"I wanted this place to feel like a living room," says Aldo Sohm, longtime wine director at Le Bernardin, of his eponymous new Midtown wine bar. "But of course, we live in New York, so no one's living room is like this."
It's nice to imagine living here, though. A plush horseshoe-shaped beige couch with red silk pillows is the focal point, the room elegantly decorated with artwork by Keith Haring and Catman and orb-like lights that almost appear to be floating under a soaring ceiling.
The sound track floats, too—from Bob Marley to Joshua Tree-era U2 to the Michael Bolton take on "When a Man Loves a Woman." The Austrian-born Sohm is a serious, highly respected sommelier, but he doesn't mind winking at the fine-dining establishment.
The Tower of Charcuterie, with 12 types of cured meat
The wine Sohm is pouring is surprisingly accessible, with many bottles falling in the $35 to $50 range. All are served in wine-geeky, nearly weightless Zalto glasses. Sohm also has a hinged wooden mold used to craft the glasses on one of the display shelves in the restaurant.
By-the-glass options are mostly European with a smattering of American producers. To blow both mind and budget, start with a glass of the exquisite Chartogne-Taillet Sainte Anne Champagne NV ($27). Every sip is an onslaught of velvety, ultrafine bubbles.
The food, which leans toward France, doesn't take itself too serioulsy either. The Tower of Charcuterie ($45) is an architecturally striking lazy Susan designed for the restaurant that one-ups any seafood tower in town. Its many levels are stocked with cured meat made in collaboration with Brooklyn Charlie's: wispy sheets of rosy Austrian-style poached ham, thick slices of fennel-studded salami and lardo "dip"—basically pork butter, all creamy and salty and ready to be spread on slices of Maison Kayser baguette.
Sohm shows off the wooden mold used to make Zalto glasses.
Even the vegetables, of which Sohm is particularly fond, have a sense of humor: A whole-baked cauliflower ($12), served in all its brainy-looking glory, is coated in a generous layer of burnt sienna "chicken salt," chicken skin that's been ground down into a superfine power—the haute cuisine equivalent of Cool Ranch seasoning.
One more thing: Do not overlook the truffle pasta ($22). Ribbons of truffle-flecked tagliatelle are dressed in a silky sauce of butter and grated Tibetan yak cheese, which tastes like the nuttiest, richest Swiss cheese you could imagine.
A simple dessert of caramelized apple with fresh whipped cream
And a baked apple ($8) drenched in a dollop of fresh whipped cream doesn't hurt either—especially when paired with a glass of nicely acidic Cht. La Rame, Sainte Croix du Mont 05 ($19).
While this isn't Le Bernardin Deux, this wine bar has a personality and vibrancy all its own—and it's a place we'd love to call our living room. Especially if our living room had mini boudin blanc sausages at the ready, all the time.
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