On Saturday night, AV and I headed to The Red Cat in far West Chelsea to meet up for our second "date" with SW and BC, a long time in the making. AV and I got there a little early, which made for an unfortunate amount of time spent with us trying to make ourselves inconspicuous in the entryway/bar area, which was packed with revelers (leaving pretty much no room to stand. Scratch that, literally no room to stand). Finally we were led to a table, and SW and BC joined soon afterward. Get the party STARTED!
Red Cat was busy. Crazy busy. Servers was running around, chatter was high, people in various states of hipster dress and fluorescent-colored hair milled about, all creating what I think is technically called "buzz." It took a while to get our orders in, but once we did, we were treated to thick slabs of bread, portioned out one per person, with a tiny dish of olive oil in the middle to share. The bread was addictive, incredibly stretchy and chewy in the middle with an assertive thick crust. But we could have used more olive oil, as our well had run dry by the time the four of us had finished our pieces.
SW and BC had ordered the fontina macaroni to share as a starter. First off, the macaroni was covered with an arresting green crust-- an inquiry of our server confirmed those were "herbed bread crumbs," but geez, covering anything with what looks like a moldy substance can't be a great PR move for a dish. Nonetheless, SW and BC enjoyed the macaroni, which had pieces of pepperoni tucked inside a loose cheese sauce. I abstained due to the meat content, but I must say I like my macaroni more on the thick-and-rich side, like the craziness at Brown Cafe. But fortunately nobody asked me.
It took a while after the mac and cheese was gone, but our entrees did arrive eventually, and I will say up front they were winners all around. I went with the arugula and parmesan salad, which is technically a side; it was fresh and much more interesting than I had anticipated, since it came with some onions and halved grape tomatoes. Plus there was ample parmesan, which I appreciated. AV went with the short rib with "garlic escarole, apple-parsnip puree, and pink pepper gremolata"-- he was impressed. SW and BC raved about their sauteed cod ("lamb polpette, cockles, tomato white wine broth") and grilled pork tenderloin ("blue cheese-tomato gratin, wilted spinach, caramelized onions"), respectively. All portions were pretty ample and were beautifully presented.
And then there was dessert. The Red Cat dessert menu had a number of good-looking options, so we indulged. AV went for the carrot cake (SW and BC also elected to share an order), which consisted of a cupcake-stump-style round individual cake, accompanied by a scoop of cream cheese ice cream atop a carrot and carrot ginger salad. The whole shebang was anchored to the plate by a smear of what tasted like thinned cream cheese frosting. AV and I traded bites of dessert, and I'll attest that the carrot cake was quite good-- the cake part was moist and packed with raisins, and it tasted almost like the Billy's version (which I ADORE). The cream cheese ice cream was a dead ringer for cream cheese frosting, only in ice cream form. Got that?
My choice was an order of apple profiteroles. These came three small pastries to a plate, each one an eggy puff (really eggy-- I know it's an egg-based pate a choux but you could really taste the egg in this, even smothered in caramel) filled with apple-butterscotch ice cream, all topped with caramel and perched in a soup of cinnamon-chocolate sauce and swirls of caramel. Sounds like a mouthful, huh? It definitely was. This was a very sweet dessert, but given my insatiable sweet tooth (apologies to my dentist) I really enjoyed it. For texture there were tiny bits of apples in the ice cream and a bit of chew in the pastry. For pure decadence, there was the pool of sauce, which I lapped up long after the rest of the dessert was gone.
So, as you can tell, our experience at the Red Cat was quite positive. The place itself is fun to be in, with unusual touches like decorative fork-and-spoon coat hooks on the walls; my only gripe aside from the fact that there's no room to stand while waiting for a table is that the space is loud (the four of us were shouting for much of the night). But the food was quite, quite tasty, thoughtful, and high quality, especially the desserts. I would certainly recommend it and would be happy to return myself, making TRC a solid four Offset Spatula destination.
The Red Cat
227 Tenth Avenue, between 23rd and 24th Streets