This restaurant was surrounded by hype when it opened, so I put it on the list for us to try later. We finally made a reservation, but still had to do it early on a Saturday. Adam Platt completely slammed the place in his NYMag review, so I was a little bit worried about the food.
We arrived at 5:25. Yes, I said it was an early reservation! There were lingering people outside enjoying the day, and believe it or not we were not the first in the dining room. We got a lovely window seat which was fantastic for people watching and good light for quick iPhone pics. Sarah Jessica Parker walked by and we watched everyone stop her for an entire block. She even chatted with people in a car at the light. Nice that she’s so gracious. Anyway, we waited a solid 15 minutes, menus in hand, for someone to ask us if we wanted a drink. I had to ask the hostess, who’s stand was 3 feet away for 2 bloody Marys. We finally had a drink at 5:50. So far, Spasso completely sucked. During our waiting time, we also noticed filthy tablecloths, spots of dirt everywhere, crumbs all over the banquette, oily menus. We considered getting up.
But then finally the most gorgeous drinks were placed in front of us. These ‘bloodys’ were topped with pickled celery and beet-soaked turnips. Mmmm, and they tasted just as delicious. I daresay worth the wait? After this, our waiter snapped to attention, apologized for the drinks and remained attentive throughout.
As we perused the menu, I referred back to Platt’s review, carefully avoiding every dish he said was horrible. But we certainly hoped they’d worked on the dishes in the months since the review. We crossed our fingers and picked out what we could find of his recommended dishes and winged the rest.
Chicken Liver Crostini, roasted grapes . 9
Fried Oysters, lemon crema, chicory . 16
Spring Pea and Prawn Ravioli, tarragon . 18
Grilled Prawns, hummus, roasted corn . 25
Bomboloni, citrus sugar, crema . 8
We were pretty blown away by this meal. These days we can be a bit unimpressed by most everything, but I would go back to Spasso. We started with the chicken liver crostini. The chicken liver pate itself probably was not much different than most, but the tiny roasted grapes knocked it out of the park. Next up, we had the fried oysters. Again, it was not necessarily the perfectly cooked and battered oysters that stood out, it was the lemon crema that made the dish.
Our entrees were equally as good. Steve had the prawn ravioli, which had a sweetness from the tarragon and peas balanced nicely with a bit of hot pepper. I had the head-on prawns again, which seems to be my theme lately (see The Dutch, Salinas). These prawns were so beautifully char-grilled and served with hummus sauce and grilled corn . By far, this version beat the others for both flavor and preparation.
We finished the evening off with grappa and killer bomboloni (Tuscan fried doughnuts). OMG, these were great. And the cream dipping sauce was so subtly sweet. They came right from the frier, just sugared and piping hot in the center. Wow.
So despite some initially crappy service, Spasso impressed us more than anywhere we’ve gone in months. This is the reason for eating out in New York. The decor was cozy and it was much larger than expected. In nice weather, this is also a good spot for outdoor dining. Maybe we just made good choices from the menu, but on this one I need to disagree with Platt’s opinion. We’ll be going back, so look forward to an update on other items later.
551 Hudson St. – West Village