Tuesday, September 15, 2009

LWF&D gets a first look (and taste, and sip) at SD26...

Last night, something incredible happened. At the last minute, I received notice that I had won a contest on Eater, receiving for my delightfully creative (ahem) interpretation of "Chef's Marathon" (man on chicken) two tickets to the Eater-sponsored back-to-school party at the yet-to-open SD26. A flurry of panicked phone calls later, AV was summoned, we were in our party-going finery, and we were standing outside a velvet rope on 26th street on the north side of Madison Square Park.

Once past the clipboard-wielders (yes, my name was on the list! Exciting!), we found ourselves in the bar area of a swanky new restaurant, surrounded by beautiful people eating beautiful things. The first noteworthy design element of the restaurant was the enomatic machine lighting up the sleek black bar.

Enomatic! And multiple size pours, which is great.

We only had a little while to admire the wines protected behind glass, though, because at that point the food started coming and didn't stop until we peeled ourselves out of a table a few hours later and forced ourselves out on the street for the good of our own personal health. But in the meantime, in the bar area, we were first offered a seafood/bean/tomato soup of sorts; AV, as the official taster, pronounced it something close to the best thing he'd ever tasted.

Seafood soup in tiny tureen

With beans 'n' pasta

That is, until he tasted the next offering: Meatballs! Pork and beef and perhaps some other meat, with olive tapenade and possibly crack. AV could barely express his nearly-unrestrained enthusiasm for this bite.

Little meatball soldiers

A perfect little sandwich

And then there was some sort of meat thing, with something that looked like foie gras. "Stupidly good."

Meat & stuff

Keep in mind that we were still at the bar area at this point; we hadn't made it more than 10 steps into the restaurant. At this point we decided to move to the actual bar to grab ourselves some cocktails. I had my eye on bubbly. We were midway through muscling our way into the bar crowd when I spotted a young partygoer. With a plate. That had cheese. CHEESE. Given that nothing else so far had been vegetarian, my radar went off with a crackle and our bar mission was abandoned; WE MUST FIND THIS CHEESE. Nearly sprinting further into the restaurant, we moved through a dark tunnel into the main dining room, where we found the following sight:


With prosciutto slicer

I can't believe I didn't take any pictures of my cheese plate concoctions, but rest assured I stuffed myself with pecorino, parmesan, fresh ricotta from an enormous bowl, and a handful of other extremely high quality Italian cheeses. There were also breads-- I went for some to-die-for focaccia, chewy and flavorful. Midway through our four or five cheese plates apiece I made my way to the bar and grabbed us each a glass of Nicholas Feuillate champagne, which went down like Perrier with the sharp cheeses and bread.


We had snagged seats at a table in the dining room, and from there we ate our cheese and held court, observing the others around us. The space itself is interesting-- deep within the building, it's windowless, but it's still bright and airy, with very high ceilings, a bright open kitchen, and a balcony overlooking the main floor on two sides of the rectangle. There's also a handful of private rooms spoking off from the main floor, which could be an interesting place to have a private dinner. But back to the food-- while we were seated, we grabbed delightful items from the servers passing apps around us. As follows:

Snapper tartare with an incredibly good salad

Carbonara-like pasta?

Lamb croquette

Some pasta we couldn't identify that wasn't a huge winner. Plus another meatball.

Oh, and in the meantime, a few shots of the room, the kitchen, and the crowd:

The main dining room

The balcony

The open kitchen

A man carrying a huge salami

At that point, we scampered up the stairs to check out the view from the top. And the views were pretty great:

Another view of the dining room

The weird multicolored hairballs adorning the wall

Close-up of hairballs

Hairballs and patrons from a different angle

More open kitchen action

On the upstairs balcony, we came upon an unmanned table offering two large plates of pasta. Nobody was there and we didn't feel comfortable helping ourselves, so we didn't take any. We turned our attention to the upstairs bar, which was mercifully free from crowds. AV worked his magic and managed to rustle up a signature house drink (don't know what was in that, but it was STRONG) and a couple of mojitos. They were delicious and packed a huge punch.

Pasta 'n' sauce

Pasta 'n' fish

Signature drink in front; mojito in back. Huge glasses.

While the drinks were in motion, I noticed a server behind the pasta table, and I snagged us a plate. The two offerings were a thick strand pasta in tomato and parmesan and a pasta salad of sorts with cherry tomatoes and seafood. I tried the tomato pasta, which would have been delicious but unfortunately was no longer piping hot. No matter; we were happy (and full!) enough.


So, in the end, we were stuffed. We were drunk. And we were very happy. Grabbing focaccia breadsticks to munch on our way out, we lugged ourselves through the door to prevent our stomachs from exploding. It was such a cool experience-- to dine in the midst of celebrities (at least a few Top Chef-testants were spotted, including Harold Dieterle and Dave Martin) in a new restaurant on a beautiful night in New York City. Oh, and it seemed as though SD26 would be a truly promising restaurant, so keep your eyes out for when it opens... it should be quite something! Many thanks to Eater for an incredible, delicious, and truly memorable night.


Melissa Good Taste said...

I want a Mojito right now!

Janine said...

Oh man... they were quite good, and QUITE strong! And those glasses were deceptively large... :-)