Last fall, we went to a pop-up restaurant in Brooklyn in anticipation of Top Chef-testants Jeffrey McInnis and Janine Booth opening up a restaurant in NYC. We had a great meal and a very special evening. So when we heard that the Manhattan Root & Bone was opening, we called right up to make a reservation. We couldn’t get one for about a month after opening, but our time finally came due this past Friday. We went with some of our favorite foodie friends (one of whom was with us at the pop-up).
The first thing we noticed about the space, which is in Alphabet City on 3rd Street between Avenues A and B, is that it is TIGHT. We had to sneak through a very tight entryway into a tight dining room which led to another tight room. We had requested to sit at the bar right outside the kitchen (usually reserved for walk-ins but we love to watch the kitchen) and it was, as you guessed it, tight.
But it had all the industrial decorations that I am a sucker for.
Mike and I started with some lovely cocktails, the Twisted Mustache (Russels 6 year bourbon, Swedish punsch, citrus, and ginger) and the Filthy Manhattan (Wild Turkey 101, port, bitters, filthy amarena cherries, and rosemary). The Filthy Manhattan was pretty good, but the kicker was the cherry at the end which was absolutely incredible. But I really loved the Twisted Mustache and wound up ending my night with that. It was fresh and ginger-y. Very nice cocktail.
Sitting at the bar by the kitchen made it dinner and a show. And the two chefs that were cooking seemed genuinely excited to have 4 food groupies who were thrilled to watch them cook. They showed off their food as they went, including these incredible looking fried chicken and waffle sandwiches.
And we enjoyed watching this chef make ricotta dumplings (which wound up being plated beautifully).
We saw both celeb chefs, however, Janine was very hands-on in the kitchen and spent a lot of time next to our seating area. She immediately recognized us and asked if she knew us, and we told her we had been at the pop up. Sweet of her to recall and say something. We talked a lot about my allergy and she was so accommodating about it. She continued to check on us throughout the meal and was overall just about as nice as could be.
We started with the southern style cornbread with clotted cream and house-made preserves. The corn bread was just the right texture of moist while still being a little crumbly, and the clotted cream and preserves (something I usually have only with scones) was a nice compliment and a good way to start our meal.
We watched the chefs throw an entire corn of cob into the open fire on the grill and decided it was something we had to try. This was “Grilled Sweet Corn Cob… Husk and All” with cornbread butter, giant hominy, and popped corn.
This was one of my favorite dishes of the night, if not the #1. The corn was great and the char on it was awesome, but the corn bread butter… holy shnikeys… awesome. And the addition of the popped corn and the hominy made for great textures that all held up to the sauce.
We also got the basket of waffle fries with cheese sauce, but we had to have the bacon and remoulade on the side since it had peppers (which I cannot have). These fries were charred. Why has no one thought of this before? (Okay… someone, somewhere probably has… but this was my first encounter). I love a good crispy fry that tastes of potato, and this fit the bill and then some. And the cheese didn’t make them soggy. Great fries.
We watched the chefs on the line pile handful after handful of cheese on top of their macaroni and cheese side throughout the evening, so we had to try it. It was described as “big elbow pasta” that came with crunchy cheese toast and fresh thyme crust. I wanted it SO bad, however, it had some peppers in it. I had a couple bites and it was delicious and totally worth the itch.
As for “bigger plates,” I had to go for the meatloaf after loving the one we had at the pop up, plus… how could you beat the description? “Braised short rib meatloaf with parsnip root mash, tomato ketchup jam, charred spring onions and other roots.” This was AWESOME. It was like someone made excellent short ribs, then pulled them, then reassembled them into a loaf, then charred them, then put great sauce on it and added the parsnip puree and delicious root vegetables for added flare. It was like everything I love in one great dish.
Our friends also got the “Crispy Free-Range Bucket of Bird: Sweet tea brined, pickled lemon dusted, spiked Tobasco honey.” While the Chef Booth informed me that they could have made it without the Tobasco honey, turns out they brined it in something with peppers, too. Chef actually sounded upset on my behalf that I couldn’t eat it.
And it turns out, with due reason. Everyone else at the table said it was one of the best fried chickens they’ve ever had. I was about to risk it, however, Mike said he could taste the spice so I didn’t do it, since I wanted to be able to enjoy the rest of the meal.
I made them all tell me it was truly awful. (LIARS)
We got to watch the chef put the finishing touches on Mike’s Australian Rack of Lamb, which came with roasted roots, horseradish crusted leek and sweet potato gratin, carrot barbecue sauce, and watercress.
This was a beautifully cooked and seasoned piece of meat. I really enjoyed the puree and the lamb tasted great. Of all the things we ate, I think the other items were a bit more original, but when you have a great piece of lamb like this, there really is no need to get very fancy with it.
They served the roots separately, telling us that the dish photographed better without them on the plate, which made me greatly appreciated the thoughtfulness (and they were delicious).
We barely had room for dessert after this meal, however, we decided splitting one between the four of us was feasible. So we went with the Banana Cream with layers of honey graham, vanilla custard, bananas, and pecan praline.
It was a really nice end to the meal, with big chunks of banana. I wished there were more pecan praline, but that’s just because I think there is never enough pecan praline in this world.
And then we received our check… in a bone.
Overall, I was pretty blown away but all the food we had throughout the evening. Each dish was a little bit special and a little bit unique, and a lot a bit tasty. The flavors were really thought out and each plate felt very special. It was obvious that the people who came up with the menu and all those preparing it really cared about the food they put out and went out of their way to make sure it was truly great. They could not have been nicer or more accommodating, and we really enjoyed watching the chefs cook throughout the evening. A truly great experience.
I heard that they are not accepting reservations any longer, but it sure can’t hurt to check! I am super curious about their brunch, and the menu sounds amazing. I mean come on… they serve that meatloaf with EGGS! Sold.
The only thing I can fault them for is that they are in Alphabet City, which is already inconvenient from just about everywhere, but will be even more so from our new place in Riverdale. Maybe that’s a good thing, however, because if they were close, I’d be very, very fat.
Total Nom Points: 8.5 out of 10