Tuesday, August 02, 2005

A more than good egg

On a recent trip to the NY environs, I took a few friends out for, what I thought would be, a complimentary meal but because of a proposed review being nixed, I had to eat my words (so to speak). Regardless, I was working on a story about elemental food trends, as in restaurants that put their culinary focus on a single ingredient or a single set of ingredients as an effort to have the elements determine the menu, rather than the opposite equation. Some of you might have "Iron Chef" bells ringing right now, but remember "Iron Chef" is defined by it's limitations and faithfulness to an ingredient rather than the ingredient providing a guiding premise for the menu. I guess this could be argued.

Regardless, we took ourselves to Uovo, a new East Village bistro that carefully exploits all things Mediterranean (check out the bathroom door plastered with a grid of used Italian museum tickets). The title, meaning "Egg" in Italian, seemed to stick with my elemental theme and hopefully was reflected on the menu. The space was not anything but typical with the requisite exposed brick and green washed walls engaging a looping Radiohead counteract. Pretty standard fare. Typical but not any reason to find fault. The place is new (was at it's second month as of July) and a bit wet behind the ears as far as service goes, but never uncomfortable and always pleasant.

But all of this is inconsequential. The element that moved everything forward was the very simple and engaging dishes. Not everything was exceptional, but seemingly, all the dishes maintained a certain focus. There was a delicately creamy almond soup with drops of olive oil swirled in, tea poached duck liver with drunken cherries, and a truly impressive (for the simplicity factor) raw, yellow, summer squash sliced within 1/8 of an inch and doing acrobatics in a puddle of deliciously carmelized brown butter: a truly simple dish with suprisingly fresh flavors that you don't always associate with squash.

The dessert menu was equally inspired but a bit uneven in execution. The tarragon pink peppercorn ice cream was unique and tasty, but kind of lost it's novelty after a few bites. The Cardamom cookies with a glass of cold goat's milk was simple and elegant in much the same way the summer squash was, but unless you are used to the idea and taste of goat's milk, you might not be too excited about this one. However, I liked this one a lot as I did the ginger pudding and marscapone ice cream with chocolate biscuits.

So, the restaurant and the menu didn't really retain that elemental consistency I was looking for. Eggs did make their way onto the menu, but were not crucial to the dishes, more of an afterthought. But the place was modest, inventive, and impressive and something that is oh-so sadly absent in the anemic restaurant scene of Los Angeles.

At the corner of 11th and Ave B
(212) 475-UOVO