Allen & Delancey was the site of a belated birthday dinner. Dining four days past the actual celebration was my only choice even with three-weeks lead time unless I wanted to eat at 6pm, which I didn’t. Not a big deal since Wednesday nights are preferable to Saturdays, anyway. Generally speaking, you don’t want your table two-inches from the types of crowds that descend on popular restaurants on weekends.
The cranky suburbanite in me hates being smooshed, and by the luck of the draw we ended up with a no-neighbors two-top. Sure, actually obtaining our reserved table required nursing an elderflower Prosecco cocktail, The Delancey, for a non-egregious spell. It’s strange that the room seems so empty in this photo taken around 10:30pm since the candlelit (the bane of my photo-snapping existence) urban-boho space (I refuse to say speakeasy) was at capacity when we showed up.
There’s something about the moody velvet-curtained frippery that gives off a decadent aura, yet the food is more straightforward and restrained compared to much of what’s currently in vogue. Uptown goes downtown, but not like LuAnn, The Countess from The Real Wives of New York City getting tipsy on margaritas at Little Giant and showing up with her 23-year-old hippie headbanded neice at Cakeshop. No, it’s substantive and doesn’t embarrass you.
I mean, appetizers ranging into the $20s is certainly decadent. I tend to balk when my starter’s price is indistinguishable from my entrée. But I wanted the freaking bone marrow and caviar, $21 or not (hey, that Google adsense payout and all—I’m totally an internet tycoon).
And I’m glad I ordered it. Eating bone marrow loose rather than scooped from the bone is kind of like eating mussels freed from their shells, no work and kind of obscene. But the saline caviar mixed with the fatty meat essence was perfect with char-grilled toast. This dish managed to taste supremely beefy though you’d never guess it by looking at it.
I’m not sure if I’m just bread deprived or if the rolls were completely amazing (I took a horrible photo I can’t include). I’m sick to death of fibrous multigrain bread and Wasa crackers; sometimes you just want a warm, crusty, yeasty starch bomb slathered with 80 percent-plus butterfat butter.
Some menu descriptions were more illustrative than others. I was curious about the starkly described Cabbage, Beef, Onion because you know it’s going to be cool (and I love corned beef and cabbage) but that’s the type of thing I wouldn’t take a chance on unless someone else was paying.
As often happens, I was intrigued by the sides so I opted for the trout even though I’m blasé on the fish. I don’t dislike fish in a ew, seafood way, but more of a ew, dull way. Fish tends to be too delicate for my liking,
However, this sea trout was awesome. pink and rich like salmon with a crackly exterior (crisp skin does it every time) The strange thing was that I’d forgotten that the menu said almonds and thought the sauce was creamed peanuts. Peanuts seemed very wrong but as soon as I adjusted my brain back to almonds it tasted correct. The vinegar in the beans helped cut the oil and nuttiness. I’ll admit that I didn’t notice the ham, though.
I wouldn’t have chosen the peanut butter and chocolate dessert (I wanted the carrot cake thing, which I’m sure wasn’t a simple square of cake with cream cheese frosting) but it wasn’t up to me since it wasn’t my birthday dinner and ordering my own just didn’t seem smart. I was surprised at all of the women with their own desserts (I thought ladies only ate cupcakes) and the same one we chose. I usually share or shun altogether, which has little to do with caloric corncerns or out of control blood sugar (my blood is sweet enough, thanks). I just don’t always feel like a chocolatey barrage after a substantial meal. But I was thankful for something warm, cocoa-laden and gooey that wasn’t a molten cake.
Allen & Delancey * 115 Allen St., New York, NY