[Pigging by Wilfrid: June 11, 2010]
I have been looking forward to the Rabbit since I read in last fall's previews that it would seek to evoke an English country house. I scoffed.
Located on unprepossessing West 8th Street, near the location of the late Elettaria, the Rabbit could hardly have chosen a less aristocratic corner of downtown. It maintains its dignity, though, with a heavy wooden front door, no sign (none that I could see), and that curious stone and creeper facade.
Beyond the door is a bar-room, part Baronial Lincolnshire and part Milano. It's a curious hybrid. Wooden beams, bucolic mottoes and portraits of Tennyson and Byron vie with a shiny white-topped bar and front-of-house staff predominantly (or so it seemed) from continental Europe. A deer's head looks lugubriously down from one wall. Very young women in very short skirts hoist cocktails. Drinks are served in glass tumblers rather than silver tankards. Servers are breathtakingly beautiful, and I think I might mean the guys too.
Rather than boast the open-to-all bonhomie of a country inn, I had the impression that Rabbit is striving already to imply a door policy. A chat with a gentleman in a suit outside precededs the opening of the door, and you meet another suited gentleman immediately inside who is certainly not a waiter. It's possible that this indicated only that it was still in informal friends-and-family mode, and I gained admission easily enough.
Nevertheless, one feels it's bent on being a scene, and perhaps it will become a successful one. What of the tavern victuals, you ask?
Open only a matter of days, too soon for a full review. A cocktail list and wine inventory are still pending, although there are seven tap beers featuring familiar craft brewers - Harpoon, Captain Lawrence and so on. The opening menu is unflashy: scallops, a pasta dish, duck breast, roast chicken, leg of lamb. Tempted by a sturgeon and Idaho trout salad, I thought it only fair to eat the rabbit terrine.
Very good. A compact slice featuring rabbit meat, liver, herbs - presumably a little pork to relieve the leanness, but not too much - wrapped in prosciutto. Hit the bar for this anytime. Plating has a European rather than pubbish delicacy - carrots and radishes were present as thinly sliced garnishes. Mustard and croutons too, but they would have overpowered the rabbit. A nice touch: the warm, fresh-grilled country bread came from a cranberry loaf, providing welcome tart sweetness.
Scanning the menu for something one might find in a country pub, if not a country house, I found "bangers and mash." So-called, at least, because the menu frankly confessed to andouille sausages. Sometimes I don't ask - I like to guess - and I am going to bet a nickel these were Niman Ranch-made bangers, meaty, tightly packed, and gently spicy. Good too, and (despite the evidence in the photo) there were three of them, nestled on a very tasty, meaty reduction - not juices from the sausages surely, it tasted like oxtail. Lip-sticking.
The good news is that the mashed potatoes were excellent. Fluffy, buttery, topped with chives. The bad news, the imbalance of the dish. I didn't need three sausages; I could have eaten three times the portion of mash. An easy adjustment would have made a quite nice dish. Chicken fans should note that the roast bird comes with the mash too.
An unusual operation then - a very New York take on a gastropub.
Not yet seeing a website out there.