys. We initially showed up on spec at 6:00 to see if they'd take us, but it was full - not too much surprise there, the place just opened the night before. We snagged a 9:30 reservation, and when we got back a few hours later they remembered us by name without even going to the book, which was nice. I'd like to make this my neighbourhood place, though right now it is going to be really hard to get into. I do want to try one of their two burgers soon (they have a classic and a deluxe type burger), as well as the pig's trotter. I also spotted Beamish stout on the bar menu, which I'd have tried except we were celebrating and a cocktail seemed more festive.