North End Grill
If anything, North End Grill initially appealed because along with Blue Smoke and Shake Shack, the trio fulfills my perverse fascination with restaurants in generic condo and office complexes that could be in any city (see Mable's Smokehouse).
Of course Danny Meyer and Floyd Cardoz's newest venture also appealed because it's obviously the most ambitious of the three Battery Park City restaurants. Despite the moderately oddball location, I would consider this a destination not so much a casual after work stop. At least for me, entrees over $30 signal a place that's not for every night eating. That clam pie and a cocktail in the bar? Sure.
Scotch, perhaps a grab at the business crowd, is the featured spirit. Instead of focusing on little drams, I chose it in a cocktail, The Scotch Bonnet, just barely sweet and floral with lavender honey and freshened with Lillet.
The floured and crisped cod throats were a must since my only familiarity with this meaty cut is in their Basque guise as kokotxas, popularly used in pil-pil dishes, thick with garlic and olive oil. Meunière-style here, the brown butter was greened-up, visually and taste-wise with chervil and just a few rounds of jalapeño.
It's hard to say if the focus is seafood (it kind of is) because then something like grilled lamb hearts appears on the menu and is hard to ignore. The organ, cooked rare, was also spring-like and verdant with fresh, i.e. green chickpeas and mint vinaigrette.
Many of the dishes had a murky, dirt-like quality, which sounds horrible and is probably why earthy is the more commonly used adjective. The spice blends lent a heaviness to a main ingredient that might otherwise be light. For instance, the soft-shell crab was very delicate, and when I read papaya salad I pictured a bright, citrusy Thai style when in actuality the mustard seeds grounded the dish. The shredded carrots and daikon also further mixed up expectations since their presence often indicates Vietnamese and this was not that either.
Somehow the regular Thursday night became celebratory thanks to a bottle of Weingut Heinrich Spindler Riesling and a few whiskeys at the nearby W with its not-terribly-high roof terrace that overlooks the World Trade Center construction site. The beauty of the Financial District is that you'll practically have any place to yourself after 10pm.
North End Grill * 104 North End Ave., New York, NY