Little Park in Tribeca

March 4, 2015 § Leave a comment

I’m a huge fan of chef Andrew Carmellini’s restaurants (Locanda Verde, Lafayette, Bar Primi and others), so when he started getting positive reviews for Little Park, his new farm-to-table, vegetable-focused restaurant in the Smyth Hotel in Tribeca, I knew I wanted to try it. Like all of his other restaurants, Little Park is on a corner and it’s right by the Chambers Street subway stop, making it a maybe too convenient place to stop by on my way home from work. The interior is very neutral in color and there are a lot of large banquettes which means more room for each table. Our lunch group of four started with some spent grain bread and a nice tangy cultured butter, both of which I’m guessing come from farms in NY state and are probably processed and made in house.

For our starters, we ordered the wild mushroom broth with short rib raviolini and black garlic, the crispy brussels sprouts with smoked parsnip and apple and the girandole pasta with black kale, squash and pine nuts. These dishes reminded me a lot of the offerings at ABC Kitchen – lots of vegetables that you almost feel virtuous eating them but flavorful and different enough that it nevertheless feels like an indulgent treat. The mushroom broth tasted super clean and light and actually, when tasted alone, I thought lacked some seasoning, but the miniature ravioli it came with packs a petite yet meaty punch to counteract the mildness.

As for the brussels sprouts…these might give my favorite ones at Tertulia a run for their money. They’re also fried to the point where they’re almost charred and super crispy on the outside but tender on the inside, and instead of using pork belly to give it that umami and smokiness, Carmellini adds smoked parsnip and apple for some sweetness. So addictive. Finally, the girandole was probably my favorite dish of the meal – comforting and cheesy with different textures from the crunchy pine nuts, slippery pasta and soft butternut squash. And it should be noted that while none of these dishes had any meat, we didn’t miss it at all!

Our main courses were the grass fed hangar steak with charred broccoli and green sauce, the spatchcock chicken with New York state freekeh and sweet mustard and the steamed black bass with beluga lentils and oregano. I didn’t try the chicken or the black bass (both of which looked gorgeous on the plate) but really enjoyed my hangar steak – super flavorful and well seasoned without being too chewy – and whatever that herby, green sauce was. And the nicest part about this meal was leaving feeling completely satiated but not gross and bloated, which happens quite often because I can never restrain myself from eating everything in front of me. Carmellini’s restaurants each have their own character and feel and Little Park is no different. While it doesn’t necessarily focus on a particular cuisine (like Italian pastas at Bar Primi or French bistro at Lafayette), it delivers some seriously delicious and refined food that made this unapologetic carnivore think about vegetable-driven food in a different, and definitely positive, way.

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