food 02.3.03

The Tasting Room

One errant fanny, sideswiping a glass full of wine, could set off a chain reaction at this place, sending it into a tumultuous, possibly dire, game of Twister.

That's because The Tasting Room, 72 E. 1st [1st/2nd] 358.7831, isn't big enough to hold a stray thought, never mind an errant fanny. What it lacks in amplitude, however, it makes up in myriad ways on the plate and in the glass. While his wife, Renee, tends charmingly to the front of house, chef Colin Alevras is wringing miracles from the tiny kitchen, so that to eat at the Tasting Room is to enjoy the work of the most underexposed, underrated chef in town.

What he cooks is true local market cuisine, which means you should not get too attached to any one dish since you may never see it again (at least in the exact same form). Still, you'll never go wrong ordering oxtail, which makes frequent appearances, or with seared foie gras that can hold its own with the city's best. On the other end of the scale, simple, earthy ingredients seem to inspire Mr. Alevras; find out, for instance, what preserved lemons can do for cranberry beans. Dishes come in tasting portions (average $9) and in sharing portions (average $20), so that on any one night, with some careful ordering, you can experience the full range of the chef's skill.

The other great pleasure of the Tasting Room, as the name indicates, is the emphasis on wine. The list features hundreds of American bottles, with many extraordinary producers represented at equally serious prices. A bottle of Edmunds St. John Syrah, at $50, is on the lower end of the list, but affords pleasure commensurate with Mr. Alevras' vigorous cooking.

Some restaurants fade in time but The Tasting Room, at three years, is hitting its stride. And however tight the squeeze, Colin and Renee Alevras' cheerful spot may make you feel like dancing on the head of a pin.
Chelsea's relative newcomer O Mai, 158 9th [19th/20th] 633.0550, is making pleasant enough Vietnamese food. It was opened by the same people who own Cyclo and Nam. But for our money, Nam, 110 Reade [W. Bway/Church] 267.1777, has the best food.


Houston Street (from 2012)

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