This new spot in New York's West Village caught my wandering culinary eye when I heard about their aeroponic roof-top tower garden. It's always appealing when restaurant menus cycle seasonally and are influenced by personal farm production. There is something to be said for the direct farm to table experience and the effort it takes to offer organic and sustainable food to patrons.
I made a same-day reservation with no problem, but then we waited 40 minutes for a table to open up. The restaurant manager apologized to us for the wait and offered us cocktails on the house, the kind of hospitable gesture that makes all of the difference in the world. We had to wait but were far from ignored. We stood by the bar and bopped around to the hipster-favorite 50's tunes and sipped wine as our stomachs grumbled.
The moment we were seated we ordered 2 dozen east coast oysters, stat. They were on the smaller side and had a nice briny taste of the ocean. I can't think of a better way to start a meal, but these little gems weren't cheap at $2.50 a pop.
The lobster taco with tomatillo and avocado salsa [$9] is wrapped in a flour tortilla and delivers a bite of butteriness along with the slightly sweet flavor of lobster. Don't expect any citrus or tangy flavors with this dish, since it's taste points are more on the rich side than what you might expect from a seafood taco.
The brisket quesadilla surprised me with its sweetness and turned out to be my favorite dish of the night! I couldn't get enough of these atypical quesadilla flavors, and any brisket lover will appreciate this delicious choice.
The deviled eggs arrived fried, although the menu certainly didn't mention it. I had never had a fried deviled egg before so I cut it in half to inspect it more closely.
Nothing out of the ordinary. As expected, the fried outer layer just added a bite of crunch and heaviness to the creamy egginess of it all. And the fact that it was fried did make it seem more devilish. Although this wasn't my favorite, I don't think I've ever met an egg I didn't like (as long as it's properly prepared) so I enjoyed the little devil.
The heirloom pear salad [$9] is a living leaf lettuce with point reyes blue cheese and balsamic vinaigrette. The pear is sliced into cubes and brings an element of grainy texture to the soft mixed lettuces.
The house-made burrata [$12] with blistered heirloom tomatoes, chopped hazelnuts and rooftop basil and garlic was gooey and firm, just the way it should be.
The grilled and roasted seasonal vegetables [$17] with romesco sauce arrived with white heirloom carrots, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, cherry tomatoes and sweet potato. The tomatoes were bursting with flavor but otherwise the veggies weren't noticeably exceptional and the portions were far from generous.
The short rib with brussel sprouts and mashed potatoes was braised to a tender finish and the mash was whipped to a light and fluffy forkful of melt in your mouth goodness. The sprouts had gorgeously charred edges and were caramelized, which provided a grounding bitter flavor to the succulent meat.
The sea bass on a bed of white beans and spinach was delicate but with a strong taste of the sea for those who relish that briny, fishy flavor.
The warm chocolate brownie [$6] with pistachio ice cream, whipped cream and chocolate sauce could have been more moist. The pistachio ice cream was fabulous and really brightened up the dessert. The dried fig bread pudding with powdered sugar was also on the dry side, sadly.
I liked the casual subterranean space of the restaurant and the unpretentious menu. The Edison bulbs, reclaimed wood floors and stone walls create a natural feeling to the setting, and the restaurant is mostly comfy, 8 person booths. There is even a secret dining room which seats a table of 5 called something like, "the secret naked room". The bar seats 15 people and seems like it's hopping for a weekday. The service is great, and clean plates and silverware are in constant rotation. The food is nothing to write home about at the Bell Book & Candle, but with such responsible procurement, it turns out it's definitely blog worthy.