[Pigging by Wilfrid: August 25, 2014]
The east East Village has been having a dining moment this summer. Okay, let me translate. The "east East Village" is what used to be called Alphabet City--and who calls it that any more?
And the whole neighborhood used to be called the Lower East Side, of course. But these days, demographic shifts and real estate interests have extended the "East Village" moniker all the way out to Avenue D.
Newer entrants like Flinder's Lane, Oda House, and Miss Lily's 7A Cafe are predictably booming. Root & Bone, from the team behind Miami's Yardbird--crammed into the tiny space which was once Mama's Food Shop--is the sensation of the season. I haven't seen an opening like this since Mission Chinese Food. Lines every day, including Monday, and one to two-hour waits. And still they come: Lumière, Le Jardin Bistro (formerly of Cleveland Place, SoHo), and Tuome.
One of the blessings of Tuome--so far, at least; and it's only been open a couple of weeks--is that it provides a respite from the surrounding insanity. It's relatively peaceful, more than relatively dark, and charged with a kind of adult calm, thanks to the polished, discreet service, and the roomy setting. Roomy by local standards, anyway.
It occupies the pair of creaky old rooms which, for years, an unassuming but very useful French bistro--jambon beurre or smoked salmon by day, omelettes and a few stews by night. Then, briefly, it was Village Bistro East; then, perversely, a ramen restaurant, practically next door to the well-established Minca. Thomas Chen, who claims Eleven Madison Park on his résumé, is cooking a Chinese-French, in deliberately romantic surroundings.
Actually, this is the kind of food I expected Susur Lee to offer at the calamitous, and now closed, Shang.
From the "hot small" section of the menu, oxtail and bone marrow spring rolls were correctly crisp. The flavor, rather than actual texture, of bone marrow survived the cooking. I've seen comments that the dish is greasy: no, this is oxtail, and oxtail has fat and gelatin. It's nicely done, but I could have asked for more seasoning.
Also hot and small, the octopus, which every kitchen in the city seems to be cooking brilliantly this year. No exception here, charred but juicy, with a sensible brown butter sauce, truly delicious little pork crumbs cooked in XO sauce, and a pool of smooth, puréed fingerlings. A very good dish.
Skate is also enjoying some time in the spotlight. (Seems strange to me, because growing up in Europe, it was an inexpensive fish, less valued than plaice or haddock; but that's nothing against it.) Tuome's skate is fresh, just cooked through, and scattered with crispy cauliflower pieces and pea shoots. The burst of creativity is a Marcona almond foam. Skate almondine, and a good idea too.
You might consider the pig for two, or the seasonal soft shell crab. Certainly pay attention to the wine-list, and follow the sommelier's recommendations for some very good New York state wines by the glass. Food prices no longer take a noticeable dip east of Avenue A, and you'll pay the standard teens for small plates, twenties for mains here. But the cooking is of a standard which justifies that.
I guess, by now, Tuome is under siege from the hungry masses. But at least it takes reservations. Website here.