[Pigging by Wilfrid: February 15, 2010]
I have recommended Graffiti on East 10th Street a couple of times recently, and I lavished some praise in the new Pink Pig dining guide, Eating the Apple.
Few changes to report. No matter how many times I visit, the sheer smallness of the place never ceases to impress. You know where they keep dirty napkins awaiting washing? In a basket hung from the ceiling, lowered and raised by a pulley. I went off-peak; otherwise, reservations are strongly recommended, and enjoyed a couple of signature dishes and something new.
(It didn't seem unduly dim inside, but I have to say I had extraordinary difficulty getting any usable photos: apologies for the quality.)
I started with the foie gras, a simple but compelling presentation which has been on the menu since Graffiti opened. Crisp toasts get a layer of thinly sliced strawberry (it says raspberry on the website menu, but I thought strawberry - I may be wrong). On top of this, thin and creamy slices of cool foie. Next door, a bracingly dressed walnut salad. Nothing here needs messing with: the balance of flavors and textures is bang on. Fairly priced too, at $12, as it's portioned for two to share (all dishes here are served family style).
The dish which I'd not tried before is described on the menu as a "duck portobello gratinée". When it arrives, you wonder for a moment where the portobello went. In fact, it serves as the base for the dish, cupping slices of tender duck breast, accented with strips of tomato and made crunchy with a breadcrumb ginger-garlic topping.
A tangy purée of braised onions and mustard frame the dish, serving as a condiment. Good and warming - there's some spiciness in there too.
A pair of burgers finished the meal - lamb burgers, seething with cumin and chili heat. There's a chipotle mayo on the side too, to spike them up further. I didn't find the fingerling potatoes too interesting - something crisper would have finished the dish better.
Finally, dessert, chef Mehta's first love. It was time to try an alternative to the truffle-almond strawberry dish.
The chilled hazelnut-chocolate cupcake is topped with a conceit of caviar - like chocolate-coated Rice Krispies. Chocolate chip ice cream on the side. Very chocolatey.
Since the menu's layout encourages the ordering of a series of dishes, you can spend more on food here than you originally intended (plates for sharing priced at $7, $12 and $15). The sensibly priced wine program continues, though: a flat $25 for all bottlse on the list, and $8 for a glass poured from any of them. The Argentinian Malbec had the warmth and spice to go with the food.
Many people I meet eat in the East Village regularly, but still haven't got their heads around Graffiti. It's worth the effort.
Here's the website.