The table at Narcissa is full of lowly ingredients, each cooked with so much care that they look beautiful, and taste luxurious.
Consider the risotto ($13), plain old barley treated as sweetly as arborio rice, infused with oregano, and jeweled with fat clams and a few golden slices of fried garlic. These are the flavors of Little Italy, a pile of spaghetti al vongole, elegant and focused.
John Fraser, who's been cooking for 20 years, has always had a way with vegetables--he introduced a vegetable tasting menu at his restaurant Dovetail years ago--but what's exciting about his new place in The Standard East Village hotel is the way that he's cooking them: low and slow, with rotisseries.
Bulky beets spin on a hot carousel for five hours, until they're dizzyingly sweet and thoroughly charred. And there are oysters ($16), but they're baked with a fine dice of cabbage under a blanket of breadcrumbs, like Rockefellers fallen on hard times--both the oysters and cabbage are the better for it.
The room is also unadorned, with Shaker-style chairs and wide tables that can actually accommodate many wine glasses and friends' elbows and plates of food. This is good for sharing roast chicken ($28) and hake ($22) and for passing around the roast potatoes ($7). Shining with a salty, savory glaze of chicken and beef drippings from the rotisserie, they quickly became the most prized dish on the table, despite the presence of a fine, blushing lamb saddle draped with piquillo peppers ($26).
The last little potato was in such high demand, it had to be cut in three.
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